Arctic Alpine 11 Plus Heatsink Review

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Today I will be looking at a low profile, moderately priced heatsink from Arctic, the Alpine 11 Plus. This heatsink is designed for use on LGA1155/1156 and LGA775 systems only and is designed for moderate overclocking at best on these systems. It is not designed to be a cooler for high overclocks, but rather a cooling solution that will fit within a smaller case and give better cooling than the stock Intel heatsink while retaining a small footprint for use in tight spaces.

Features and Specifications

(Courtesy of ARCTIC)

  • Efficient Cooling Performance – The maximum cooling capacity of the Alpine 11 PLUS is 100 Watts. Its optimally-designed heatsink dissipates heat efficiently. The Alpine 11 PLUS outperforms generic stock coolers in terms of cooling performance and noise level.
  • Ultra Quiet – Operated with a 92mm PWM-controlled fan, the Alpine 11 PLUS remains whisper (0.4 Sone) even at full load, let alone the PWM-controlled fan will smartly run at optimized speed (and hence lower noise level) based on actual CPU cooling demand.
  • The Alpine 11 PLUS is a better value-for-money option for you to replace your generic stock cooler because it provides an enhanced cooling performance and lowered noise level. Its 92mm PWM-controlled fan cools your CPU at the required temperature. Furthermore, the Alpine 11 PLUS comes with pre-applied MX-4 thermal compound and a transport-proof push-pin mounting system for quick installation and maximum user-friendliness.
Alpine 11 Plus Specifications
Max. Cooling Capacity 100 Watts
Fan (mm) 92 mm, 600 – 2,000 RPM (controlled by PWM)
Bearing Fluid Dynamic Bearing
Noise Level 0.4 Sone
Current / Voltage 0.05 A – 0.22 A, 2.8 V – 12.0
Dimensions (Product) 98 (L) x 95 (W) x 70 (H) mm
Product Net Weight 450 g
Limited Warranty 6 years
Dimensions (Packaging) 102 (L) x 100 (W) x 74 (H) mm
Gross Weight 1.1 kg

As you can see from the specifications, we are looking at a compact heatsink specifically targeted towards normal to slightly overclocked systems such as you might use in a Mini-ATX or ITX HPTC setup and not a screaming, highly overclocked gaming system. Note that Arctic is using a fan that utilizes a fluid dynamic bearing, which should give long life and quiet operation. I will be testing this on a moderately overclocked i7-2600K system since this heatsink won’t install on my normal LGA1366 test rig.

Packaging

Unlike the previous Arctic cooling solutions I have reviewed, the Alpine 11 Plus comes in a cardboard box instead of form fitted clear plastic packaging. This is fine and fits the basically square shaped of the heatsink and in my opinion also protects it better. The box itself measures 3 15/16 x 3 15/16 x 3 5/16 (100 x 100 x 83 mm). The front of the box has a picture of the heatsink on it, the top has Arctic’s name and the heatsink model name on top and the back and sides have various marketing information and specifications printed on them. It’s done in a not-flashy black on white/grey scheme that looks pretty good to me.

Top

Top

Front

Front

Back

Back

Left side

Left side

Right side

Right side

First Look and Installation

Upon opening the box, we see the installation instructions sitting on top of the heatsink and fan. Once we remove the contents of the box we have a conventionally designed square aluminum heatsink topped with a proprietary 92 mm fan that has the clips integrated into the fan frame and clips to the side fins of the heatsink. The base of the heatsink has a pre-applied layer of Arctic MX-4, just like the other Arctic coolers I have tested. While this is nice, I would much rather have a small tube of MX-4 instead, as that would give me more than one mounting application. This heatsink is totally conventional in design, with no heatpipes or even copper inserts for better heat transfer. Even Intel uses a copper insert in their OEM heatsinks included with their retail i7 processors, so we will be seeing if the extra fin area of the Alpine 11 Plus can overcome this apparent disadvantage. The heatsink itself has a measured mass of 356.0 grams and the fan comes in at 92.7 grams, as measured on my Ohaus Model 2610 triple beam balance.

What you see when you first open the box.

What you see when you first open the box.

Instructions removed.

Instructions removed.

Top shot of heatsink with fan mounted.

Top shot of heatsink with fan mounted.

Top shot with fan removed.

Top shot with fan removed.

Side shot, going through fins.

Side shot, going through fins.

Side shot, across the fins.

Side shot, across the fins.

Base with pre-applied MX-4.

Base with pre-applied MX-4.

Base with MX-4 removed.

Base with MX-4 removed.

The mounting hardware for this heatsink is both minimal and pretty innovative. Here is a picture of the mounting hardware; I will explain mounting later.

Mounting hardware.

Mounting hardware.

The fan included with this heatsink is a proprietary 92 mm design that has the mounting system built into the fan frame. It would take some ingenuity on the owner’s part if he would want to mount another brand of fan on this heatsink due to the proprietary mount.

Intake side of fan.

Intake side of fan.

Exhaust side, which blows into heatsink.

Exhaust side, which blows into heatsink.

 

Arctic includes a simple, single sheet of paper with the mounting instructions printed on it. The instructions don’t have many actual written instructions on it, but do have enough pictures to let you understand the mounting procedure. While not the best instruction sheet I’ve ever seen, it’s by far from the worst either.

The base of the heatsink is flat on both axis. The finish is left a bit grainy though, with no final polishing being done to the base surface.

Flat finish in this direction.

Flat finish in this direction.

And in this direction also.

And in this direction also.

Mounting the heatsink was pretty simple. The mount is designed to work both for the old LGA775 platform and also the newer LGA1155/LGA1156 platforms. This heatsink isn’t designed to mount to AMD nor on LGA1366 or LGA2011. First, you take the rails and position them over the motherboard mounting holes, then push 4 locking ferrules through the rails and the mobo holes. Then you push 4 locking pins through the locking ferrules and the RM is securely mounted to the motherboard. Now all you do is apply your TIM of choice to the processor, set the heatsink in place on the RM and use the 4 phillips head screws to attach the heatsink and install the fan. Very simple and securely mounts the heatsink. One thing I did notice is that access to the screw mounting holes is a bit skewed off center due to the heatsink fins, but I had no problems mounting the heatsink or tightening the screws down to speak of.

RM rails with locking ferrules in position on mobo.

RM rails with locking ferrules in position on mobo.

With lock pins inserted and RM mounted to mobo.

With lock pins inserted and RM mounted to mobo.

Heatsink screwed down to RM on mobo.

Heatsink screwed down to RM on mobo.

Completely mounted. Note it does clear all ram slots on this mobo.

Completely mounted. Note it does clear all ram slots on this mobo.

For comparison, here is the stock Intel heatsink mounted on the same system.

Stock Intel i7 2600K heatsink.

Stock Intel i7 2600K heatsink.

 

Test Setup

Since I normally test on an LGA1366 system, I had to put together a new LGA1155 setup for this review.

The testbed system is configured as follows:

  • Case – Cooler Master RC-734 Praetorian. The side door has been modified with a spacer and window to give clearance for tall heatsinks, as well as the addition of a 120 x 25 mm intake fan. No other alterations have been made to this case.
  • Motherboard – Gigabyte Z68MA-D2H-B3
  • Processor – Intel Core i7 2600K, overclocked to 4012 MHz @ 1.258 V under Prime95 load.
  • RAM – G. Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-1600, 2 x 4 GB kit
  • Video Card – none, using the integrated video of the 2600K
  • Power Supply –Silver Power SP-5850M 850 watt psu (Hey, it’s all I had as a spare psu)
  • Hard Drive –SanDisk Extreme SATA 3 120 Gig SSD
  • Optical Drive – Lite On DVD-RW drive
  • OS – Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Service Pack 1
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal paste was used for testing as I have found it to give consistent results with no appreciable break in and it applies and cleans up easily. The stock TIM material was tested for the initial mounts to see how well the TIM supplied with the heatsinks worked.
  • All testing was done with the side door fastened to the case.

Test Methodology

The testing methodology used is the same as I used with my previous reviews:

All energy saving features of the motherboard and processor were turned off to keep it from down clocking the processor speed and vcore. All fan control functions were turned off in bios to keep the fans at maximum speed. For processor temperature monitoring purposes, I am using Real Temp 3.70, with logging enabled at 2 second intervals. For room temperature monitoring, I am using a Fluke Model 52-2 and using a “K” type thermocouple that is inserted into the case front where the front intake fan is mounted. The Fluke records the maximum, minimum and average temps during the run at 1 second intervals.

Temperatures in my computer room were maintained as close as possible to around an 18 °C average during the run, as measured at the lower front intake fan by the Fluke. At the end of the test run, I logged the maximum, minimum and average temperature. The maximum and minimum temps in the charts are given as recorded by Real Temp, but the average temperatures have been adjusted to a constant 18 °C as derived from the Fluke average temps.

For loading the CPU, I used Prime95 version 27.7 using in-place large FFT’s and ran it for 30 minutes to stabilize temps. After 30 minutes, I would exit Prime95 and let the CPU idle for at least 10 minutes. The highest recorded temperature from the hottest core for each run was then recorded off of the Real Temp log, the lowest temperature on any core was recorded and the average temperature on the hottest core was calculated during the load portion of each run and adjusted to a constant 18 °C. Instead of using version 25.8 as in my previous reviews on the i7 930 system, I went with the latest stable version of Prime95, since it utilizes the AVX instructions and will load a second generation Core processor much more than version 25.8, with a higher resulting heatload.

Since this heatsink is targeted towards replacing the stock heatsink more than being a high performance heatsink for maximum overclocking, I also tested the stock Intel heatsink too, to see what kind of improvement can be expected with this upgrade over the stock unit.

For this review, I actually ran 4 remounts of each heatsink. The first runs with each were with the stock TIM material, as supplied by the manufacturer pre-applied on each heatsink. The next 3 runs were made using Arctic MX-2 TIM material.

The Results

First up are the results I got with the stock Intel heatsink that they ship with the retail 2600K:

As you can see here, the stock Intel cooler did keep the 2600K within heat tolerance specs, but just barely. I definitely would want upgraded cooling on my 2600K if I planned on doing any kind of processor intensive work that keeps a steady load on the processor for long periods of time. The stock TIM material that Intel has applied to the heatsink seems to be pretty good stuff, as temps with it are in the same range as subsequent runs mounted with MX-2.

Next up is a chart with the Alpine 11 Plus runs on it:

As you can see here, the Alpine 11 Plus handled this load much better than the stock heatsink, with a 9 degree drop in the highest max temp on any run and slightly over 10 degrees cooler on average at full load, comparing the best average temps of each heatsink. One thing I did notice is that I actually got better temps with the mounts using the MX-2 over the pre-applied MX-4. I think this was due to the MX-4 application being a bit thicker, resulting in not quite as good a heatsink-t0-IHS interface. The difference wasn’t much and the contact with the original mount might have improved with time as heat and pressure would have squeezed out more excess TIM material, so I wouldn’t worry about the pre-applied MX-4 giving mounting problems.

Last up is a chart of each heatsink compared against each other:

It is obvious here that the Alpine 11 Plus brings quite a bit better performance to the table than the stock Intel cooler. What was marginal with the Intel cooler is acceptable with the Alpine 11 Plus.

Conclusion

First of all, I would like to thank ARCTIC for sending me this sample to review. This heatsink is quite basic, with no heatpipes or copper inserts used in it. But it does bring significantly more fin surface area than the stock Intel cooler, which shows in it’s cooling performance. And the lack of the more advanced features such as heatpipes or copper inserts keeps costs low too, without compromising cooling performance compared to the stock cooler. And speaking of cost, Newegg is presently selling the Arctic Alpine 11 Plus for $17.99 with free shipping. That puts decent cooling performance in range of most folks budgets. Sure, you can get much better performing heatsinks, but you are generally going to pay much more than that and most of them won’t fit in narrow or small cases because they are designed around 120 mm fans in a vertical orientation.

So you might want to know what I think about this heatsink? I think that for the purpose Arctic designed this heatsink for that they were successful in all regards. Going with a conventional all aluminum design kept costs down, yet with good engineering they achieved better than stock performance. They also kept the design low profile, enabling it to be used in just about any case on the market. And finally, they give a much better engineered mounting system with all the advantages of the stock Intel mounting system (no motherboard removal) without the disadvantages (Did the damned pins engage the mobo holes securely?) of Intel’s mounting system. And finally, it does give enough cooling headroom to actually do some moderate overclocking while keeping some thermal headroom. They rate this heatsink for 100 watts of heatload, but I actually think it can handle more, as seen by my testing above. And so, I will give the Alpine 11 Plus an Overclockers Approved rating.

In closing, I hope you enjoyed this review.

– Jim Gautreaux (muddocktor)

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Discussion
  1. I'm wondering...isn't the heatsink supposed to be oriented away from the RAM sticks? That is, with the fins aligned vertically instead of horizontally, as shown in your photo? I'm just curious because the installation manual actually tried to be specific about this (but then, as you said before: the instructions aren't really the best).
    Not sure you are going to get a reply from the author.. but I cant imagine there is much, if any, difference regardless what the instructions say. But that is simply a guess.
    Oh I was really just wondering if it's going to make a huge difference or not. It's just that the instruction manual explicitly states to put the heatsink on so that the fins are pointing in a vertical direction. But never mind. I'm not really into the finer details of this kind of stuff.