I would like to thank Zerotherm for supplying the review sample.
- Easy Install
- Killer performance
- Fan speed control
- Efficient heat pipe design
- Honeycomb Structure optimized design
- Two blue LED fan
- Intel Socket 775: Pentium 4, Pentium 4D, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Extreme
- AMD Socket 939/940/AM2: Opteron, Sempron, Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2 Athlon 64 FX
||128 x 95 x 150 mm
||Copper Base and Heat Pipe, Aluminum fin
|Heat Dissipation Area:
||6748 square cm (1046 square in)
||120 x 25 mm
||700 ~ 2600 RPM +/- 10%
||Under 39 dB
||5 - 13.8V
||Max 84.7 CFM
||628g (without optional components)
From the Zerotherm website:
ZEROtherm is engineered for the objective of decreasing noise into the “ZERO” range while effectively addressing thermal issues. ZEROtherm products are optimized cooling solutions to reduce both noise and heat. Our core thermal packaging technology (including heat pipe technology and micro electro mechanical technology) is the basis for all ZEROtherm products.
We seek to exceed consumer expectations by developing, designing, and producing “best-of-breed” solutions from our extensive technological and engineering capabilities.
Packaging & Contents
The Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Premium comes in a metallic silver box with a lot of color images and specifications on the outside. The box seems oversized for the heatsink, which can clearly be seen through a window on the front of the package.
Inside the box the heatsink and the accessories are stored in a plastic clamshell package. The mounting hardware consists of an AMD bracket, and Intel bracket and backplate, four screws and a small tube of thermal compound.
Also included with the Nirvana is a fan controller and a multi language installation instruction sheet.
A Closer Look
The Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Premium is a tower-type heatsink with a copper base and four U-shaped heatpipes, which lead up through 44 aluminum fins. The edges of the fins wrap around the front to protect the sides of the fan.
The entire heatsink is coated in a mirror finish that looks more dark gray than silver. On top of the heatsink the middle section dips down while the two sides bend up. All of the fins are the same way, which creates the Nirvana's honeycomb design.
The fan on the front is a transparent 120mm proprietary fan that attaches to the base with some metal clips. The fan is tilted upward to help elevate the dead spot behind the hub. At the end of the fan wire is a standard 3-pin connector.
The copper base has the same mirror plating on it as the rest of the heatsink. I did notice that there were two small spots on the base that looked as if some foreign material was caught in the plating, as seen in the red squares above. Although the base is very shiny, there are some mill marks still visible. The razor test shows the base is convex and only the very center touches the blade.
The Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Premium uses the same mounting system as the BTF92. For Intel systems, this means that the X-shaped bracket needs to be affixed to the base of the heatsink with the four small black screws.
To mount the heatsink on an Intel CPU the motherboard must be removed from the system. The backplate has a thin paper film on it which can be removed for installation ease and a more permanent mounting. Since many heatsinks are tested on this system, the paper was not removed to make it easier to take the backplate out of the system. (In this case the heatsink should be installed before placing the motherboard back in the system, or else the installation will be slightly more difficult.) With the backplate in place the motherboard was flipped over and the CPU was cleaned to remove all the previous thermal compound residue.
The CPU heatspreader was cleaned to remove all previous thermal compound and a thin line of paste was applied to the heatspreader. The Nirvana was placed over the CPU and the screws were tightened down in an "X" pattern a little at a time until all four screws were snug. I needed to use a Phillips screwdriver with a shaft at least six inches long in order to mount the cooler, because the fan is not removable and the screwdriver needs to fit between the heatsink and the fan.
After installation the heatsink was immediately removed to inspect the contact area for the thermal compound. The compound had spread nicely, but it was noticeable that the compound was slightly heavier toward the right edge.
With the heatsink cleaned and Arctic Silver 5 applied, the heatsink was reinstalled. Although the Nirvana is rather wide and hangs over the chipset heatsink on the motherboard, the Nirvana is tall enough to clear the chipset heatsink.
The 3-pin header for the fan can be plugged directly into the motherboard CPU fan header, or it can be plugged in to the fan controller provided with the Nirvana.
As stated before, the Nirvana is a bit wide. In this installation with the fan blowing toward the back of the case, the Nirvana hangs over the top edge of the motherboard slightly. When the motherboard tray was placed back inside the case, one of the fan grills needed to be removed from the top mounted fans in the Lian Li PC-A10 case. With other cases that have the power supply located above the motherboard (or other cases with simply more room), this should not be a problem. Also, if the heatsink is mounted so the fan blows upward toward the top of the case, this is no longer an issue.
The system being used to test the heatsink is as follows:
||Intel E6850 Core2 Duo
||9 x 333 MHz = 3.0 GHz, Memory at DDR2-667
||Asus P5W DH Deluxe
||2 x 1GB G.Skill F2-6400CL4D-2GBHK
||Sapphire HD 2900XT PCI-e
||4 x 250 GB Seagate 7200.10 in Matrix Raid 0/5
||ThermalTake ToughPower 750W
||Lian Li PC-A10B
||Windows XP Pro SP2, Catalyst 7.10
Ambient temperature was kept to 22 degrees Celsius (+/- 1 degree) and was measured by a standard mercury thermometer.
At stock speeds the Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Premium performs extremely well. In fact, it is able to slightly edge out the performance of the ThermalTake Bigwater 760i, even at low speed.
When the CPU is overclocked and the voltage is increased, the Nirvana Premium is still holding its own against the top performers in the group. With the fan at full speed it ties the lowest temperature in the test group.
To measure fan noise we used an IEC Type 2 sound level meter on the dbA setting. Measuring distance was 10 cm from the heatsink fan hub. The short distance of 10 cm is necessary to get proper readings with very silent fans. All fans were tested outside of the case at 12V supplied by a lab PSU. On fans that come with a fan controller or allow control of fan speed in any other way, "low" and "high" indicate the settings on the fan controller.
At low speed the fan on the Nirvana Premium is very quiet, and it was not audible in the case with the system running and all the case fans set to low speed. At full speed the fan is much louder, but not as loud as some other fans in the test group.
Value and Conclusion
- The Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Premium is available for about $42 to $50 USD after rebate.
- $42 USD after rebate is a great price
- Great performance
- Beautiful mirror plated finish over the entire heatsink
- Cool blue LED fan
- Four U-shaped heatpipes
- Included fan controller
- Fan is quiet at low speed
- Base imperfections
- Proprietary fan
- Fan is loud at full speed
- May have clearance issues in tight cases under certain configurations
The Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Premium is a great heatsink that can be had for as little as $42 after rebate, which is a great price for a solid performer. I just cannot get over how beautiful the finish is on the Nirvana, and that finish wraps the entire heatsink. The blue LEDs in the fan are a nice touch, and the fan controller allows the user to dial in exactly how much noise is acceptable. With a small margin of performance difference between high speed and low speed, I found setting the fan to just below half-way still kept it quieter than the stock cooler on my video card.
The biggest fault I could find with the Nirvana Premium were the imperfections on the base. These blemishes probably have a negative impact on the performance of the heatsink as they reduce the contact area. However, anyone with the time and skill could lap the heatsink to solve this problem, and anyone who is serious about performance probably would anyway. The only other issues were with the proprietary fan being harder to replace if something went wrong with it, and how loud the fan can get at full speed. There is a possibility of clearance issues if the CPU socket is high up on the motherboard and the user installs the Nirvana Premium with the airflow directed toward the back, but this would be the same as with any other tower heatsink based on a 120mm fan.
Overall I was extremely impressed with the Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Premium. I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a 120mm tower heatsink. Please follow the forum link where I will be listing a few places this heatsink can be purchased.