Evercool HPL-815 and Transformer 3 Review

airman - 2011-10-05 05:09:55 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: October 20, 2011
Price: $29.99

Introduction:

Evercool is a very well-known manufacturer of computer/processor cooling products and has been for almost two decades. Since the days of the 386 processor, Evercool has been part of the game developing cooling for products for our beloved computers, keeping them cool and in good health. Since starting out in OEM coolers for Intel, Evercool progressed into developing its own product line for retail sales in the enthusiast market — how we know the company today. Since jumping into the retail side of things, Evercool now manufacturers not only CPU coolers and case fans, but also laptop cooling pads, fan filters, grills, and more. In this review, we will be taking a look at some of Evercool's latest additions to its product lineup.

The two heatsinks in the spotlight today are the Tranformer 3 and the low profile, super short HPL-815. Both coolers have completely separate features for two highly different needs, but that alone showcases the wide variety of coolers offered by Evercool. Surfing over to its website, you'll find these two coolers mixed in with a plethora of other coolers varying in size, shape, color, compatibility, and more. Many, like the HPL-315, are suited for use in 2U server cases, and more on top of those are suited for even 1U server boxes. The HPL-815 is a perfect fit for something in a small HTPC (Home Theater PC) or other tight spaces with someone who doesn't require a huge heat load from overclocking or extensive gaming. Small coolers can only be pushed so far, but they also have their advantages. On the other hand, the Transformer 3 is meant for heavy duty work. It employs three copper 6mm direct contact heatpipes on an aluminum, tower-style heatsink with a chromed-out fan. The plastic/chrome look reminds me of the T-1000 from the Terminator movies. It does appear that Evercool's naming scheme for the Transformer line pulled a bit of a "Star Wars", in which it started with number 4 and a 6 several years ago, and now we're down to 3. The numbers don't have anything to do with chronological order, but rather the amount of heatpipes on the product!

Anyways, enough of the silly anecdotes — it's time to get started on testing these two heatsinks. In this review, I will provide a full overview of the two Evercool heatsinks: the low profile, space-saving HPL-815, and the low-cost, performance-style Transformer 3. I will start with unboxing the heatsinks, taking a very close look at their features and construction, and then going through a rigorous testing session to see how they compare to some of the latest hardware when subjected to high heat loads. Without further ado, let's get started.

 

Closer Look:

The two coolers are packaged slightly differently from the other. The Transformer 3 is in a black cardboard box with a window on the front showing off the chrome, reflective fan and a little bit of the heatsink itself on the other side of the blades. The Evercool logo appears in the top-left corner and an isometric view of the cooler appears in the bottom right. The low profile, HPL-815 is packaged in a plastic clamshell-like package, with the black and red fan showing through on the front. The back of the HPL-815 is hidden behind a black piece of glossy paper giving an introduction to the cooler and lists some features.

 

 

 

The Transformer 3 cooler reminds me a lot of some other heatsinks that I have had my hands on, mainly due to its slender but tall form. It's only about 30-35mm thick without the fan, which is also slim for a fan at only about 15mm thick. Having such narrow dimensions this way, it will leave a lot of room around the CPU socket for access to memory, plugs, etc. Looking at the HPL-815, my first thoughts on this is that it's incredibly tiny! It wouldn't quite fit in a 1U setup, but I could see it working in a 1.5U and a 2U setup as well as in mini-ITX or micro-ATX form factor cases. Neither are supplied with a lot of accessories, but they are simple enough to not require a substantial amount of hardware. The mounting hardware between the two coolers are very similar, but not interchangeable. The Transformer 3's hardware includes a universal Intel bracket and supporting hardware, an AMD socket hold-down clamp and hardware, thermal paste, rubber fan clips and a user's manual. The HPL-815's hardware is the same, with both AMD and Intel hardware, thermal paste and user's manual, but doesn't include the rubber fan clips since the fan is already attached to the cooler. With both coolers out of the box, it's now time to take a closer look at the individual coolers and offer my thoughts on each.

 

 

Closer Look:

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.

Specifications:

Specifications: (Transformer 3)

Model Name
Transformer 3
Overall Dimension
130 x 161 x 78.5 mm
Heat Sink Material
Aluminum fins + 3 HDT copper heatpipes
Bearing Type
Ever Lubricate Bearing (Long Life Bearing)
Noise Level
<15 ~ <35dBA
Fan Speed
800+/- 25% RPM ~ 2200 +/- 10% RPM
Rated Voltage
12 VDC
Weight
630 g
CPU Compatibility
Intel: Socket LGA 1366/1156/1155 (i7, i5, i3, C2D, C2Q, C2X)
Intel Socket T (Pentium 4, Pentium D, Pentium 4 Extreme)
 
AMD: AM3/AM2+/AM2/K8 (Phenom II, Phenom, Athlon X2, X3, X4, 64, Sempron, Opteron)

 

Features: (Transformer 3)

 

 

Specifications: (HPL-815)

Model Name
HPL-815
Overall Dimension
106 x 95 x 45 mm
Heat Sink Material
4 HDT Heatpipes + Aluminum fins
Bearing Type
Ever Lubricate Bearing (Long Life Bearing), 50,000 hour @ 25°C
Noise Level
12~40 dBA
Fan Speed
1000+/- 25% RPM ~ 4000 +/- 10% RPM
Rated Voltage
12 VDC
Weight
320 g
CPU Compatibility
Intel: Socket LGA 1366/1156/1155 (i7, i5, i3, C2D, C2Q, C2X)
Intel Socket T (Pentium 4, Pentium D, Pentium 4 Extreme)
 
AMD: AM3/AM2+/AM2/K8 (Phenom II, Phenom, Athlon X2, X3, X4, 64, Sempron, Opteron)

 

Features: (HPL-815)

 

All information provided courtesy of EVERCOOL @ http://www.evercool.tw

Testing and Setup:

Testing of these heatsinks will involve applying a load simulated by Prime95, using small FFTs in stock and overclocked scenarios, where both idle and load temperatures will be recorded. Load temperatures will be the maximum value displayed in RealTemp after running eight threads in Prime95 for one hour, and idle temperatures will be the minimum recorded value by RealTemp with no computer usage during a period of one hour. The temperature values for each of the four cores will be averaged and displayed in the graphs below. The ambient temperature is held at a constant 23 °C throughout testing of the Transformer 3, HPL-815, as well as the comparison units. All the data shown in the graphs below is in degrees Celsius. The included thermal paste from Evercool will be used during testing and thermal pastes on other heatsinks from their respective manufacturers will be used. The fans on each cooler will be run at full speed for these tests.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Heatsinks:

 

 

 

 

Well we see here that the Transformer 3 does quite a good job at keeping the processor cool while idle, and this is probably thanks to the very well-finished, direct contact heatpipe base. The load temperature actually ties the H60! The HPL-815, did a good bit better at idle than the stock Intel unit does, but once it started to get some heat on it the performance tapered off. In fact, it allowed the CPU to pass 100°C on the overclocked load test.

Conclusion

So we see here that the Evercool Transformer 3 actually does quite well in a stock scenario and actually matching the performance from that of a Corsair H60. The high-quality, direct contact base is probably to thank for that since it helps the heat from the processor to be removed quickly, and then the rest is the easy job of the fins being cooled by the fan. On the other hand, the higher-load performance didn't correlate to what we saw in the Stock testing, and that's most likely due to it's lower weight. Lower weight directly means a lower heat capacity, so as soon as the fins and fans cannot keep up, the temperature increases until it reaches a higher equilibrium. For stock situations, this cooler does very well. As far as noise goes, I can't say that I really noticed anything louder than other coolers.

We know that the HPL-815, on the other hand, is meant for a very space-saving purpose. Therefore, it is very small and very light. Even though it's noticeably shorter than the stock Intel unit, I'm going to consider it being what the Intel unit is — but with heatpipes. That being said, it does a better job at cooling a stock i7 in both idle and load testing by 11°C. Even at overclocked idle, it still has an 11°C over what the Intel unit can do. However, once loaded, the temperatures rapidly climbed past 70°, 80°, 90°. The rate of the increasing temperature was leveling off, but once it passed 100°C on the processor, I pulled the plug on the test since that is the TJ Max of the i7 920. I did remove the cooler, reapply thermal paste and reseat it, but the same result occurred. My only explanation to why this happens is because of how small it is. However, this cooler is not meant to be a heavy breather and big performer like the $70 and $80 coolers that are out on the market. When it comes to cost, it's more of a particular "need" type of thing where a small cooler is not an option. At about the same price as the Transformer 3, it'd only be a reasonable move if space limitations were great. For noise on this one, it's certainly noticeable especially at full speed. It's understandable though, an 80mm fan can only do so much before its easily detected by its noise.

To conclude this review, I will make it clear that these two coolers have two completely different purposes. The Transformer 3 is a budget, tower cooler that is compatible with pretty much everything that's still laying around today, and does a pretty good job at cooling for what it's worth. On the other side, the HPL-815 is a very low profile, space saving design where its overall application is not going to be overclocked very much, if at all. This is a cooler that I would put into a 1.5U or 2U rackmount if I still wanted slightly lower temperatures, or an HTPC that I have in a mini-ITX case that's literally not much bigger than a DVD ROM drive. Even though the HPL-815 "failed" the overclocked load test, it'd still be something good to have if it's ever needed.

 

Pros: (Transformer 3)

 

Pros: (HPL-815)

 

Cons: (Transformer 3)

 

Cons: (HPL-815)