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SilverStone Argon AR02 CPU Cooler

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Though smaller and lacking the high tech fan of its big brothers, the SilverStone Argon AR02 still delivers a powerful punch for its size and weight. A good choice for smaller (though not tiny) cases.

SilverStone Argon AR02 CPU Cooler

August 8, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
SilverStone Argon AR02
CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
SilverStone
Street Price
US$28

In June, I reviewed the SilverStone
Argon AR01 and AR03
, a pair of high performance CPU coolers featuring
direct-touch heatpipes. The exemplary mounting system helped them surpass similar
products reviewed by SPCR. The runt of the Argon family is up now; we’ll see
if SilverStone’s execution translates to the smaller realm of 92 mm fan heatsinks.


The box.


Accessories.

If you read my AR01/AR03 review, you should be getting a sense of deja vu.
The box is similar to the rest of the Argon line and the package contents are
identical. Included with the accessories is a brief installation manual, heatsink
mounting hardware, and two sets of soft fan mounts.

This more compact Argon stands 134 mm tall to the AR01/AR03’s 160 mm. It doesn’t
sound like much of a difference but this one inch is enough to improve compatibility
substantially. The size of the rear exhaust fan is a general indicator of how
big of a tower heatsink can fit into a case with a "traditional" layout.
Most aftermarket towers have a 120 mm fan placement at the back, but plenty
of budget and OEM cases only have space for a 92 mm model, and that’s where
coolers like the AR02 come in. This genre of heatsink is also suitable for users
who don’t feel comfortable with tall, heavy coolers that exerting considerable
cantilever strain on the motherboard. The AR02 and its fan weigh just 360 grams,
less than some stock heatsink/fans.

The pricing is reflective of the smaller size; it sells for $7 less than its
bigger brothers. At $28, it looks like good vlaue, if performance is on the
mark.

SilverStone Argon AR02: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Model No. SST-AR02
Material Copper heat pipes with aluminum fins
Application Intel Socket LGA775/115X/1366/2011
AMD Socket AM2/AM3/FM1/FM2
Heat Pipe Type Ø6mm heat-pipe x 3
Cooling System 92mm x 92mm x 25mm fan
Noise 16-24dBA
Bearing Hypro Bearing
Net Weight 330g (without fan)
Voltage Rating (V)
12V
Start Voltage (V) <= 7V
Air Flow (CFM) 56CFM
Speed (R.P.M.) 1200~2800RPM with PWM
Life Expectancy (hrs) 40,000 hours
Dimension 92mm(W) x 50mm (D) x 134mm (H) (without Fan)

PHYSICAL DETAILS & INSTALLATION

The Argon AR02 is composed of a three 6 mm thick direct-touch
copper heatpipes fiction-fit to 42 aluminum fins. According to my measurements,
its physical dimensions are as specified, 134 x 92 x 50 mm or 5.3 x 3.6 x 2.0
inches (H x W x D). Our lab’s scale didn’t agree with SilverStone’s listed weight
of 330 grams though, pegging the AR02 at 290 grams.


The AR02 is shorter than the more popular 120/140 mm fan towers but being 50 mm thick, it’s not particularly slim.


The average fin thickness (0.30 mm) and separation (1.85 mm) is the same as its big brother, the AR01. The wide spacing is rather loose for a smaller heatsink and the heatpipes are lined up in straight rows to minimize airflow impedance.


The AR02 looks like a typical cookie-cutter direct-touch heatsink but with the SilverStone name comes superior quality control. The bending of the pipes is very well done, not crudely hand-bent like some cheaper models.


The base is very flat with fairly coarse machine marks clearly visible.
The 6 mm thick heatpipes are spaced further apart than the AR01/AR03.
This may be a problem as most of the heat from modern processors emanate
from the center.


The stock 92 mm fan has a more traditional design than its bigger brothers,
with seven gently-curved, bulky blades. The AR01/03 120mm fan has nine
long blades with little teeth and ridges.


Installed on our test platform, the AR02 looks rather petite compared to its big brothers. It uses a backplate/crossbeam mounting scheme similar to many high-end CPU cooler models. The system is described in further detail in my AR01/AR03 review.


The mounting bars did not rise up and curve as much as those in the AR01/AR03,
but it was still a solid mating with plenty of pressure. And once again,
we see the anti-vibration mounts don’t provide enough support, allowing
the fan to droop slightly.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Weight
290 g
360 g with stock fan
Height 134 mm
Fin count 42
Fin thickness
0.30 mm
Fin spacing
1.85 mm
Vertical Clearance*
39 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
Noctua NH-L9i
0.44 mm
1.16 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
Noctua NH-U12S
0.45 mm
1.72 mm
Scythe Samurai ZZ
0.33 mm
1.74 mm
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M
0.43 mm
1.78 mm
Prolimatech Panther
0.53 mm
1.80 mm
SilverStone Argon AR02
0.30 mm
1.85 mm
Phanteks PH-TC90LS
0.47 mm
1.90 mm

Larger heatsinks are tested on our
LGA1366 heatsink testing platform
, while smaller coolers tackle our
LGA1155
heatsink testing platform
. The Argon AR02 was tested on the cooler LGA1155
test 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 120 mm 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
17 dBA
1470 RPM
9V
14 dBA
1280 RPM
7V
12 dBA
1010 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 CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    8 instances are used to ensure that all cores (with Hyper-threading if applicable) are
    stressed.
  • CPU-Z,

    used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when/if 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 AR02 Stock Fan
Manufacturer SilverStone Power Rating 2.64 W
Model Number AS9225SH12 Airflow Rating 56 CFM
Bearing Type Hypro (sleeve) Speed Rating 2800 RPM
Frame Size 92 x 92 x 25 mm Noise Rating 24 dBA
Hub Size 33 mm Header Type 4-pin
Blade Diameter 86 mm Corner Type Open
Cable Length 30 cm Weight 70 g
Starting Voltage 4.0 ~ 4.5 V Retail Availability No

Additional notes:

The unremarkable 92 mm 4-pin PWM fan has a high nominal speed of 2800 RPM.
The struts straight and the fins are broad with sharp corners. It’s a stark
contrast to the structure of the unusual AR01/A03 fan.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
2770 RPM
36 dBA
9V
2190 RPM
29 dBA
7V
1590 RPM
20~21 dBA
6V
1290 RPM
16 dBA
5V
880 RPM
12 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 36 dBA@1m at full speed but on voltage control, comes down to a virtually silent 12 dBA@1m at 5V. It becomes what we consider quiet at about 1500 RPM. According to the specifications, PWM control can take the speed down to about 1200 RPM, a level which should be very quiet for most users.

Like many sleeve bearing models, the AR02 has a turbulent and whiny nature
at higher speeds. At about 7V (1590 RPM) and below it starts to buzz, and at
6V (1290 RPM) and under some bearing chatter is also audible up close. Its acoustic
character is generally similar to that of the AR01/AR03 fan except it has a
rougher, more muddy sound. Looking at the frequency spectrum, there are additional
minor tonal peaks not present in the AR01/AR03 fan profile.

Test Results

SilverStone Argon AR02
Fan Voltage
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
°C Rise above Ambient
CPU
VRM
Stock Fan
12V
2770 RPM
36 dBA
33
28
9V
2190 RPM
29 dBA
34
29
7V
1590 RPM
20~21 dBA
36
31
6V
1290 RPM
16 dBA
38
33
5V
880 RPM
12 dBA
43
35
Reference Nexus 92 mm Fan
12V
1470 RPM
20 dBA
36
29
9V
1290 RPM
16~17 dBA
42
37
7V
1010 RPM
12 dBA
49
40

Tested on our mildly overclocked/overvolted Core i5-2400, the CPU temperature stabilized at 33°C and 43°C above ambient at 12V and 5V respectively, a fairly wide spread. The sweet spot is somewhere in the 1300 to 1600 RPM range. Very low fan speeds results in a considerable drop in performance and is not recommended.

Our reference Nexus 92 mm fan stayed on par with the stock fan at the 20 dBA@1m level but at lower speeds, it lost by a substantial margin. Though the stock fan doesn’t sound nearly as nice, it’s more ideally suited to cooling this particular heatsink.

Heatsink Comparison Tables

°C rise Comparison (CPU Temperature)
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Noctua NH-L12
(120 & 92 mm fans)
33
34
35
36
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M
32
34
36
38
Noctua NH-U12S
33
34
35
38
Noctua NH-L12
(120 mm fan)
37
38
39
42
Prolimatech Panther
35
42
SilverStone Argon AR02
38
43
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
39
43
48
Reeven Arcziel
42
47
SilverStone Argon AR02 (ref. 92 mm fan)
36
42
49
Scythe Samurai ZZ
45
46
52
Noctua NH-L12
(92 mm fan)
42
44
47
51
57
Scythe Big Shuriken
43
46
61
Cooler Master GeminII M4
53
56
64
Noctua NH-L9i
56
61
Scythe Kozuti
57
62
65
Phanteks PH-TC90LS
67
69
Reeven Vanxie
66
77
F

The AR02 places sixth on our compact/slim heatsink chart which is about as
expected. It’s a formidable force against coolers with similar size fans but
the slim 120 mm fan models like the Prolimatech
Panther
and Noctua
NH-U12S
are clearly superior. That being said, the AR02 isn’t far off.

°C rise Comparison (VRM Temperature)
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Noctua NH-L12
(120 & 92 mm fans)
17
19
21
23
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M
21
24
26
27
Prolimatech Panther
24
30
Noctua NH-L12
(120 mm fan)
24
26
27
32
Noctua NH-U12S
29
30
31
33
Noctua NH-U12S
(ref. 120 mm fan)
32
34
34
SilverStone Argon AR02
33
35
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
29
34
39
Noctua NH-L12
(92 mm fan)
28
31
33
38
43
SilverStone Argon AR02 (ref. 92 mm fan)
29
37
40
Reeven Arcziel
38
41
Scythe Big Shuriken
28
30
47
Cooler Master GeminII M4
34
38
49
Scythe Kozuti
36
40
45
Scythe Samurai ZZ
38
39
47
Noctua NH-L9i
40
46
Phanteks PH-TC90LS
46
48
Reeven Vanxie
45
56
F

For VRM cooling, the AR02 is just as capable. It falls in the same spot on the chart, trailing the larger 120 mm fan tower coolers by a narrow margin.

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

For the most part, everything we like about the SilverStone
Argon AR01 and AR03
applies to the smaller AR02. For its height, its
cooling capabilities are impressive, top notch for a 92 mm fan heatsink. Once
again, the Argon mounting system is incredibly secure, applying a great deal
of pressure on the CPU heatspreader, something most direct-touch models lack,
to their detriment. The only fault is its fan, which has a harsher sound than
its 120 mm contemporary, and the heatpipes, which would probably work better
if positioned more tightly together in the base.

However, if size isn’t a concern, the AR02 is outclassed by a number of larger
120 mm fan models. One of its big brothers, the AR01, is a substantially better
performer, but it is bigger and sells for $7 (25%) more. At the other end of
the spectrum, the AR02 is at a disadvantage to the Noctua
NH-L12
, the Scythe
Shuriken 2
, and the like, as they offer better compatibility with smaller
cases.

The AR02 is not a monster high-end heatsink nor is it a tiny low profile stock
cooler replacement — it falls somewhere in the middle. It’s a compromise
cooling solution, an in-betweener built to work within a certain set of limitations
that apply to smaller cases on the market. It is well-suited for its purpose
and well priced.

Our thanks to SilverStone for the Argon AR02 CPU cooler sample.


SilverStone Argon AR02 is Recommended by SPCR

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

NoFan CR-95C Copper Fanless CPU Cooler
SilverStone Argon AR01 & AR03 CPU Coolers
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

* * *

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