Date: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Being number one is often a good place to be in business, unless the business is technology. More often than not it seems when a company is the best in its respective field it tends to sit back on its laurels. Donآ’t believe me? Just look a few short years ago at Intelآ’s Prescott blunder. Another example is NVIDIAآ’s rehash of the venerable 8800 GTX in the form of the 8800GT/GTS and 9800 GT/GTX. It seems when technology companies hold the crown in it field; it tends to get a bit lazy on the innovation side of things. Where am I going with all of this? Thermalright has held the top spot when it comes to air coolers for well over a year in the form of their Ultra-120 Extreme which has shown its mettle in many of our cooling tests. Heck, if you run it outside of a case with a constant ambient temperature air flow like many water cooling radiator setups enjoy, it will even rival a $400 water cooling system. No matter what other cooler companies came out, none have dethroned this king of coolers.
Has Thermalright fallen into the same lazy, business as usual, mindset? Not content to sit back and wait for someone to challenge it, Thermalright has decided to challenge itself. In an attempt to push the boundaries of thermodynamics, Thermalright is bringing to market an all copper version of their very best cooler called the Thermalright Ultra Extreme Copper, or as we will be referring to it from here out, the آ“TRUE Copper.آ”
All testing of the TRUE Copper cooler will occur on our normal test bed, which will likely be it second-to-last time out as we move towards getting an Core i7 system on the test bench. Currently our setup consists of the Asus Maximus Formula paired with an Intel QX9650.
When we concluded the first roundup of CPU heat sinks way back when, Kyle and I both came to the same conclusion. Software temperature monitoring just isn't going to cut it. We need to step it up the [H]ard way. That is just what we did. We reached out to Intel about using a hardware monitor drilled into the IHS to measure the CPU temperature and wouldn't you know it, this is the exact way Intel tests their own chips. Now we knew we were on the right path. A few weeks later and a little planning along with some specifications and we were able to do it just like Intel does. Any advanced machine shop should be able to get you there too.
Temperatures for the CPU will be measured using a Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. We can also monitor the temperature of the North Bridge through the Asus Probe application. This will let us know if the heat sink provides any additional cooling to other components. Something that becomes more and more important as you overclock.
Now you may be asking why we didnآ’t just use a quad core CPU and continue monitoring temperatures through software. Take a look at this table. These measurements were recorded using the Intel stock cooler with the CPU at default settings. Core-Temp reports the individual temperature from each core.
With large discrepancies and variations between programs, this is why we chose hardware monitoring.
For this article the GPU will be kept at stock speed to keep any excess heat away from the CPU that could impact the results. In 2D mode the 7900GTX under clocks its core to 275MHz which creates very little heat and allows the fan to run at inaudible levels.
Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the paste of choice for a few key reasons. Firstly, the thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do their job. Secondly, there is no observed curing time. That is, performance does not get any better over time. Any curing time could have introduced variables into the equation causing at best dubious results and at worst unreliable ones. Lastly, because we have a special CPU on our hands it requires a compound that is more viscous so not to seep into the channel and run off.
Ambient temperature will be kept at 25C for the duration of the tests and measured with a MicroTemp EXP non-contact infrared thermometer and cross referenced with the Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. Any variance greater then 0.2C will halt the testing until temperatures return within spec for fifteen minutes.
Idle temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of inactivity. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.
Load temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of 100% load. To obtain this we will be using Prime95 v25.3. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.
Sound levels will be measured with a Reliability Direct AR824 sound meter from a distance of four feet away. With everything turned off and the room completely silent the meter registered a sound level of 38dB(A). This is a very quiet room where a simple pin drop could be heard. All sound measurements are recorded in the very late evening to further reduce any ambient noise.