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Akasa AK-965 socket 775 tower cooler

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Akasa’s 92mm fan tower heatpipe cooler for Intel 775 CPUs has all the key features at a very budget price. Can it run with the big boys?

March 14, 2008 by Mike
Chin

Product
Akasa AK-965 Socket 775 heatsink/fan
Manufacturer
Market Price
~US$25

Since the "tower" heatpipe heatsink design first appeared in the PC world a few years ago, it has become dominant. The tower heatpipe heatsink has cooling fins arrayed in a tall stack with heatpipes running up/down through them, and the fan blows through the fins in a path parallel to the surface of the motherboard. Previous designs had the fins perpendicular to the motherboard surface, and the fan blowing down towards the board. There’s not a single brand which doesn’t offer some variant of this basic design. Some models vary less than others.

The Akasa AK-965 can best be described as an execution of the tower heatpipe heatsink which stays very close to the median for such designs. (This is not a slight on Akasa, which makes dozens of CPU cooling devices, including some that are considerably more innovative, nor is it a slight on the heatsink itself.)

Akasa began in 1997 with the design, manufacture and distribution of heatsinks to the PC OEM sector and the retail distribution channel. A Taiwanese/British venture with international distribution, Akasa’s products are easiest to find in the EU. The product range has expanded considerably, with cases, power supplies, control panels and accessories all in the mix.

Akasa’s marketing department felt that SPCR’s international audience, with some 40% of readers in the EU, would appreciate a review of one of their products. The AK-965 is the first Akasa sample that landed in our lab. It is very modestly priced among DIY aftermarket coolers: It can be found for around £10~11 including VAT in the U.K. Another variant of the product, the AK-965BL, appears to differ only in that it features a blue LED fan.


Sturdy, simply illustrated box…


…opens up to reveal the heatsink nestled in recycled carboard.

Akasa AK-965
Feature Highlights
(from the product web page)
Feature & Brief Our Comment
PWM controls fan RPM accordingly to CPU usage and provides low-noise cooling
Aside from the heatpipes, these blurbs could easily describe a stock heatsink that comes supplied with Intel processors. There’s nothing unique here.
Intel push-pins for safe and easy retention
Copper base for maximum heat absorption
Three U-shape heatpipes give rapid heat dissipation
Thermal compound pre-applied
Akasa AK-965

Specifications

Socket type
Intel LGA 775
Heatsink dimension
132 x 105 x 56.5mm
Heatsink material
Aluminum fins, copper heatpipes and base
Cooler dimension
139.5 x 111.6 x 89.5mm
Fan dimension
92 x 25mm (on 80mm fan fitting)
Fan speed
600 – 2500 RPM
Fan connector
4-pin (PWM enabled)
Fan airflow
10.56 – 47.68 CFM
Fan air pressure
0.18 – 2.56 mm H20
Fan life expectancy
45000/hrs
Voltage rating
12V
Bearing type Ball Bearing
Noise level 17 – 30 dB(A)

NOTE: Weight is not given, but it doesn’t feel much greater than about 500 grams.



DETAILS

The AK-965 is about medium size for a retail DIY tower heatsink these days. It stands fairly tall, just over 5", slightly taller than Arctic Cooling’s Freezer 7, which it resembles. The spacing of the fins, at just under 2mm, is neither very wide nor very tight, in comparison with other heatsinks. As the spec sheet mentions, the 4-pin fan has 92mm diameter blades in an 80mm frame. There is nothing included in the package other than the heatsink/fan. This model is intended for use only on a socket 775 board, and the push-pin assembly is pre-mounted.


It stands nearly 5" tall.


It’s easily double the size of the stock Intel HSF.


The frame on which the push-pins are mounted is allowed to pivot a bit.
The fins are press-fitted onto the fins as is the norm for this type of design.


The fan peeks below the bottom fin. Presumably, this is to ensure some airflow over hot voltage regulation components around the CPU socket.

The copper base is flat but not polished; with TIM, it’s smooth enough. The heatpipes appear to be soldered and clamped between the copper base and an aluminum top.

The fan clips at four points to a plastic frame, which in turn, clips similarly into grooves cut into the edges of the fins. It’s a simple, fairly secure arrangement. No loose play could be felt.

The fan fits rather tightly; don’t remove/remount the fan more than a couple of times, as one of the plastic tabs may break.

INSTALLATION

Stock Intel push-pins are not our favorite mounting mechanism. But on the Akasa AK-965, they aren’t inappropriate; at least the heatsink isn’t much heavier than the stock Intel heatsinks. The push-pins on the AK-965 are not hard to use, as there is enough clearance for your thumb to get squarely atop each pin for maximum pressure if the fan is removed before you try to install the heatsink — either just the fan or the whole fan assembly. The installation probably can be done with the motherboard already installed in a case, but it’s not wise. As with most large heatsink, it’ll be easier to install the AK-965 with the board outside the case, and you’ll have the chance to examine the underside of the board to make sure the pins are really secure.

The amount of tension applied with push-pins depends mostly on the distance between the base and the ends of the mounting frame where the pins are, and the stiffness of the mounting frame. In the Akasa AK-965, the distance seems slightly greater than normal, and the stiffness of the frame is very high. The last pin was quite an effort to insert. There is supposed to be a small degree of bowing of the motherboard when the heatsink is installed, but the amount of bowing with the AK-965 seems a bit excessive.


The pressure applied by the clip seems a bit high, judging from the amount of motherboard bending.

Installed and running on our open test bench motherboard.

TESTING

Testing of heatsinks is normally done in accordance with our
unique heatsink testing methodology
, and one of our reference fans, but because the Akasa-965 comes with its own integrated fan, an unusual one in that it’s a 92mm fan in an 80mm frame, we chose to test it with it own fan.

Key Components in Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel Pentium D 950
    Presler core. TDP of 130W; under our test load, it measures 78W including efficiency
    losses in the VRMs.
  • ASUS P5LD2-VM
    motherboard. A basic microATX board with integrated graphics and plenty
    of room around the CPU socket.
  • Samsung MP0402H 40GB 2.5" notebook drive
  • 1 GB stick of Corsair XMS2
    DDR2 memory.
  • FSP
    Zen
    300W fanless power supply.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface
    material, designed specifically for test labs.

Test Tools

  • Seasonic Power Angel
    for measuring AC power at the wall to ensure that the heat output
    remains consistent.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply,
    used to regulate the fan speed during the test.
  • Bruel & Kjaer (B&K) model 2203
    Sound Level Meter
    . Used to accurately measure noise down to
    20 dBA and below.
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .

Software Tools

  • SpeedFan 4.31,
    used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensor. This sensor is not
    calibrated, so results are not universally applicable; however,
  • CPUBurn,
    used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most
    real applications. Two instances are used to ensure that both cores are
    stressed.
  • Throttlewatch 2.01,
    used to monitor the throttling feature of the CPU to determine when
    overheating occurs.

Noise measurements were made with the fan powered from the lab
variable DC power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure
that system noise did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using CPUBurn to stress the
processor, and the graph function in SpeedFan was used to make sure
that the load temperature was stable for at least ten minutes. The
stock fan was tested at four voltages: 5V, 7V, 9V, and 12V,
representing a full cross-section of the its airflow and noise
performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 17 dBA and
21°C.

TEST RESULTS

Stock Akasa Fan

The stock fan was tested for acoustics. We didn’t do a full range of airflow / noise tests, but SPL and RPM measurements were taken at various voltages. At 12V, it’s far too noisy our standards. The turbulence noise completely dominates. At 9V, it’s better, but still too noisy. At 7V, it’s not bad; the overall level is low enough that many users would find it quiet enough. The acoustic character is a combination of buzzing and hissing, which combine to impart an impression of people whispering some distance away. It is audible from a meter away, but inside a case, with other noise sources, it may simply blend into the overall noise. Interestingly, the fan refused to either start or run at 5V. The minimum voltage needed for consistent start was 5.5V.

Akasa AK-965 Fan Measurements
12V
2700 RPM
35 dBA@1m
9V
1750 RPM
29 dBA@1m
7V
1170 RPM
22 dBA@1m
5.5V
670 RPM
19 dBA@1m

Cooling Results

The performance achieved with the stock fan is excellent, the numbers posted at 12V and 9V being comparable to many of the top reviewed coolers. The caveat here, is the noise level, of course: The cooling performance is achieved at the cost of much higher noise than the best heatsink/fans. The performance of both acoustics and cooling are decent at 7V, which is probably the sweet spot (on this HSF) for silent PC users. The 37°C seen with the fan at 5.5V would end up with the CPU in >60°C range inside a real system, which is too high.

Akasa AK-965 w/ stock fan
Fan Voltage
dBA@1m
Temp
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
35

38°C
17
0.22
9V
29

41°C
20
0.26
7V
22

48°C
27
0.35
5.5V
19

58°C
37
0.47

What about changing the fan for a quieter one? It’s feasible, but you have to go to an 80mm fan, which is a bit of a step down in that the volume of air moved for a given rotation speed is bound to go down. Remember, the stock fan has 92mm diameter blades in an 80mm frame. We gave it a go with our Nexust 80mm reference fan, which spins quite slowly and doesn’t move much air, but is very quiet.


Stock fan removed, 80mm reference fan installed: Note the gaps around the edges of the fan mounting frame.
Akasa AK-965 w/ reference Nexus 80 fan
12V
23
42°C
21
0.27
9V
20
48°C
27
0.35
7V
<18
54°C
33
0.42
Load Temp: CPUBurn
for ~20 mins.

°C Rise: Temperature rise above
ambient (21°C) at load.

°C/W: based on
heat dissipated by CPU (measured 78W); lower is better.

At all voltages, the Nexus fan is smoother and more pleasant to the ear. Naturally, cooling suffered, but at both 12V and 9V, it wasn’t bad at all. The noise with the Nexus at 9V was somewhat preferable to the stock fan at 7V, and identical cooling was achieved. Testing was not done at 5V, as cooling would have been inadequate. The motherboard’s voltage regulators probably run hotter than with the stock 92mm fan, as the 80mm fan provides hardly any airflow in that area.

Typical Use

None of the above test scenarios are quite right for the AK-965. With its low price and 4-pin PWM fan, it’s a good candidate to plop in as a substitute for a nasty stock Intel HSF and let the motherboard’s BIOS-level fan controller adjust its speed based on CPU temperature. In such an application, the noise / cooling will depend quite a lot on the motherboard’s fan control system. The AK-965 is obviously capable of very good cooling as well as pretty quiet operation; whether your motherboard’s fan control system can take advantage of both these aspects is something you can find out only by trying it. Each motherboard’s fan control scheme is a bit different.

The alternative is to use a manual controller (either in the BIOS or externally) to reduce the fan speed down to an acceptable level, monitor the CPU temperature over time to be safe, and adjust the fan speed if necessary. Chances are, this approach will work fine, and you won’t risk the fan speeding up and down annoyingly due to a poorly designed BIOS thermal fan control system.

AGAINST COMPETITORS

In most SPCR heatsink comparisons, because one of the reference fans has been used, we can simply lay out a table showing the temperature rise for each voltage/speed of the reference fan for a number of different heatsinks. Here, this is not possible. Virtually no other heatsinks were tested in the last couple of years with our reference 80mm fan, which was used in the test. Trying to lay out a simple comparison for data for several different SPL points for each of several fans is almost impossible.

So which noise level would most readers be interested in? Probably the 22 dBA@1m reached in the AK-965 with the stock fan at 7V. Various heatsinks tested in the past were sought out for performance data closest to 22 dBA@1m SPL, never mind the fan used. This will include comparisons with HS that have the advantage of better/bigger fans that blow more air at the same SPL. This is not a "fine" comparison, but a rough guide. (The prices are the best I found in a quick online search, March 14, 2008.)

Akasa AK-965 vs. Competition
Model
Price
Voltage
dBA@1m
°C Rise
°C/W
Akasa AK-965
$21
7V
22
27
0.35
Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro
$16
7V
22
36
0.46
Gigabyte Volar
$35
5V
20
31
0.40
Zalman CNPS8700 LED
$50
5V
24
23
0.29
Scythe Ninja Mini
$32
9V
22
21
0.27

Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro – The only one priced lower in our database of heatsinks reviewed on the same platform, it also comes with an integral fan and cools much worse at the same SPL.

Gigabyte Volar – Much higher price and aspirations, the Volar comes with an integral 120mm fan. It may cool slightly worse at the same SPL.

Zalman CNPS8700 LED – More than double the money, with integral fan, and probably performs about the same at 22 dBA@1m if you can get the fan to spin slower.

Scythe Ninja Mini – Its performance is clearly better at the same SPL (with the Scythe 80mm fan it was supplied with), but it also costs $10 more.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files. It represents a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. The recording contains ~10 seconds of the heatsink fan sound at each speed tested.

The recording begins with the ambient noise of the test room. Please set your playback volume so that the ambient noise is almost inaudible.

Akasa AK-965 with stock fan at 5.5V, 7V, 9V and 12V at 1m with 7 seconds of ambient between each level. (For best results, save the sound file to your own PC, then listen.)

Reference Comparatives

Nexus "Real Silent 80mm fan" at 5V, 7V, 9V and 12V at 1m

Nexus "Real Silent 92mm fan" at 5V, 7V, 9V and 12V at 1m

The recording is intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet noises may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

More details about how we make audio recordings can be found in our article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.



CONCLUSIONS

The Akasa AK-965 offers very good value for money, and it can be run quietly in many Intel-based systems. The combination of large fin area, multiple heatpipes, good mechanical integrity at the joints, and very high pressure clips makes for excellent cooling performance. The fan is noisy when allowed to run at full speed, but when slowed down to under half speed, it’s probably quiet enough except for the most demanding users, while still providing decent cooling.

The pressure of the mounting system seems excessive, and users should exercise care to ensure no damage is done to the motherboard during installation. Even though it uses push-pins, it’s safer to mount the heatsink with the motherboard ouside the case.

There’s little in the way of posturing, fancy packaging, or excessive verbiage in this product. The absence of large amounts of plastic is nice to see. There wasn’t even a plastic bag!

It’s not the cat’s meow among performance coolers, nor is it a product that silent enthusiasts will whisper loudly about, but the Asaka AK-965 is a worthy low cost replacement heatsink for socket 775 processors. In the hands of a modder, with a top-notch 120mm fan, and perhaps through-the-board bolt mounting, it could easily be the equivalent of a poor man’s hot rod.

Pros
* Very good cooling

* Fan’s quiet when undervolted

* No waste packaging
* Efficient design, not too heavy
* Great price

Cons
* Mounting could be too tight

* Fan could be quieter

Much thanks to the Akasa Group for the AK-965 sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

Recommended Heatsinks
SPCR’s unique heatsink testing
methodology

SPCR’s standard fan testing
methodology

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7
Thermalright Ultra 120
Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro
Asus Triton 75 CPU Cooler

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