Thermaltake Water 3.0 Closed Loop Cooler Roundupby Dustin Sklavos on May 31, 2013 12:01 AM EST
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.
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.
|Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.45V|
|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|
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.
For air coolers, I added a Noctua 140mm rear exhaust fan and used the ultra low noise adaptor to ensure it didn't affect acoustics in any meaningful way. This is in line with the usage cases air coolers are designed for, and should be representative of the kind of airflow most users will have from their exhaust fan. After the last review I received complaints that because the exhaust fan wasn't included in testing closed loop coolers, the CLCs and air coolers couldn't be directly compared. Independently I tested and found that the fan's presence had absolutely no effect on CLC performance; CLCs essentially operate as their own exhausts, while air coolers need to have their exhaust directed outside of the case.
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; where presets weren't available, I tested using Gigabyte's standard motherboard PWM control as well as at 100%.
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 Gigabyte for providing us with the GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3 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.