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While flagship processors continue to push 95W-130W TDP, there are many more mainstream Intel chips that operate with half the heat output. Finding a decent heatsink for these everyday CPUs that doesn't cost an arm, cools quietly and installs without too much hassle just got easier.
Take for example the Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro heatsink Frostytech is testing today. It's a dead simple extruded aluminum cooler, good for mainstream Intel socket 775 and 1156 processors with a TDP up to about 90W. The patented Arctic Cooling 95mm suspended fan spins at 500-2000RPM, but from the test results we've seen it's best to keep the PWM fan spinning at full tilt.
The heatsink is an aluminum extrusion, weighs 428 grams and stands about 77mm tall. It's well suited for applications like a media PCs and other sub-tower computer format where low noise processor cooling is a priority. It is not a performance heatsink for gaming systems, however. The Alpine 11 Pro heatsink ships with a patch of good quality thermal compound pre-applied to the base and that's it.
A plastic support frame attaches to any Intel socket 775 or socket 1156 motherboard with a set of small plastic push pins (from above, removing the motherboard is not necessary). The rest of the heatsink is held in placed with a set of phillips machine screws that simultaneously apply clamping force and retain the heatsink into its plastic retention frame.
As is par for the course, the Arctic Cooling fan is attached to the heatsink with soft rubber vibration absorbing posts.
Traditionally, cooling fans are clipped or screwed firmly onto the rest of the heatsink. Screws will hold a fan securely, but do nothing to prevent rattling sounds from developing if motor vibration exists.
The Alpine 11 Pro uses rubber fixtures at each corner which reduce the chance of errant noises, and at the same time absorb or dampen some of the vibrations that are inevitably caused by minor imbalances in the impeller. Arctic Cooling's 'dualaxial' rubber post hold the lightweight Alpine 11 Pro fan in position, in both axis. The long term stability of the rubber fixtures with respect to drying out and becoming brittle, is the one component which remains to be seen.
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 base of the Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro has a surface roughness of approximately 32 microinches, which is considered good. The base has a sanded surface texture and is very slightly wavy in both axis when examined with a straight edge.
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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