Coolers for AMD Athlon64: Asus StarIce vs Titan Siberia
Asus StarIce first "exposed" at Computex 2004. That time, it produced an indelible impression as the biggest and stylish cooler. Half a year afterwards, it's there in our test lab:
After we unpacked the StarIce, our eyes simply dazzled over the abundance of varied bundle items:
- StarIce cooler;
- Universal reinforcement frame + rubber washer;
- A universal fastening kit + another washer;
- Special wrenches to tighten screws;
- A pack of thermal paste;
- A piece of double-side scotch tape;
- Thermal sensor;
- Rotational speed regulator into an expansion slot;
- Rotational speed regulator into a 3" panel;
- Installation guide.
The latter item is the most important! Aimed at installation on all known platforms, the cooler will be quite difficult to install without a setup guide (at least, for the very first time).
Anyway, experienced overclockers will easily sort it out where and what to connect. First, the reinforcement plate on the motherboard's reverse plate:
The plate is dismountable (made up of three components fastened with screws). The thing is, its configuration differs from the way it is installed on Socket478, Socket939, SocketT (LGA775), and SocketA (Socket462). But the user's guide comes in handy, and in five minutes the cooler is installed on the motherboard. At the same time, the motherboard has to be removed from the PC housing (it's a tradeoff for universality - in this case, it is increased labor intensity). Besides, the dismountable plate allows to avoid short-circuiting the wires located on the board's reverse side.
This component is very important: the cooler mass reaches 700 grams (to be precise - 680 grams), so to prevent the board from bending, a metal plate is simply a must. The second plate is solid and is meant
There are two rotational speed regulators bundled to the cooler: one is installed on the rear panel of the housing,
and the second - on the 3" panel which can be fitted on the front panel. Note that only one of two regulators can be plugged in to the cooler. In view of the large dimensions of the cooler, you have to think twice which of the two coolers is best to use.
In fact, I installed two at a time, and during the tests I was alternately switching between them. Anyway, it was quite awkward to plug them in.
The cooler design looks quite intricate at first glance. But all turns out to be simple: there is a copper base to which a pad with three heat pipes is fastened (actually, the pipes run both ways, so they can be treated as six :). On the pipes, a great number of copper plates is strung (~30 pieces), and the quality of contact between the plate and the pipe is satisfactory.
A structure like that is already a good radiator which can be successfully used for passive cooling of a low power-consumption processor (e.g. I used Athlon 64 266x4 (Winchester core) with the Cool'n'Quiet enabled, at Vcore = ~1.0V). Very few users would dare for an experiment like that, so most are more interested in the nominal operation mode of StarIce cooler.
Once again, I suggest that we should estimate the cooler's dimensions:
The processing quality of the base is middling:
To reject heat from the copper plates, the cooler uses a 80 mm fan of rotational speed variable within 2000 to 4500RPM. At the same time, the rotational speed is adjustable with both the mentioned regulators and automatically - depending on the temperature displayed by the additional thermal sensor.
The fan is installed in a dismountable plastic case and does not touch the radiator. The case is made up three parts: two form something like a pipe,
with the third being decorative (transparent, with an Asus logo on).
On the case, there are two blue LEDs which highlight the logo quite effectively. On the rear part of the case, there are 4 holes that allow plugging in one more 80 mm fan for blowing out. The default fan is nonstandard (round) and it's quite difficult to replace it.
Why am I talking about replacement of the fan? The level of noise is very high even at the minimum speed, while at the maximum it is simply intolerable. The powerful air head seeps through the fissures of the case, which makes the cooler whistle unpleasantly within a certain RPM range. All in all, if we awarded a medal for the loudest cooling system, then Asus StarIce would have easily won it leaving the competitors well behind :). I also didn't like the structure of the case - too clumsy and heavy (well, compared to the noise, it's a trifle).
In conclusion, let me bring in a couple of StarIce cooler photos:
And lastly: regardless of the test results, I can't recommend the cooler for those who prefer quietness. Even to those users stating they don't mind the noise, I strongly recommend to listen to the cooler in operation right at the shop (i.e. before you buy it). On the other hand, this cooler is quite interesting for skillful hands. To be more precise, not the cooler as a whole, but its radiator :)
- Universality (can be installed on all popular platforms);
- Fantastic exterior;
- Second fan can be plugged in;
- Two speed regulators are available + automatic control.
- Very high noise level;
- High labor intensity of installation and large dimensions of the cooler;
- The cooling efficiency at maximum speed is middling, and weak efficiency on reducing the RPM;
P.S. A few words on installation of the cooler on SocketA boards. Despite the over twofold excess in the admissible weight, you don't have to worry about this aspect - the reinforcement plate will smoothly distribute the load over the motherboard and won't let it bend. But to install the plate, 4 assembly holes are needed, and most latest-generation motherboards lack them. On the whole, as Sempron 2800+ and 2600+ for Socket754 emerge, the demise of the SocketA platform can be regarded as a fact (at least for the PC enthusiasts).
P.P.S.: Just before publishing the review, I came across a description of Beetle cooler which looked like two peas against Asus StarIce. So I thought that either ThermalTake "inherited" the StarIce structure or, which is more probable, Thermaltake is engaged in OEM orders from Asus while using these designs for manufacturing own coolers.
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