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HDT Cooler Shootout!

HDT Cooler Shootout!

HDT Cooler Shootout!

We’ve been busy in the Icrontic labs, and there is no shortage of heatsinks coming in. You can expect several new reviews in the not too distant future. We coincidentally received two very similar heatsinks from two different companies—Sunbeam’s new “Core Contact Freezer” and OCZ’s “Vendetta 2”. Both are based on the popular “heatpipe direct touch” or “HDT” design. If you haven’t already guessed, the heatpipes do not contact a base, but contact the heat source directly. It has proved to be an effective technology and more and more heatsinks are beginning to emerge with this type of design.

The “HDT” base of the Core-Contact Freezer. Image courtesy of Sunbeam

We’ll be comparing the two different approaches to the technology and pitting them up against the other twelve heatsinks we’ve tested to date.

Sunbeam Core-Contact Freezer Overview

Sunbeam is a company familiar to modders. They are well known for their rheostats, fan controllers and other modding accessories. On the CPU cooling front, Sunbeam is most well known for their Tuniq Tower 120 heatsink. According to Sunbeam, the new ‘Core-Contact Freezer’ is the Tower 120’s successor and outperforms it by a healthy margin. Since we’ve tested the Tower 120 recently, we’ll be able to validate this claim.

Image courtesy of Sunbeamtech

Specifications (taken from the Sunbeamtech product page at www.sunbeamtech.com)

  • Combined Dimensions: 125mm(L) × 104mm(W) × 155mm(H)
  • Weight (without fan): 590g
  • Material Types: Copper (heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins)
  • Configuration: Tower with U shaped heatpipes
  • Heatpipe Width/Quantity: 8mm, 4 heatpipes
  • Supported Sockets: Sockets 775, AM2 and 754/939
  • Fan Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm
  • Bearing Type: MFDB (Magnetic Fluid Dynamic Bearing)
  • Noise Level: 16dBA
  • Air Flow: 90CFM (without fan controller)
  • Speed: 1000-2000RPM (can be adjusted with included fan controller)

The Core-Contact freezer weighs in at a very reasonable 590g and stands 155mm tall. It should be able to fit into the majority of mid-tower cases. Some specifications of interest include the four large 8mm heatpipes and included high-flow, MFDB fan.

The Core-Contact Freezer came packaged in a pretty simple cardboard box. Some of the relevant specifications are printed on the back.

Aside from the usual mounting hardware, the Core-Contact Freezer includes several extras—a fan controller and their premium grade TX-2 thermal paste. I was very pleased to see that Sunbeam included a well-written, easy to follow instruction manual with the Core-Contact Freezer. The Tower 120’s manual left quite a bit to be desired.

The heatsink itself is quite a sight. It employs an odd fin shape—it resembles an arrow with an indentation where the fan mounts and on each side.

The front portion of each fin is bent downwards slightly. This helps to provide some additional airflow to the CPU VR components—something tower heatsinks generally don’t do.

The heatsink is fairly slim, at only 104mm wide.

Four, 8mm heatpipes are used on the Core-Contact Freezer. Most heatpipes are of the 6mm variety, so these are substantially larger.

The HDT or “Heatpipe Direct Touch” technology has been used by several companies, including Xigmatek, OCZ and of course, Sunbeam. The base is polished and completely flat as verified by our straight edge. I checked each heatpipe individually and was very impressed. The gaps between the base material and the heatpipes are very small, which means that heaps of thermal interface is not required for a good mount. I’ll speak more to thermal interface application in the next section.

Sunbeam includes a high quality, MFDB fan. What I love best about it is the 90CFM at 2000RPM it produces. It is not easy to find 120x25mm fans that can move that much air. Sunbeam includes a fan controller for those more sensitive to noise. I’ll speak more to the fan in the fan testing section. There are small foam pads adhered to each corner of the fan—probably to help with vibration and noise. The adhesive used is very weak and the pads kept falling off, unfortunately.

Sunbeam has bundled their award winning TX-2 thermal paste with the Core-Contact Freezer. I’ve been hearing very good things about this paste, so you can look forward to some testing of it in a future review.

Sunbeam Core-Contact Freezer Installation

Installing HDT based heatsinks requires an extra step when it comes to applying the thermal interface material.

As can be seen, the gaps between each heatpipe need to be filled ahead of time. I accomplished this by applying a small amount of TIM and spreading it using a credit card. The center of the base is most important as it will conduct the majority of the CPU’s heat output.

Socket 775 Installation

Once I had the base prepared, I applied the TIM to our Q6600 as usual.

The Core-Contact Freezer does not install using OEM installation clips, nor does it use a backplate. Sunbeam opted to use a top-frame that mounts using OEM style push-pins. The heatsink is then attached using an AMD clip, ironically. This frame is favorable in my opinion, as the OEM push-pins are a real pain to work with when attached to a large heatsink.

The AMD-style clips are not difficult to secure, however, a fair bit of force is required. I was pleased with the amount of pressure applied using this mounting hardware, although I can’t help but feel that this heatsink could benefit from a backplate. At less than 600g, you don’t have to worry about it breaking loose, thankfully.

The Core-Contact Freezer leaves ample space around all motherboard components. The angled fins should help to provide some airflow to the VR heatsink on the Asus P5K-E.

There you have it. A successful mount without any issues. The fan was easy to install—It uses metal clips. I wasn’t totally pleased with the fan mount, however, as the clips were a little on the flimsy side and bowed when attached to the heatsink.

Socket AM2 Installation

Installing the Core-Contact Freezer on our AM2 test board was a non-issue. It cleared all components easily and the installation was less involved than our Intel system.

The OEM retention frame is utilized. The same clip is used for both 775 and AM2 systems.

There were no clearance issues at all, even with the less than ideal layout of our DFI NF570-M2/G.

I was pleased to see that Sunbeam placed the mounting clips in such a way to allow airflow to the rear of the case. Due to the asymmetrical nature of the AM2 mounting frame, there are usually only two possible mounting positions, not four like with socket 775.

OCZ Vendetta 2 Overview

OCZ is well known for their high-quality, enthusiast lines of memory products. Recently, however, they have taken a serious step into the cooling market with their Vendetta, Vanquisher and Vindicator lines of coolers—not to mention their Cryo-Z phase-change cooler.

Specifications (taken from the Vendetta 2 product page at www.ocz.com)

  • Combined Dimensions: 120mm(L) × 50mm(W) × 159mm(H)
  • Material Types: Copper (heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins)
  • Configuration: Tower with U shaped heatpipes
  • Heatpipe Width/Quantity: 8mm, 3 heatpipes
  • Supported Sockets: Sockets 775, AM2 and 754/939
  • Fan Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm
  • Bearing Type: Rifle bearing
  • Noise Level: 20-32dBA
  • Air Flow: 65-81 CFM
  • Speed: 800-1500RPM (4-pin PWM fan)

Although a 120mm heatsink, the Vendetta 2 has a pretty small footprint. In fact, it is one of the smallest 120mm towers we’ve reviewed to date. Like the Core-Contact Freezer, the Vendetta 2 utilizes thick, 8mm heatpipes and HDT technology. The included fan is a 4 pin PWM model. Most manufacturers have been slow to adopt this fan type. With 81CFM rated for 1500RPM, the included fan is quite powerful.

OCZ’s packaging is a more eye-catching than most. The 120mm fan is visible behind a plastic window.

There is not a lot included as far as accessories are concerned. And yes, those are the dreaded OEM push-pins for 775 mounting. Some generic thermal paste is included, along with a very well written installation manual.

The Vendetta 2 is an impressive sight. The fin design is rather unique, with an odd half-circle indentation towards the center of the bank.

Interestingly, the rear of the heatsink does not follow this pattern, so each fin straightens out towards the back.

Each fin has 40 small indentations to increase surface area and improve heat dissipation.

Three 8mm heatpipes are employed by the Vendetta 2. The strange cutout at the edge of the fins is used for fan mounting. You’ll see how they are used in the next section.

The base quality is very good on the Vendetta 2. It is completely flat as was verified with a straight edge. I checked each heatpipe individually from several angles. It appears that manufacturers are putting a great deal of care into the construction of HDT bases, as defects can be more detrimental to performance than with standard bases.

The build quality of the Vendetta 2 is excellent. It feels very sturdy.

OCZ has included a 4-pin PWM fan. It employs a rifle bearing—quiet like a sleeve bearing but with a life expectancy closer to that of a ball bearing. I’ll be comparing this fan to our reference Scythe S-FLEX.

Socket 775 Installation

The Vendetta 2 requires the same base preparation that I described in the Core-Contact Freezer installation section. The TIM must be spread on the base to fill the gaps prior to installation.

The 775 mounting brackets are installed with a single screw. Installing the Vendetta 2 was not overly difficult, but it would have been even easier without the Intel OEM style push-pins. They don’t rank favorably in my books. Not only do they require a lot of force, they require close inspection to ensure that they secured correctly.

Thankfully, the OCZ Vendetta 2 is small enough that I was able to get my thumbs to the push-pins without too much difficulty. Although I think that all high-performance, enthusiast heatsinks should employ a backplate for best security and performance, the Vendetta 2 is light enough that it should do well without one.

OCZ employs a very unique fan mounting system with the Vendetta 2. Special rubber anti-vibration posts are first mounted to the fan.

They are then squeezed into the gap present on either side of the fins. There is a small opening to allow one fin through the post. The posts also keep the fan spaced by several millimeters. Although this unique system makes fan installation and removal a little more difficult, it provides a secure mount and should help to reduce noise slightly.

Socket AM2 Installation

AM2 installation was a breeze using the OEM retention frame and standard AM2 clip.

Due to the asymettrical nature of the AM2 retention frame, the Vendetta 2 can only be mounted in two positions. Unfortunately, airflow can only be directed upward or downward on our DFI NF570-M2/G test board. Many other AM2 boards will have this same issue. I mounted it facing upward.

Performance Results

Both the Core-Contact Freezer and the Vendetta 2 were tested using our new heatsink testing methodology that was developed for our recent EPIC heatsink roundup. We now have results for fourteen heatsinks included for comparison.

Without further ado, lets see how these two HDT heatsinks stack against the competition.

Just plain awesome. Both heatsinks jumped right to the top of the charts in our Prime95 Large FFT testing. The Core-Contact Freezer has produced some very impressive results and the Vendetta 2 is only a degree or two behind.

Looking at Small FFT tests, which are much more taxing on modern Intel processors, a similar pattern continues. The Core-Contact Freezer maintains a healthy lead with two degrees over the Noctua NH-U12P. The Vendetta 2 is almost dead tied with the Noctua, and only behind slightly in 2.4GHz testing. Very Impressive.

At system idle, we see a very similar pattern. These heatsinks continue to perform efficiently with lower heat loads.

As expected with most tower based heatsinks, the two HDT models tested do not cool motherboard components terribly well. No surprises here. Unfortunately the sensor on the Asus P5K-E is close to the memory VR components, so I could not test the effectiveness of the angled fins on the Core-Contact Freezer.

I was pleased to see consistent performance on our AM2 platform. The temperatures that the Core-Contact Freezer and Vendetta 2 are able to maintain are nothing short of incredible. They are very potent AM2 coolers.

Fan Testing

I decided to put the included fans to the test and compare them to our reference Scythe S-FLEX. I simply swapped our reference fan for the included model and reran the Prime95 Large FFT test at 3.4GHz on our Intel test rig.

Perhaps I just don’t trust 4-pin fans, but I kept a close eye on the OCZ PWM fan to ensure it maintained its full 1500RPM during the test.

The 2000RPM, 90CFM Sunbeam fan was able to shave off a healthy 3°C in comparison to our 1500RPM, 63CFM reference fan. It was audibly louder than our Scythe S-FLEX, but very resonable given its performance. It is pretty clear that the Core-Contact Freezer benefits from some additional airflow.

The OCZ rifle bearing fan matched the performance of our Scythe S-FLEX. Although it has a higher rated CFM value, it is likely that the Vendetta 2 does not benefit much from additional airflow.

Sunbeam Core-Contact Freezer

Sunbeam’s new Core-Contact Freezer is a very worthy successor to the popular Tuniq Tower 120. It bested all 14 coolers we’ve tested to date and moved to the top of our performance charts. Its performance on both our Intel and AMD test platforms was nothing short of amazing. To add icing to the cake, it retails for only $40, includes a tube of high quality thermal paste, a fan controller and a high-flow fan. What more could you ask for?

Installation was simple, thanks to the included socket 775 retention frame. I couldn’t help but wish that Sunbeam had used a backplate with the Core-Contact Freezer. Nonetheless, it is nice and light, and the included clips provide a secure mount. Some minor build quality issues are my only complaint about the Core-Contact Freezer. The fan clips are a bit too flimsy and the fins bend easily. The pads on the fan are also not held on strongly enough and fall off easily. All in all, these are very minor issues and the performance, included accessories and price of the Core-Contact Freezer make it a real winner. I am pleased to award this product with Icrontic’s “Outstanding Product Award”. A big thanks goes out to Sunbeam for providing us with this sample for testing. Stay tuned for a future review of the included TX-2 thermal paste.

Pros:

  • Fantastic performance—the best to date
  • Excellent base quality
  • Easy to install
  • High quality fan included
  • High quality thermal paste included
  • Fan controller included
  • Excellent price—especially considering accessory bundle

Cons:

  • Minor build quality issues

OCZ Vendetta 2

OCZ has impressed me quite a bit with their Vendetta 2. It shot its way right up to second place in almost all of our performance charts. Considering its relatively small footprint, OCZ’s implementation of HDT technology in the Vendetta 2 has been very successful. Its performance was consistent across both Intel and AMD platforms as well.

The build quality of the Vendetta 2 is very good, and its base quality is excellent. The included 4-pin, rifle bearing fan is a good quality, quiet model that is well suited to the heatsink. OCZ’s unique rubber fan mounts are an innovative, secure, low-noise solution that work well.

My biggest complaint about the Vendetta 2 is its OEM style push-pins used for installation on socket 775 systems. Again, it would have been nice to see a backplate used. Thankfully, the Vendetta 2 is nice and light, so this is not really an issue. The OCZ Vendetta 2 can be found at most retailers at the $50 price point. I would have liked to see OCZ include some of their higher end thermal paste with the Vendetta 2 at that price. None the less, considering its fantastic performance and high quality included fan, I’d consider this to be a fair price. Overall I was very impressed with the Vendetta 2 and I am pleased to present it with Icrontic’s “Outstanding Product Award”. A big thanks goes out to OCZ for sending us this sample.

Pros:

  • Fantastic performance—second best to date
  • Excellent base quality
  • Relatively small footprint and light weight
  • Good build quality
  • High quality PWM fan included
  • Rubber fan mounts

Cons:

  • OEM style push-pins for socket 775 installation

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