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


View All Comments

  • Papaspud - Thursday, March 28, 2024 - link

    I have one I have been using for 1 month. It is a bit noisy when it gets warm, but cools well, 7800x3d. I just set the fans to silent mode, it runs a few degrees hotter, but lowers the sound a lot. About 20 degrees above room temp at idle and gets up to 83 when you stress test for about 10 minutes. Reply
  • Tunnah - Sunday, March 31, 2024 - link

    I have tinnitus so favour silence over cooling and I do the same. My CPU idles at 50c with 200RPM fans, and tops out around 85c at 1000RPM. If my computer is ramping up it means I'm gaming and have headphones on so it all works out. Reply
  • Threska - Thursday, March 28, 2024 - link

    3.3 Pounds that should put some lean in the case and stress test the back-plate. Reply
  • Samus - Friday, April 5, 2024 - link

    Definitely want a socket antiflex plate. The thermalright is $9 bucks, pass on the $25 thermal grizzly. It's safe insurance when using anything other than a slim waterblock or OEM-style cooler. Reply
  • monotypical - Thursday, March 28, 2024 - link

    Hoping that HAMR consumer drives hit the market soon and we get a bigger jump than 2TB in 20 months Reply
  • Hulk - Thursday, March 28, 2024 - link

    E. Fylladitakis seems to be running Anandtech solo. Reply
  • kn00tcn - Thursday, March 28, 2024 - link

    um there's gavin, ganesh, plus ryan needs to edit... now why should anand be solely measured by reviews, what about industry info and analysis Reply
  • Panterino - Wednesday, April 3, 2024 - link

    Good call Reply
  • PeachNCream - Friday, March 29, 2024 - link

    Can buy two phones for the price of this cooler and get what is essentially a fully functional computer that is physically smaller, weighs less, and can serve as a communications hub while away from the mains. It's no wonder the PC market is in a state of decline. Reply
  • DickGently - Friday, March 29, 2024 - link

    You can buy two phones for $60? Come again? Two phones that are essentially fully functional computers for $60… is it by using one simple trick that phone manufacturers hate? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now