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PC COOLING

Alpha vs. Swiftech
By: Poiuy223
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  • Rating: 3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars3 stars / 2
    2003-10-09

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    Now that AMD’s reign of overclocking is coming to an end, many enthusiast's have been migrating over to the Pentium IV Northwood's. Heck, even the new Willamette Celerons are overclocking pretty decently. Yes overclocking the processor is fun, but it sure gets dangerous when you don’t have proper cooling. Giving the extra juice of voltage and squeezing out every little bit of power strains the processor and creates tons of heat. Even though the socket 478 processors are supposed to run cooler than AMD's, they still generate quite a bit of heat. When it comes to having proper cooling for my processors, I use nothing but the best. I recommend nothing but the best, even though the best may be a bit pricier than what most people can afford. In the end, the extra bucks that you spend on the piece of metal can help you in the long run.

     


    Product: Swiftech MCX4000 vs. Alpha PAL8942
    Price
    : $47 and $32 respectively
    Availability
    : Now
    Written by
    :
    poiuy223
    Reviewed: August, 2002
    Edited by: Mack (
    SPeeD) Littleton


    INTRODUCTION: Now that AMD’s reign of overclocking is coming to an end, many enthusiast's have been migrating over to the Pentium IV Northwood's. Heck, even the new Willamette Celerons are overclocking pretty decently. Yes overclocking the processor is fun, but it sure gets dangerous when you don’t have proper cooling. Giving the extra juice of voltage and squeezing out every little bit of power strains the processor and creates tons of heat. Even though the socket 478 processors are supposed to run cooler than AMD's, they still generate quite a bit of heat. When it comes to having proper cooling for my processors, I use nothing but the best. I recommend nothing but the best, even though the best may be a bit pricier than what most people can afford. In the end, the extra bucks that you spend on the piece of metal can help you in the long run.

    Today is a battle between the two best heatsink manufacturers I’ve ever worked with. Both companies use their ingenious design of pins instead of the normal fin type construction with their heatsinks.

     

    ALPHA PAL8942: The Alpha line of products is very impressive and is in my opinion the best for your money. Their two previous heatsinks of PAL6035 and the PAL8045 were superb and performed to reach and even exceed my expectations and standards. I had no doubt that the PAL8942 would not disappoint.


    The PAL8942 comes packaged in a white cardboard box with the Alpha logo on the cover. Inside the package are two bags of screws—one for the mounting screws and nuts and one with the fan screws. There are two sets of fan screws—one for the 80x10mm fans and one for the standard 80x25mm fans. Alpha includes a sheet on how to install the heatsink and gives step by step instructions with lots of pictures. Alpha also includes an extra screw and spring for those of you who are clumsy.


    The heatsink itself is massive. The PAL8942 has a copper bottom with aluminum pins. The copper bottom is fairly shiny and is smooth and makes excellent contact with your cpu. Each pin is hexagonal and not cylindrical. This design creates more surface area. The pins are spaced evenly with good amount of space for air to work with. If the pins are too close to each other, it would force the air into a tight squeeze and thus increase the noise level. Alpha designs their heatsinks with a shroud in such a way that the fan sucks air off of the heatsink and upward instead of blowing down onto the heatsink itself. Here, the shroud has the white protective wrap removed, revealing the shiny metal. Remember, the fan needs to suck air out instead of blowing down on the heatsink. There is a difference in performance if installed incorrectly.

     

    SWIFTECH MCX4000: Swiftech is a well known name in the overclocking community. Their budget line of the MC series works really well and can be recommended over many expensive heatsinks. At first, the only solution to the socket 478 or the socket 423 would be to use the MCX462 and use a bracket. After the socket 478 grew in popularity, Swiftech came up with a new solution—the MCX4000. It is made exclusively for the socket 478. It is bigger and has more pins than the MCX462. When I received it, I opened the box and my jaws dropped (well, not literally). The package came in a brown cardboard box with a Swiftech label on the front.


    There are 4 pieces of Styrofoam surrounding the heatsink so that it doesn’t move around during its shipping process. Included in the box are two bags for the mounting system. What surprised me was that Swiftech included a small pack of Arctic Silver Alumina. Although the alumina may not be the top performing grease, it is definitely better than the standard white silicone grease. Like Alpha, Swiftech also included a sheet of instructions for installing the heatsink. Although Swiftech sells the MCX4000 with the Y.S. Tech TMD fan (which will be covered in our next look at the full Swiftech MCX4000 package), for testing purposes, I removed the fan to use the Sunon 80mm fan. Removing the TMD fan showed the 4 rubber spacers. Swiftech included these to give the fan a bit of height above the heatsink to provide better airflow. These rubber spacers also absorb the fan vibration and lessen the noise level. The bottom of the heatsink is a thick copper plate. The square piece in the middle, which is the contact, is not as shiny as the surrounding. Swiftech also uses aluminum pins, but unlike Alpha, they design their pins with ridges, or Helocoid pins which create more surface area. According to Swiftech, the ridges on the pins also help airflow. Here is some official info below.

    • Construction: hybrid copper base, thin aluminum pin heatsink. The 3/8" thick copper base provides mass for superior energy absorption. The thin aluminum pins promote increased turbulence for more efficient heat dissipation compared to traditional fin extrusions.

    • Patented Helicoid pin design: pins are individually machined in an helicoid shape, to increase their surface area, and further enhance heat dissipation efficiency.


    • 70mm and 80mm fan compatibility : allows users to install any 70 or 80mm fan, providing optimum choice in noise vs. performance . For a good balance of performance versus noise, we recommend using the factory stock 70mm TMD® fan. Extreme overclockers will be also be able to use ultra high-flow 80mm fans.



    TESTING: To test the real potential of the heatsinks, I’ve included no case fans in the test bed. I used a temperature probe on the processor and the Northbridge passive heatsink (just because I had two). A fresh thin layer of Arctic Silver II was applied on the processor for each heatsink. The case sits tightly under my desk during the testing procedures. The fan I used was the Sunon 80mm x 25mm fan. It is a very common fan used for CPU HSF's and blowholes alike. It is also relatively quiet and provides a steady stream of 36CFM. The ambient room temperature was kept at a constant 73F. Air conditioning was kept on during the entire testing process.

    Test System:

    Intel Celeron 1700@1870 (17x110)
    MSI MS-6528 LE
    256mb Corsair PC150
    512mb Corsair PC133
    Seagate 20gb Barracuda III
    Morpheus GeForce3
    3com 905cx NIC
    Pioneer 10x DVD
    Antec Mini Tower KS382


    Test Fans:

    Sunon 80mm 36 CFM @ 2800 RPM, 32.5 dBA


    Test Burn-Ins:

    SETI (15 minutes)
    Sisoft CPU Burn-In (10 loops)
    3dmark2k1se patched (5 loops)

     

    RESULTS:


     

    SIDE NOTES:

    Both heatsinks are very heavy but easy to install. In my upcoming motherboard review, I used the Alpha PAL8942 as my heatsink. The heatsink was so heavy that it would bend my Abit BD7 motherboard. Extra large motherboards should definitely use all mounting holes available. It would be disastrous to see the heatsink fall off and crush all your expensive cards below. With this said, the MCX4000 is also a concern.

     

    CONCERNS:

    Alpha: The spring that comes with the PAL8942 is very tight and squeaks when the screw is turned. It is not as easy to remove as the Swiftech.

    Swiftech: The included screws for the fan are not as long to fit the Sunon 80mm fan I used in this test. I had to do some modifications in order for the fan to fit.

     

    CONCLUSION: So there you have it. The battle between the two best heatsink manufacturers has ended and the winner crowned. Swiftech still lives up to its name and proves itself to be the champion. True that the Swiftech is the top performer, but it doesn’t leave the Alpha out of the picture. Most people don’t have the kind of money to spend on the best heatsink. Most people would consider spending $30-$40 a little too expensive. The Alpha in my opinion would the best choice for those people. The price difference between the two bare heatsinks is roughly $15. For those who definitely need the best of the best, Swiftech would be the choice. Otherwise, I would recommend the Alpha.


    PROS/CONS:

    Alpha

    PROS: Easy to install, has lots of pins, comes well packaged, performs well, has extra screw and spring, price, nice black finish

    CONS: Springs a bit stiff, too heavy and bends motherboard if motherboard not installed correctly

    RATING: 8 out of 10

     

    Swiftech

    PROS: Easy to install, has lots of pins, comes well packaged, performs EXTREMELY well, comes with a small pack of Arctic Alumina, shiny copper finish

    CONS: Fan screws a bit too short, no extra screw or spring for “accidents”, also bends motherboards that are not installed correctly

    RATING: 9 out of 10

    And the winner is!? The Swiftech MCX4000. We liked this coolers revolutionary design, excellent heat dissipation and all around quality construction, we felt it easily deserved the coveted "OCA Approved" award.



    We'd like to thank Sidewindercomputers for providing the Swiftech MCX4000. And thanks to Alpha Company Ltd. for providing the excellent Alpha PAL8942 which is also stocked @Sidewindercomputers. They gave us the opportunity to match these two monsters of cooling head to head. Not only does Sidewinder have a great cooling selection, they have great prices and awesome customer service too. Trust me, we were their #1 customers before we made them our sponsors!

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out the review. Feel free to head into the forums for discussion, or stop by the Front Page and check out the more GooSH!™ here at OCA..


    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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