CPU Cooler Test System Update 2021 48

CPU Cooler Test System Update 2021

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Introduction

With the continuous advances of PC technology, test benches must be upgraded to keep up with the times. This is especially true for the testing of graphics cards, and while the need to constantly update and innovate is not as paramount for CPU coolers, the setup still needs to be viable and offer tangible results. We previously used an Intel Core i7-8700K, which is still a decent platform as most systems being built are likely to be based around the more affordable Intel and AMD processors. That said, Intel's processors continue to see higher and higher TDPs, and AMD Ryzen continues to gain in popularity. As such, it's time for a massive update not only to our testing platform, but also the testing methodologies.



AMD's rise to prominence is no secret, and while we will be testing on an AMD platform, we have not abandoned Intel. The decision was made to use two test systems rather than one for a better look at the performance CPU coolers can offer on both mainstream platforms. In this article, we will thus discuss the used systems, updates to the testing suite, and changes made to our testing methods.

Testing Systems, Platforms and Settings

AMD Test System
Processor:AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
3.85 GHz Base / 4.0 GHz OC
Motherboard:ASUS ROG STRIX B550-E GAMING
Memory:2x 8 GB Crucial CT2K8G4DFRA32A
@ DDR4-3200 CL22
Graphics Card:MSI GeForce GTX 1650
Ventus XS OC Edition
Storage:Crucial P2 500 GB M.2 NVMe SSD
Power Supply:Chieftec Chieftronic PowerPlay 850
Case:Thermaltake Core P3
Operating System:Windows 10 Professional 64-bit
Version 20H2 (October 2020 Update)
Thermal Paste:Arctic MX-5
Other:2x 4 GB Crucial Ballistix
DDR4-2400 BL2K4G24C16U4B
(clearance testing only)

For the AMD test platform, we opted for a Ryzen 9 3900X. It will be featured in the photos and as the primary focus during the installation procedure since AM4 is the more popular platform currently. To find our starting point on the AMD system, we used an AMD Wraith Prism cooler with the fan set to maximum performance via the tiny switch. With stock BIOS settings, we then used Blender 3D to determine our processor's default all-core clock speed, which was 3.85 GHz. This is where our processor settled during our testing with the AMD stock cooler. Thus, we manually set the CPU all-core clock to 3.85 GHz and left all voltages and settings alone, which removed the issue of the clock speed ramping up on its own based on temperature headroom, which would screw with the cooler test results. While not an ideal situation, it's the only way to get an apples-to-apples comparison.

For overclock testing, the CPU was pushed to 4.0 GHz with the voltage bumped from the stock 1.099 V in Blender to 1.22 V for overclock testing. We also had to increase the SOC voltage to 1.125 V to maintain stability, which had Ryzen Master report an increase from 105 W on the CPU and 39 W on the SOC to 150 W on the CPU and 44 W on the SOC. Meanwhile, it should be noted that while software voltages are not as reliable as hardwired readings, it is done here for reference purposes. Testing power draw at the wall, we noted a 50–60 W increase from stock to overclock.

Intel Test System
Processor:Intel Core i9-10900K
4.3 GHz Stock / 4.8 GHz OC
Motherboard:ASUS ROG MAXIMUS XII FORMULA
Intel Z490
Memory:2x 8 GB Crucial CT2K8G4DFRA32A
@ DDR4-3200 CL22
Graphics Card:MSI GeForce GTX 1650
Ventus XS OC Edition
Storage:Crucial P2 500 GB M.2 NVMe SSD
Power Supply:Chieftec Chieftronic PowerPlay 850
Case:Thermaltake Core P3
Operating System:Windows 10 Professional 64-bit
Version 20H2 (October 2020 Update)
Thermal Paste:Arctic MX-5
Other:2x 4 GB Crucial Ballistix
DDR4-2400 BL2K4G24C16U4B
(clearance testing only)

On the Intel test platform, we opted for an Intel Core i9-10900K. To find our starting point, we used a Noctua NH-U12S with the fan set to maximum performance. At stock BIOS settings, we disabled all multi-core enhancement features and stuck with Intel's specifications. We then used Blender 3D to determine our processor's default all-core clock speed after the initial boost period ended, which was 4.3 GHz. To ensure testing remains fair on all coolers, we then manually set voltage to Vcore at the time of testing, which was 1.01 V, and limited the CPU to the predetermined clock speed. Again, while not an ideal situation, it is the only way to get an apples-to-apples comparison between coolers that is consistent.

For overclocked testing, the motherboard has multi-core enhancement enabled and all limits removed. We then set the CPU to 4.8 GHz at 1.21 volts. This results in the CPU going from the 125 W limit defined by Intel all the way up to roughly 200 W when placed under sustained load. While this isn't the peak power this CPU can draw when running multi-core enhancement, it is a sustainable overclock for long-term testing. Testing power draw at the wall, we noted a 70–90 W increase from the stock settings compared to the overclock settings, with the CPU averaging 194–205 W under load.

Temperature Monitoring and Limits

We have completely changed how we monitor temperatures. We opted for AMD's Ryzen Master on the AM4 platform, with the package temperature limit being 95°C. We found Ryzen Master to be accurate, easy to use, and quite robust, and we get a quick look at both CPU and SOC power information at a glance. Again, while the software is not a true replacement for hardware-level monitoring, it still allows for a good look at typical power usage. I will note that the CPU can go beyond the 95°C; however, this is our cutoff point. To prevent degradation of the processor, the system is shut down if temperatures significantly exceed the cutoff point.

For temperature readings on Intel's Z490 platform, we continue to use AIDA64 with the Tj. Max (temperature junction maximum) set to 100°C. While the Tj. Max can be raised on the Intel Core i9-10900K depending on the motherboard, we stuck with the default as not all boards may offer that setting, and we would again prefer long-term CPU longevity for testing.

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