Cooler Master have sent us over a new heatsink which is aimed at the Home Theater PC (HTPC) market: the Vortex Plus. I’ve been a fan of Cooler Master products for years so I was excited about the chance to see how this heatsink performed. Since most HTPC users are mostly concerned with silence, I wasn’t expecting the Vortex Plus to break any overclocking records. However, I was expecting it to outperform any stock heatsink in both efficiency and noise level. Therefore, I have used the stock Intel heatsink supplied with my Xeon 3050 processor for comparison.
Description from the Cooler Master product page:
“Vortex Plus is a low profile CPU cooler with compact size but uncompromising cooling efficiency. The compact feature best suits in HTPC chassis or chassis with slim width and limited space. The heatsink comes with 4 heatpipes and direct contact base to maximize the heat conductivity and dissipation efficiency. The balanced PWM fan works to provide high airflow under high RPM mode.”
Product features from the Cooler Master product page:
- Compact profile design for HTPC chassis and LAN box chassis.
- Universal mounting for Intel LGA1366/1156/775 and AMD AM3/AM2/940/939/754 sockets.
- 4 x Direct Contact heatpipes for seamless contact between CPU surface and cooler.
Intel Socket LGA1366 / 1156 / 775
AMD Socket AM3/AM2/940/939/754
|CPU Support||Intel LGA 1366 / 1156 / 775 Socket CPU|
AMD AM3 / AM2 / 940 / 939 / 754 Socket CPU
|Dimension||116 x 100 x 84 mm (4.6 x 3.9 x 3.3 inch)|
|Weight||445g (1 lbs)|
|Heat Sink Material||Aluminum fins + 4 heatpipes|
|Fan Dimension||92 x 92 x 25 mm (3.6 x 3.6 x 1 inch)|
|Fan Speed||800 – 2800 RPM (PWM)|
|Fan Airflow||15.7 – 54.8 CFM|
|Fan Air Pressure||0.35-4.27 mm H2O|
|Bearing Type||Long life sleeve bearing|
|Fan Life Expectancy||40,000 hours|
|Fan Noise Level (dB-A)||17 – 35 dBA|
The packaging is everything you’d expect from a well respected company like Cooler Master. The colors and design of the exterior of the box are very professional and the padding on the interior is more than adequate to keep the contents from getting damaged. The heatsink itself looks like it is manufactured to very exact standards and solidly put together. I was a little disappointed that the fan did not use ball bearings but it still feels like a quality piece. All of the mounting hardware is metal except for the pins which attach everything to the motherboard.
This is the only part that bothers me as these are plastic and almost exactly like the stock Intel pins. The Cooler Master pins do seem to be made of a harder plastic, though, so maybe they will hold up better over several mounts and re-mounts. However, in practice, one would not expect to mount a heatsink in an HTPC more than once, so if it is mounted correctly the first time then it should not break over the life of the machine.
For the tests, I will be using a Xeon 3050 processor with a Biostar TForce 965PT motherboard and 2GB of GeIL DDR2 RAM. Full specs are listed in the table below:
|Motherboard||Biostar TForce 965PT w/ Rebels Haven Modded Bios P96CA601.XXX|
|Processor||Intel Xeon 3050|
|RAM||2GB GeIL DDR2-800 GX22GB6400UDC (2x1GB)|
|Power Supply||Antec NEO HE500 500w|
|Video Card||Gigabyte NVIDIA Geforce 7950GT|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Caviar SE WD800 80GB|
|Case||Cooler Master CAV-T04-UKC|
|TIM||stock supplied Cooler Master TIM|
Each heatsink was tested with a minimum of 3 separate mounts and the temperatures were averaged. The processor status was monitored using HWMonitor, CPU-Z, and CoreTemp. Stress was applied to the processor using ORTHOS. Ambient air temperature was monitored using a digital thermometer and fan speeds were controlled using SpeedFan. Since the Vortex Plus is not marketed as an ultra high performance heatsink, I decided to use the supplied Cooler Master TIM for all of the tests.
From the spread pattern pictures, it is easy to see that the base of the Vortex Plus is a little too large for the LGA775 processor and all heat pipes do not get good coverage. However, the processor is getting good coverage so I am not too worried.
When I overclocked the processor, I was able to reach the exact same settings at which I have been running this processor for a few years with the Vortex Plus and still kept the temperatures at 60°C max: 425mhz fsb, 1.35v. I was not able to overclock the processor at all when using the Intel heatsink because the temperatures were already so close to 60°C at stock settings.
|Vortex Plus, Stock CPU, Max Fan||30.3°C|
|Vortex Plus, Overclocked CPU, Max Fan||40.5°C|
|Vortex Plus, Stock CPU, 10% Fan||37.0°C|
|Stock Intel, Stock CPU, Max Fan||38.3°C|
|Vortex Plus, Stock CPU, Max Fan||45.0°C|
|Vortex Plus, Overclocked CPU, Max Fan||60.0°C|
|Vortex Plus, Stock CPU, 10% Fan||57.0°C|
|Stock Intel, Stock CPU, Max Fan||55.3°C|
The Cooler Master Vortex Plus is a very capable heatsink and will serve any HTPC build very well. Whether the goal is silence or maximum performance, the Vortex Plus can cover it all. Without a doubt, it stomped the Intel heatsink. While I did not test the heatsink with no fan at all, the sound level created by the fan at 10% speed is so minimal it’s not even noticeable. I would definitely suggest using this fan in a HTPC build. To get the most benefit from this heatsink, I’d recommend leaving the processor at stock settings and set the fan control to only increase the fan speed when temperatures rise above 60°C.
- Heatpipe design improves cooling efficiency
- Can be run with low fan speeds for low noise
- Most parts are metal; very solid build quality
- Sleeve bearing fan
- Plastic pins to secure the mount to the board
- Heatpipes spread too far apart to properly engage processor
A special thanks to Cooler Master for providing this excellent heatsink to review.