Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6780/deepcool-cpu-air-cooler-roundup-playing-it-too-safe


During our visit to CES 2013, we had a chance to meet with Deepcool, a deceptively large Chinese company that has been producing heatsinks for OEMs for some time now. Deepcool is striking out with their own line of heatsinks targeting enthusiasts in the PC space, and they sent us a hefty box full of accessories and more importantly, a massive stack of heatsinks to test.

Tower coolers are pretty much the way to go these days if you're going to air cool your CPU, and Deepcool has a substantial number of them on offer. They also have availability virtually everywhere in the world except the United States, an issue they're fast ameliorating. The problem these coolers are going to face is a doozy, though: the heatsink industry already has a tremendous amount of competition. Does Deepcool have what it takes, or are they going to need to bring something more aggressive to the table?

Deepcool sent me seven heatsinks, but at the risk of eliminating some of the more redundant entries, I've whittled the test group down to four and hopefully narrowed down to a good cross section of coolers. Unfortunately, for the moment the only cooler comparison data I'll have on hand is going to be the set of liquid coolers I've already tested which is admittedly a little unfair. I've also (finally) included test results for the Intel stock cooler for LGA 1156; note that I've seen two stock coolers, but this is the one with the copper core.

Listed below are the specifications for the seven coolers Deepcool sent. I've italicized the names of the coolers that aren't being tested, and below the spec table I'll explain why I chose the ones I did and why the others were left by the wayside.

  Gammaxx 200 Gammaxx 300 Gammaxx 400 Ice Blade Pro v2.0
Dimensions (in mm) 103x71x143.5 121x75.5x144 135x76x159 125x70x161
Fans (Supported) 1x92m (2) 1x120mm (1) 1x120mm (2) 1x120mm (2)
Weight 339g 473g 709g 981g
Rated Noise in dB(A) 17.8~34.6 17.8~21 21.4~32.1 21.4~32.1

  Frostwin Neptwin Assassin
Dimensions (in mm) 121x121x151 126x136x159 144x154x160
Fans (Supported) 2x120mm (2) 2x120mm (2) 120mm & 140mm (2)
Weight 712g 1109g 1378g
Rated Noise in dB(A) 21 26.6~32.1 23.2~32

Despite there being seven heatsinks included in the package, there's a great deal of redundancy in Deepcool's lineup, and it's redundancy that I don't think serves them so much as it may actually hinder them.

The limiting factor when choosing a tower cooler is oftentimes just clearance. I've run into situations where a 92mm tower cooler was necessary because 120mm was simply too tall, and there have been cases I've tested where the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo in our testbed wouldn't fit or would just barely fit. In my estimation, that's one of the primary differentiators of heatsinks.

With that in mind, the Gammaxx 200 is obsoleted out of the gate by the 300. The 300 is only half a millimeter taller, yet is able to fit a larger fan. Meanwhile the Gammaxx 400's sheer height forces it to contend with the Ice Blade Pro v2.0 and the Assassin. As for the Neptwin, it gets sandwiched essentially by the Frostwin and the Assassin. The Assassin is, by the way, Deepcool's flagship under their Gamer Storm label.

Ease of Installation

In the process of working on this review, I posted to my work Facebook that I was understanding the reason for the increase in popularity of closed loop coolers, and it wasn't just the potential for superior cooling power. Closed loops take up a tremendous amount of space, certainly, but the way they occupy space can actually be much less cumbersome than having to somehow mount an enormous tower cooler to four tiny screw holes.

There's also, and I hope you'll forgive the rant, the entire cottage industry that's essentially sprung up around the complete inability of Intel (a corporation valued at over $80 billion and capable of producing cutting edge manufacturing and CPU technologies) to produce a heatsink mounting system that isn't absolutely godawful and destined to rot and fall out after a few years (yes, I've actually seen this happen). So instead of Intel fixing this atrocity that's persisted since the beginning of LGA 775, we deal with complex mounting systems from heatsink designers and case designers that have to basically punch out the back of the motherboard tray. Meanwhile, AMD owners get a good chuckle out of their far simpler (and still very effective) mounting clips. AMD's only failure on this front is the need to switch to an LGA; thermal paste left on over time can actually produce an adhesive effect so strong that you can rip the CPU out of the socket without lifting the locking lever.

Intel's adequate stock heatsink and utterly inadequate mounting system.

The reason I bring up this rant is because Deepcool employs two different mounting mechanisms for their coolers: one that's mostly workable and one that's awful. The awful one relies on pushpins, and that's the mechanism that the Gammaxx line employs. Mounting and testing the Gammaxx 300 actually meant mounting and testing it twice; the first time it appeared CPU contact was good, but upon removing the heatsink after testing, I noticed one of the pins was already broken and needed to be replaced with pins from the Gammaxx 200. The result was a clearly uneven contact between the heatsink and heatspreader, as evidenced by an obvious blank spot in the thermal grease.

Deepcool's other mounting system is much sturdier, but comes with its own set of problems. For this, they employ a backplate and screws that go up through the motherboard. On the motherboard, spacers are placed on the screws, and then mounting brackets are bolted into place. Deepcool unfortunately needed to make the screws themselves about a millimeter longer, as it would've made installing the backplate and mounting kit much easier. As it is, you have to apply a healthy amount of pressure to the backplate to get enough screw to mount the bolt. Hopefully the twelve-year-olds in the audience enjoyed that last sentence.

The problem is that the backplate is huge. It's nice and sturdy, but it's big enough that I had to remove the motherboard whenever I installed it or removed it. As for the bracket that screws into the mounting kit and holds the actual heatsink into place, I found that the heatsink fans often would get in the way. This also means that the squirrely fan clips, which were already troublesome enough outside of the case, get even more troublesome when you're dealing with case clearance. That's before the inevitable series of scratches you'll get from the heatsink fins themselves.

That's a lot of ranting, and admittedly a lot of these problems aren't Deepcool's fault but simply the nature of the beast. Squirrely fan mounts aren't just an issue for Deepcool, but they are something that can be corrected by an enterprising designer. Unfortunately, bloodthirsty heatsink fins are mostly unavoidable.

Of the heatsinks tested, only the Ice Blade v2.0 was problem free in installation. The Assassin is a massive hunk of aluminum and copper capable of supporting up to three fans; it includes two. There's a 120mm fan that's mounted on the outside and a 140mm fan which employs 120mm mounts (kind of neat in its own right), but unfortunately that 140mm fan has to get mounted between the two towers, directly above the mounting bracket. I've already mentioned the busted pushpin on the Gammaxx 300. Finally, the dual-tower, dual-fan Frostwin had to have its towers carefully pried apart just a little bit to prevent rattling.

Testing Methodology

If you've been keeping up with our case reviews, our testing methodology for the fans here is going to seem relatively similar in some ways. Our test system may seem a bit unusual in more than a few ways, but stick with me and I'll explain why I put it together and tested it the way I did.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.4V
Motherboard Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Crucial Ballistix Sport Low Profile DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Power Supply Rosewill Hive 650W 80 Plus Bronze Modular
Enclosure BitFenix Shinobi XL Window

The processor, with its healthy voltage boost and overclock, throws a pretty substantial amount of heat at our cooling system. Testing with an i7-2700K at stock speeds would defeat the purpose; Intel's own stock cooler can handle that, we want to "separate the men from the boys" so to speak.

I needed a case that could produce adequate airflow, handle all of the different cooling systems without much trouble, and did not include any sound dampening features. You might be surprised at just how difficult that was to find, but BitFenix came to the rescue and sent over a Shinobi XL. BitFenix's enclosure didn't get the best review when I tested it, but it's actually ideal for this testbed. I removed every case fan but the front intake, which I ran at 5V to prevent it from affecting acoustics while still providing adequate airflow.

Since a dedicated GPU wasn't needed, one wasn't used. This prevents a graphics card from generating additional heat or noise or deflecting airflow.

Thermal and acoustic test cycles were done the same way as our case reviews. First, the system is left powered and idle for fifteen minutes. At this point the sound level is tested, room ambient temperature is recorded, and idle temperatures are recorded. Then eight threads of small FFTs in Prime95 are run for fifteen minutes, and load temperatures are recorded.

Each cooler was tested using its available presets; the PWM-controlled coolers were tested between 30% and 100% using motherboard control.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our roundup.

  • Thank you to iBuyPower for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z77-ITX WiFi motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Sport Low Profile DDR3.
  • Thank you to Rosewill for providing us with the Hive 650W 80 Plus Bronze PSU.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Shinobi XL Window enclosure.

Performance Results

Going in, you should be clear that these charts are going to be an unfair fight. The only coolers we've reviewed so far are this stack of Deepcool air coolers alongside a very healthy number of closed loop liquid coolers, so some perspective does need to be applied.

With that in mind, though, I'm keen to point out that the Corsair H55 is an entry-level Asetek-based CPU cooler. While its current price is actually higher than we'd like, there are closed loop Aseteks available from different vendors on NewEgg for as little as $49. That means that the H55 can be very much representative of the kind of competition mid-to-high-end air coolers are going to come into contact with.

Cooling Performance

Note that Intel's stock cooler is only at the top of the charts because it actually failed load testing. The Deepcool Assassin isn't a horrible cooler, but it definitely underperforms for what should be a high end, powerful air cooler. And if you have space for the Assassin, chances are you have space for an H55 or competing equivalent.

Acoustic Performance

The air coolers are all pretty middle of the road acoustically, but note that for how much performance you can get out of liquid coolers, they're certainly capable of making quite a racket. Deepcool's coolers are actually all fairly good citizens where noise is concerned, and it's clear that Deepcool has prioritized low noise.

Conclusions: One Stands Alone

It's hard not to be at least a little disappointed by Deepcool's air coolers, but not for the reasons you think. These aren't bad products, but they're not exceptional either, and unfortunately outside of one of them Deepcool seems to be sorely lacking in a strong foot to put forward when they inevitably make their way stateside.

The biggest problem is that Deepcool's designs are, excepting the Frostwin and Gammaxx 300, extremely conservative. Despite its middling performance, I do think there would be a place in the world for the Gammaxx 300 if they hadn't opted to use pushpins to mount it instead of a backplate. The problem with the Gammaxx 300 is that it exists in a world where the comparable Xigmatek Loki is available. Meanwhile, the Frostwin is actually a pretty attractive option for cases which may have low overhead (i.e. 92mm exhaust fans instead of 120mm). The Frostwin's performance isn't stellar, but it's strong enough and the low ceiling can make it attractive.

Nothing else here really recommends itself, though, or unfortunately even justifies itself in a market where established presences like Cooler Master and Xigmatek are already producing strong value coolers, and that's pretty damning. Deepcool needs to produce something eye-catching, original, and aggressive to start winning over consumers and mindshare. They need to take risks, and there are no risky designs in this lineup. They're staid and functional.

Hold on to your pants, though, folks. We're going to have a batch of Noctua coolers in house for review soon that should give a better comparison point for what Deepcool has presented here.

In the meantime, Deepcool produced a fairly solid cooler in their Frostwin, and hopefully we'll see that become available in the near future as it definitely fills a niche. Hopefully some more exciting kit is in store; Deepcool has the expertise, they just need to be willing to stretch their minds a little.

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