Date: March 18, 2009
Author(s): William Kelley
Have a huge chassis? Need a huge CPU cooler? Well, Cooler Master has just what you need, in the form of the TEC-based V10. This thing is massive – its almost three CPU coolers in one – but it cools better than any other air cooler we’ve used in the past, and it even matches our previous (and much more expensive) water-cooling setup.
If one things for sure, there truly seems to be a never-ending supply of new and innovative CPU coolers at our perusal. Just when you think they’ve thought of everything, something completely different lands on my desk, just waiting to be punished. Luckily, the excitement of pushing the latest releases to the brink of meltdown has yet to leave me.
I have quite often pondered just how heat removal capacity could be harnessed with air-cooling designs. Cooler Master has established a strong and solid presence in the aftermarket cooling world, and having been around for 10+ years, it is not hard to see their highly-focused efforts in providing strong and dependable cooling solutions. From heat sinks and fans to full-featured PC towers, they have something for everyone.
On my desk today is the V10 CPU cooler. With 10 heat pipes, dual fans and a variable TEC plate (Thermoelectric cooling) there is no doubt as to the purpose of this monster: rip as much heat as possible out of your processor. This is Cooler Master’s first TEC hybrid design and they have taken a different approach by pairing up this potent technology with air cooling.
Considering that I was already well-aware of the specifications of the V10, I must admit that the sheer size of it still makes my eyes bulge. Once out of the box, I got my first glimpse of the beast in all its glory. The large full cover shroud grabs your attention with its chrome detailing. This thing is a monster.
Flipping it around we get a glimpse of the TEC controller and the fan wiring. I really appreciated the fact that the fans are wired together keeping the clutter down to a single 4-pin PWM-capable connector which can find its home directly on your motherboard header. This angle also gives you a better look at the TEC.
Looking down at the top exposes the down-blowing fan which not only blows across 4 of the large heat pipes but also your motherboard. Most if not all motherboard designs place the memory squarely in this area as well as the CPU power circuitry, so the double-duty nature is a nice touch. The fan grill is solid and will protect anything that may try to come in contact with the fan.
Rolling it onto its side we now see the belly of the beast. There is another large surface area section with 2 more heat pipes protruding upwards. A second 120mm fan is ready and waiting to blow across this area and out towards the back of your case. Four of these pipes terminate in the bottom layer of the TEC sandwich. I appreciate the attention to detail and the very good build quality exhibited here.
By adjusting the angle in this next photo you get a better sense of how the heat pipes are oriented. The bends are quite smooth and almost ripple free. The TEC plate gets its power from the control module that resides directly over the CPU contact area.
Moving closer to the front allows us to take a better look at the heart of the V10. The pipes are laminated to the plate on the lower half of the TEC.
Peeling off the protective plastic from the mounting area allows us to check it for flatness and finish. I checked flatness with a metal ruler and found it to be nearly perfect and the finish itself was quite smooth. While it is not a mirror finish by any means I could not feel any imperfections at all. The protective layer did its job very well.
Included hardware was extensive and will allow use on virtually any platform available. The instruction sheets were very thorough. While it would have been nice to get a bit more, you get enough thermal paste to perform a single install.
So with that said, let’s see how this beast will fit into our testing machine, and also check out some results, followed by my final thoughts.
After attaching the necessary hardware to the cooler itself, installation onto the motherboard was simple enough. The case I used for testing, the CM HAF 932, had the rear of the motherboard tray open behind the CPU socket, so I did not need to remove the motherboard to install the V10. If you are new to installing heat sinks I would recommend you remove your motherboard anyways since it was above average difficulty to get things started and lined up.
Don’t let the photo above fool you on the sheer size of this monster. The HAF 932 is a very open and airy case. A close up shows you just how much real estate this guy is going to use up. It will extend to the edge of the motherboard and it is as tall as the tallest current 120m heat sinks. Make sure you have lots of space and measure the side panel fan for clearance twice before putting it back on.
For my testing I used a new program called OCCT 3.0. Not only does this simple program push the CPU to the brink of a meltdown through the use of LINPACK testing for AMD and Intel processors, it also turns up the juice on your GPU. It automatically maintains graphs of temperatures throughout your testing. I highly recommend you try it out on your own for your testing needs.
I always run all my tests 3 times and take an average just to weed out any erroneous results. My ambient temperature is kept at a near constant 20°C year round as my test bed PC is in my basement. There are no fans or heat vents in the area of my test platform.
I use a static overclock and settings for all my testing. Stock testing is done with all settings in the motherboard’s BIOS set to Auto. All fan control settings are turned off so that the fan header on the motherboard for the CPU receives full power. Overclocked testing is done by turning the CPU multiplier to 11x and manually setting the Vcore to 1.275v as well as enabling line load option. This results in a processor frequency of 3.67GHz with 1.25v Vcore as reported by CPU-Z.
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 – Quad-Core, 3.0GHz, 1.30v
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe WiFi – X38-based
Kingston 2GB DDR3-1333
Seagate 7200.10 Barracuda 500GB
For this particular review, I also felt it was necessary to push to the magical 4GHz level. To achieve this overclock required the CPU multi to be set to 12x and a boost in Vcore to 1.35v as reported by CPU-Z. I also had to up the Northbridge voltage to 1.2v. No other voltage adjustments were needed.
Fan noise was moderate as it was set to maximum. Changing the settings to quiet the fans did improve noise levels but it also hampered cooling ability. The TEC draws its power through a 4-Pin Molex connection so it receives the same amount of power no matter the method of fan control being used.
I was impressed with the results in the first 2 rounds of testing and I must say that the final push to 4GHz went better than expected. I have run this same exact test setup with a high-end $200+ custom water-cooling setup and ended up with nearly identical temperature results. While many sites used Prime95 for load testing, I feel that the use of Linpack testing really puts the spurs to the processor and pushes it to the upmost limits.
When all was said and done, the results did all the talking. Not only was I able to overclock effectively, I was able to push harder than ever before without resorting to more exotic and riskier methods of cooling. Having the ability to keep a Quad-Core processor under control at 4GHz is no easy feat, yet the V10 passed with flying colors. Noise levels were also well within reasonable limits.
At a price tag of $139.99US (Newegg.com), the V10 is within reason for a product with this amount of cooling capacity. Most high-end heat sinks will run you $70 and you still have to factor in high-flow fans which will push the total even higher and still fall short of the cooling power demonstrated here today. Even more exotic and more expensive forms of cooling are hard-pressed to keep up.
The one big downfall is the almost overwhelming size. It is no heavyweight thanks to the use of lightweight materials throughout but you are warned to make certain you have the space inside your case before stepping up to the plate. I also suggest paying close attention to where your motherboard’s 24-pin power connector is located as that is another possible interference zone.
I award the V10 a 9 out of 10 rating. There is nothing else in this price-range with this amount of cooling power. The only faults I found were minor and were of little consideration to the enthusiast that is going to purchase one.
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