CPU air-coolers are relatively cheap compared to other computer system components. With the top air-coolers selling in the $45 to $75 price range it is easy to forget that many buyers are really looking for that killer $15 cooler, or at least a $15 cooler that does its job without bringing too much attention to itself with overheating or a loud fan.

In the Intel cooling arena finding a good cheap cooler is particularly difficult, because the stock Intel cooler - included at no cost in Intel Retail CPU packages - is today both a very good performer and very quiet. This makes competing in the value segment particularly difficult for companies aiming at the Socket 775 market.

One company that targets this value market segment is Arctic Cooling. Arctic Cooling is a privately owned company founded in 2001. Headquarters are located in Switzerland, with offices in Hong Kong and the USA, while production is in China. The company specializes in producing thermal cooling solutions for CPUs, GPUs (video chips), and PC cases.

In the few years since its inception, the Arctic Cooling family of coolers has earned a solid reputation for good value in the cooler market. Reputation is one thing and performance is often quite another, so it is time to give that reputation a test in the harsh reality of our cooler test bed. The questions we aim to answer are:

  1. Does the entry Alpine 7 outperform the stock Intel cooler? This is another way of asking whether anyone should bother with the Alpine 7; if the cooler does not outperform the stock Intel unit there is no real reason to buy it.
  2. Are noise levels well controlled at both stock and overclocked settings?
  3. Does the price increase of the Freezer 7 Pro buy equivalent performance improvements? I.e., is it worth the extra cost to buy the Freezer 7 Pro over the Alpine 7?
  4. How do performance and noise levels compare to the best coolers tested at AnandTech?

To provide answers, we dropped the Alpine Cooler pair into our new cooling test bed.

The Arctic Coolers
POST A COMMENT

48 Comments

View All Comments

  • Etern205 - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    Sorry for the triple post.

    Somehow the link code does not work so...

    http://www.intel.com/cd/channel/reseller/emea/eng/...">http://www.intel.com/cd/channel/reselle...essors/c...
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    Great, an LED fan direct from Intel.

    and it still uses push pins, though since it weighs about the same as the previous stock cooler I guess that is expected.
    Reply
  • sparkuss - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    Is there any reason you don't include with the new testbed/database your custom water cooling setup that you've been using to chart the X38/X48?

    I realize it may be extreme but it feels missing if only to show what that "next" level of cooling means in relation to the "top rated performers". I guess I'd also be remiss in not asking for at least one of the new Peltier/Water compact combo coolers in the mix just for those reference lines on the graphs.

    If you only want to limit results to "available/ready to buy" I understand.

    I'm still looking at all options for my next "technology-leap" (AMD 4000+ 939) system build and being able to see if investing in the extreme is worth the results would help with some of the choices.

    Thanks
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    I'd guess Wesley is in a different part of the country/world than Raja or whoever has the extreme cooling setup. Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    Quote:"low noise, longer-life fan bearings and elastomeric fan mounts. This is expensive engineering."

    These aren't really longer-life bearings. Anyone can make a bearing and claim that in an ideal environment it will have really long life. That's shady marketing, the finished fan, as implemented, is not that ideal environment for several reasons such as thrust level, imbalance, ambient temp. Frankly I find the bearing on my Freezer 64 Pro to be below average compared to my major (fan manufacturer not PC parts relabeler) brands. I would rate them as well if not better than many of the crude fans one would find on cheap heatsinks at least, and the fan imbalance being offset by the rubber mounts does help.

    As for the elastomeric fan mounts, no this is not expensive engineering. Maybe a penny a piece, no more expensive than screws to hold a fan on. Perhaps we could say the unique fan frame design cost a slight bit extra though when in volume the cost may be less than you'd think, particularly if not manufactured by a major label. Upon examination of the fan bearing anyone with a trained eye can easily see these are not premium sleeve bearings by any stretch, and they are a lot short on lubricant, you should expect them not to be so quiet within the life of the system. Relube the bearing periodically for best results.

    While my comments seem (are) negative, overall these coolers are a great value, but we do need to be objective in recognizing the cons as well as the pros. I'm not aware of better value for the money so they are still 'sinks to seriously consider except for attempts at extreme overclocking.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    The Engineering is expensive - not necessarily the parts. What we were trying to say here is that these kinds of solutions are usually reserved for higher-priced coolers, and not often seen on coolers selling for such a low price.

    As for bearing life, most coolers in this price range don't even rate fan bearing life. The expected "life" of the fan on the under $15 Alpine 7 is 400,000 hours and the bearing is a Fluid Dynamic Bearing - like the Scythe Sflex 120mm fan which is $20 for the fan alone. These are both impressive specs for any cooler fan - especially one that sells with the complete cooler for less than $15.
    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    The life rating of 400K hours is nonsense.

    Their typical fan sells for $6, and that with a bit of profit built in. Their bearings are not special, just the marketing is.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    A minimum price is a better proof than an inflated one, as even the generic junk out there selling for $2 is also marked up 250% or more through relabelers.
    Reply
  • forgotmypassword - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    Your under load test is WAY TOO GENTLE. Same AC Freezer 7 can hardly keep my E6550 @ 2.8GHz Core Duo under 75C under 100% load... Compare it to your 41C Reply
  • RamarC - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    if your e6550 is hitting 75c you either don't have the freezer 7 mounted properly or your bios/fan control is configured to allow that level of heat. Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    You have no evidence of that. A higher ambient temp, worse case ventilation, and/or higher vcore can cause this.

    However, some mountings don't seem to put as much pressure on the 'sink, it can be mounted as "properly" as possible and still this (and especially along with a combination of aforementioned factors) could result in that temp.

    The real question is WHY someone would have allowed their CPU to get this hot instead of reducing the o'c or taking whatever other measures are necessary.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now