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Testing Testing PC cooling using die simulators vs. real CPUs
Date Posted: Dec 14 2005
Author: pHaestus
Posting Type: Article
Category: FAQ's, Editorials, Q&A's
Page: 1 of 4
Article Rank:5 from 2 Readers
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Testing PC cooling using die simulators vs. real CPUs By: pHaestus
First of all, welcome back to Procooling.com. We have a new site look and a renewed commitment to providing the community with quality reviews and content. As you can see, we have added even more integration between the main site and our forums. I hope that articles like the one you are reading now will foster some good discussion among our readers and in the PC enthusiast community in general.

We’ve come a long way in our ability to test cooler performance in the last few years. I remember trying my first ever heatsink testing with a Compunurse, a PC running Motherboard Monitor, and not much of a clue about how to relate heat transfer theory to the results. Now we have a few web reviewers out there with experience in testing, good equipment, and a willingness to share their results with the public. I think it’s fair to say that as a community we’ve learned a lot.

One of the things that we learned early on was that CPU temperature readings from insocket thermistors and motherboard monitor were not good enough for reliable testing. If you change motherboard brands or BIOS version you will then get different results using the same cooler. Temperature compression was a real concern. It just didn’t work well for any serious testing. At this point, the serious testers mostly moved to using a controlled heat source to simulate a CPU heat load rather than bothering with real CPUs. I guess I am the exception to this, as I spent lots of time fussing with diode readers and calibration for Socket-A CPUs.

Some specific examples of copper die simulators used by reviewers can be found from Bill Adams’ bench testing writeup, Overclockers.com, Systemcooling.com, frostytech.com, and dansdata.com.

What follows is an overview on the advantages, limitations, and practical concerns for using copper die simulators vs. CPUs for cooler testing. The impetus for this article is twofold:
(1) There are (too) many threads about the validity of different test benches and methods on our forums right now and this article seeks to condense the discussion into one spot.
(2) It is time for me to return to waterblock testing, and I am myself making a decision about which method to use.

So there is a lot of material to cover here and several interwoven topics. As a starting point, I am going to provide a general overview of the different heat sources commonly used for cooler testing. What is a little different about this article is that I am going to focus with some of the technical issues and problems associated with doing the testing rather than their strengths. At the end of the article I will provide some guidance on how to minimize the negative and play to the strengths of the different heat sources as well.
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