Top critical review
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Effective cooling, but terrible fasteners
on September 16, 2008
1. Superbly efficient cooling, vastly better than many other more expensive coolers.
2. Very quiet. Because this cooler seldom needs to run over 1000 RPM, it is barely audible. But it does become loud if it runs at full speed at 2500 RPM.
3. Lightweight. This is actually a quite important advantage if it doesn't sacrifice the cooling efficiency. Because most PCs sit in a position with the motherboard standing vertically and the cooler horizontally, heavy coolers cause imbalances. Especially for a cooler like Arctic Freezer that has weak fasteners, the lightweight is even more important because if it were too heavy, it might cause not only an imbalance problem but actually a critical reliability problem (the fasteners might give way, and you end up with a fried CPU).
4. Cheap. But once you look at how this thing is made, you will understand why it is cheap.
1. Horrible fasteners, due to poor quality not bad design. See details below.
2. Overall, cheaply made.
3. Did I say horrible fasteners. Absolutely terrible.
COMPARED WITH ZALMAN CNPS7700-CU:
The cooling is very efficient. Much better than my ZALMAN CNPS7700-CU. I think Arctic fan's blowing direction is the secret because it works in collaboration with the case fans to get the hot air out of the case. In comparison the Zalman blows air downward onto the CPU and thus conflicts with the case fans and causes confusion in the airflow. The difference is huge. With Zalman, increasing the fan speed doesn't really do much. I did direct comparison of these two coolers on the same computer which has a very hot CPU (QX6800 with 135W). While they both idle at the same temperature (about 50°), the Arctic Freezer 7 Pro can control the temperature under 60° on a full CPU load with the fan speed reaching maximum 2500 RPM, but Zalman simply loses it and lets the temperature go above 80° even if the fan runs at a similar speed. The fact that Zalman has a larger fan speaks even more badly about the cooling mechanism of Zalman. Essentially, Zalman simply is unsuitable for this CPU while the Arctic does a fairly reasonable job. Also, Arctic is about 25% less expensive because it uses cheaper materials and is also not as well made. But its better design makes the difference.
Incidentally, this design does not seem to be exclusive to Arctic, as Zalman also has models (CNPS9700 for example) that have a similar design. Because Zalman coolers are usually of high quality, you may look into that if you like the design of Arctic Freezer 7, but would like to have it with better equality.
Now, I hate Arctic's shamefully poorly made fasteners. The problem is not the push-in pin design itself, which is a good design by Intel. If well executed, they can be better than any other fasteners including screws. The problem is that Arctic made these extremely poorly.
To understand the problem, let me first explain a key aspect of how bush-in pins work.
The key for any push-in pins to work is that the pushers need to have two distinctive positions. The first position is a locked position which prevents the pusher (black colored part in the Arctic) from having any movement relative to the pin (white colored in the Arctic). This is absolutely critical because you must be in this position initially to first move the white (inner) pins into the holes on the motherboard without splitting them. If the pusher is not locked against the pin, you would end up pushing the core of the pusher into the tip of the pin to prematurely split it before it gets into the hole. This will result in an outright failure because once it splits, the pin cannot enter into the hole on the motherboard.
The second position of the black pushers is a free position that allows the core of the pusher to move into the tip of the pin to split it and lock it underneath the motherboard. Naturally, you can only do this after the pin is already in the hole.
Once you understand how the two positions work, installing a push-in pin cooler is supposed to be simple. The right procedure is: (1) first put the pushers in the first position (the locked position); (2) carefully align the four pins of the cooler with the four accepting holes on the motherboard; (3) GENTLY push down the pushers to maneuver the pins into the holes; and (4) after you have made sure that the all four pins are sitting in the holes, turn the black pushers counterclockwise into the second position (the free movement position) and push them firmly down to split the tips of the pins and lock them underneath the board.
Sounds simple, and it should be. But the problem is that Arctic's push-in pins are so poorly made that there really isn't a distinctive locking position. You turn it to the right place, but it doesn't really lock due to the poorly engineered plastic parts. At the same time, because you don't see whether the white pin has entered the hole, you have got to use some force to make sure. And this causes a disaster. You easily split the white pins prematurely. High frustration. I hated them intensively. Because I was replacing an existing CPU and could not get the motherboard out, that made the whole thing even more difficult. It took me probably about two hours to get them in. Several times, I actually thought it was impossible and the whole thing was broken already.
Arctic, improve these push-in pins and you have a real winner.