Silverstone is commonly known among enthusiasts as a company that puts out products that are not only sharp looking, but high performing as well. Looking back at their Nitrogon series of coolers, they have not been afraid to create different designs in an attempt to balance performance, acoustics, and compatibility with different enclosures and motherboards. The Nitrogon NT06 is the latest release in the nitrogon series, and an attempt to improve all areas with a single cooler. As we dive into checking out the NT06 we are left wondering what areas were truly improved. Is this cooler going to be high class upgrade or will the NT06 end up being a fancy paperweight? Let's take a look and find out.
Opening the box we are drawn to the 120mm fan and the external fan controller. This is no generic fan, rather it's Silverstone's own FM122, measuring a meaty 32mm in thickness. With the added thickness and 9 fins, this monster is destined to push a lot of air, but can it do the job while keeping the noise at a reasonable level? We'll find out during testing. So, what else came bundled?
Silverstone included everything you need for installation for various sockets, with an assortment of mounting brackets, screws and standoffs. They also include a very thorough manual to assist with installation on any mobo with a compatible socket. They even threw in some thermal paste, which we promptly set aside in favor of Arctic Silver Luminere.
|Cooler Master Gemini II (No fans)|
|Thermaltake Big Typhoon (One 120mm fan)|
|Thermalright Ultra 120 (No fan)|
|Zalman 9700 (one 110mm fan)|
|Gigabyte Rocket 3D II (one 92mm fan, one 70mm fan)|
|Thermaltake V1 (one 110mm fan)|
|Silverstone NT06 (without fan)|
|Zalman CNPS9500 (92mm fan)|
|Thermaltake MaxOrb (one 120mm fan)|
The NT06 measures in at a modest 570 grams as a passive cooler. With the fan included theNT06 isn't likely to see a jump much higher in this list. The good news is that you shouldn't be concerned about added stress on your mobo due to the weight.
The NT06 sports a very low profile as a passive cooler. In fact, Silverstone offers a fan-less version in what they package as the "NT06-Lite" which they intend for use with Small Form Factor (SFF) cases, such as the recently reviewed SG03 chassis. They recommend installing it as a passive cooler in the SFF cases where you can mount the PSU directly above the cooler to provide some air flow.
With the fan on, the NT06 doesn't quite support a low enough profile for most SFF enclosures, but is still fairly low by comparison to many aftermarket CPU coolers. The low profile may have helped decrease the length of the heatpipes, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In theory, a shorter distance between the base and fins should help dissipate the heat quicker, but we wouldn't bet the house that an extra half-inch in height would affect it's cooling prowess one way or hte other. One area that the low profile didn't assist us in is the installation process, which did end up being an irritable process (more on that later).
Taking a closer look we see the heatpipes are flattened and soldered to the base plate. The pipes are sandwiched between the aluminum fins and the baseplate.
From this side we see that the heatpipes sit on top of the base plate. We expect better heat transfer if the heatpipes actually went through the base plate. While normally it would be nice to see the heatpipes actually run through the base plate, we'll wait to reserve final judgement on this until testing.
From the other side you can see the aluminum fins that rest above the base plate and heat pipes. Frankly the plate looks rather generic, though they should help dissipate heat directly off of the base. We can't help but wonder if they're also included for aesthetic purposes, covering up the soldering job between the heatpipes and base plate.
Silverstone took the precaution of including a protecive lining over the base plate of the cooler. And for the newer computer enthusiast, they include a dandy little warning to make sure the film gets removed before installation. Take heed!
Taking a closer look at the base plate we see that it has a noticeable machine finish. Many people are concerned about having a mirror finish but the most important aspect of the base plate is having a flat surface to allow for good close contact with the CPU. The thermal paste is there to fill in the minuscule imperfections.
The installation process was pretty much a pain from start to finish. To start with we had to remove the motherboard in order to install the bracket on the back side, which isn't uncommon for many modern coolers, and we wouldn't gripe if that was the only annoyance. Even so, as light as the NT06 is, there should have been no worries about fitting this with pushpins instead. We really wish all cooling companies would stay away from brackets that require motherboard removal, unless the additional support is absolutely required.
On the flip side of the bracket we threw on some plastic washers and brass spacers This was probably the easiest part..
After applying our thermal paste, we next seated the NT06. In order to secure the NT06 to the mobo, we had to screw on these spring loaded bolts. Anyone with big hands (well, BIG FINGERS) is in for a fun time at this point in the installation. Since the NT06 has such a low profile, if you have mobo components anywhere near the springbolts, you will have very little working area to screw these bolts on.
Regarding the included fan speed controller, we would like to applaud Silverstone for including a dial that can be accessed without having to open up the case. This controller is designed to be placed in an empty expansion slot in the rear of the enclosure. Many enthusiasts do not have a third party fan controller to adjust all their fans, and we were greatly disappointed during some recent reviews in which some companies placed their fan speed control dials either on the cooler itself, or on a useless short wire.
As seen in the picutre above, the knob will not fit in you standard case, as is. But fortunately, as SIlverstone indicates in their manual, you just have to remove the knob, install the bracket, then place the knob back on the controller and you are in business.
As we previously mentioned, Silverstone offers a "Lite" version of the NT06 for anyone with SFF enclosures that are looking for a passive cooler. We just happened to still have Silverstone's SG03 on hand to test this out. As you can see the NT06 sits perfectly below the PSU installation spot.
Here is a shot of Silverstone's ST50EF-Plus installed in the SG03 just above the NT06. This setup worked surprisingly well. We only ran our comparison against a stock cooler, at stock speed and voltage but the NT06 ever so slightly out-performed the stock cooler by one degree Celcius. You say: Only one degree? Well, considering this was the NT06 operating without its fan, acting as a passive cooler, we consider this a triumph on the part of the NT06.
Enough with the passive cooling, lets throw the fan back on this baby and get it chugging along on our testbed to see how it compares to some respectable aftermarket coolers.
Today's HardwareLogic Test Bench consists of the following components.
- INTEL Pentium 4 631 Processor
- ASUS P5WD2-E Premium Motherboard
- 2x512mb OCZ PC2-6400 DDR2-800 RAM
- eVGA 7900 GT KO Video Card
- Seasonic M12 Modular 500W PSU
- Seagate 80GB SATA-II HDD
- Vista 32bit Home Premium Operating System
- Custom-made open air test bench
While we have much newer CPUs we could throw on this test bed, we have been throwing our latest CPU coolers on this P4 631 processor. Even though Intel has some other chips that tend to run a little hotter, this 631 doesn't lack in the heat department. We like to refer to it as our little "EZ Bake Oven" as we make good attempts to really cook these new CPU coolers.
Arctic Silver Luminere was used with all coolers in our tests for a couple of reasons. First, nothing but Arctic Silver touches our components, and second, Luminere is the best testing thermal compound available (zero cure time, non-conductive). All testing was done using the following heat sinks in a 74F testing environment. Idle temps were recorded 30 minutes after a cold boot, load temperatures were recorded after 30 minutes of 100% load using two instances of CPU Burn In, as well as TAT (Thermal Anaylsis Tool). For consistency in testing, all heat sinks were mounted three times, with Arctic Silver's Arctic Clean used between each installation.
- Idle Settings: 3.0Ghz, 1.30V
- Overclocked Settings: 4.2Ghz, 1.425V
|Thermaltake Big Typhoon|
|Zalman CNPS9700 LED|
|INTEL Stock Cooler|
We got stellar results from the NT06 in the cooling department. It was able to keep up with the big dogs, barely edging out the Thermaltake Big Typhoon and almost overtaking the Zalman CNPS9700. The main issue we had during the process was the sound the NT06 put out when the FM122 was running at its max. It was far louder than any other fan we put on this testbench. In fact you are sure to be annoyed by this fan unless you live within a few hundred yards of an airport runway and you're already used to the sound of jet engines. Otherwise, Silverstone managed to pack big performance in a low profile cooler.
|Warranty & Support|
Silverstone clearly understands that the primary job of the NT06 is cooling (DUH!) and they did not disappoint in that arena. The NT06 does a fantastic job of keeping the temperatures down on our test bench. The NT06 beat all but one of our top coolers on this test bench and, even then, the results were very close in all categories.
The NT06, however, left some to be desired in other areas. In order to maintain its prowess in the cooling department, the NT06 had to blast air through it's FM122 fan. The noise created by the NT06 with the fan on max speed was far louder than any other fan during our testing on this bench. It seems that Silverstone must have been aware of this which is why they chose to include the fan controller with this unit, giving users the ability to dial down the performance when not stressing their system.
Overall we are pleased with thermal performance of the NT06 with the FM122 and, even more so, as a low profile passive cooler (NT06-Lite), representing a fantastic solution for the HTPC enthusiast. The fan is definitely loud when set to full blast, but the ability to dial down the fan speed helps tremendously in this regard, and without the fan, the passive cooler keeps pace and slightly outperforms a stock cooling solution. For enthusiasts with HTPCs, or other SFF cases that are looking for a low-profile passive cooler, you really need to look no further than the NT06-Lite.
Other Reviews of Note
It's always nice to have more than one opinion on a component before you spend your hard earned money. For one, we may see something others missed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic, we'll not only give you our recommendation, but also point out reviews from some other great sites around the web.
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