Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler Review

ccokeman - 2008-06-16 14:20:00 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: December 4, 2012
Price: $69

Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler Introduction:

Overclocking is a game of balance. You can go all out with liquid nitrogen cooling, a custom liquid cooling system, any of the self contained liquid cooling solutions, or you can look around to find the best air cooling solution for the budgeted amount of cash in your pocket. Either way the end game is to increase the performance of the system by increasing the size of the cooling solution and level of thermal dissipation. Using the stock cooling solution (unless the cooling solution you own is one of the self contained units AMD and Intel offer) is going to result in a lower overclocking margin than just about any cooler on the market. The root of the problem is that the stock CPU cooler just cannot handle the thermal load when the CPU is overclocked.

Liquid Nitrogen is limited in its practical use to extreme benchmarking sessions. A custom liquid loop will most certainly offer excellent cooling while the self contained loops have come a long way in terms of reliability and cooling improvement.  Even with all the upside to liquid cooling solutions, a larger air cooling solution is almost always the most cost effective way to both improve cooling at stock and overclocked speeds. Add in the reluctance to put liquid and electronics together in the same package and that air cooler looks mighty appealing.

Just about everyone has heard of Sapphire; if not you must be hiding under a rock. It is not only a video card company but one that is branching out in many directions to diversify the user base. We have seen not only some truly unique video cards and small form factor PCs but motherboards for both AMD and Intel processors. To cool many of its high end Toxic or Vapor-X based video cards, Sapphire has pioneered the use of Vapor chamber cooling solutions first seen here on OCC with the introduction of the HD 3870 Atomic Edition. Using vapor chamber equipped cooling solutions, Sapphire has proven its worth with the enthusiast consumer.

Now Sapphire has jumped feet first into the crowded CPU cooling market with its all new Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler. Priced at $69 this is not your bargain cooler but a large tower style cooler equipped with a large vapor chamber base, dual fans in a push/pull configuration, four large heat pipes, and a universal mounting system for both AMD and Intel. This design is touted as having the ability of dissipating upwards of a 200 watt thermal load. Let's see how it fares by comparison.

Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler Closer Look:

The box is fairly representative of a retail package for a tower cooling solution. A large section of the box is left open to show off the aero foil fan-equipped Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler solution. The front panel of the packaging is a lighter blue and has the Sapphire Vapor-X emblem just under the opening with the name of the product in bold lettering under the logo. The back side of the box holds the specifications and uses a technical drawing to illustrate the measurements of the Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU cooler. Popping the top shows that the cooler is packed in a large plastic shell along with a box that carries the mounting hardware and accessory bundle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never one to skimp on the accessories, Sapphire has included all of the mounting hardware that will be needed to install the Vapor-X Universal CPU cooler on all current sockets from AMD and Intel including FM2, FM1, AM2/AM2+AM3/AM3+, LGA 775/1155/1156/1366, and 2011. The documentation includes a registration pamphlet and comprehensive set of instructions. Outside the normal standoffs, thermal paste, and screws, Sapphire has included a small socket to tighten and loosen the main standoffs.

 

 

 

 

Having seen first hand what Sapphire's Vapor-X technology is capable of on hot running video cards, it should prove interesting to see just how potent a CPU cooling solution this technology can make. Capable of dissipating 200 watts of thermal load Sapphire's Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler might just be the next big thing in air cooling.

Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler Closer Look:

Once out of the box it is clear this cooling solution is built for performance. Sapphire's Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler is a tower design heat sink equipped with a vapor chamber contact plate, four 7mm heatpipes, and a large aluminum fin array. Measuring 135 x 110.4 x 163.5mm (5.3 x 4.3 x 6.4 in) it appears to be fully capable of meeting its 200W rating. This size comes with a weight to match at 925 grams bare and up to 1525g fully dressed. Dual Dual-X PWM fans in a push/pull configuration are used to drive air through the fin array. The top of the fin array is covered with a decorative cap that lights up the Sapphire logo when the Vapor-X Universal CPU cooler is in operation. Power is supplied to the lights in the cap through cabling from one of the PWM controlled fans. Both fans are attached to a 4-pin Y connector allowing both fans to connect to a single PWM-controlled CPU fan header on the motherboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peeling off the clip on the fan shrouds gets us to the base assembly of Sapphire's Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler. From the front the Sapphire Universal CPU Cooler has all the features one would expect from a tower style heat sink. In this case a vapor chamber equipped base-plate with four 7mm heat pipes rising into an aluminum fin array, sized to take advantage of the Dual-X 120 x 120mm fans. The sides of the fan array are folded together driving the majority of the airflow generated by the Dual-X fans through the aluminum fin array instead of around or out the sides, increasing the cooling potential of the solution.

 

 

What makes this cooler unique is that it uses a direct contact vapor chamber. This design is used in Sapphire's Vapor-X line of video cards and has proven quite successful in managing the thermal load when tasked with removing the heat from a GPU. If a vapor chamber on a video card is capable of handling up to a 400 watt load the technology is there to handle the 200 watt rating of the Vapor-X CPU Cooler. The base of the Vapor-X Universal Cooler is the direct contact vapor chamber with an aluminum block located above the chamber. This aluminum block serves to locate the four 7mm heat pipes that pass the thermal load up to the aluminum fin array as well as being the location of the mounting mechanism.

As with most aftermarket heat sinks a warning label has been affixed to the CPU contact surface to alert the end user that a protective cover is on the mounting surface. We all know someone who has found out the hard way what the results are when in a rush to install that shiny new heat sink when the warning label was left in place. The mounting surface is smooth to the touch . There appeared to be a slight blemish on the surface but proved to not be anything when cleaned. Minor machining marks are left behind that do not seem to impact performance and are no different from any non-polished base.

 

 

Creating the airflow to discharge the thermal load is the job of the Aerofoil blade Dual-X fans. This fan solution is much like what is used on Sapphire's latest line of Vapor-X equipped video cards, just with 120mm fans in a push/pull configuration. The fans mount to the Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler by means of a pair of brackets used on each fan. These brackets are equipped with clips that wrap around the side of the aluminum fin array and lock into the notch holding the assembly in place. The top is contoured to meet the lighted top cap. Sapphire's Dual-X fans are attached to the brackets with screws. These screws are covered with rubber vibration dampeners to reduce unwanted noise from the equation. In practice this solution works as it should with no vibration induced noise noted during testing.

 

 

 

Sapphire Dual-X fans are used on the Vapor-X CPU cooler. If you have seen Sapphire's latest Vapor-X video cards you know that using the Dual-X fan has advantages in terms of the noise generated for the airflow moved. The Dual-X fans are 120mm x 120mm x 25mm in size and are Martech model DF1202512SEUN. Rated for operation between a PWM-controlled 495-2200RPM the sleeve bearing fans push 77 C.F.M. at a maximum of 40 dBA, and provides higher static pressure than the fans on the comparison NH-U12P at 2.6 mm H2O. Four pin power connections are used to provide PWM control for the fans. This aerofoil fin fan is used on both sides of the Vapor-X CPU Cooler is a push/pull configuration to provide the most usable airflow through the fin array.

 

 

At 163.5mm tall the Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler should have no problems fitting into the myriad of mid tower chassis on the market. Installing it into the Corsair 600T was no more troublesome than installing any other heat sink of this type. The mounting system ued by Sapphire is very sturdy and does not flex. An insulated backplate is used to tie the four posts together forming a strong base for the universal mounting bracket to mount on. Here is where I finally ran into some issues with the mounting mechanism employed on this solution. I went through a few socket 1155 motherboards to find one that the cooler could be mounted to. The concern is that the universal mounting plate hits the VRM heat sinks both top and side when mounted for horizontal or vertical operation on all three of the upper end boards I checked the fit on.

It does however fit just fine on the Gigabyte Z68 board in my test rig, but this board does not have a heat sink on the VRM circuit over the CPU socket. Just like the majority of large air cooling solutions on the market the DIMM sockets closest to the CPU socket are going to require low profile modules to allow all four sockets to be populated. Sapphire has made sure you get that Sapphire blue glow emanating from the chassis. The Vapor-X logo and Sapphire blue accents light up a bright blue while the fans have blue LEDs around the perimeter to add to the view.

 

 

 

As a large air cooling solution the Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler is rated to handle up to a 200 watt thermal load. On paper and in the pictures it looks well equipped to do so. Let's see just how well it can handle the heat. I have no doubt that Sapphire's technology will impress.

Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler Specifications:

Intel® CPU Support
Core™ i7 Extreme
Core™ i7
Core™ i5
Core™ i3
Core™2 Extreme
Core™2 Quad
Core™2 Duo
Pentium
Celeron
AMD® CPU Support
FX-Series
A-Series
Phenom™ II X4
Phenom™ II X3
Phenom™ II X2
Phenom™ X4
Phenom™ X3
Athlon™ II X4
Athlon™ II X3
Athlon™ II X2
Athlon™ X2
Athlon™
Sempron™
Dimension
135 x 110.4 x 163.5mm (5.3 x 4.3 x 6.4 in)
Heat Sink Material
Vapor Chamber / 4x 7mm Heatpipes / Aluminum Fins
Weight
924.85g(net weight); 1524.8g(gross weight)
Heat Pipes Dimensions
7mm, 362mmx4
Fan Dimension
120 x 120 x 25mm (4.7 x 4.7 x 1 in)
Fan Dimension
120 x 120 x 25mm (4.7 x 4.7 x 1 in)
Number of Fans
2 per unit
Fan Speed
495- 2200 RPM (PWM)
Fan Noise Level (dB-A)
40 dBA Maximum
Maximum Air Flow
2 x 77 CFM
Maximum Air Pressure
2.6 mm H2O ± 10%
Bearing Type
Sleeve Bearing
Connector
4-Pin
Fan Rated Voltage
12 VDC
Fan Rated Current
0.37A

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of Sapphire Technology @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=7&gid=1192&sgid=1193&pid=1751&psn=&lid=1&leg=0#

Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler Testing:

Testing of the Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU cooler will be accomplished installing the cooler into the test system mounted into a case not a test bench. Most systems are built and mounted into a sealed (relatively) chassis so this method will be used to generate the load and idle results to give a real world view as to what kind of cooling performance one can expect based on the test system listed below. Of course your results may vary due to case design and ambient air temperature by several degrees. The CPU load is generated by Prime 95 version 27.7 for a period of 2 hours with a cool down period of one hour after the computer has returned to an idle state. Real Temp 3.70 is used to log the temperatures over the time frame with the highest and lowest averages across the four cores of the Core i7 2600K test CPU. Ambient temperatures are kept at 24C throughout the testing to minimize the impact of a variable temperature. Each cooler is tested with the manufacturer supplied thermal compound as delivered. Many of us have our own TIM favorites but for the end user without a half dozen tubes of thermal paste laying around the supplied TIM will have to do and is how these coolers will be tested.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Coolers:






 

   

 

   

 

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how the Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler handled the thermal load of the Core i7 2600K and especially how it outperformed what has been my go to heat sink for family builds: the Noctua NH-U12P. Sapphire's Vapor-X Universal CPU cooler performed two degrees Celsius better than the Noctua at both stock and overclocked speeds. The Phantek's cooler shows more cooling is available with a massive air cooling solution that provides an 8 °C improvement over the Vapor-X when the CPU is overclocked. The Vapor-X is not meant to compete at that level yet still delivers acceptable temperatures when overclocked.

Sapphire Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler Conclusion:

Sapphire has nurtured its Vapor-X technology into a well known and respected brand over the past five years and was first seen here on OverclockersClub with the launch of Sapphire's HD 3870 Atomic. Leveraging the cooling efficiency of the technology it successfully employed on its video cards has paid dividends with the move to putting together a high performance CPU cooling solution for the enthusiast market. As the only direct contact vapor chamber cooling solution on the market Sapphire has put together a cooling solution with very few flaws. By far the largest of them is the method used to hold the Vapor-X cooler onto the motherboard. The standoffs and insulated rear mounting plate are incredibly rigid and easily able to handle the weight distribution quite well.

The part that causes the most concern is the retention plate. As a universal design it is meant to be used across a wide variety of sockets and motherboard layouts. To manage that there are compromises that need to be made to reach that wider audience. I found that when I tried to mount the Vapor-X cooler on one of my upper end boards the retention plate could not be secured either horizontally or vertically. This played out across a couple more boards between P67, Z68, and Z77 platform boards; all with robust cooling on the power circuits. By comparison the Vapor-X fit just fine on my Z68AP-D3 motherboard. The interference comes from the design of the plate and how it accommodates AMD's sockets. A back yard solution would be to just clip this section off and move on to enjoy the performance the Vapor-X is capable of delivering.

Absent the backyard solution a redesign would fix this concern but add cost to fit the largest pool of motherboards. Not being able to use the memory slots closest to the CPU socket is not a problem exclusive to Sapphire. Low profile modules should alleviate that problem if you must populate all four sockets on an Intel socket 1155 motherboard. With just two DIMM slots populated there is no concern as even Corsair's GT8 modules will fit.

Mounting problems aside, the Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler met and exceeded my expectations when it came to cooling performance. It was able to outperform what I consider one of the best tower designs on the market, the Noctua NH-U12P, by two degrees both at stock speeds and when overclocked. Sapphire's PWM-controlled Dual-X high static pressure fans employed on the Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler are used to force the airflow through the dense fin array delivering great cooling performance without a massive noise penalty. The aerofoil shape of the fan blades contributes to the low noise operation yet still delivers high static pressure throughout the operating range. Load temperatures of 52 °C running stock speeds and 72 °C overvolted and overclocked were seen with this cooler.

Visually the Vapor-X Universal CPU Cooler is easy on the eyes, The cooler looks good when idle and really shines when you power it up. Pairing this cooler with one of Sapphire's Vapor-X video cards in a chassis with a large window will allow all comers to see just who you support by means of the logos and accents that light up.

Priced at $69, Sapphire's entry into the enthusiast market is at the upper end of the $50 to $75 price bracket and performs as it should for that price point, beating out a cooler that is priced higher. Mounting concerns aside, Sapphire has a viable option to increase its portfolio after expanding into motherboards, mini PCs, and now CPU cooling solutions.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: