Antec 1250: "Why Did it Perform Better on Your Bench than [Other Site]?"
I anticipated this question, which pointed out that another review outlet saw significantly worse performance with their Antec Kuhler 1250 review than in our testing. When Vortez reviewed the 1250, they didn't see the same first-place performance as we did -- in fact, the H110 still outperformed the 1250 in their bench. Here was my explanation as to why this happened:
"Vortez reviewed the pre-production model. When I reviewed the pre-production model, it was about 7-10C hotter at all times [than the finalized review]. Antec sent me their production revision, which performed immensely better. In my case this was due to a few things, like imperfect cold plate contact with the surface (due to mounting) and fan design. The original fan blades are much fatter and had turbulence issues that created some whirring/vibrational noise (and cooled worse, presumably)."
User "gaqua" asked why "[Vortez] would do that," referring to a pre-production review. I gave some insight to the industry, elaborating that press often receives an early model of the product - which can have adverse affects on the test results (the product might be improved before it reaches the retailers). I further explained that the newer blades are much faster, then publicly demonstrated my pre-production results:
"The photos in their review are of the pre-production model, though obviously I'm not sure if the photos match the tested unit. It's nothing wrong with Vortez or other outlets -- actually, I was about to publish a review of the pre-production model (the press sample, basically) as well. It's pretty common for press to get earlier revisions than the public receives, sometimes this impacts results (see: Samsung 840 turning into a brick upon Anandtech's secure erase). The only reason I pulled publication and waited was because I called Antec to try and understand why the original unit performed so poorly -- it didn't seem correct. They sent over the finalized unit (I had to wait for them to get one from the factory, which meant a later review publication date) and I re-benched it with much better results.
Here are my original press sample/pre-production results (only one test run, non-crunched data, rough averaging):
Idle: 15.8C +/- 5% error - delta T over ambient (21C)
Load: 52.1C +/- 5% error - delta T over ambient (21C)
This is vs. the finalized 44.6C number for load. Huge difference. I'm not sure if Vortez had the same issue I did, but the biggest reason for this (for me) was mounting. The chokes comprising the VRM for my GD65 test board were brushing right up against the mounting bracket on the press sample. An imperfect contact by the cold plate will seriously damage results. The fatter fans were also much lower performing and operate at only 2400RPM, whereas the finalized unit's fans operate at (from what Antec GRID says) 3000 RPM.
Hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions. Edit for clarity: Here's a photo I published of the two units adjacent:
Left is pre-production. Check out the blade difference."
Questions on Noise Levels & Pros/Cons of the H110 vs. 1250
In this question, I was asked for a more subjective look at the noise levels of the Antec 1250. We presently don't perform any scientific/objective noise level testing in cooler reviews (because I haven't devised a methodology for it), but that's changing; in the meantime, here's how I assessed the noise levels subjectively:
"The Kuhler @ 1500RPM is about the same volume as the H110 and performs equally. It is adjustable, unlike the H110 (only the i-suffix units from Corsair can be adjusted). The Kuhler at <1500RPM is dead silent. At 3000 RPM, as I state in the review, it's a monster and totally unusable for normal gaming or media use. The noise actually stresses me out at that volume, but that setting is meant for OC enthusiasts and other specific applications (rendering, where you can leave the room, for instance). You'd want the 1250 running at 1500RPM in general."
"Is the 1250 capable of a push/pull [fan config] without any mods?"
After reading the above, user "digamma6767" asked if they'd be able to configure the 1250 into a push-pull quad-fan configuration. In a push-pull configuration, as many of you know, one side of the radiator is dedicated to "pushing" air through the rad -- the idea being that it dissipates heat from the aluminum fins that conduct heat away from the liquid in the pipes; the other side of the radiator is dedicated to "pulling," so it sort of accelerates the speed at which the air is moved through the radiator. In this setup, the four fans can also be run at slower speeds but sustain a high efficiency, theoretically reducing your noise levels, depending on how it's configured.
My answer was:
"You mean push/pull with a fan config? It'd make it pretty bulky since the included fans + pumps + rad are pretty large (I think about 50mm tall), but the radiator is a standard-supply radiator (looks identical to what you find in 99% of the other coolers) and has standard screw holes on the side opposite the existing fans. I haven't tried screwing one in myself, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be possible. The screw holes and threads are there to support a screw, which could be used to hold any compatible-size fan in. You'd obviously need a large section of a case to make this work well (Phantom 820, for instance, with the pull fans above the top chassis bars and the push fans/rad below).
As for the pumps: They are pretty darn quiet. At least, quieter than the rest of the noise the system makes. I experienced some whirring/vibrational noise on the pre-production sample, but those seem to have disappeared on the finalized sample (the one with the smaller blades). I'm guessing this is because the pre-production unit had some sort of turbulence issue with the less standardized fan blade design.
I haven't personally tested any Swiftech units in an official capacity, but now that you bring it up... maybe I'll ping them and see if I can bench the two against each other!
Hope that helps!"
Advantages of the H110 over the 1250 (and vice versa)
Finally, I decided to give the H110 some credit. Even though it performs marginally hotter than the 1250, it does have the major advantage of replaceable / upgradeable fans. Here are those thoughts:
"The H110? In my benchmark, the difference was within 5% margin of error, so the H110 and Antec 1250 are effectively equal when it comes to 1500RPM speeds. That stated, there are advantages to each -- the Corsair unit has replaceable fans, for instance, but the Antec unit is smaller length-wise and has software control."
Testing Methodology: vCore, High-End Air Coolers, & Noise Level Testing
Here's the important bit for GN's future tests. During this conversation with reddit's hardware community, I was able to gather some ideas for relative noise level testing and future CLC/Air CPU cooler tests.
For starters, I've pretty frequently stated that a good air cooler will outperform a low-end CLC. Like all product types, just because something is technologically more "advanced" doesn't mean it's going to outperform a high-quality version of a "lesser" technology.
Take bike brakes as an example: A high-end rim brake (v-brake) will outperform the cheapest mechanical disc brakes in the field (lighter, more responsive, strong stopping power). Similarly, a mid-range or high-end mechanical disc brake will outperform a cheaply-made and cheaply-bought hydraulic disc brake; just because it uses liquid doesn't mean it's better.
To this end, I've tested high-end air coolers in the past, but it was with our old bench (deprecated) and I haven't updated the new bench with high-end stuff. The best we've got on there right now are Thermaltake's Advanced Frio and SilverStone's Argon AR01. Those are pretty cheap as far as air coolers go -- $30 for an AR01, anyway. For this reason, I'm going to do my best to get some manufacturers (Noctua, Zalman, and Phanteks, to start) to send us some high-end equipment to test. This will give better reinforcement of why spending $70 on a basic CLC may be better spent on a high-end air cooler.
Then we've got some noise level ideas.
The current plan is to conduct further research with cooling engineers at CES. I'd like to test decibel levels, but there are conflicting opinions as to whether a proper quiet box/room is required or if a reliable baseline can be determined without one. If it's deemed that relative testing in a lab (with a fixed baseline background dB level) is going to be reliable enough (as opposed to an anechoic chamber), then I'll pick up some acoustics measurement equipment and start conducting tests at 1' and 3' from the unit. If it's not good enough, then it's time to start working with engineers to design a quiet box - though that could potentially be cost- or logistics-prohibitive.
It was also mentioned that testing at multiple wattage levels would be a good idea, as some coolers will lose ground as the TDP increases. For this reason -- and this might not be in-place until our test bench is replaced -- I'll start running tests with overclocked settings and stock settings. The OC'd specs of our 3570K bench run at 4.4GHz with a 1.265V vCore; dropping it to stock voltage and frequency will lower the wattage drawn, which will impact performance among some coolers. I'm also considering throwing a 220W AMD bench together, but will have to wait on that until I can talk to AMD at CES.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.