Earlier this year I reviewed a cooler
from the folks at ZEROtherm that performed pretty well. The butterfly shape was unique and it really cooled my AMD chip down in both idle and at load. Well, we have another cooler today from them but it's not in the shape of a butterfly this time. The Nirvana NV120 Premium is their latest CPU cooler for enthusiasts so let's see how well it does on an Intel chip this time around.
Right off the bat you can see the NV120 is one tall cooler. Let's start off with the fan. As the NV120 name implies, there's a 120mm fan on the front to force air through the cooler's fins. For those that like lights, the fan has two blue LEDs on it as well. Included in the packaging is a manual fan speed adjuster that can ramp the speed up or down. The length of the cable's pretty generous so you can really run the controller to the outside of your case. The fan adjuster has a dial and does get a little warm though. At the lowest speed, the fan generates about 19dBA and at the highest you can expect around 39dBA. For speeds, the lowest the fan will spin is 1000 rpm while the fastest it will go is 2900 rpm. The maximum airflow is 84.7 cfm. As you probably know, the bigger the fan the slower it can run and still generate a good amount of airflow. You should be able to get some good airflow with the 120mm fan running around 1000 rpm if you don't plan on overclocking.
The base that comes in contact with the CPU is made of pure copper. It's really smooth and very shiny. I really like the way ZEROtherm's base looks on their coolers and the NV120 doesn't disappoint. You can see from the pictures that four heat pipes, bent at the base and protruding upward from either side, are also made of pure copper. The heat pipe design essentially doubles the amount that head up through the fins.
The only thing not made of copper are the honeycomb fins that are prominent on the cooler. I'm guessing the company decided to use aluminum to save on the costs but at least the base and the heatpipe are copper. The fins help dissipate the heat from the heat pipes and the design of the fins ensures there's plenty of surface area for the space that the cooler takes up. It's a tall cooler so if vertical space is of concern in your case, you'll have to skip this one. Otherwise, the large honeycomb structure provides a lot of room to help cool down your chip.
One nice thing about this cooler is that ZEROtherm has included all the pieces needed to install on the most popular CPUs today. For Intel CPUs, it will fit any Socket-T configuration. For AMD folks, you can use this cooler on Socket 939, 940, and AM2 so it encompasses the entire range of current AMD CPUs. Installation for any of the supported CPUs wasn't too bad. First of all you will need to attach a plate that's compatible with your CPU. For Intel CPUs, you'll need to install a back plate on your motherboard so that means taking out your current one which can be a hassle and installing it on the bottom so the screw holes protrude out from the other side. You'll have four screws to tighten the cooler down now but two of them are hard to get to. The ones on the back of the cooler are easy to reach but the ones on the front are obstructed by the fan. A little finagling helped get the screwdriver in and tighten the screws but it was still a little pain. I would've liked the ability to remove the fan like the previous ZEROtherm cooler I reviewed so that it would've been easier access to the attachment screws but nevertheless you'll have to be careful not to damage anything when tightening the two front screws down.
For my test I used an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 CPU and ran Windows Vista Home Edition with 2GB of ram. I used SpeedFan to get a reading on both cores of the CPU. To load the CPU, I ran Orthos that pushed both cores to 100% usage for 10 minutes. The base line is the stock cooler that comes with the E6400. The setup was placed on a workbench that was open to the room.
||41C / 46C
||54C / 58C
|NV120 Fan Low
||28C / 30C
||34C / 36C
|NV120 Fan High
||28C / 30C
||33C / 34C
What can I say but the Nirvana NV120 Premium performed admirably against the stock cooler. Even at low speeds, it cooled the CPU an average of 20C less and it was pretty quiet. Although not silent, you have to probably pay a little attention to hear the fan going. At the highest speed, the fan was noticeable and it only cooled it a degree or two over the lowest setting. Now it might serve to cool better on high speeds when you overclock though but if you're running the CPU at stock, I don't see why you need to go any higher unless you have bad air flow in your case.
It's a large cooler and there's a minor annoyance in accessing two of the four screws but the ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 Premium is a great third party cooler that offers great performance. If you have some motherboards where the memory slots are close to the CPU area like in some mATX boards, the fan might get in the way but for the most part you should be pretty good on clearance. I've only encountered a minute number of motherboards where this was the case though. Setup is pretty easy with the exception of having to take the motherboard out to install the back bracket if you are installing it on an LGA 775 motherboard. In any case, the Nirvana NV120 Premium should be one you want to consider if you're looking for a high performance cooler.
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