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SilverStone SST-AR03 CPU Cooler Heatsink Review

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Testing & Results

Testing Methodology

The CPU coolers were tested installed in a computer case in its normal orientation (a NZXT H630). A 200mm top/rear exhaust fan was added to the enclosure to aid in cooling VRMs and most of the front drive cages were removed to clear the path from the 200mm intake fan. The GPU remained installed during testing. All fans were set to 100% to remove that variable from the results (motherboard fan control was disabled). This is how I would assume most enthusiasts would set up a similar case while overclocking a similar platform.

All tests were performed using the AIDA64 Extreme Edition Stability test, using 100% fan settings on an Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0. The test was allowed to run until temperatures plateaued, then I recorded the ambient temperature of the intake air and began logging temperatures over the next minute. After an initial warm-up run, I ran each test at least three times (more if I received inconsistent results), and recorded the ambient temperature again. Once I had “good data,” I dropped the best and worst results and subtracted the (average over the test) ambient temperature from the median result to arrive at the delta T temperature you see in the chart.

Each time a heat-sink was swapped, the Tuniq TX-2 thermal interface material I used for each application was cleaned off of the contact surfaces with Arctic Silver’s ArctiClean two-step TIM remover, and an appropriate amount of TX-2 replaced for the next heat-sink. Due to the nature of applying TIM and mating two surfaces, I would like to adopt a 3% margin of error – even though my thermometers and the built-in thermal diode measure temperatures down to one-tenth of a degree Celsius, it could be assumed that temperatures within a degree of each other are essentially the same result.

Test System

  • Motherboard: Asus M5A99FX-PRO R2.0 w/ 1708 BIOS/UEFI
  • System Memory: 8GB (2x4GB) GSkill Ares 1600MHz DDR3 CL8
  • Processor: AMD FX-8320 Piledriver, 4.6GHz/1.428V LLC (Extreme)
  • Audio: On-Board
  • Video: Sapphire Radeon 7950 3GB 1000MHz Core, 1300MHz mem
  • Disk Drive 1: OCZ Vertex 2 240GB
  • Enclosure: NZXT H630, +200mm exhaust fan (top/rear)
  • PSU: Rosewill Lightning 800W Modular 80+ Gold
  • Monitor: 1920×1080 120Hz
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit w/SP1

Results

CPU Coolers

A strong showing for the AR03. It seems the extra mass and surface area of the larger AR03 was enough to deal with the thermal load of an overclocked FX platform. Measured at the outlet during the stability test, the test system was consuming approximately 290W. I can’t know for sure unless I measure the current from the CPU itself, but it appears each heat-sink had to dissipate around 200W of heat from the CPU. Some of the smaller coolers just couldn’t deal with the high thermal load as easily as the bigger coolers or those of different designs, and even liquid coolers using thin radiators and one fan didn’t shed the heat as effectively as the AR03. Of course, the NZXT H630 ATX case used for testing has a large amount of airflow, and without that I’m sure the liquid coolers would perform much better (by not having to deal with heat build-up inside the case in a poor airflow situation).


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3 comments

  1. BeauCharles

    I’m confused by what you said about not being able to change the AMD “default motherboard orientation”. Does the AR03 (and AR01) point in the traditional east/west direction to blow hot air out the back? If forces a north/south orientation that blows air up I wouldn’t want it (such as my old Xigmatek with an AMD clip).

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      In response to your question, yes. *Most* AMD motherboards use that “traditional” orientation of east/west airflow (or front/back), although many mATX motherboards will switch that up to gain a little more space around the socket in my experience (and although there aren’t many AMD mini-ITX boards, I’d wager all bets are off when it comes to that form factor :) ). The board I use for testing is an Asus M5A99FX PRO 2.0, ATX, and it uses the “traditional” orientation.

      The AMD socket mounting pattern forms a rectangle. If you’re looking at motherboards, draw a line to each of the mounting holes around the socket, imagine that rectangle as the heatsink itself, and that is the direction it will be mounted in *most* cases (of course, every cooler is different, so that really only applies to the AR01/03). I hope that helps clear things up!

  2. BeauCharles

    Thanks for the explanation Tom. This is for an ATX AM3 board (ASUS M4A79T Deluxe), so it sounds like I would get the front/back orientation with either the AR03 or AR01 (which is the one I’m leaning towards).

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