CPU Coolers tend to be boring. Or else they may be expensive, hard to install, noisy, and/or large. Some great cooling designs simply fail because of the difficulty of installation, their large size, or for many other factors. Here is a new Sapphire universal CPU vapor chamber-equipped cooler that promises to be effective at cooling, easy to install and of a reasonable size and price.
We received the Vapor-X CPU cooler on loan from Sapphire for evaluation two weeks ago. Sapphire is known as AMD’s number one video card partner and they are well-known for their graphics cards and motherboards. Sapphire has decided to expand their lineup and they have taken what they know about cooling hot graphics cards with vapor chamber technology – their propritary “Vapor-X” - and have applied it to cooling CPUs. Here is Sapphire’s Vapor-X Technology particularly as applied to video cards.
|Vapor-X Technology SAPPHIRE’s innovative Vapor-X cooling technology allows products to run not only cooler but also much quieter. A Vapor-X product means a virtually silent gaming experience and more headroom to explore performance tweaking|
Here is the contact plate of the Sapphire Vapor-X CPU Cooler.The 4-heatpipe Sapphire Vapor-X retails at the suggested price of $69 and is ready for the latest Intel and AMD CPUs with a cooling potential of 200W TDP. The cooler is considered “universal”. It will compete with 5-heatpipe Thermaltake’s Frio (220W TDP) on price and it is slotted just below the 6-heatpipe Frio OCK (240W TDP) and the dual-heatpipe, twin radiator Noctua NH-DH14 in both price and performance.
This review is not just about “value”. If you want to cool a Phenom II X4 or even an X6, a value CPU cooler such as a Coolermaster Hyper N 212+ will suffice. Even Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs such as Core i5 and Core i7 run relatively cool until you begin to push the core speeds up to 4.5GHz or so. Unless you are supplying a relatively high voltage to most CPUs, a budget cooler will work nicely. Even stock heatsinks are evolving to keep up with the hotter running quad-core and hex-core CPUs. Of course, the earlier “Bulldozer” FX series of AMD CPUs almost require watercooling or a high-end air cooler and a very beefy power supply unit (PSU) if you are really serious about an overclock in excess of 4.4GHz as we were.
The Sapphire Vapor-X CPU cooler is designed for overclocking so we will test how it can affect practical overclocking of our Core i7-3770K. Where does it sit in terms of price to performance when compared with other premium CPU coolers?
Importance of Cooling
Intel’s newest Core i7 and i5 CPUs mark an advance in processing power, but they definitely require a higher quality heatsink than for Core2Quad CPUs, or for overclocking our older AMD Phenom II 980 BE X4; especially if you want to cool them without excessive noise. Our test CPU, the Intel Core i7-3770K, also requires excellent cooling once you approach 4.5GHz as its stock clock is only 3.6GHz. Sapphire offers an easy entry into the world of premium air cooling with the Vapor-X which is a complete package that offers everything you need to cool your overclocked CPU, including thermal paste.
Heat is drawn away from the CPU by the base of the heatsink and is transferred through the vapor chamber and up into the array of hi-grade aluminum fins for dissipation. Two large 120mm fans spin – one on each side of the heatsink fins array in a “push-pull” configuration - blow CPU-heated air through and away from the heatsink. The illustration below is from Sapphire’s site.The fans are power-managed (PWM) by the PC’s BIOS and their speed can be adjusted there. So they will run at a low RPM when your CPU is idle and when it is relatively cool, and then ramp up when it is under load and hot. The goal is to have the fans stay reasonably quiet while keeping your CPU cool, even while overclocked.
The cooling fins are dense and with four heatpipes working with Sapphire’s Vapor-X chamber, it should dissapate an overclocked CPU’s heat to 200W TDP. Of course, we want to see how that translates into our Core i7-3770′s ability to overclock and how it compares to the other coolers that we have tested. Sapphire actually says:
Designed to handle 200 Watt CPU as the baseline, expanded headroom for overclockers.
The Vapor-X CPU cooler ships with a Sapphire multi-socket mounting system that should be an easy and very straightforward installation for our Ivy Bridge Intel LGA 1155 platform. It is also adapted for 1156 and 775 platforms and Intel’s latest extreme 6-core CPUs on LGA 1366 and 2011 as well as AMD socket AM2, AM2+ and AM3/AM3+ platforms as well as AMD’s FM1/FM2. A small tube of Sapphire’s thermal compound is included, but beware – it squits very easily from the tube at room temperature and it is easy to waste!
There is one other advantage that Sapphire claims the Vapor-X has that is usually reserved for high-end coolers like Noctua’s NH-DH14 – its fans are designed to cool the memory and surrounding motherboard as shown in this illustration below from Sapphire’s site:
Before we see what this cooler can do for our Core i7-3770K overclock, let’s unbox, install, and test it using OCCT 4.1 as an extreme test to load all the cores of our CPU at 100% and generate as much heat as possible.