• Home
  • blog
  • SilverStone Argon AR01 & AR03 CPU Coolers

SilverStone Argon AR01 & AR03 CPU Coolers

A solid mounting system helps the SilverStone Argon AR01 and AR03 direct-touch heatpipe coolers reach elite status among SPCR tested CPU heatsinks.

June 17, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
SilverStone Argon AR01 CPU Cooler SilverStone Argon AR03 CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
SilverStone
Street Price
US$35 US$50

SilverStone’s interest in CPU heatsinks started off simply as a way to complement their much larger PC chassis business. Their first coolers were not proprietary but they were designed with the expressed interest of taking advantage of the airflow and layout of specific SilverStone desktop style cases. The introduction of the Heligon series marked a broadening of their horizons. The HE01 and HE02 were large, heavy duty offerings, targeting enthusiasts with hot, high power towers of various makes and models.


The Argon series ships in aesthetically pleasing baby blue boxes.


The packaging is economical, with the heatsink immobilized inside a cardboard cradle with mounting hardware slipped into pockets on each side.

The Argon series is a line of more economical cooling solutions, utilizing
the same technology found in many of today’s value-oriented heatsinks: direct-touch
heatpipes. As the name implies, they touch the CPU heatspreader directly; portions
of the heatpipes are flattened to form the base rather than using an additional
copper plate. In theory, direct-touch is a more efficient heat transfer method,
but there are many real world and execution limitations that prevent them from
reaching elite status.

One key ingredient to heatsink performance is contact between the base and
CPU heatspreader: The tighter this mating is, the better heat transfers. Unfortunately
heatpipes vary in quality of construction, and being hollow, they are quite
weak even when properly fabricated. A few unlucky enthusiasts attempted to lap
the base of some of these heatsinks, resulting in irreparable
damage
. Thus far, manufacturers have been hesitant to use mounting systems
that exert a large amount of pressure on direct-touch heatpipe heatsinks. Thus,
while we have encountered many good direct-touch heatpipe coolers, there are
few truly excellent ones.


AR01 and AR03, with fan and accessories.

The Argon series is available in three different flavors, the larger AR01 and
AR03 with 120 mm fans which we’ll be testing today, and the smaller AR02 with
a 92 mm fan. The AR01 has 3 x 8 mm thick heatpipes while the AR03 utilizes 6
x 6 mm thick heatpipes and is also wider by 2 cm. Neither heatsink is particularly
big, standing 160 mm tall by our measurements. Both coolers come with the same
accessories: A white 120 mm fan with a blue frame, a packet of thermal grease,
two sets of soft fan clips, and Noctua/Prolimatech/Thermalright style installation
gear which just might solve the aforementioned mounting pressure issue.

SilverStone Argon AR01 & AR03: Specifications
(from their respecting product
web pages here and here)
Model No. SST-AR01 SST-AR03
Material Copper heat pipes with aluminum fins Copper heat pipes with aluminum fins
Application Intel Socket LGA775/115X/1366/2011
AMD Socket AM2/AM3/FM1/FM2
Intel Socket LGA775/115X/1366/2011
AMD Socket AM2/AM3/FM1/FM2
Heat Pipe Type Ø8mm heat-pipe x 3 Ø6mm heat-pipe x 6
Cooling System 120mm x 120mm x 25mm fan 120mm x 120mm x 25mm fan
Noise 16.4-33.5 dBA 16.4-33.5 dBA
Bearing Sleeve Bearing Sleeve Bearing
Net Weight 420g (without fan) 560g (without fan)
Voltage Rating (V) 12V 12V
Start Voltage (V) 7V 7V
Air Flow (CFM) 37.2~81.4CFM 37.2~81.4CFM
Speed (R.P.M.) 1000~2200RPM 1000~2200RPM
Life Expectance (hrs) 40,000 hours 40,000 hours
Dimension 120mm (W) x 50mm (D) x 159mm (H) (without Fan) 140mm (W) x 50mm (D) x 159mm (H) (without Fan)
Differences in bold.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The SilverStone Argon AR01/AR03 are composed of 53 aluminum fins friction-fit to copper heatpipes, 3 x 8 mm pipes on the AR01, 6 x 6 mm pipes on the AR03. Both coolers are 160 mm tall and 50 mm thick, but the AR03 is wider at 140 mm vs. the AR01’s 120 mm. The smaller AR01 weighs 420 grams while the larger AR03 weighs 650 grams (considerably more than the specified 520 grams).


The AR01.


The AR03. How well the heatpipes are curved is an issue with some heatsinks; the curves of both the AR01 and AR03 are well done.


The AR01’s three heatpipes are arranged in the old style, in straight rows to minimize impedance. The fins are are 0.30 mm thick, spaced 1.85 mm apart on average.


The AR03’s heatpipes are spread out more so each pipe receives more direct airflow. The AR03 is the denser of the two heatsinks with 0.42 mm thick fins spaced 1.72 mm apart on average.


The base of the AR01’s heatpipes are separated by thick dividers. The surface has a dull finish.


The AR03’s six heatpipes are separated into three sections with slim dividers straddling the center section. When paired with a smaller heatspreader, not all the heatpipes will make contact. The AR03 is recommended for LGA1366 and LGA2011 chips which have larger surface areas. Curiously there are machining marks going in two ways while on the AR01 they’re all in one direction.

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 Argon series uses a mounting system pioneered by Noctua that has since
found its way into Prolimatech and Thermalright products among others.
This version is not the easiest to install, however, as there is nothing
to keep the backplate in place during assembly. After lining up the mounting
holes, we used masking take to keep it still during the install.


When fully mounted, the crossbar, which lays across the top of the heatsink base, actually pulls the mounting clips upward, making them bend. This indicates that the clips could stand to be thicker but also that a high level of pressure is being exerted on the base.


The fan is attached using cleverly designed soft rubber isolators. The rounded portion fits into a groove running down the side of the heatsink.


The AR03 fully mounted on our LGA1366 test platform.


Both the AR01 and AR03 are only 50 mm thick so they clear the memory slots of our test board with ease.


The thermal compound imprint indicates excellent contact. Most of the TIM globules on the heatpipes are minuscule in size.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Heatsink Argon AR01 Argon AR03
Weight
420 g (+140 g with stock fan) 650 g (+140 g with stock fan)
Height 160 mm 160 mm
Fin count 53 53
Fin thickness
0.30 mm 0.42 mm
Fin spacing
1.85 mm 1.72 mm
Vertical Clearance*
40 mm 43 mm
* measured from motherboard PCB to bottom
fin of heatsink

 

Large Heatsink Comparison:
Average Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
SilverStone Heligon HE02
0.52 mm
3.30 mm
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
0.34 mm
3.12 mm
Scythe Ninja 3
0.39 mm
2.64 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Noctua NH-D14
0.43 mm
2.33 mm
Thermalright Archon SB-E
0.49 mm
2.33 mm
GELID Tranquillo Rev.2
0.40 mm
2.30 mm
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
0.39 mm
2.30 mm
GELID GX-7 Rev.2
0.31 mm
2.25 mm
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
0.40 mm
2.21 mm
be quiet! Dark Rock 2
0.38 mm
2.22 mm
Prolimatech Armageddon
0.51 mm
2.08 mm
Prolimatech Megahalems
0.50 mm
2.00 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
0.40 mm
2.00 mm
Scythe Kabuto & Zipang 2
0.34 mm
1.94 mm
NZXT Havik 140
0.41 mm
1.91 mm
Scythe Mugen-2
0.31 mm
1.89 mm
Swiftech Polaris 120
0.43 mm
1.85 mm
SilverStone Argon AR01
0.30 mm
1.85 mm
Thermalright Venomous X
0.53 mm
1.84 mm
Noctua NH-C14
0.38 mm
1.79 mm
Enermax ETS-T40
0.40 mm
1.79 mm
Scythe Yasya
0.32 mm
1.78 mm
SilverStone Argon AR03
0.42 mm
1.72 mm
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
0.40 mm
1.70 mm
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
0.30 mm
1.70 mm
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
0.38 mm
1.66 mm
Reeven Kelveros
0.47 mm
1.61 mm
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
0.16 mm
1.59 mm
Thermalright Silver Arrow
0.32 mm
1.57 mm
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
0.43 mm
1.54 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
0.56 mm
1.52 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
0.42 mm
1.50 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:

  • Intel Core i7-965 Extreme
    Nehalem core, LGA1366, 3.2GHz, 45nm, 130W TDP.
  • Asus
    P6X58D Premium
    ATX motherboard. X58 chipset.
  • Asus
    EAH3450 Silent
    graphics card.
  • Intel
    X25-M
    80GB 2.5″ solid-state drive. Chosen for silence.
  • 3GB QiMonda
    DDR3 memory. 3 x 1GB DDR3-1066 in triple channel.
  • Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM
    650W ATX power supply. This PSU is semi-passively cooled. At the power levels
    of our test platform, its fan does not spin.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Noctua 140 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 140x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 120 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 92 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm
    fans)

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
1250 RPM
28~29 dBA
9V
990 RPM
21 dBA
7V
770 RPM
15~16 dBA
6V
660 RPM
13 dBA

 

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

 

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: SilverStone Argon AR01/AR03 Stock Fan
Manufacturer SilverStone Power Rating 2.76 W
Model Number AS1225H12 Airflow Rating 37.2 ~ 81.4 CFM
Bearing Type Sleeve Speed Rating 1000 ~ 2200 RPM
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Noise Rating 16.4 ~ 33.5 dBA
Hub Size 42 mm Header Type 4-pin PWM
Blade Diameter 111 mm Starting Voltage 4.5 ~ 5.0 V
Cable Length 29 cm Weight 140 g
Corner Type Open Retail Availability No

Additional notes:

The AR01/AR03 is paired with a unique sleeve bearing PWM fan with odd teeth and ridges on the blades on the exhaust side. The high number of heavily curved blades somewhat resemble the Scythe Gentle Typhoon. Coupled with the high nominal speed, the design seems to place an emphasis on generating static pressure.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
2140 RPM
35 dBA
9V
1730 RPM
29 dBA
7V
1380 RPM
22 dBA
6V
1190 RPM
17~18 dBA
5V
700 RPM
11 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

The stock fan generates an extremely loud 35 dBA@1m at full speed but on voltage
control, comes down to a silent 11 dBA@1m at 5V, which is convenient, as the
starting voltage is somewhere in the 4.5 ~ 5.0V range. It becomes what we consider
quiet between 1300 and 1200 RPM. The fan speed and noise level drops heavily
under 6V so finely tuned control in this range is difficult.


This is the screen capture of Fan Xpert 2’s auto-analysis of the AR01/AR03 stock fan.

For ultra quiet operation, PWM control is really the way to go. According to ASUS’ Fan Xpert 2 utility, the stock fan be run at as little as 333 RPM, which is lower than most users require.

Like most sleeve bearing models, the AR01/AR03 stock fan is whiny and turbulent at high speeds. At 7V/1380 RPM, it has a buzzy character and emits a noticeable tone at approximately 700 Hz. The tone dissipates entirely at 6V/1190 RPM but the buzzing remains. At 5V/700 RPM, it is practically inaudible at one meter; up close, the fan hums but it’s fairly gentle and not unpleasant.

TEST RESULTS

Test Results: SilverStone Argon AR01/AR03
Fan Voltage
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
Thermal Rise
AR01
AR03
Stock Fan
12V
2140 RPM
35 dBA
38°C
37°C
9V
1730 RPM
29 dBA
40°C
39°C
7V
1380 RPM
22 dBA
42°C
41°C
6V
1190 RPM
17~18 dBA
44°C
43°C
5V
700 RPM
11 dBA
50°C
48°C
Reference Nexus 120 mm Fan
12V
1080 RPM
16~17 dBA
41°C
38°C
9V
890 RPM
12~13 dBA
43°C
41°C
7V
720 RPM
11 dBA
46°C
45°C
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

The Argon AR01 and AR03 turned out to be excellent performers, generating thermal rises above ambient in the area of 40°C between 6V and 12V. Despite the size disparity, at most of the test points, the AR03 only had a 1°C advantage. The difference was greater with our reference Nexus 120 mm fan but the gap narrowed as the fan speed was reduced. The Nexus fan was definitely superior, beating the stock fan by 4°C on the AR01 and by 3°C on the AR03 at the ultra low 11 dBA@1m level.

HEATSINK COMPARISON TABLE

CPU Coolers (with single ref. 120mm fan):
°C Rise Comparison
Heatsink
Fan voltage / SPL @1m*
12V
9V
7V
15~18 dBA
12~14 dBA
11~12 dBA
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
38
40
43
Thermalright Venomous X
38
41
43
Prolimatech Megahalems
38
41
44
SilverStone Argon AR03
38
41
45
Noctua NH-U12P
39
42
44
Scythe Mugen-2
39
42
45
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
40
42
45
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
40
42
45
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
43
46
SilverStone Argon AR01
41
43
46
Scythe Yasya
41
43
47
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
40
43
48
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
48
Thermalright Ultra-120
42
45
49
Titan Fenrir
43
46
50
Scythe Ninja 3
44
47
49
Enermax ETS-T40
44
46
50
Noctua NH-C12P
43
47
51
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
43
47
53
Swiftech Polaris 120
46
49
54
GELID GX-7 Rev.2
47
50
52
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
45
50
54
be quiet! Dark Rock 2
48
50
52
Cooler Master V8
46
50
54
GELID Tranquillo Rev.2
48
50
53
Reeven Kelveros
47
51
55
Antec Kühler H20 620
(pump at 7V)
52
52
53
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
49
52
58
*Note: there are minor differences in measured SPL due to the variety of fan orientations and mounting methods offered by the compared coolers.

Armed with our reference fan, the AR03 is a premier cooler, only one rung below the Prolimatech Megahalems. The AR01 is not far behind, settling in a position with the company of such quality coolers as the Zalman CNPS10X Quiet and Cogage TRUE Spirit.

CPU Coolers (with single 120~150 mm or dual 92~120 mm stock fans):
°C Rise Comparison
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
39
40
41
43
Scythe Yasya
40
43
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
41
43
46
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
42
47
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
54
Silverstone Argon AR03
43
48
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
(dual fans)
44
Scythe Ninja 3
44
46
SilverStone Argon AR01
44
50
Phanteks PH-TC12DX
(single fan)
44
47
Titan Fenrir
45
47
Antec Kühler H20 620
(pump at 7V)
44
47
Cooler Master Seidon 240M (dual fans, pump at 7V)
40
43
53
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
45
47
49
Cooler Master V8
46
49
56
GELID Tranquillo Rev.2
48
49
50
bequiet! Dark Rock 2
48
52
55
61
Zalman CNPS9900DF
48
50
53
Reeven Kelveros
51
58
GELID GX-7 Rev.2
51
56
Swiftech Polaris 120
54
59
Intel Core i7-980X Stock Cooler
53
62
Enermax ETS-T40
49
55
64
AC Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
55
62

If you’re looking for good efficiency right out of the box with stock fans, the AR01/AR03 are roughly on par with the Hyper 212 Plus.

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 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 last direct-touch cooler we reviewed, the Enermax
ETS-T40
, turned out to be a dud. The smaller and lighter Cooler
Master Hyper 212 Plus
decisively defeated the bulkier ETS-T40 and the
difference really boiled down to the tension and quality of contact between
the base and CPU heatspreader. The Hyper 212 Plus’ thermal compound imprint
indicated higher exerted pressure, a firmer mating, and superior heat transfer.
The SilverStone AR01 and AR03 follows a similar strategy — the Argon series
has the tightest mounting system we’ve encountered on direct-touch models, and
this appears instrumental to their success. When using our 120 mm reference
fan, the AR01 surpassed the Hyper 212 Plus, and the AR03 was better still, making
it one of the best 120 mm fan coolers we’ve had the pleasure of testing.

The sound quality of the fan is average at best, a bit of a disappointment
after our experience with the silky smooth AP123. Still, as stock fans go, it’s
fairly competitive in terms of efficiency. Our only other complaint is relatively
minor. The installation scheme produces excellent base/processor contact, but
assembling it is a slightly more difficult than similar systems from Noctua,
Prolimatech, and Thermalright. The backplate lays flat against the trace-side
of the motherboard with nothing protruding to help keep in place. The rest of
the system is admirable though — the big bolts and nuts and fairly coarse
threads make it essentially idiot-proof.

The AR01 is currently going for US$35, putting it in same league as two other superb yet affordable coolers, the Hyper 212 Plus and the Cogage TRUE Spirit. It’s a better value than the AR03 and also keep in mind, if you have a smaller sized processor (LGA1156, 1155, 775), the AR03’s outer heatpipes won’t make contact with the heatspreader, making them completely useless.

Even with the larger heatspreader of our LGA1366 test chip, the AR03’s performance advantage was negligible, at least using the included stock fan. Our reference fan gave it about a 2°C lead, not a lot, but enough to place it among the ranks of the truly elite single fan heatsinks. With a street price of US$50, it doesn’t provide as much bang-for-your-buck, but it’s hard to imagine you’d be disappointed with the purchase.

Our thanks to SilverStone
for the Argon AR01 and AR03 CPU cooler samples.


Silverstone AR01 and AR03 receive the SPCR Editor’s Choice Award

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Noctua NH-U12S Slim Tower Heatsink
Cooler Master Seidon 240M: Dual Fan Liquid CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC90LS Mini Cooler
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M CPU Heatsink
Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler

* * *

Discuss
this article in the SPCR forums.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *