Stock AMD & Intel Coolers

AMD’s newly updated 65W cooling solution takes on Intel’s current 65W cooler as we tackle the question: How good/bad is stock cooling anyway?

April 7, 2016 by Lawrence Lee

Product
AMD A10-7860K
Stock
CPU Cooler
Intel Core i7-6700
Stock CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
AMD Intel
Price
N/A

Stock heatsinks are generally designed to adequately cool the chips with which they ship under a variety of conditions. They need to be capable of handling high ambient temperatures one would find inside a server room or just in a warm climate with no air conditioning, and they usually are small enough to fit in compact enclosures that might be employed by businesses trying to save space. There’s little incentive to offer better than this bare minimum standard as it’s assumed if the user wants better performance or acoustics, they’ll purchase an aftermarket cooler.

This way of thinking may be on the way out, at least at AMD. They recently released the Wraith, a formidable stock cooler that is offered on some of their newer 95W+ parts, ostensibly to provide more value to budget overclockers. They also updated the heatsinks included with their lower power chips as well, bringing a heatpipe based design to 65W APUs like the A10-7860K. Today we’re going to take a look the performance of AMD’s updated 65W cooler and compare it (the best we can) to what Intel is shipping with their current 65W chips.


Core i7-6700 cooler on the left, A10-7860K cooler on the right.

Over the past few years, the Intel stock cooler design has changed very little. The Core i7-6700 heatsink might be identical to those of the last few generations, though the specific fan model may have changed. It employs a low profile, round radial design with an exposed fan impeller that blows air out on every side, and a pushpin mounting system. The A10-7860K cooler has a boxy body with thinner more densely packed fins, a single copper heatpipe, a smaller fan with a square frame, and a tension clip retention mechanism.



A10-7860K cooler on the left, Athlon X4 880K cooler on the right.

The A10-7860K cooler weighs almost half that of the Wraith and occupies a much smaller space. It has a thin aluminum base compared to the Wraith’s thick copper plate, is short one heatpipe, and its fan is tiny by comparison. Its footprint is smaller by about 1 cm on each side and it’s shorter by almost 3 cm.


Core i7-6700 cooler on the left, Core i5-4690K cooler on the right.

Starting with Skylake, Intel has opted not to include a stock cooling solution for their overclockable “K” chips. The same cooler seems to be provided for the entire retail Skylake lineup regardless of TDP to make things simpler. In the past, higher TDP chips like the 88W Core i5-4690K, shipped with a version with a copper core.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

Both the A10-7860K and Core i7-6700 stock coolers are comparably sized to various low profile aftermarket models, weighing an anorexic 190 and 160 grams respectively. They are however, proportioned quite differently with Intel opting for a fan close to the 92 mm standard in size on a short radial style heatsink while AMD utilizes a thin 70 mm fan attached to a more traditional straight fin heatsink design. The AMD model is also taller, measuring 54 mm high vs. 45 mm for the Intel cooler.


The AMD cooler features a thin 70 mm fan clipped onto a plastic shroud, which in turn, is clipped onto grooves on each side of the heatsink. The hub measures 33 mm across, creating a rather large dead-spot at the center relative to size of the fan.


A single 6 mm diameter copper heatpipe snakes through the fin-stack. The fins are just 0.28 mm thick and spaced approximately 1.67 mm apart, on average. Soldered to the bottom is an aluminum baseplate with square of pre-applied thermal compound.


The imprint of our Noctua NT-H1 test compound left behind after installation suggests an equal amount of force is applied on all sides, but the thickness of the residue at the center indicates less than ideal pressure. Note: ignore the imprint along the outside perimeter — that was from a previous heatsink mounting and shouldn’t affect the results.


The Intel cooler pushes air out on every side, making it superior for cooling the components around the CPU socket. Despite its small size, the spiral design provides a sizable heat dissipation area, especially as each fin forks into two near the perimeter. Both fin thickness and separation increase from the inside out.


The pushpins are integrated with the fan structure, so the fan cannot be replaced.


The branching pattern in the thermal compound imprint left behind by the Intel cooler indicates a lack of pressure as well, though it finer residue towards the center suggests that contact is better at the center, where it’s most important.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements of the product(s) for comparison.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Cooler A10-7860K Stock Cooler Core i7-6700 Stock Cooler
Weight
190 g 160 g
Height 54 mm 45 mm
Fin count 39 52 / 104
Fin thickness
0.28 mm varies
Fin spacing
1.67 mm varies

 

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
AMD A10-7860K Stock Cooler
0.28 mm
1.67 mm
AMD Wraith
0.29 mm
1.45 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-D9L
0.40 mm
1.70 mm
Noctua NH-U12S
0.45 mm
1.72 mm
Scythe Samurai ZZ
0.33 mm
1.74 mm
Phanteks PH-TC14S
0.41 mm
1.76 mm
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M
0.43 mm
1.78 mm
Cryorig C1
0.42 mm
1.78 mm
Noctua NH-U9S
0.40 mm
1.80 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

Intel Heatsink Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel Core i5-2400 processor – 3.1 GHz, 45nm, 95W TDP, LGA1155, overclocked/volted to 3.6 GHz/1.300V
  • Intel DP67BG motherboard – P67 chipset, ATX
  • OCZ Platinum Extreme Low Voltage memory – 2 x 2GB, DDR3-1333 in dual channel
  • Asus
    EAH3450 Silent graphics card
  • Kingston
    SSDNow V solid-state drive
    – 30GB, 2.5-inch, SATA 3 Gbps
  • Seasonic X-400 SS-400FL
    power supply
    – ATX, 80Plus Gold, passively cooled
  • Noctua NT-H1 thermal interface material

AMD Heatsink Test Platform:

  • AMD A10-6800K APU – 4.1 GHz, 32nm, 100W, FM2 socket
  • Asus F2A85-M Pro
    motherboard – AMD A85X chipset, microATX
  • Kingston HyperX LoVo memory, 2 x 4GB, DDR3-1600 in dual channel
  • Kingston HyperX 3K solid-state drive – 120GB, 2.5-inch, SATA 6 Gbps
  • Seasonic X-460FL
    power supply – 460W, ATX, 80Plus Platinum, passively cooled
  • Noctua NT-H1 thermal interface material

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
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1250 RPM
28~29 dBA
9V
990 RPM
21 dBA
8V
880 RPM
18 dBA
7V
770 RPM
15~16 dBA
6V
660 RPM
13 dBA

 

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

 

Reference Nexus 92 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1470 RPM
17 dBA
9V
1280 RPM
14 dBA
7V
1010 RPM
12 dBA

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • 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.
  • Prime95,
    used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    All instances are used to ensure full stress.
  • CPU-Z,used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from a separate, fanless system. 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 speeds to represent a good
cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

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

TEST RESULTS

Noise Measurements

A10-7860K Stock Cooler
PWM Setting
Speed
SPL@1m
100%
3460 RPM
38 dBA
80%
2960 RPM
33 dBA
60%
2550 RPM
29 dBA
50%
2400 RPM
27~28 dBA
40%
2060 RPM
22~23 dBA
30%
1790 RPM
18~19 dBA
20%
1480 RPM
15 dBA
0%
940 RPM
12~13 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

The A10-7860K stock cooler has a huge fan speed range, from under 1000 RPM at the minimum PWM setting to 3500 RPM at its peak, with noise levels ranging from an almost inaudible 12~13 dBA@1m to a thundering 38 dBA@1m. By our standards, it needs to run at about 2000 RPM or lower to truly be quiet, though undoubtedly this will cause terrible performance.

For a stock cooler, the AMD model’s acoustics are not too bad. At under 2000 RPM, it’s pleasantly smooth. As the speed picks up, so does the pitch, with the fan becoming increasingly buzzy and whiny. The sound it produces is fairly consistent though, as indicated by the frequency distribution above.

Intel i7-6700 Stock Cooler
PWM Setting
Speed
SPL@1m
100%
2010 RPM
28~29 dBA
80%
1750 RPM
24~25 dBA
60%
1500 RPM
20~21 dBA
40%
1260 RPM
17 dBA
30%
1140 RPM
15 dBA
0~20%
1020 RPM
14 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

The Intel cooler tops out at ~2000 RPM and 28~29 dBA though its minimum speed and noise level is a tad higher than the AMD model. Shoot for 1600 RPM or lower to generate quiet operation.

Of the two coolers, the Intel model has clearly poorer acoustics, with tonal elements evident throughout its range. At lower speeds, it generates a noticeable hum underlied by a faint buzz. It’s actually better at moderate speeds as the added turbulence helps even out sound profile. At high speeds, it’s smoother still, but the higher pitch produced is more annoying.

Performance: A10-7860K Stock cooler on A10-6800K (100W)

A10-7860K Stock Cooler
PWM/Volt. Setting
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
Thermal Rise
100%
3460 RPM
38 dBA
35°C
80%
2960 RPM
33 dBA
38°C
60%
2550 RPM
29 dBA
45°C
50%
2400 RPM
27~28 dBA
48°C
40%
2060 RPM
22~23 dBA
49°C
Red box indicates insufficient cooling (CPU throttling).

The A10-7860K stock cooler fares rather poorly on our AMD testbed. It performs adequately at higher speeds, keeping the thermal rise above ambient under 40°C but as the fan speed is reduced, the CPU temperature quickly approaches the point where throttling occurs. The CPU clock speed starts to dip somewhere in the 2000 to 2400 RPM range, reducing the thermal load such that there is only a 1°C difference between the two fan speeds. The lowest stable fan speed of 2400 RPM generates a noise level of 27~28 dBA@1m which is terrible compared to most aftermarket solutions.

CPU Thermal Rise Comparison (°C): SPCR AMD Test System
SPL (dBA@1m)
28
27
26
25
24
23
22
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
Noctua NH-L12
(120 mm fan only)
25
26
28
30
AMD Wraith
(no shroud)
27
31
33
40
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
27
30
37
F
Noctua NH-L12
(92 mm fan only)
29
31
33
38
47
Noctua NH-L9a
39
44
49
F
AMD A10-7860K
Stock Cooler
48
F
Red box indicates insufficient cooling (CPU throttling).

At the 27~28 dBA@1m level, the A10-7860K cooler runs close to 20°C hotter than the Scythe Big Shuriken 2 and the Noctua NH-L12 with only its smaller 92 mm fan installed. It also trails the more compact NH-L9a by about 10°C. Unfortunately, comparisons at quieter levels are not possible on our testbed due to CPU throttling but I can’t imagine it would make up any ground at lower fan speeds. The NH-L9a and Big Shuriken 2 ultimately fail the test as well but only at 15 dBA@1m and lower.

Performance: Core i7-6700 Stock Cooler on i5-2400 (95W) at 3.6 GHz/1.300V

Intel i7-6700 Stock Cooler
PWM/Volt. Setting
Fan Speed
SPL@1m
Thermal Rise
100%
2010 RPM
28~29 dBA
53°C
80%
1750 RPM
24~25 dBA
56°C
60%
1500 RPM
20~21 dBA
58°C
40%
1260 RPM
17 dBA
64°C
30%
1140 RPM
15 dBA
66°C
0~20%
1020 RPM
14 dBA
75°C

Our Intel test chip is capable of hitting much higher temperatures without throttling, allowing us to generate results for the i7-6700 cooler all the way down to its minimum speed. The thermal rise spread is 22°C between maximum and minimum fan speed, compared to just 13°C for the AMD cooler.

CPU Thermal Rise Comparison (°C): SPCR Intel Test System
SPL (dBA@1m)
25
24
23
22
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Noctua NH-L12
33
34
35
36
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M
31
32
34
36
38
Noctua NH-U12S
33
34
35
38
Phanteks PH-TC14S
31
33
34
38
Noctua NH-D9L
30
33
34
38
Cryorig C1
31
32
36
Noctua NH-L12
(120 mm fan only)
36
37
38
39
42
SilverStone Argon AR02
36
38
43
AMD Wraith
(no shroud)
?
Noctua NH-U9S
34
36
40
45
Noctua NH-D9L
(single fan)
35
37
41
46
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
37
39
43
48
Scythe Samurai ZZ
42
45
46
52
Noctua NH-L12
(92 mm fan only)
39
44
47
51
57
Scythe Big Shuriken
43
46
61
Cooler Master
GeminII M4
47
53
56
64
Noctua NH-L9i
54
56
61
Scythe Kozuti
53
57
62
65
Intel Core i5-4690K
Stock Cooler
53
55
57
63
70
Intel Core i7-6700
Stock Cooler
56
58
64
66
75
AMD A10-7860K
Stock Cooler
?
Phanteks PH-TC90LS
63
67
69
Reeven Vanxie
59
66
77
F
SPL (dBA@1m)
25
24
23
22
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12

The Core i7-6700 stock cooler manages to beat two aftermarket models, the comparably sized Phanteks PH-TC90LS, and the even lower profile (34 mm tall) Reeven Vanxie. The Core i5-4690K cooler is only a few degrees better, so the old copper core doesn’t make that much of a difference.

While it’s impossible to directly compare Intel vs. AMD as they have incompatible mounting systems, we have estimated the performance based on relative differences with aftermarket models like the Big Shuriken 2 and NH-L12. The A10-7860K cooler is outperformed by the i7-6700 cooler but not by a great deal.

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.

  • AMD A10-7860K stock cooler fan at 1m
    — at 20% PWM / 1480 PWM (15 dBA)
    — at 30% PWM / 1790 RPM (18~19 dBA)
    — at 40% PWM / 2060 RPM (22~23 dBA)
    — at 50% PWM / 2400 RPM (27~28 dBA)
    — at 80% PWM / 2960 RPM (33 dBA)
    — at 100% PWM / 3460 RPM (38 dBA)
  • Intel Core i7-6700 stock cooler fan at 1m
    — at 20% PWM / 1140 PWM (15 dBA)
    — at 40% PWM / 1260 RPM (17 dBA)
    — at 60% PWM / 1500 RPM (20~21 dBA)
    — at 80% PWM / 1750 RPM (24~25 dBA)
    — at 100% PWM / 2010 RPM (28~29 dBA)

FINAL THOUGHTS

AMD’s updated 65W stock cooler is a big downer after seeing the Wraith’s capabilities, but not completely unexpected. A single heatpipe is not enough to elevate the performance of an otherwise standard design limited in size. The fan generates a superior sound than Intel’s offerings but it’s not quieter in real world operation as it requires higher fan speeds. A larger fan would certainly help as well as a tighter mounting mechanism. AMD’s tension clip system is great for backwards compatibility but it doesn’t generate enough pressure in my opinion and is long overdue for a redesign.

The Intel cooler’s radial body is a more efficient use of space as it’s noticeably shorter and produces slightly better results than the AMD model. Intel chips seem to be able to handle more heat as well, so you can hit much lower noise levels if you don’t mind high temperatures. The subjective noise produced is awful however, as the fan is cursed with substantial tonality.

These two stock coolers are about as good/bad as one would expect given their size. Though neither can be seriously recommended, the results are still notable as they both managed to outperform a pair of third party coolers, albeit low-profile models. If there’s something to take away from our tests, it’s that smaller aftermarket heatsinks are not necessarily an upgrade over a stock cooling solution.

Our thanks to AMD
and Intel for the stock cooler samples.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
AMD Wraith: Upgraded Stock Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC14S & Cryorig C1 CPU Coolers
New 92mm-fan Tower Coolers from Noctua
Cryorig R1 Ultimate & Universal CPU Coolers
Sub-$20 CPU Coolers: A Reader’s Roundup
SilverStone Argon AR02 CPU Cooler

* * *

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