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Lord Kryo Puts His Hands on 17 Coolers

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Lord Kryo - Part 2: 24 CPU Coolers in Review
Краткое содержание статьи: This test provided many interesting, almost sensational results: On the one hand, many coolers offer high cooling performance but are unconvincing with regard to noise levels. The two models from Swiftech offer by far the best cooling solutions, leaving their competitors trailing way behind. Additionally, the market shows a clear trend: Fast CPUs with 1000 MHz and above require high-quality coolers. Friends of overclocking have to dig deeper into their pockets as well: Good coolers are available for at least $70 or more.

Lord Kryo - Part 2: 24 CPU Coolers in Review


Редакция THG,  6 марта 2001


New Coolers for Extreme Tuning - Target: 2000 MHz

Intro

The highest bid is on the table; there are no higher offers. Six new candidates have arrived since the last CPU cooler comparison test, bringing the total to 24.

The newcomers include heavyweights such as the Swiftech M462 and the Silverado by Noise Control. Such coolers are a must for processors clocked at 1000 MHz or higher, as well as for fast AMD Athlons starting at 1300 MHz.

CPU cooling is no longer the trivial topic it was just half a year ago. As processors become faster, they require more efficient heat dissipation. Gone are the days when cheap and poor quality no-name products were built for no more than 3 dollars.

The following table shows AMD Athlon's heat output at different clocking speeds.

CPU clock CPU core voltage Maximum Thermal Power Typical Thermal Power Maximum Die Temperature
650 MHz 1.75 volts 38 W 34 W 90°C
700 MHz 1.75 volts 40 W 36 W 90°C
750 MHz 1.75 volts 43 W 38 W 90°C
800 MHz 1.75 volts 45 W 40 W 90°C
850 MHz 1.75 volts 47 W 42 W 90°C
900 MHz 1.75 volts 50 W 44 W 90°C
950 MHz 1.75 volts 52 W 47 W 90°C
1000 MHz 1.75 volts 54 W 49 W 90°C
1100 MHz 1.75 volts 60 W 54 W 95°C
1133 MHz 1.75 volts 63 W 56 W 95°C
1200 MHz 1.75 volts 66 W 59 W 95°C
1266 MHz 1.75 volts 69 W 62 W 95°C
1300 MHz 1.75 volts 71 W 64 W 95°C
1333 MHz 1.75 volts 73 W 65 W 95°C
1400 MHz 1.75 volts 76 W 68 W 95°C
1466 MHz 1.75 volts 80 W 71 W 95°C
1533 MHz 1.75 volts 83 W 74 W 95°C

This table lists all Athlon processors planned by AMD, some of which are not yet available on the market. The Athlon 1333 will be introduced at the CeBIT 2001, additional models up to 1533 MHz will follow. Important: All CPUs are consistently operated with 1.75V.

Noticeably, the thermal output increases as the clock rate increases. For example, the AMD Athlon 1200 outputs a maximum of 66 watts of heat. To ensure the safety of the processor, this heat has to be dissipated quickly and continuously. Only a powerful cooler can handle such a task. Otherwise, electro-migration occurs in the CPU core, which can quickly destroy the processor.

Test Results in Detail: CPU Load at 100 Percent

Vibration

A requirement for optimal cooling: Anti-vibration strips are applied at the bottom of the CPU socket. Nothing works without cooling compound!

We already determined in the previous test that only a few coolers offer a good overall solution that in terms of both high cooling performance and minimal noise level. Furthermore, only very few coolers yielded optimal cooling results by our standards.

The testing platform consisted of an AMD reference board (AMD EVT5-BX-004) equipped with its very own AMD760 chipset. All readings are based on an AMD Athlon 1000, which runs with a front side bus of 100 MHz. The operating system we used was Windows 98 SE.

To keep the CPU load as to 100% as possible, we used the familiar Seti program. At the same time, we used Flask Mpeg to produce an MPEG-4 video and tested the playback. This ensured that the processor was continuously operating at maximum potential and that the heat ouput reached its maximum.

All readings were taken in our Munich lab at a room temperature of exactly 22°C. The noise tests were conducted with our newly conditioned noise-measuring box, which simulates a room almost completely void of any sound.

Effective Cooling Temperature Range: between 30°C and 54°C

Effective Cooling Temperature Range: between 30°C and 54°C
A vast spectrum: The cooling temperatures range from 30°C to 54°C.

The most essential criterion when purchasing a CPU cooler is the attainable cooling temperature at the CPU surface. While the Swiftech MC370-0A emerged as clear victor previously with a cooling temperature of 35°C, the scenario looked a bit different this time with the six new candidates.

To name just one of the surprising results: Swiftech's new MC462 significantly outperformed the already powerful MC370-0A. The Swiftech MC462 cools the CPU surface of an AMD 1000 to a minimal 30°C. The CPU is at least 5 degrees cooler than when using the "little" Swiftech - the MC370-0A. Another newcomer also offers excellent cooling: The Silverado by Noise Control astounds with innovative engineering and a heatsink design that completely deviates from traditional ones. It cools the Athlon processor to 37 degrees.

In general, models that can decrease the temperature to below 40°C are suitable for overclocking. Just how much of a difference these coolers make when compared with the cheap solution (i.e., the no-name standard cooler) is shown quite plainly in this diagram. The no-name cooler reduces the temperature to 54°C, while the top candidate (the Swiftech MC462) accomplishes a sensational 30°C. This fact alone reflects the enormous range of cooling capabilities among the various models, a range that cannot be judged merely from appearances.

Noise Level: Silverado in Whisper Mode

Noise Level: Silverado in Whisper Mode
The Silverado defeats the competition: Sensationally quiet at 38 dB(A).

In the previous test, the cheap no-name standard fan was the quietest candidate, but this time, the newcomers have changed the rankings. The spectacular performance from Noise Control's Silverado puts it in the limelight: its innovative design and encapsulated construction make it seem virtually silent when running. In fact, you have to look at the fans on the sides to determine if the cooler is actually in operation.

A background noise level of 38 dB(A) is exceptional, considering that the majority of participants tested at almost 50 dB(A). However, there is also a leader in this group for the loudest among the coolers: The Swiftech MC462 produces a noise level of 63 dB(A), thus violating the current regulations on health and safety in the workplace. Using an appropriate case reduces the high noise level only slightly.

According to our measurements on a test PC, the level hardly falls below 55 dB(A). As a result, it cannot be installed in any PC for the workplace. Generally, the perception of noise level is always a subjective one, but even so, levels above 50 dB(A) are always disturbing, no matter what frequency spectrum causes this noise level. Noise levels below 45 dB(A) are, depending on the frequency, generally perceived by most people as pleasant, or at least less disturbing.

Total Weight: Swiftech - A Heavyweight at 789 Grams!

Total Weight: Swiftech - A Heavyweight at 789 Grams!
Large spectrum: The new Swiftech MC462 is a heavy piece of kit. It weighs a whopping 789 grams, which is seven times heavier than a standard cooler.

The fact that a heatsink's cooling capability and efficiency are closely related to its weight is due to the material used. Silver and copper are the best heat conductors and are also extremely dense, which in turn contributes to the weight. The Swiftech MC462 is equipped with a solid copper plate and weighs in at almost 800 grams!

AMD's guidelines only allow a maximum weight of 300 grams if the cooler is mounted on the socket with metal clamps. However, the Swiftech MC462 is not mounted in this conventional way but screwed directly onto the motherboard. Because the Silverado weighs 416 grams and is held to the CPU with conventional clamps, the fan may not be mounted during transport.

Thermal Resistance C/W: Double Victory for Swiftech

Thermal Resistance C/W: Double Victory for Swiftech
The thermal resistance is calculated from the difference between cooling and room temperature as well as the quotient of the CPU's maximal heat output.

The thermal resistance determines the quality of a heatsink - the lower the number, the better the cooling performance. In principle, the results of the thermal resistance are closely connected to the cooling temperature. The best result was achieved by the Swiftech MC462, which reached a C/W value of 0.16. This places it considerably ahead of its sister product (the Swiftech MC370-0A) which ranked first in the previous test.

In general, if the specific cooling capability is within the range of 0.35 and 0.4, then we are dealing with a fairly usable heatsink/fan system. Measurements below 0.35 are very good, and those below 0.2 are absolutely top class.

Swiftech's two models rank first and second among the top performers, with the MC462 being designed for the new Pentium 4. The new Intel processor has to meet totally new demands on its thermal behaviour. Entirely out of the question are the results of the last three models in this diagram: The Titan TTC-D2TB, the EKL 20704001007 and the no-name serial fan reach specific cooling capacities of 0.57 to 0.65. It is for this reason alone that the stated coolers are not suitable for overclocking or for fast AMD Athlon CPU's above 1000 MHz.

At this juncture, we would like to point out again that all the recorded measurements relate to our reference configuration. The results may vary slightly with different systems.

Fan Revolutions: From 3300 rpm to 6700 rpm

Fan Revolutions: From 3300 rpm to 6700 rpm
High revolutions automatically cause high noise levels.

The diagram above lists the revolutions per minute for the fan in each cooling system. The Swiftech MC370-0A and the Global Win FNP50 show the highest rpm with at least 6700 rpm. In the previous test, we measured the revolutions using only the motherboard sensor; this time we also used a stroboscope and measuring strips.

Noise Control's Silverado exhibits the lowest rpm in the test with 3300 rpm and therefore has the quietest fan in the group. Noise Control equips the encapsulated cooler with two fans. The company Thermal Take uses a design with two fans in the form of its Super Orb, which, however, is by no means as efficient and well constructed as that of the Silverado. The Super Orb's inner fan propeller spins at 4600 rpm, while the outer propeller spins at 6400 rpm.

To sum it up, values above 5000 rpm always result in a high level of noise, this being caused by air turbulence between the guide vane and the rotating vane.

Stroboscope

New measuring method: Using a stroboscope, we determined the exact number of revolutions of all fans.

Looking at the New Test Candidates

Altogether, six new coolers joined the previously examined models. From a technical standpoint, Noise Control's Silverado clearly stands out from the other 23 test candidates. At the same time, it is the only product to display any sort of innovation.

All the other coolers tested are merely enhanced and optimised versions of the conventional design. Still, a clear trend is noticeable regarding CPU coolers for powerful processors: Increasingly complex and sophisticated coolers are available on the market, which are especially suitable for fast CPUs up to 2000 MHz. Such solutions are expensive not only because of the increased costs for high-grade materials but also due to rising costs for development.

One look at the top group of this comparison reveals common aspects that guarantee effective cooling: High processing quality, a snug contact to the CPU and the use of precious metals such as copper or silver. Most products, at least those from Taiwanese manufacturers, don't even come close to this type of quality.

3DFX Cool Socket-AHO-Fan: Upper Midfield

3DFX Cool Socket-AHO-Fan: Upper Midfield
Striking: The blue heat sink of the 3DFX Cool. The calculated performance of the cooler is in the upper midfield.

The informed user might suspect that the graphic card manufacturer of the same name, which recently closed its business, is behind this model name. In any case, the name 3DFX Cool makes for a good marketing strategy, though the former innovative graphic chip designer from San Jose actually has nothing to do with it.

3DFX Cool Socket-AHO-Fan: Upper Midfield, Continued

3DFX Cool Socket-AHO-Fan: Upper Midfield, Continued
The 3DFX Cool is the only cooler equipped with protective bars above the fan preventing the entry of bigger items.

The cooler visually stands out in the test field because of its blue-coated aluminium heat sink. The manufacturer has given this cooler a large fan, which works pretty well: Weighing a mere 238 grams, the 3DFX Cool accomplishes a significantly better cooling temperature than the P Alpha, which weighs only 10 grams less. Apart from that, the cooler is rather non-descript and based on the conventional standard design.

3DFX Cool Socket-AHO-Fan: Upper Midfield, Continued
The 3DFX Cool is well suited as replacement for the standard cooler of a PC and not well suited for overclocking.

TRIG T40-1 and T40-3: Too Much Tension in the Latch Spring

TRIG T40-1 and T40-3: Too Much Tension in the Latch Spring
The tension in the latch spring was so high that the TRIG could not be mounted on the CPU socket during the test.

TRIG T40-1 and T40-3: Too Much Tension in the Latch Spring
The TRIG cooler doesn't have any significant difference to the standard coolers.

To come straight to the point: Both models, the TRIG T40-1 as well as the TRIG T40-3, could not be included in the assessment. The tension of the latch spring was so great that we were not able to mount the cooler on the processor socket. We hope that the company will remedy this problem with a more elastic spring so that we can put this model to a thorough test.

Noise Control Silverado: 50 Grams of Pure Silver

Noise Control Silverado: 50 Grams of Pure Silver
The Silverado's concept is unique, its design resembles that of a turbocharger used in cars.

Its visual appearance alone makes the Silverado stand out: Both encapsulated fans resemble the turbocharger in a car, the CPU contact area is made of pure silver. The cooler can be used for Socket 7, Socket 370 and for Socket 462. Both radial fans operate in whisper mode, leading to a record low in noise levels.

Noise Control Silverado: 50 Grams of Pure Silver
The encapsulated twin fan of the Silverado.

Noise Control Silverado: 50 Grams of Pure Silver, Continued

Noise Control Silverado: 50 Grams of Pure Silver, Continued
Optimised vanes ensure quiet operation with strong air flow.

The fan was so quiet during the test that we could only tell that it was running by actually looking at the spinning propellers. Noise Control provides several resistor cables with the cooler so that varying revolution speeds can be chosen depending on the CPU's clock rate.

Noise Control Silverado: 50 Grams of Pure Silver, Continued
The contact area of the Silverado to the processor consists of 50 grams of pure silver.

One distinctive feature is the contact area to the processor, which is made of 50 grams pure silver: The material is so soft that the CPU die is not damaged if the cooler gets jammed on the processor. Additionally included in delivery are four spacers to optimise heat transfer in AMD Athlon and Duron CPUs. The supplied installation manual is written in simple language and focuses on the essentials. All in all, the Silverado is the winner of our test, though it does not produce the highest cooling efficiency.

Noise Control Silverado: 50 Grams of Pure Silver, Continued
Included in the Silverado package is a total of six different resistor cables to adjust the number of revolutions.

P Alpha: Three-hole Base for a Perfect Fit

P Alpha: Three-hole Base for a Perfect Fit
The P Alpha stands out because of its three-hole base. However, its cooling efficiency is not impressive.

On the positive side, the P Alpha is notable for its three-hole base for installation on the processor socket. If one lug on the CPU socket breaks, then the other two hold it in place. Apart from that, users should steer clear of this cooler with its poor cooling efficiency. The fan is much too small in relation to the heat sink, they skimped on the material, and the contact area to the CPU is all but optimal. In short: It's a non-descript cooler with an extremely loud fan, unsuitable for overclockers or for fast processors.

P Alpha: Three-hole Base for a Perfect Fit
The P Alpha installed.

Swiftech MC462: Best Cooling Ability for Overclocking

Swiftech MC462: Best Cooling Ability for Overclocking
The Swiftech MC462 is absolutely heavy. Nevertheless, it offers the best cooling in this test.

The Swiftech MC462 was originally designed for the new Intel Pentium 4. Consequently, this cooler is suitable for clock rates of up to 2000 MHz and reaches by far the best cooling results in our test among all test candidates. It was not by chance that Intel installed this cooler in a display system based on a Pentium 4 2000 MHz at the recent Developer Forum (IDF).

However, certain requirements must be met before using the Swiftech: The mainboard must have four holes in the CPU socket area so that the cooler can be screwed onto it. All boards with Socket 462 (for AMD Athlon/Duron) incorporate these holes.

Swiftech MC462: Best Cooling Ability for Overclocking
The spring-loaded screws prevent too much pressure on the motherboard. The contact area to the motherboard is made from solid copper.

The thick and solid copper plate, which provides the contact to the CPU surface, contributes greatly to the total weight of 789 grams. The integrated springs provide the necessary pressure, whilst preventing damage to the processor.

Swiftech MC462: Best Cooling Ability for Overclocking, Continued

Swiftech MC462: Best Cooling Ability for Overclocking, Continued
The Swiftech MC462 is intricately made:The aluminium fins are pressed into the copper plate - a giant fan ensures powerful air flow.

The intricate, well-made cooler also has one distinct weakness: Because of its high power requirement, it cannot be attached to the strip on the motherboard. A cable connected directly to the power supply unit supplies the power.

This creates the following problem on many boards: Boards that evaluate the rpm signal of the CPU strip (fan connection) will not even boot because a fan is not connected. This function cannot be deactivated in BIOS either because it is controlled directly by the chipset. A small fan or fixed resistor will remedy this situation. To sum it up, the Swiftech MC 462 is first choice for friends of extreme overclocking and users of fast processors upwards of 1000 MHz.

Swiftech MC462: Best Cooling Ability for Overclocking, Continued
The Swiftech cooler clearly towers over the processor socket. The high quality of this product is particularly impressive.

Thermal Take Super Orb: Much More Appearance than Reality!

Thermal Take Super Orb: Much More Appearance than Reality!
The Super Orb by Thermal Take is almost twice as big as the standard model.

The manufacturer Thermal Take sent its Super Orb to the test. This cooler is twice as big as the "normal" air cooler and uses two fans. It appears that the manufacturer has realized that this simple air cooler is not much use. This fact is reflected in the results of the last comparative test.

Thermal Take Super Orb: Much More Appearance than Reality!
The Super Orb's contact area to the CPU is not optimally designed.

However, Thermal Take's new product is not quite convincing, either: The original design has not been modified, the aluminium heat sink has merely been enlarged and fitted with an additional fan instead.

Thermal Take Super Orb: Much More Appearance than Reality! Continued

The quality is rather mediocre and cannot compete with the top candidates in the test field. The distance between fan propeller and guide vane is much too great, so that optimal air circulation cannot be achieved.

Thermal Take Super Orb: Much More Appearance than Reality! Continued
Thermal Take's Super Orb installed. The smart design cannot compensate for the bad cooling effect.

The Super Orb gives the overall impression that it was made by developers with little knowledge in the field. This is clearly shown in the rotating vanes of both fan propellers, which are not at all aerodynamically designed. Still, the cooling performance is quite acceptable with cooling temperatures of 39°C. This places the Super Orb in the upper ranks of the test candidates. When it comes to noise level, Thermal Take's cooler ranks at the bottom, the noise level is 55 dB(A). Considering the cooling performance offered, this level is not acceptable.

We can only warn against purchasing the Super Orb, which is nothing but your classic phoney. Only a complete redesign would improve matters, honing being a waste of time.

Thermal Take Super Orb: Much More Appearance than Reality! Continued
Both the small air cooler and the large Super Orb manufactured by Thermal Take are phoneys. The Super Orb offers sufficient cooling capacity, but little else.

Summary: A Comparison of All 23 Fans

Fan/Cooler Platform Heat Sink Material Structure of Heat Sink Contact Area to CPU Fan Type Weight * RPM rate * Temper-ature * Noise Level *
Cooler Master DP5-6H11 Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 163 g 4690 45 °C 48 dB
Cooler Master DP5-6H51 Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 186 g 4650 42 °C 51 dB
EKL 20704001006 Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 240 g 4800 44 °C 51 dB
EKL 20704001007 Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 138 g 5700 51 °C 48 dB
Elan Vital FSCUG 3 Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin Copper no name 178 g 5100 43 °C 44 dB
Global Win FOP32-I Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 220 g 4600 38 °C 52 dB
Global Win FNP50 Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 154 g 6700 41 °C 50 dB
Intel (Boxed Socket 370) Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 179 g 4000 41 °C 46 dB
Kanie Hedgehog-238M Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Copper Pin Fin Copper Pabst 475 g no sensor 45 °C 55 dB
Standard Cooler (No name) Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Cast Steel Plate Fin (cast) Cast Steel no name 108 g 4900 54 °C 42 dB
Swiftech MC370-0A Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Pin Fin Alu-minium Papst 429 g no sensor 35 °C 57 dB
Taisol Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 165 g 4800 41 °C 49 dB
Thermaltake Aircooler Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 206 g 5500 43 °C 49 dB
Titan TTC-D2TB Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Cast Steel Plate Fin (cast) Cast Steel no name 150 g 5100 50 °C 46 dB
Titan TTC-M5AB Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 207 g 5500 45 °C 49 dB
Alpha PAL6035MFC Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Steel Pin Fin Copper Sanyo Denki 299 g 3700 40 °C 46 dB
Alpha PEP66T Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Copper Sanyo Denki 373 g 3800 39 °C 49 dB
3DfxCool Socket-AHO-Fan Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium Tech Fan 238 g 4400 39 °C 55 dB
Thermaltake Super Orb Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 273 g 4600/6400 39 °C 55 dB
NoiseControl Silverado Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Silver Noise Control 416 g 3300 37 °C 38 dB
TRIG T40-1 Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 194 g 5000 - 55 dB
P Alpha Socket 370 / Socket 462 / Socket 7 Alu-minium Plate Fin (cast) Alu-minium no name 228 g 5000 46 °C 56 dB
Swiftech MC462 Socket 462 Alu-minium / Copper Pin Fin Copper Delta 789 g 4900 30 °C 63 dB

* measured

Design Guide by AMD: Interaction with the PC Case

The design of the cooler is not the only factor that contributes to optimum CPU cooling. The construction of the PC case is also crucial for producing a strong airflow to cool the components. The picture above shows the cross-section of a PC case where the air is sucked in from the back and guided through the chassis, exiting at the front. The second picture shows the Socket 462 with holes for mounting coolers directly onto the motherboard. This is a solution with a future and, among the test candidates, used only by Swiftech (MC462).

Design Guide by AMD: Interaction with the PC Case
The design guide by AMD provides for a special arrangement of the components in the PC case. The openings in the case for inflow and outflow of air have to be ensured.


Design Guide by AMD: Interaction with the PC Case
Drilled holes on the Socket 462: All boards for AMD Athlon and Duron incorporate these holes for mounting coolers.

Conclusion: The Silverado is the Technological Highlight

In the end, this very comprehensive test field offers only two genuine highlights: The cooler with the best cooling performance - the Swiftech MC462 - and the cooler with the lowest operating noise and corresponding cooling capacity - the Silverado by Noise Control.

For us, the Silverado is the clear winner. Its well-planned design distinctly sets it apart from the other contestants. The contact area to the CPU consists of 50 grams of pure silver, ensuring almost optimal heat transfer. In addition, the cooler consists of two encapsulated fan propellers that operate almost devoid of any sound.

Entirely different, however, is the Swiftech MC462: Its contact area to the CPU is made of solid copper, causing it to weigh almost 800 grams. The quality is exemplary and distinguishes itself from the remaining test candidates. A fan from Pabst generates the airflow, and the cooler can be used for processors up to 2000 MHz.

The trend is clear: Fans with high cooling capacity but increased noise levels are available on the market. In a future test, we will devote ourselves to extreme coolers that come closer to the goal of high cooling capability and low noise levels.

One thing should be clear to any user: Powerful coolers cost money. Noise Control's Silverado and Swiftech M462 cost at least $70 each. Next to these heavyweights, phoneys such as Thermal Take's Super Orb look really old.




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