Date: Tuesday , January 15, 2013
Most companies that produce CPU coolers try to offer products at varying price points and performance to meet the needs of all consumers. This makes sense since everyone’s needs are different. There are very few companies, though, that produce quality products at each of these levels. Thermalright is one of those companies. Its reputation has been earned and reinforced over years of producing quality coolers. We have looked at their high-end offerings such as the Silver Arrow, their mid-range offerings including the TS140 and even coolers designed to run without a fan like the HR-02. Thermalright even makes coolers for video cards if you’re daring enough to try the Shaman. It is pretty safe to say that when you’re looking for a cooler no matter what your needs are, Thermalright is one company that should be on everyone’s list.
Which brings me today’s product. For anyone who has ever put together a HTPC or small form factor PC you know the difficulty in finding an aftermarket cooler that is small yet powerful. When space is at a premium I found myself sticking with the stock AMD cooler because it was "good enough." Well for those of you who say that good enough is never good enough Thermalright has a better answer for you. It’s the AXP-100. Oddly named but having it where it counts, the AXP-100 is designed from the ground up to be compact but powerful. Utilizing six heat pipes and a fan only fourteen millimeters thick you can be sure it will fit where you need it to. Now, let’s see just how well the AZP-100 performs.
One quick not before we begin. We are going to be testing this cooler under conditions that are extreme for what it was designed for. It will have to deal with more heat than 99% of all HTPCs and do so without failing. We feel as though this will test the AXP-100’s true mettle. With that in mind let’s continue.
Today's review utilizes our third generation [H]ard platform. The test bed consists of the ASUS P8Z77-V motherboard, eight gigabytes of Corsair 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM and the Intel Core i7 3770K.
The biggest change you will notice is the removal of hardware testing. In recent years, Intel has shifted their methods of testing to software based and so we find it acceptable to do the same.
For the first time, we have an integrated GPU in our processor which alleviates the need for a discrete one. With the removal of a discrete GPU comes the advantage of not having an additional variable to account for.
The iGPU will not create any anomalies in our testing as long as we practice consistent testing methods.
Corsair was kind enough to provide us with their Carbide series chassis. It provides excellent airflow and interior space and is a good reflection on current case design.
Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the paste of choice for a few key reasons. The thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do their job. 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. Our CPU also requires a compound that is more viscous so the mating compound will not 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 twenty-five 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 twenty-five minute period of 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using Prime95 v27.7 set to in-place large FFTs mode. In this way we can place the maximum amount of heat into the CPU. 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.