Today Frostytech will be testing a low-noise heatsink called the Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 PWM. It stands about 145mm tall and weighs a moderate 628grams. CPU compatibility extends to Intel socket 775/1366 and AMD 939/940/AM2/AM2+/AM3 processors, but not Intel Core i5 (1156) chips unfortunately.
The unique design of the Nirvana NV120 PWM heatsink sees a 120mm PWM fan set within the body of the heatsink. The translucent fan blades spin at speeds of between 1800-900RPM. For a little visual flair, blue LEDs illuminate the blades.
Constructed primarily of aluminum, the Nirvana NV120 PWM incorporates four 6mm diameter copper heatpipes soldered to a substantial copper base block. While many manufacturers have adopted 'exposed' heatpipe designs, Zerotherm are sticking with what works and tossing in a healthy dose of dark nickel plating. The heatsink is rated for CPUs with a TDP of up to 150W, according to the manufacturer, and retails for around $40USD.
The most interesting aspect of Zerotherm's Nirvana NV120 PWM heatsink are the crossed fins, shown below. The one large fin span is cut into three segments, the two outer fins are pressed upwards and the center fin down. At the points the fins overlap, a sort of rudimentary honeycomb feature is created.
It's difficult to say what impact this design feature has on the overall performance of the Nirvana NV120 PWM heatsink, but judging by the thermal test results it certainly isn't causing undo air resistance.
The Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 PWM heatsink comes with clips for Intel and AMD processors. Depending on your computer, one clip or the other is attached to the die-cast aluminum base of the heatsink with a small machine screws.
The Intel socket 775/1366 clip uses four spring tensioned captive screws and a metal rear-support bracket to install. Users will have to remove the motherboard from the computer for heatsink installation, but once done swapping out CPUs isn't too problematic. An adhesive on the rear motherboard support bracket holds it in place.
The AMD bracket works with the center lug on socket AM2 and socket 939/940/AM2/AM3 heatsink retention frames. The only step required is attaching it to the bottom of the Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 PWM heatsink. Regardless of the orientation of the AMD processor socket on the motherboard, the clip can be fixed to the heatsink so the Nirvana NV120 PWM heatsink exhausts towards the rear of the PC chassis.
Base Finish and Flatness
Flipping a heatsink over to inspect the business end is often a simple indicator of overall cooler quality. More practically speaking, a heatsink is in many ways only as effective as the contact it makes with the processor - the flatter and smoother the better. Base finish is one of the criteria that Frostytech measure in the course of evaluating heatsinks, and it involves two distinct aspects. Surface Finish is the first; this is calculated with the aid of Surface Roughness Comparator that has a cross section of common machine surface finishes and their numerical surface roughness equivalents in microinches. The second is Surface Flatness. This is tested with an engineers straight edge or proven flat surface, in two axis.
The copper base of Zerotherm's Nirvana NV120 PWM heatsink is machined and nickel plated. The surface roughness is ~8 microinches, which is considered excellent. The base is perfectly flat in one axis, and slightly convex in the opposite. The four screw holes around the outside of the base area are for attaching the Intel and AMD mounting brackets.
FrostyTech's Test Methodologies are outlined in detail here if you care to know what equipment is used, and the parameters under which the tests are conducted. Now let's move forward and take a closer look at this heatsink, its acoustic characteristics, and of course its performance in the thermal tests!
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