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

The NZXT CAM Software Testing Results
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  • Foeketijn - Thursday, August 20, 2020 - link

    As long as they keep using aluminium fins, my feeling is, they do not take their customers seriously. It's just a couple of grams extra weight and maybe a buck higher BOM. But it would make it stand out between the competitors. And still nobody bothers. Except Swiftech a long time ago (but got burned by some patent infringement) and some other small player that never came available (EWK maybe?)
  • Guspaz - Thursday, August 20, 2020 - link

    Aluminum fins as opposed to what, copper? Copper is expensive and heavy, and should be used sparingly where it can make the most difference.
  • Freakie - Thursday, August 20, 2020 - link

    I recently went shopping for a AIO and stayed faaaaar away from NZXT for a few reasons. First, no ARGB fans for their already high price. If you want ARGB fans, you have to buy separate ones adding to the already high cost compared to everything else in the market. Second, their connectors for their ARGB (on the waterblock) is proprietary and if you want to convert them to a non-proprietary connector so that you don't have to use (and BUY) NZXT's proprietary ARGB controller, you have to pay at least $15 to get a special converter to do so.

    You wind up spending $80 more to get the same experience as other products and it's just ridiculous. And of course their CAM software has it's own host of problems. Every time GN gets an NZXT review unit, they update on the latest on CAM's woes.
  • back2future - Saturday, August 22, 2020 - link

    thx for words of wisdom, (o)fme it should be said, that there is (generally spoken) a difference between trust and support. Technically, if a cooling system for cpu was at high cost only to enhance for chipset or gpu cooling, there's not that much reason advertising this to mass markets (for liquid cooling enthusiasts)?

    (btw for common knowledge: Some 'new' (destructive to freedom) www attitudes appearing in some fields?
    fast examples selected randomly:
    "We care about your privacy"
    "Non-precise means only an approximate location involving at least a radius of 500 meters is permitted."
    "To measure content performance vendors can:
    * Measure and report on how content was delivered to and interacted with by users.")
  • hubick - Thursday, August 20, 2020 - link

    I have an X73 for my 3960X in a Define 7 case. The stock fans were nice and quiet, but I didn't feel pushed enough air when flat out at 100%, so I replaced them with six Corsair ML120's in push+pull, blowing out the front of the case (have 240mm AIO GPU up top). My 3960X, nailed at 100% in Aida64 long term, settles at 84 degrees Celsius (motherboard temp, package bounces around about 10 degrees higher). It feels like the round cooling plate only covers about 60-70% of the Threadripper - which I read supposedly doesn't matter that much, but yeah.
  • KorbenD - Friday, August 21, 2020 - link

    If the CAM software wasnt's so bad... It runs 9 processes to monitor, uses over 1GB of RAM. And it causes systems to freeze randomly (had now 5 other people replying to me that they had the same symptoms). Never a NZXT product that requires CAM, never again.
  • silencer12 - Friday, August 21, 2020 - link

    I think there are other unofficial cam alternatives. There was some developer who made software in python which can monitor nzxt liquid cooling.
  • silencer12 - Friday, August 21, 2020 - link

    I forget the name of it though. I found out about it last year
  • Tom Sunday - Saturday, August 22, 2020 - link

    I just had my all new super PC purchase including a CDROM and with a high quality 'Thermaltake Gravity' cooler build by a local strip-center shop for under $850. Money for the man on the street is tight and I can't afford to play games.They said that AIO water-cooler purchases only applies to less than 15% of all customers and that less than 2% of them are actually attempting to overclocking their PC's! Moreover that 80% of AIO purchasers have been let to believe (or scared) into that AIO's is the only right answer. Perhaps marketing and ultra high profit margins at work? Furthermore that the total motherboard market represents up to 90% of mainstream boards actually purchased ($90-$120) and which generally do not overclock. I am not good with numbers and marketing and many other things so what do I know? But listening to the geek-team from Bangladesh I inherently know something is not cool!
  • seamonkey79 - Sunday, August 23, 2020 - link

    This is as stupid as that $300 B550 board.

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