Testing Methodology

Although the testing of a cooler appears to be a simple task, that could not be much further from the truth. Proper thermal testing cannot be performed with a cooler mounted on a single chip, for multiple reasons. Some of these reasons include the instability of the thermal load and the inability to fully control and or monitor it, as well as the inaccuracy of the chip-integrated sensors. It is also impossible to compare results taken on different chips, let alone entirely different systems, which is a great problem when testing computer coolers, as the hardware changes every several months. Finally, testing a cooler on a typical system prevents the tester from assessing the most vital characteristic of a cooler, its absolute thermal resistance.

The absolute thermal resistance defines the absolute performance of a heatsink by indicating the temperature rise per unit of power, in our case in degrees Celsius per Watt (°C/W). In layman's terms, if the thermal resistance of a heatsink is known, the user can assess the highest possible temperature rise of a chip over ambient by simply multiplying the maximum thermal design power (TDP) rating of the chip with it. Extracting the absolute thermal resistance of a cooler however is no simple task, as the load has to be perfectly even, steady and variable, as the thermal resistance also varies depending on the magnitude of the thermal load. Therefore, even if it would be possible to assess the thermal resistance of a cooler while it is mounted on a working chip, it would not suffice, as a large change of the thermal load can yield much different results.

Appropriate thermal testing requires the creation of a proper testing station and the use of laboratory-grade equipment. Therefore, we created a thermal testing platform with a fully controllable thermal energy source that may be used to test any kind of cooler, regardless of its design and or compatibility. The thermal cartridge inside the core of our testing station can have its power adjusted between 60 W and 340 W, in 2 W increments (and it never throttles). Furthermore, monitoring and logging of the testing process via software minimizes the possibility of human errors during testing. A multifunction data acquisition module (DAQ) is responsible for the automatic or the manual control of the testing equipment, the acquisition of the ambient and the in-core temperatures via PT100 sensors, the logging of the test results and the mathematical extraction of performance figures.

Finally, as noise measurements are a bit tricky, their measurement is being performed manually. Fans can have significant variations in speed from their rated values, thus their actual speed during the thermal testing is being recorded via a laser tachometer. The fans (and pumps, when applicable) are being powered via an adjustable, fanless desktop DC power supply and noise measurements are being taken 1 meter away from the cooler, in a straight line ahead from its fan engine. At this point we should also note that the Decibel scale is logarithmic, which means that roughly every 3 dB(A) the sound pressure doubles. Therefore, the difference of sound pressure between 30 dB(A) and 60 dB(A) is not "twice as much" but nearly a thousand times greater. The table below should help you cross-reference our test results with real-life situations.

The noise floor of our recording equipment is 30.2-30.4 dB(A), which represents a medium-sized room without any active noise sources. All of our acoustic testing takes place during night hours, minimizing the possibility of external disruptions.

<35dB(A) Virtually inaudible
35-38dB(A) Very quiet (whisper-slight humming)
38-40dB(A) Quiet (relatively comfortable - humming)
40-44dB(A) Normal (humming noise, above comfortable for a large % of users)
44-47dB(A)* Loud* (strong aerodynamic noise)
47-50dB(A) Very loud (strong whining noise)
50-54dB(A) Extremely loud (painfully distracting for the vast majority of users)
>54dB(A) Intolerable for home/office use, special applications only.

*noise levels above this are not suggested for daily use

Introduction & the Cooler Testing Results
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  • Wereweeb - Tuesday, May 17, 2022 - link

    Why bother? Provided it's good enough, why pay more than necessary?

    A lot of people can barely afford to buy non-superfluous components such as a non-stock CPU cooler. And while I'd also rather go for the best if I'm already going out of my way to buy a new cooler, I can see why a lot of people just want a quieter or cooler system and won't gain much from going for *the best*.
    Reply
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  • Meta22 - Tuesday, May 17, 2022 - link

    But is it really $20? Here in my country (a south american one) I can get a ID-COOLING SE-224-XT Basic for the equivalent of US$ 28 while a Noctua U12S Redux (no, not the "full-fat" version) goes for $100. So: 98-99% of the Noctua's cooling performance for 28% of the price. And the noise is actually reasonable considering the only part of my PC noisy enough to bother me is my GPU (should've known better than to buy a card from the line named WINDFORCE, heh). Heck, I could replace the Basic's fan with a Noctua NF-P12 Redux ($26 here) and get higher performance at the same noise level compared to the U12S Reply
  • Meta22 - Tuesday, May 17, 2022 - link

    Whoops, I accidentally posted before I finished typing. Anyways, what I meant was that even in places where you can get all brands at MSRP the options for budget buyers are often very good and worth buying. I imagine there's more countries like mine where Noctua prices are horribly inflated for whatever reason, too. Reply
  • Mgz - Wednesday, May 18, 2022 - link

    I would second the ID-COOLING SE-224-XT option, in my case a South East Asia country so price is even cheaper, around 20$.

    Also my case is NR200 which the SE-224 fits well.
    Reply
  • necroperversor - Thursday, May 19, 2022 - link

    Hey, I'm from Poland, so do a company and I want to clarify a few things. Firstly, yes it is really 20$, to be precise Fera 5 Dual Fan cost in poland 150zł = 34$ (VAT included, shipping in country free), and for a single fan version you have to pay 105zł = 24$. For example, I bought dual fan version on not so black friday (polish shops with electronics tends to rise prices in october to lower them in november), but I did manage to buy it for lowest ever price I belive of 80zł = 18.5$. I think it's awesome cooler. with Ryzen 5 1600 on 3.8 Ghz and 1.237V temps in idle 31 C and on 100% load after 3h it's 55 C. Additional I have 3 Fluctus fans (that wierd one, cutted in the fan) in my Phanteks case and it's so quiet. I'm just sad that in the test there is no Spartan 5 or Fortis 5. Spartan low tier, Fera low-medium, Fortis medium, and I bet they will present Grandis 5 (high-tier) to the end of year. On fall I'm putting new pc with ryzen 5 7th and there will be Grandis 5 dual on top of him What is the best deal out of that, is that they all coolers and fans have 6 years warranty. For the intrested I'm posting video (sorry but only in polsih) with graph for Fera 5 and Fortis 5 from series 5. https://youtu.be/f7IBV8LEeOc?t=200 Reply
  • Meta22 - Friday, May 20, 2022 - link

    Oh, I was not questioning the pricing on the SilentiumPC coolers, just pointing out to that user that the price difference with Noctuas might not necessarily be $20 everywhere. I think Silentium coolers are very good and fairly priced considering all reviews I've seen, though unfortunately they are not sold over here in my country. And that was a good deal you got, my country is very much like yours with regards to not-so-black-friday (oh, you unscrupulous merchants). Reply
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