Our methodology currently focuses on the thermal performance of a heatsink on two different sized copper interface dies, tested at 50W and 100W heat loads. Acoustically, we record the noise signature of a particular fan and heatsink combo.
Frosty Acoustic Sampling Chamber:
To record the noise generated by a particular fan and heatsink combination, we use a special enclosure box lined with 2" of foam which is sealed from the outside environment during the recording process. The thick layer of foam helps to ensure that the sound we record is only that generated by the heatsink/fan inside. A standard computer power supply is located outside the enclosure to power the heatsinks' fan.
A monophonic microphone is positioned about 6" from the center of the test chamber so it is out of the direct air flow path generated by the fan. A solid state digital recorder is used record the sound picked up by the nondirectional mic inside the case. The digital recorder has a frequency range of approximately 500Hz to 3500Hz.
The purpose of the enclosure is to record an accurate representation of the noise generated by a heatsink and fan combo - separate from any other external computer noises like hard drives or power supplies.
FrostyTech Synthetic Temperature Test Platform:
The FrostyTech Synthetic Temperature Test Platform consists of an aluminum block heated by up to two 120V 250 Ohm precision resistors. With one resistor engaged, the test platform will output 50W of heat, with both engaged, 100W. The heat is transmitted to the test heatsink via special copper interface dies with embedded type-K thermocouples.
The test temperatures are recorded from within these copper interface dies which approximately replicate the surface area of various FC-PGA and heatspreader covered processors. The correlation is not one-to-one for every single possible core surface area, but rather an aggregate. Since each of the interface dies have the approximate surface area of either a bare silicon core or heatspreader covered processor, the flow of heat to the base of the heatsink is accurately mimicked.
An Omega HH501DK Type-K digital thermometer is used to record the temperature from the interface die once everything has thermally stabilized. The test is conducted at 50W, and again at 100W for each of the interface dies. All heatsinks are tested using a good quality silver based thermal compound and all original thermal interface materials are removed.
A Note about 1U Reviews
A 1U server case is only 1.75" thick, leaving effectively 30mm or so above the processor core for the entire thermal solution. Noise isn't much of a concern in this environment, but rather sheer cooling performance. Servers are expected to be up 99.9% of the time, and system problems due to an overheated processor is simply not going to fly.
This brings us to the problem with how to test 1U heatsinks accurately. Since the operating environment of every 1U heatsink is height limited, it would seem ideal to test 1U heatsinks as such. In this example, all 1U heatsinks would be tested with a plate directly above the top of the cooler so that the total distance from heatsink base to the base of this cover plate is 30mm.
Unfortunately this is where the problems arise. Every type of heatsink, including the average desktop one is a product of the environment to some degree. Some cases have their power supply located directly over the processor, while other people may use socket heatsinks on a slocket-based chip that would put sticks of memory in the direct intake path, etc. In the case of our hard working 1U heatsinks, intake fans, drafting, orientation of heatsink relative to airflow, and countless other factors can influence how the heatsink would perform within a specific 1U system.
Therefore unless otherwise noted, we will be reviewing all active heatsinks "removed from the system." The results of our tests on 1U heatsinks will not be under height-limited system conditions. Rather, each heatsink will be tested as if it is removed from the system, yielding more accurate comparisons to the other heatsinks being reviewed. The distinctions are slight, but very important for those of you dealing with decisions on what 1U cooling solutions to consider. Particular systems follow similar guidelines and 1U heatsinks can (and should) be tested for each case environment.
Passive 1U cooling solutions will be tested with the 30mm height restriction in place and use a common source and direction of draft air. The exact conditions of the test environment will be described for those particular 1U heatsink reviews.
Now that we've explained a little about how we test the heatsinks that cross our path, lets move forward and take a closer look at test results for today's heatsink.
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