To measure the performance of CPU coolers, we devised an easily repeatable series of tests. The only variable is the coolers themselves to ensure the results can be accurately compared against one another.
- CPU – Intel Core i9-9900KS
- Motherboard – Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme
- Memory – 16GB (2x 8GB modules) Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3200 C18
- Storage – Corsair Force LE120 120GB SATA SSD
- Power supply – Seasonic Prime PX-850 850W 80+ Platinum
- Thermal compound – Corsair TM30
- Chassis – Open test bench
- Operating System – Windows 10 1903
Thermal Testing Procedure
The procedure will consist of several tests that will produce four temperature readings for each cooler. The data can then be used to compare thermal dissipation performance.
First, we will lock the Intel Core i9-9900KS at its 4.0GHz all-core base clock frequency, with a 1.150V VCORE applied in the BIOS. Then, run a 20-minute CPU stress test using Aida64 with CPU, FPU and cache stress tests selected.
To simulate overclocked frequency, we will then lock the Core i9-9900K to 4.7GHz on all cores with a 1.265V VCORE applied and run the same 20-minute load test again. To measure an extreme overclocking situation, we will lock the Core i9-9900KS frequency to 5.1GHz on all cores with 1.320V VCORE and run the tests one final time – this should push the limits of the cooling performance of even the very best CPU coolers.
Admittedly, the overclocked frequencies/voltage may not be the highest achievable, nevertheless, it will give us a good set of data to compare the effect frequency/voltage changes have on temperature.
The temperatures presented in the graphs will be average Delta temperatures measured over the length of the test. We will calculate the Delta temperature by deducting the ambient temperature in the test room from the measured CPU temperature, both at idle and under load.
Load temperatures are achieved by running AIDA64 stressing CPU, FPU and cache again for 20 minutes. This should give the CPU enough time to reach its maximum temperature. Throughout testing, Load Line Calibration will be set to level 6 (turbo), CPU power limits and c-states disabled in BIOS and all CPU Fans/pumps set to maximum RPM to find the raw thermal performance of each cooler. During the 20-minute load stress periods, CPU temperature is logged by HWINFO and an average CPU temperature is calculated from this data.
To measure the thermal performance of each CPU cooler with noise normalised, we will run the 4.7GHz load test one final time with the noise output of the CPU cooler set at 40dBA, which is measured using a sound meter placed 1 meter from the test bench. Noise normalised testing will determine the efficiency of the cooler at a given noise level.
Maximum noise levels will be measured with our sound meter at a distance of 1 meter from the test bench. The cooler’s fans/pump will be set to their maximum RPM rating. The ambient noise level in the room is measured at 37.3dBA, the peak noise level of the cooler will be recorded in dBA.