Evercool HPL-815 and Transformer 3 Reviewairman - October 20, 2011
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As I am taking a combined look at both of these coolers, I will take separate pictures of each cooler for clarity since they are not closely related in form or function since their purposes are widely different. I will keep explanations separate and in alternating order, but still on this same page. First up is the Transformer 3. As I pointed out on the introduction page, it is a rather slim but tall design. There are three, direct contact copper heatpipes that snake up from the base and up into the fins of the cooler in a V-shaped pattern. The V-shaped pattern helps increase airflow around all of the heatpipes, as other linear designs would cause the rear heatpipes to receive less airflow as they are blocked by the ones in front of it. At its worst,(from both ends of the mounting hardware) it stands at 78mm thick. Even with two fans on the cooler in push/pull, my math gives it an overall, thickest possible dimension at just under 95mm. While I'm on the topic of dimensions, the Transformer 3 stands at 130mm wide and 161mm tall and weighs in at 630 g. Already in place on the Transformer 3 is the Intel mounting hardware, which will save me a little bit of time with its installation since I won't have to fiddle with it.
Now moving onto the HPL-815, we find that there isn't any mounting stuff already attached, but the fan is already in place — as we found out by looking through the front of the package. The fan is held down by four wire clips which grab onto the standard holes in each corner of the fan and through holes going through the fins. At full attention, the HPL-815 measures in at less than 2" tall and weighs only a mind-blowing 320g. Even in its small form, it still manages to use four 6mm direct-contact heatpipes in a nicely-ground base. The fins have a raised pattern on them, which from a heat transfer perspective could increase the turbidity of the air flowing through the fins and raising the overall heat transfer coefficient. I truly can't see this feature adding a noticeable amount of performance increase to the cooler, but to each his/her own. I also will point out that with such a small size, I don't expect that this cooler will blow away a stock Intel unit, but I do believe that it will out-perform it on a load test. I don't know what will happen when it tries to deal with a highly overclocked i7, but we will find that out soon enough!
The Transformer 3's base is protected with a clear, plastic film with red lettering cautioning the user to remove it before use. It's only there to protect the integrity of the surface finish on the base, and will NOT help temperatures at all! For a sub-$30 cooler, I will admit that I expected less from the base of the Transformer 3. Not only is it machined to a smooth finish, the gaps between the heatpipes and the base itself are quite small. Typically with low-cost HDT (heatpipe direct touch) coolers, I'll find a poorly machined base and large gaps in the base — this was a relief and a nice surprise. The base is also noticeably flat as I can tell from the reflection is provides. It's not a mirror reflective shine, but it isn't "warpy" like a circus mirror would be. This points out that it is indeed flat. The other end of the interface is also quite good, being the area between the heatpipes and the upper side of the base. A lot of times they can be messily glued in place and not have a lot of good metal-to-metal surface area which is important for heat transfer. The heatpipes come out through both sides of the base and go up into the fins as I explained earlier. The ends of the heatpipes are capped off decoratively to excuse the shiny, aluminum/chrome look of the cooler from the generally "ugly" ends of a heatpipe.
On the HPL-815, I see similar machining and surface finish quality that I did with the Transformer 3. The difference is in the number of heatpipes, four here versus three on the Transformer 3 (hence the digit in its name) and the fact that the HPL-815's heatpipes terminate at the base and in the fins. We can assume that with the three heatpipes that have both ends going into the fins that it acts similarly to six heatpipes. The arrangement on the HPL-815 still remains as four effective heatpipes since only one end of each heatpipe end up in the fins.
I'm going to be rather blunt here and point out that even though the Evercool Transformer 3's fan is chrome and cool-looking in photographs, in person it's rather ugly. It's just cheap looking and reminds me of the cheap paint on play guns from the 80s that just begs to be flaked off at the slightest bit of scratch. Aside from that, it is a generic 120mm fan with a sleeved cable and 4-pin PWM connector that should be long enough to reach anywhere nearby. To mount the fan, four of the rubber clips are popped through the mounting holes on the fan, and the other ends slide in through the cutouts in the fins. I like metal clips better even though this method may be quieter, it can be very difficult to install/get the fan free from the heatsink while it's inside of the case. That's just a personal preference, but I'm sure a good bit of folks would agree with my feelings towards these rubber things.
Turning now towards the HPL-815's fan, we see that it is a tiny little 80mm fan that's black with red blades. I like the scheme of this fan a lot better than that of the Transformer 3's, despite the fact that I haven't seen an 80mm fan in probably 5 years. That aside, it's meant to be a small and compact cooler. Being as low-profile as it is, Evercool may have determined this to be the limitation on certain motherboards since it doesn't have the height to "tower" over memory modules, VRMs, etc. What we'll find with an 80mm fan is most likely a bit more noticeable noise level, but with PWM capabilities it should stay quiet most of the time. As I pointed out earlier, the fan is held on by metal clips on both sides. I like this a lot better than the rubber parts used on the Transformer 3 as they are easier to use when it comes to getting the fan on and off while the cooler is still inside of the case. With the fan removed, it's clear how short the physical cooler is by itself!
As I pointed out in the introduction while looking over the mounting hardware, the mounting methods for the two coolers are slightly different. For the Transformer 3, a jam nut is threaded onto a screw coming through the back side of the motherboard, separated by a plastic washer, onto which each baseleg of the Transformer 3 will be held by each of the four thumb screws. For the AMD crowd, the only thing needed is the crossbar that clamps onto the stock, plastic mounting bracket. No backplate is required for either. The HPL-815 actually works slightly opposite. The Intel folks will need to attach the Intel baselegs onto the cooler with the supplied screws, and secure the standoffs in each of the corners in the correct position depending on socket (775, 1156, 1336). No backplate is needed here on the HPL-815 either. Four screws will pass through the motherboard and into each of the standoffs on the four corners of the cooler and will be evenly tightened down. Although this method is cheap and simple, I've had past difficulties in getting having even pressure applied to the processor with these types of hold-down methods. I generally find one core (aka one corner) is upwards of 10°C higher than another, and that "hot spot" can be shifted around to different cores by changing the amount of tightness on each screw. Hopefully I won't run into that here, but I can almost always expect it compared to a sprung hold-down mechanism of higher-end coolers. First, I'll show the installation of the Transformer 3 with the motherboard inside of the case:
And now for the HPL-815:
Now having demonstrated the installation of both coolers, I will now share the manufacturer-provided specifications and features of each. Following that, stay tuned to see how these two coolers hold up to the OCC stress test in both stock and overclocked scenarios.