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Prolimatech Panther CPU Cooler

The Panther is one of Prolimatech’s “low-end” CPU heatsinks, a US$50 tower cooler with premium build quality, four heatpipes, and a 120 mm red LED fan.

September 2, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Prolimatech Panther
CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Prolimatech
Street Price
US$50

Prolimatech burst onto the scene in 2009 with the Megahalems and quickly made a name for themselves as a top tier CPU cooler manufacturer amongst the likes of Thermalright and Noctua. While many blast the market with as many products as possible, Prolimatech has been very careful not to dilute their brand, focusing their energy on premium, high performance units. One of their more affordable heatsinks is the Prolimatech Panther, a modestly-sized US$50 offering.


The Panther box.

The Panther is considerably smaller than the last Prolimatech cooler we reviewed, the monstrous dual 14 cm Genesis. Compared to your typical 12 cm fan heatsink though, it’s a bit of a lightweight. According to the specifications, it measures 130 x 50 x 161 mm (L x W x H) and weighs 570 grams excluding the fan, making it thinner and lighter than most of the big towers we’ve tested over the past couple of years. For reference, it’s comparable in size and weight to the TRUE Spirit, a budget Thermalright tower.


Package contents.

The Panther ships with a 120 mm red LED fan, mounting hardware, four clips for two fans, a tube of thermal interface material and a short instruction guide. For installation, a simple bolt-thru system is utilized and though many manufacturers have moved to a universal backplate, the Panther’s kit has separate gear for AMD and Intel motherboards. It’s also notable that the Intel mounting clips and backplate are for LGA1155/1156. Since it is easy to add say, 1366 support, this is a clear message that Prolimatech does not intend for the Panther to be used with the 125W+ TDP CPUs that come in 1366 (and 2011) packages.

Prolimatech Panther: Key Features
(from the product
web page
)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
Four high quality nickel plated heatpipes for effective heat transfer A hallmark of all Prolimatech heatsinks.
Equip with one 120x120x25mm PWM fan (800~1600 rpm) with four ruby LEDs Red is a nice departure from the typical blue assuming it’s not too blinding.
Wide gaps between fins with mathematically calculated thickness Wide gaps are preferable for low airflow/quiet operation.
Supports Intel socket LGA 1155/1156 and AMD AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+ With limited Intel socket support, it’s not as versatile as most coolers.

 

Prolimatech Panther: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Heatsink Dimension (L)130mm X (W)50mm X (H)161mm
Heatsink Weight 570 g(heatsink body only)
including Fan 120x120x25mm Red LED Fan
CPU Platform Intel Socket LGA 1156/1155 , AMD Socket AM2/2+/3/3+

PHYSICAL DETAILS & INSTALLATION

The Prolimatech Panther is composed of a copper base, 4 x 6 mm thick copper heatpipes, and 47 aluminum fins, all nickel-plated. By our measurements, the heatsink is 160 mm tall or 166 mm with a centered 120 mm fan installed. According to our digital scale, it weighs approximately 560 grams bare and 670 grams with the stock fan and clips mounted.


As the Panther is a tower with a uniform silver appearance it bears a resemblance to the Thermalright Ultra-120 except its fins aren’t angled and its four heatpipes are arranged in a straight line.


The surface that contacts the fan measures 13.0 x 10.8 cm. The fins are approximately 0.53 mm thick on average, spaced 1.80 mm apart.


Most manufacturers place heatpipes behind one another to reduce impedance but this isn’t as necessary as the air pushed by the fan has a shorter distance to travel. The fin-mass is only 50 mm thick.


The straight heatpipe alignment requires that the heatpipes be contorted near the base. We noticed some solder between the pipes and base but not much.


Like many of the best heatsinks, the base is slightly convex at the center to make optimum contact with the CPU heatspreader. The curvature of the surface is often more important than the amount of polish.


The stock fan is a 120 mm PWM model with red translucent blades and four LEDs.

BASE & INSTALLATION

The most critical aspect of installation is that the heatsink be securely
mounted. A firm mating results in good contact between the heatsink’s base and
the CPU heatspreader and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally it should
also be a simple procedure with the user having to handle as few pieces of
hardware as possible.


The Panther uses a simple, four-point backplate mounting system. A pair of clips are attached above the base and spring-loaded screws secure it to the backplate on the other side of the motherboard.


The AMD hardware is fixed in one orientation, forcing the fan toward the rear ports of the motherboard.


The bolts can be secured by hand but it’s a good idea to use a screwdriver for optimum tension.


Mounted on our LGA1155 test platform. The fan clips attach at the center gripping onto the sides of the fan frame. The red LEDs are positioned to shine in a square pattern within the fan with the blades acting as diffusers.


Clearance under the heatsink was an ample 52 mm and being a rather thin tower, the fan didn’t hang over any of our memory slots.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Weight
560 g
670 g with stock fan and clips
Height 160 mm
Fin count 47
Fin thickness
0.53 mm
Fin spacing
1.80 mm
Vertical Clearance*
52 mm
* measured from the motherboard PCB to
the bottom fin of the heatsink.

 

Small Heatsink Comparison:
Average Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
0.29 mm
1.13 mm
Scythe Big Shuriken
0.33 mm
1.19 mm
Reeven Vanxie
0.28 mm
1.39 mm
Reeven Arcziel
0.28 mm
1.41 mm
Cooler Master GeminII M4
0.29 mm
1.46 mm
Noctua NH-L12
0.49 mm
1.51 mm
Scythe Kozuti
0.12 mm
1.69 mm
Scythe Samurai ZZ
0.33 mm
1.74 mm
Prolimatech Panther
0.53 mm
1.80 mm

Testing on larger heatsinks are done on our
LGA1366 heatsink testing platform
, while smaller coolers tackle our LGA1155 heatsink testing platform. A summary of the test system
and procedure follows.

Key Components in LGA1366 Heatsink Test Platform:

Key Components in LGA1155 Heatsink Test Platform:

The systems are silent under the test conditions, except for the CPU cooling
fan(s).

Normally, our reference fans are used whenever possible, the measured details
of which are shown below.

Reference Noctua 140mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
28~29 dBA
1250 RPM
9V
21 dBA
990 RPM
8V
18 dBA
880 RPM
7V
15~16 dBA
770 RPM
6V
13 dBA
660 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 120mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1080 RPM
9V
13 dBA
880 RPM
7V
12 dBA
720 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 92 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1470 RPM
9V
12 dBA
1150 RPM

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • SpeedFan,
    used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensors. The sensors are not calibrated,
    so results are not universally applicable. The hottest core reading is used.
  • Prime95,
    used to stress the LGA1366 CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    8 instances are used to ensure that all 4 cores (with Hyper-threading) are
    stressed.
  • CPU-Z,used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.
  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform
    and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from the lab’s 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 Prime95 to stress the processor and the
graph function in SpeedFan was used to ensure that the load temperature is stable
for at least ten minutes. The temperature recorded is the highest single core
reading. The stock fans were tested at various voltages to represent a good
cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 10~11 dBA and 21~23°C.

Stock Fan Measurements

Specifications: Prolimatech Panther
Manufacturer
Power Rating
3.6 W
Model Number
RL4R S1202512LNP-4M
Airflow Rating
?
Bearing Type
Sleeve
Speed Rating
800 ~ 1600 RPM
Corners
Open
Noise Rating
?
Frame Size
120 x 120 x 25
Header Type
4-pin
Blade Diameter
112 mm
Starting Voltage
6.2 V
Hub Size
41 mm
Weight
110 g
Data in green cells provided by the manufacturer
or observed; data in the blue cells were measured.

The Panther’s stock fan is a 1600 RPM, sleeve bearing model with a sleeved, 25 cm, 4-pin PWM cable. It has a fairly standard design with straight struts and blades curved to a modest degree. One notable characteristic is its large hub which creates a large dead-spot at the center, making it less efficient.


The stock fan running at 7V measured 16~17 dBA@1m.

The stock fan’s acoustics were typical for an average sleeve bearing fan. It was generally smooth but also had a buzzy character at high speeds (1100 RPM and up) that devolved into a low-pitched hum at slower speeds. Some bearing chatter was also noticeable but only at close distances, within about half a meter.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1800 RPM
34~35 dBA
9V
1400 RPM
27 dBA
8V
1190 RPM
22 dBA
7V
850 RPM
15 dBA
6.7V
560 RPM
13 dBA
6.5V
220 RPM
<11 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

Our sample’s fan ran 200 RPM higher than its specified speed. At 12V it was very loud and didn’t become quiet until it crossed the 1000 RPM mark somewhere between 8V and 7V. As the fan has an unusually high starting voltage of 6.2V, it won’t spin-up when used with 5V adapters/mods. Under 7V, the speed dropped off quickly.

Test Results

Though the Panther has the size to take on a high thermal load, its lack of LGA1366 compatibility forced us to test it on our less demanding LGA1155 test platform featuring a mildly overclocked/overvolted Sandy Bridge Core i5 processor.

Prolimatech Panther
Fan Voltage
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
°C Rise above Ambient
CPU
VRM
RAM
Stock Fan
12V
1800 RPM
34~35 dBA
28
16
14
9V
1400 RPM
27 dBA
30
20
18
8V
1190 RPM
22 dBA
32
22
19
7V
850 RPM
15 dBA
35
24
22
6.7V
560 RPM
13 dBA
42
30
25
Reference Nexus 120mm Fan
12V
1080 RPM
17 dBA
31
28
24
9V
880 RPM
14 dBA
33
30
26
7V
720 RPM
12~13 dBA
36
31
25

The Panther performed very well at all tested fan speeds except the ultra low 6.7V / 560 RPM level. Its thermal sweet spot lay somewhere in the fairly quiet range between 8V and 7V. The stock fan wasn’t particularly impressive as our reference Nexus fan was substantially more efficient. The difference was most dramatic at low speeds; the heatsink paired with stock fan had a thermal rise of 42°C when generating 13 dBA@1m while the Nexus produced a 6°C improvement at 12~13 dBA@1m.

Heatsink Comparison Table

°C rise Comparison (CPU Temperature)
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Prolimatech Panther
(ref. 120mm fan)
31
33
36
Noctua NH-L12
(both fans)
33
34
35
36
Noctua NH-L12
(ref. 120mm fan)
34
37
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
(ref. 120mm fan)
36
39
Noctua NH-L12
(120mm fan)
37
38
39
42
Prolimatech Panther
35
42
Scythe Big Shuriken
(ref. 120mm fan)
41
43
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
39
43
48
Reeven Arcziel
42
47
Scythe Samurai ZZ
(ref. 92mm fan)
44
51
Reeven Arcziel
(ref. 92mm fan)
41
52
Scythe Samurai ZZ
45
46
52
Cooler Master GeminII M4
(ref. 120mm fan)
48
51
54
Noctua NH-L12
(92mm fan)
42
44
47
51
57
Scythe Big Shuriken
43
46
61
Cooler Master GeminII M4
53
56
64
Scythe Kozuti
57
62
65
Reeven Vanxie
66
77
F
Stock fan results in light green, reference fan results in dark green.

The Panther earns very high marks, landing at the top of our chart when paired with our reference Nexus 120 mm fan, edging out the down-blowing Noctua NH-L12 and Scythe Big Shuriken 2. To be fair, our LGA1155 heatsink test platform is designed for smaller coolers, but it is indicative of what to expect when using the Panther with a typical Sandy/Ivy Bridge processor.

°C rise Comparison (VRM Temperature)
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Noctua NH-L12
(both fans)
17
19
21
23
Noctua NH-L12
(ref. 120mm fan)
20
25
Scythe Big Shuriken
(ref. 120mm fan)
25
29
Prolimatech Panther
24
30
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
(ref. 120mm fan)
27
31
Noctua NH-L12
(120mm fan)
24
26
27
32
Prolimatech Panther
(ref. 120mm fan)
28
30
31
Cooler Master GeminII M4
(ref. 120mm fan)
25
30
32
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
29
34
39
Noctua NH-L12
(92mm fan)
28
31
33
38
43
Scythe Samurai ZZ
(ref. 92mm fan)
36
43
Reeven Arcziel
38
41
Scythe Big Shuriken
28
30
47
Reeven Arcziel
(ref. 92mm fan)
35
47
Cooler Master GeminII M4
34
38
49
Scythe Kozuti
36
40
45
Scythe Samurai ZZ
38
39
47
Reeven Vanxie
45
56
F
Stock fan results in light green, reference fan results in dark green.

Surprisingly, VRM cooling was actually fairly decent with the Panther, beating out many of the smaller top-down heatsinks we’ve tested. As side-blowing towers coolers don’t provide direct airflow over the CPU socket, VRM temperatures are usually higher than normal.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, 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 to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are 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 of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan
at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume
setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Panther is a smaller offering than usual from Prolimatech. It’s a relatively thin, light heatsink targeted at users with more modest processors. Its performance is well matched for Sandy/Ivy Bridge processors. The mounting system is very secure and easy to install though we would have preferred a universal backplate solution that included broader socket support. The stock fan is nothing special, in both performance and acoustics, but it is nice to see an LED fan that produces less blinding, indirect lighting.

The Panther’s lack of girth obviously limits its capabilities but its US$50 price is a disadvantage as a budget tower. It’s a bit much considering how much heatsink you actually get, making us wonder if it was a good idea to carryover the high build-quality (nickel-plating etc.) from their premium products. It’s also notable that you can purchase the larger Prolimatech Megahalems for just ~$15 more.

Our thanks to Prolimatech for the Panther CPU cooler sample.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Phanteks PH-TC14PE Dual Fan CPU Heatsink
GELID GX-7 & Tranquillo Rev.2 CPU Coolers
be quiet! Dark Rock 2 Tower Heatsink
Enermax ETS-T40: Direct-Touch Heatpipe Cooler
Thermalright HR-02 Macho Quiet/Fanless Cooler
Reeven Kelveros & Arcziel CPU Coolers

* * *

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