Sunday, April 20, 2014

Enermax ETS-T40-VD CPU cooler upgrade

So what's wrong with the stock AMD CPU cooler?

Well, for one thing, just look at it! Despite being made by Cooler Master, this thing uses a tiny fan on a downflow heatsink - proven to be less efficient than tower coolers. And that fan - at full bore, it sounds like am Embraer Brasilia at takeoff power. It technically works well enough at stock speeds, though forget about overclocking, and if you're doing anything heavy, prepare to wear ear plugs most of the time.

Monitoring my temps with AMD's overdrive utility, I was getting thermal margins of about 16C with this cooler - or about 54C absolute temp according to HWINFO64.

(I bent that top left fin back - just hadn't noticed it before taking this photo.)

I specifically sought out the Enermax ETS-T40-VD - a just-discontinued model that's getting harder to find, but one of the few coolers that uses a red LED fan (and blue, and blue + red, in various combinations). And it's reasonably priced (assuming you can still find it), highly effective and reasonably quiet. I got mine from AAAwave. Enermax's current models are pretty similar but use a thermal heatsink coating (not really necessary) and different fans that have either blue or white LED's depending on the model... or none. This one has both blue and red, and 18 of each. Keee-razy!

Isopropyl alcohol and a paper towel is the easiest way I've found to clean thermal grease from both heatsinks and CPU's. I bought this bottle probably 10 years ago, as you can tell from the label.

You can already see one of the problems with the stock heatsink - look at the sides (beyond the thermal grease) - see how dull it looks. Well, that's true of the part under the grease too:

This thing really needed another round of polishing. You can actually feel that texture - it's like brushed aluminum. Hardly the ideal surface to mate to a CPU.

Installation of the ETS-T40-VD was pretty straightforward. Unscrew the old plastic clips, screw in the new included backplate and metal brackets, then screw the pressure plate for the heatsink on top. The hardest part was figuring out how tight to tighten the pressure plate screws that hold on the heatsink itself - I didn't want to crush the CPU, but did want to keep the otherwise free-moving heatsink from slinking around. One thing I do like about stock coolers is that they're pretty much idiot-proof, and they always click in with just the right amount of pressure. Not so with aftermarket coolers that are made to be "universal".

After installation. This thing's a monster. It almost touches my side window - if not for the bulge in the Corsair C70's side panels, I never would have fit the case back together. On the plus side, the height of the cooler means RAM clearance is not an issue at all. The fan sits about a full inch higher than my standard-height RAM. It's also surprisingly light - it supposedly weighs a little more than 1 lb. but it doesn't feel like it. I'm not at all worried about warping or cracking my motherboard.

Here it is running in normal light. I've chosen to run it with the red LED's because that's the theme of my case. Wait for it...

And here's the full case in the dark. Spooky! The power and HDD LED's bother me - I may mod those at some point. The case fans are Enermax TB Silence 120mm fans with red LED's - these are a little different than the TB Vegas Duo fan that the CPU cooler comes with, but they work well (though are not really "silent"). I'm also using the two Corsair plain black fans that came with my case - one on the bottom of the case, one in the back.

With this cooler, my stock temps dropped from 54C at load to 37C.

And I can't even hear it over my case fans, even at full load. It's 120mm and runs at the same speed, so there's no reason I would.

One thing I will caution with this or any other tower heatsink - use fan grills! I don't have any yet, but the one time I stuck my hand in there to try to change the LED color, I ended up with a fan smacking my finger, which led me to instinctively rip my hand out of the case, which then got caught on the top fin of the heatsink, which then bent. And it bent from the middle, so it's basically impossible to bend it back. Oh well. All for the lack of fan grills!

I recommend replacing the stock AMD cooler. And while I'm sure other coolers work just as well, I'm very happy with the results from this Enermax.

Next up: overclocking, and taming the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3's voltage regulator module!

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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