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, Packaging & Bundle Testing Results
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  • GreenReaper - Saturday, January 23, 2021 - link

    You, uh . . . you know that's a bot, right? ^^'
  • Samus - Thursday, January 21, 2021 - link

    What kind of case will the 420 even fit in?
  • Tom Sunday - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    Nothing new here of significant new tech. Same old same old. Now Arctic jumping on the crowded bandwagon again with just a simple variation of the product. Artic apparently feels that RGB is a waning issue for enthusiasts? They are probably right to think so? Really hope that with all of the "tech-strides" which are happening, that a much more meaningful progress will be forthcoming in the AIO field. With most new generation CPU's are running hotter and hotter, please give me an additional and constant '15-20' degree drop in temps instead of easier assembly options. Looks like that this new 'Artic Freezer' product is not able to serve-up a minus 20 degrees. Other very disappointment issues have been the included fans by most manufacturers and those being second or even third grade. It's a major somewhat hidden money maker for the manufactures to cheapen-out on this but short changing the enthusiast who essentially is their bread and butter.
  • JerseySailor - Thursday, May 27, 2021 - link

    Picked up the 280 model. It wouldn't fit my case, and the local Micro-Center didn't have a single one of their dozens of cases that would fit it on top.
    It came with NO Instructions. After finally finding installation instructions on their web site (look out - they are well hidden and buried deep), I found them to be among the worst installation instructions I've ever seen.
    This company needs to clean up its act.

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