Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) today announced the Poseidon GTX 980 with DirectCU H2O, a hybrid thermal solution that lets users choose between air or water cooling. The cooler sports a custom vapor chamber that comes in direct contact with the card's GPU for better heat dispersal, while copper heat pipes and extended cooling fins help whisk heat out and away from the card.
With our lab coats donned, our test benches primed, and our benchmarks at the ready, we look for answers to nine of the most burning performance-related questions
If there’s one thing that defines the Maximum PC ethos, it’s an obsession with Lab-testing. What better way to discern a product’s performance capabilities, or judge the value of an upgrade, or simply settle a heated office debate? This month, we focus our obsession on several of the major questions on the minds of enthusiasts. Is liquid cooling always more effective than air? Should serious gamers demand PCIe 3.0? When it comes to RAM, are higher clocks better? On the surface, the answers might seem obvious. But, as far as we’re concerned, nothing is for certain until it’s put to the test. We’re talking tests that isolate a subsystem and measure results using real-world workloads. Indeed, we not only want to know if a particular technology or piece of hardware is truly superior, but also by how much. After all, we’re spending our hard-earned skrilla on this gear, so we want our purchases to make real-world sense. Over the next several pages, we put some of the most pressing PC-related questions to the test. If you’re ready for the answers, read on.
Note: This article was originally featured in the October 2013 issue of the magazine
Think you need an exotic cooling solution to keep your dream machine from burning itself up? Don't be so sure. Air cooling, when implemented correctly, can get the job done, and that's especially true if you have room in your chassis to accommodate Cooler Master's new monstrous V8 GTS cooler. The V8 GTS uses triple tower heat sinks to help dissipate thermal loads up to 250W.
Nickel plated copper piping is a key feature in the Aventum II's cooling schematics.
Boutique builder Digital Storm just took its Aventum system to another level. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, out in the desert, Digital Storm unboxed its new Aventum II with a custom designed cooling solution and chassis that features copper piping and room for nearly two dozen fans (22, to be exact). If you've been damned to hell and can only take one item with you, this might be the only logical option.
The Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E doesn’t lack for heat pipes: Eight of them rise from the heat exchanger up into the two sets of cooling fins. The entire thing, from aluminum fins to copper pipes and heat exchanger, is plated in a shiny nickel coat. The two sets of cooling fins are shiny and jagged, and much more stylized than the Noctua DH-14 (reviewed April 2012) or the Phanteks PH-TC14PE (reviewed June 2012), its most obvious competitors of the coolers we’ve tested. The whole assemblage weighs two pounds, 7.6 ounces with both fans. Those fans—a 15cm TY-150 and 14cm TY-141—are both low-RPM 12V fans with 4-pin PWM connectors.
There’s something incongruous about mustard-and-olive fans with those edgy nickel-plated cooling fins.
WE HAVE BEEN anxious to test Cooler Master’s TPC 812 since we saw a prototype at this year’s CES—or was it last year’s? Regardless, the company piqued our interest with its talk of “vertical vapor chamber cooling,” and we finally have our hands on the TPC 812, a massive air cooler with six heat pipes and two vertical vapor chambers.
SOMETIMES WHEN we use the Hyper 212 Plus in a build we get comments to the effect of, “Why don’t you use Xigmatek’s Gaia? It’s just as good and just as cheap!” Just as cheap? Definitely. Just as good? We’ll see!
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Gaia is a skyscraper-style stack of aluminum cooling fins on top of three direct-contact copper heat pipes. The Gaia is 6.5 inches high by 2.9 inches thick (with the fan) and 4.9 inches wide. At one pound, 4.7 ounces, it’s practically the same weight as the Hyper 212 Evo. Aside from the slightly narrower cooling fins and the fact that it has three heat pipes rather than four, and its 12cm PWM fan is held on by rubber pegs rather than a plastic clip, the Gaia looks a lot like the Evo.
We just realized that the Xigmatek Gaia’s cooling fins resemble the letter X.
NZXT’s second air cooler, and they still can’t spell ‘havoc’
NZXT DIDN’T ENTER the CPU cooling game until quite recently. We reviewed its first cooler, the skyscraper Havik 140, in December 2011. The Havik 140’s dual 14cm fans helped it power to the top of our air-cooling charts, though the slightly cheap-feeling mounting bracket kept it from Kick Ass Award status. NZXT’s second air cooler is the smaller, less expensive Havik 120.
What, this old thing? Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo is the new‑and‑improved version of our standby CPU cooler. It’s just $35 and offers performance far exceeding other coolers in its price range, so it’s the first thing we reach for when we build a new budget-conscious rig. Given that LGA2011 CPUs don’t come with heatsinks, the Evo is the closest thing we have to a stock cooler, and it will be the standard against which all other Sandy Bridge-E coolers are judged.
WE HADN'T HEARD much from Xigmatek in a while until last month’s LGA2011 cooler roundup. In that review roundup, we tested the company’s budget Gaia cooler and found it roughly equivalent to the Hyper 212 Evo—which is a good thing. Now we’ve got our hands on the Aegir, a direct-contact heatsink with more fins, more fans, and more oomph.
The Aegir has a strange heat pipe configuration: Six copper heat pipes rise through its 4.6-inch stack of cooling fins, but only four have direct contact with the CPU heat exchanger. The other two heat pipes are set into channels at the top of the heat exchanger, above the two center direct-contact heat pipes. They don’t contact the CPU directly. They don’t even touch the heat pipes that touch the CPU. Xigmatek calls this "Double Layer with Heat-pipe Direct Touch," or DLHDT. Catchy!
Many coolers designed before the launch of Sandy Bridge-E have LGA2011 support added after the fact, and not always well. With some coolers, we had trouble putting sufficient mounting pressure on the heatsink, leaving the cooler’s LGA2011 performance lagging compared to other platforms. That isn’t a problem with the Aegir: Even on LGA2011, the mounting crossbar clamps down so far we worried we’d break our motherboard. But we didn’t, and thanks to the pressure, the Aegir’s four lower direct-contact heat pipes got plenty of, well, direct contact with the CPU’s heat spreader.