If you’re Apack, how do you surprise the rest of the cooling industry? Release a tower-style CPU cooler that doesn’t look like a butterfly. The new ZEROTherm Nirvana NV120 is that cooler, and luckily, it impressed. Could the Nirvana NV120 be our newest air-cooling champion?
The fan itself, a clear, frameless 120mm, mounts to a metal bracket that attaches to the base. The fins feature a special design that causes them to cross each other and generate more turbulent airflow, which improves heat exchange effectiveness. The trailing fin edges that catch additional tangential airflow from the fan, a development that appeared in the older butterfly-shaped coolers, make an appearance here as well.
The black chrome plating on the copper base gives it a mirror-quality finish, which won’t require any additional ‘lapping’ to improve the quality of the contact patch. The only treatment you’ll need to apply is an ultra-thin layer of your favorite thermal compound. The retention mechanism of your choice will also need to be installed.
Thankfully, Apack has designed the ZEROtherm Nirvana’s mounting clips to install in either a vertical or horizontal orientation, to suit any motherboard design. Because the fan on the Nirvana is large and powerful, it can have a significant effect on the airflow in your case – typically, front-to-back airflow is recommended, to encourage unimpeded natural convection and synergy with the ATX cooling scheme.
An adhesive-backed mounting plate for LGA 775 motherboards is also included, though these can be difficult to remove if you decide to install a different cooler later on down the line.
I had no problems mounting this cooler on the micro-ATX motherboard that serves as my heatsink testing platform, despite the fact that the spring clip is slightly less convenient than the flip-clip design that’s also common. Though there were no clearance train-wrecks even on the cramped Micro ATX board, I did spot one close call – the tips of the Nirvana’s fan blades pass within millimeters of the adjacent memory modules’ heatspreaders. If you’re using RAM with heatspreaders that have fins or heatpipes coming out the top, and you’re making use of all four RAM slots, you may be out of luck with the Nirvana.
The Nirvana cooler comes with an adjustable fan controller as an accessory. With its relatively large and strangely-shaped casing, however, it’s far less elegant than Zalman’s very similar Fan Mate 2. Most newer motherboards already have provisions in their BIOS for controlling fan speed anyway, so you may not have much use for the controller.
I don’t recommend using the controller in tandem with the automatic fan speed control that may be present on your motherboard, since this can lead to unpredictable effects and may prevent the Nirvana from reaching its performance potential.
Next, let’s take a look at how the NV120 cooler fared on the heatsink testing platform – though I’m already confident the results will be excellent.