ZEROtherm Core 92 Review

RHKCommander959 - 2009-04-10 18:56:26 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: July 20, 2009
Price: $40-$45

Introduction:

During a computer build, users might need a heat sink if they buy their CPU OEM, or simply opt for a better heat sink than the one that Intel and AMD provide with its CPUs. Some want more overclocking headroom, while others just want a better cooler – especially with the hot i7 CPUs – to keep the temperatures lower. No matter the reasoning, third party cooling can bring many improvements to the table that the stock cooler leaves to be desired. ZEROtherm has released a new heat sink called the Core 92 that is intended to cool both Core i7 and Core 2 processors in one package. The cooler attaches to motherboards with regular push-pin mounts like the ones found on the stock Intel heat sinks. The push-pins slide into place for either LGA775 or LGA1336 and the package is cooled by a PWM 92mm fan. This looks to be a compact, flashy and well performing heat sink from ZEROtherm.

 

Closer Look:

The box art is elegant and flows well with no noticeable grammar or spelling problems on the front. The background is a butterfly, with a window cut in the same shape as the heat sink fins from a top view. The key features are highlighted with pictures and small captions, along with Core 2 and Core i7 badges in the corner. The rear shows the two hypothetical installations possible, along with an angled shot of the heat sink as well as the clearance available with respect to the motherboard components.

 

  

 

 

One side of the packaging shows the compatible Intel processors and their respective socket type, ranging from the high end Core i7 Extreme to the low end Pentium and Celeron brands. This heat sink claims to be able to dissipate up to 130W of heat or more. A pair of barcodes fill the left side while the APACK logo, ZEROtherm and APACK website addresses fill the lower right corner. Another note is that this heat sink is Intel only – no AMD support – and only supports the Intel LGA775 and LGA1366 sockets. The opposite side of the box shows an angled view of the heat sink, side view facing the fan, and an angled view with the fan partially removed. Underneath are the specifications of the heat sink and fan. The fan operates at a noise level under 29.5 dBA with up to 56.7 CFM and the heat sink can cool over 130W of heat.

 

 

The top reiterates the features shown on the front of the box, and has a pair of stickers to keep it shut. All around the box is background artwork that makes the box look better than plain boxes.

 

 

Opening the box, we find a cardboard tray that holds the heat sink safely and is angled slightly, making it easier to pull out of the box. The heat sink fits snuggly in its tray with some room on the sides, which should be adequate protection when shipped in a bigger box.

 

 

The 92x92x25mm fan is produced by Power Logic for ZEROtherm, and is a typical 12V PWM fan with sleeve bearings, rated for medium speed operation. ZEROtherm has placed its sticker on the impellers hub, while the back retains the Power Logic sticker. The fan is held in place on the heat sink with four fan push-pins that attach to the face-plate of the heat sink and the top four fan mount holes. The black push-pins are much easier to install versus screws, and the whole faceplate is held in by two screws that thread into the fins of the heat sink.

 

 

Inside the box is a small bag containing a manual and thermal paste. The user manual shows a five step process for installing the heat sink, along with pictures to help users understand how to operate the push-pins, as well as how to place them for their motherboard type (LGA775 or LGA1366 spacing). The other side shows the specifications as listed on the box, precautions, and two-year warranty/disclaimer information in the major international languages.

 

 

1.8g of thermal paste is included with the heat sink, and is fairly thick - it warns to keep away from the body, eyes, and children.

 

 

With the heat sink out, let's get a better look at it!

Closer Look:

The ZEROtherm Core 92 heat sink is all silver, with even the copper heat pipes being colored to match. The fan has decent coverage over all the fins, and the fins are spaced out well enough for moderate to low-CFM fans to get the job done well. The fan is encased by the fins and so cables likely won't get tangled in the fan, although the unique design of the fins increases the likeliness of the heat sink itself hooking onto any Molex wires that are not sleeved, along with any other small cables or wires, like fan wires. The fan cable isn't sleeved, but all four wires are attached to each other making cable management easier. The Power Logic fan is a clear plastic fan with blue LEDs, which barely poke out of the heat sink at the bottom. The fins were all in good shape and didn't need any straightening. The push-pins have some clearance from the last fins, making it easier to install the heat sink. A side view shows the 25mm-thick fan well, with a good amount of clearance over the thin aluminum base plate. The view also shows the unique design of the fin grooves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top view shows the plate that is held onto the heat sink with screws that thread into the higher fins. The four mounts are punched out from the face plate, and the center is raised witha  ZT cutout in the center. With the fan on, the heat sink glows blue through all the holes and fins. The bottom had a few faint scratches on it, with two screws that hold the mounting arms to the heat sink. However, the base was pretty good and smooth, and the gaps between the heat pipes and base are very small (not as drastic as some direct-touch heat sinks I've seen), but generally it is still a good idea to fill the gaps with paste for the optimal heat transfer.

 

 

The ZEROtherm is a petite performance cooler with good looks and a well laid out design. The push-pins are a win/lose because they are easy to install, but lack the pressure and rigidity that bolt mechanisms can offer - with vertically mounted cases it can serve a problem for heavy tower heat sinks, which can sag or pull away from the board and processor. Not to mention that newer users often have trouble with the push-pin installation method, although the manual should make it very clear on how to properly install them. The push-pins can be slid up and down an elongated hole on the mounting arms with small notches to help keep them in either LGA775 or LGA1366 position. The heat sink is simple, but elegant.

 

 

The heat sink has no problem in a mid-ATX case with plenty of room all around, not coming close to the side panel, motherboard components, or case fans. All four push-pins are easily reached.

 

 

Now that we are done checking out the goods, let's get technical information out of the way before we test this heat sink!

Specifications:

Dimensions 
103 X 93 X 123 mm (4.05 X 3.66 X 4.82 inch)
Weight
470g (with all components)
Material
Base: Aluminum; Heat pipes: Pure Copper;
Fins: Aluminum
Heat Dissipation Area
4,438 cm² (688 inch²)
Cooling Capacity
Over 130W
Fan Size
92 X 25 mm (3.62 X 0.98 inch) with 2 Blue LEDs
Fan Speed
900 ~ 2,500 rpm (± 10%)
Acoustic Noise
Under 19.5 dBA (± 10%)
Bearing Type
Long-Life Bearing
Operating Voltage
5.0 ~ 13.2 VDC
Airflow Rate
Max. 56.7 CFM
Fan Connector
4-pin

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of ZEROtherm @ http://www.zerotherm.net/eng/product/CORE92.asp

Testing:

To test the ZEROtherm Core 92 CPU heat sink, it was installed with the included thermal paste and tested in four intervals. The first two intervals tested the heat sink with the Core i7 920 running at stock speed with no turbo for a base run, with normal heat load at idle in Vista, and then loaded with Prime95 small FFT's in half hour intervals. The two intervals were then repeated with the processor overclocked to 3.33GHz (166BCLK x 20 multiplier). The CPU voltage was set to 1.25V, and the testing was done inside a case for real world results rather than on a test-bench in open air. The Core 92 will be pitted against the Gelid Silent Spirit, which is another 92mm heat sink, along with the stock Intel heat sink and three behemoth 120mm heat sinks. Ambient temperature was 76F (~24.5C), and the resulting temperatures are rounded out averages of the temperature for each core.

Testing System:

 

Comparison Heat sinks:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, the ZEROtherm Core 92 performed great, putting up a nice fight for its size. It idled higher than the others, but at load it bested the Gelid and stock Intel heat sinks by far, and came close to the Transformer 4, which has two 120mm fans versus the single 92mm fan found on the Core 92. Definitely a good showing; this petite heat sink did very well.

Conclusion

The ZEROtherm Core 92 is a small package that beats the stock Intel cooler into the ground. Installation is very simple; the user only has to apply thermal paste, snap the cooler onto the motherboard mounting holes, and plug the fan in. The directions are clear and cover the details well, like how to operate the push-pins and mounting. The product is simple and so is the installation procedure. The heat sink itself looks cool with the fin design and blue glow, and should fit in most cases.

The mounting system leaves a little to be desired. The heat sink was getting poor temperatures because it wouldn't get enough pressure to stay on the CPU IHS evenly, so I had to bend the arms slightly. Once that was done, the temperatures dropped and it worked perfectly fine.

The fan looks great inside the heat sink and the push-pins work as well as they can. The heat sink looks great and performs equally good. The compact form factor also makes this much more accessible to people, allowing this heat sink to fit in most situations - although the fan may hum too loudly for a dead silent PC or HTPC.

 

Pros:

Cons: