W A R N I N G !

W A R N I N G !

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

[Review] Zalman Shenzhen Ice Dragon II (冰龙II) CH-90A-06 Heatsink

Why I bought this a.k.a. the part you can skip unless you want to see me talk about myself, which is what blogs are apparently for

I'm going to build an LGA 1155 system soon, and the SG-02F that is going to be the enclosure does not have much clearance for a tall heatsink (I still have the Havik btw). And being the silent PC advocate that I am, I cannot stand using the stock heatsinks provided by Intel (and AMD). So I needed another aftermarket cooler, and one that is low enough.

But all the heatsink makers are crazy about gigantic tower coolers, and with few low-profile, top-blow-to-bottom designs available, their prices are expensive for the performance they deliver.

So I looked around, and found an interesting choice.

And decided to buy it, the reason why you can read below.

Zalman's "flower" coolers a.k.a. the part you can skip unless you care about the background of this thing

Zalman Shenzhen is apparently a legit company - the China division of Zalman which caters to the Chinese market with low-price products (the prices of "normal" Zalman products are rather high). Various "flower" heatsinks are being produced and sold, and the Ice Dragon II (冰龙II) CH-90A-06 is one of them.

The first thing to notice when looking at this thing is the resemblance to the old CNPS-7000.

And it is no wonder that Zalman Shenzhen is still continuing to produce heatsinks based on this design. This "flower" design is so efficient, that CNPS-7000 was one of the best coolers in its day and being also one of the smallest (62mm height) at the same time, and this flower design was continued with newer products until Zalman decided to switch back to the more conventional methods because, somehow, the newer products did not achieve the same type of exceptional performance the original had over its competitors while also costing a lot. Perhaps this design does not scale well.

But the roundness of the design is not the only thing that is unique to this heatsink - radial coolers have been in use since the Pentium 1 days, Thermaltake had their Orb series of coolers, and Intel has been using radial coolers for their stock heatsinks (again) since halfway through the Pentium 4 era, another testament to the efficiency of such a design.

Pentium heatsink

With the fan

What Zalman does differently from the others is the construction - many slices of metals (with the shape of the fins) are pressed together at the middle, then each individual piece bent and spread out into the shape of the flower heatsink. This construction method is also used for Zalman's heatsinks prior to CNPS-7000. Zalman holds the patent to this.

You can see how the difference pieces are pressed together in this above picture.

This construction has many advantages - thin fins are possible (the fins on the Intel stock heatsinks and Thermaltake Orbs are thick in comparison), which allows for more fins and bigger surface area. Each individual fins are in direct contact with the CPU. Plus it is probably much cheaper to manufacture a radial heatsink this way, evident from the price of this heatsink.

Unfortunately this also has its share of disadvantages - the fins are thin and thus heat transfer is an issue, and the parts furthest away from the CPU are receiving the most airflow. It is difficult to implement the use of heatpipes (the flower coolers with heatpipes have a different construction), so cooling efficiency with newer high-power CPUs becomes a possible area of concern. Also the fins are flimsy.

But all in all, the CNPS-7000 was a high-performing small-size cooler. A thermal resistance of ~0.30°C/W at low is nothing to laugh at even today.

So when I saw a descendant of this heatsink, sold at a cheap price of SGD$12 after shipping, why not?

Zalman Shenzhen Ice Dragon II (冰龙II) CH-90A-06 a.k.a. the part you can skip unless... heck... just skip it

This is not the only "flower" heatsink available on eBay - there are three from Zalman Shenzhen alone - Ice Dragon (冰龙), Ice Dragon II (冰龙II), and Polar Bear (北极熊). Then there are the clones from PC Cooler (which Zalman has successfully sued before), and a few from unknown brands. I actually took fancy to a model from an unknown brand, which looks well-built and is even cheaper, but I bought the Ice Dragon II (冰龙II) in the end because I believe in Zalman, and it is better for me to review a newer product that won't be disappearing for a while. Well this is one of the reasons I chose Ice Dragon II over Ice Dragon - because it is newer and probably is the replacement, but Ice Dragon II also has a higher fin count than Ice Dragon, although Ice Dragon's fins look more solidly built. So it was a hard decision for me. Polar Bear was not in my consideration due to a smaller and faster fan.

So after two weeks of waiting, here it is.

Oo nice dragon.

At this point I went and ordered the slave flash from eBay. This camera's flash sucks balls.

I mentioned about the fins being flimsy. Here you can see the fins at the top right were bent during transit.

Another angle.

Just as easy as they can be bent, I bent back the fins.

Not possible to totally unbend them, but at least they look uniform now.

Zalman-branded thermal paste, which I will probably not use, and leave it to dry up and expire. And the mounting pins.

The retention module. The heatsink is designed to work with the stock AMD bracket, so this probably works as a 1155/775 to AM2/3/FM1 adapter.

Instructions, in Chinese, of course. Warranty at the left. The fan cable actually has a sticker that says "warranty void if torn" and some kind of a serial number. Does the expensive case fans come with warranty? I don't know since I don't buy them.

More instructions.

Alright, lets take a look at the heatsink. Uses a clip like in the old days of Athlon XP, the old days when I swear a lot during installation because it is hard. There's a reason why nobody uses this anymore - even the stock AMD heatsinks' clips has changed. 3-pin fan, but I don't care about 4-pin or not.

The base is fairly smooth for a SGD$12 product.

Boy this is small. And I have a small hand, so this might be even smaller than what you think.

When looked at this way, a difference from CNPS-7000 becomes visible - the top part of the heatsink where the fins are not curving is significantly shorter than the CNPS-7000. But this is kinda expected, as at a height of 49mm (!) it is seriously shorter than the CNPS-7000, and is seriously short. But the depth of the fan is around the same, so the area with effective airflow is also around the same too.


So my English fails me, I don't know how many of you reading actually understood the above paragraph. But heck about that. The fin count of Ice Dragon II is 52 per semicircular half, while that of CNPS-7000 should be 65~70 if I'm not wrong. Ice Dragon has 40+. Lower fin count = lower fin density = lower area but less resistance, with low wind speeds this can go either way. Lets test this sucka.

Test setup a.k.a. the part you can skip unless you actually want to know if the results are legit

CPU: Intel Core i3-2100 @ stock
Thermal paste: Anabond
Motherboard: ASRock H61M-HVS
Software: OCCT Linpack

This is the heatsink I'm going to test the Ice Dragon II against: i3-2100 stock cooler, with a 0.60A fan.

Intel's recent stock coolers have reduced in size. Well yeah, that's good. Efficient use of surface area. If it's too tall the wind won't reach the bottom anyway.

As you can see, the Ice Dragon II is about as tall as the stock heatsink, which as we all know is quite short. Low-profile coolers, both definitely are.

Test results a.k.a. the part you can skip unless you buy things based on their performance, and not because everybody else is buying

So I started measuring the idle and load temperatures of the Intel stock cooler at two different fan speeds (~1200rpm and ~2200rpm).

Then I installed the Ice Dragon II.

The measured fan speed at full is ~2400rpm, which is higher than the rated 2200rpm though not by a lot, but closer to the 2500rpm of the Ice Dragon and what they should have called it (the speed I mean). And boy is it loud for a 2400rpm.

The measured temperatures are...


I switched off the com and reapplied the analbond.

Tested again.


Switched back to the stock cooler. Tested again. The stock cooler performed as it should.

I stopped the whole testing immediately.

You see, the Ice Dragon II performed so bad that even at full speed its temperatures were worse than the stock cooler's at low (~1200rpm). There is no point in finding precisely how much it sucks if it sucks more than the stock cooler.

How the thermal paste spread out suggests insufficient mounting pressure, but there seems to be no easy way to improve on this.

Verdict a.k.a. the part you can skip unless you want to read the summary of the whole thing

This thing sucks. Period. I do not know if this is representative of the other "flower" coolers, but if you see one using the same mounting mechanism, and made by Zalman Shenzhen in particular, proceed with caution.

I wonder if Mayoi would like to have this flower for her shell.

Extra! a.k.a. the part you can skip unless you reached this review after seeing my WTS post

I want to see if people actually do their own research when they are buying something they don't know about and reach this page. If you did, say hi.

Remember, never trust the words of a salesman.


Anonymous said...

Even if they are dirt cheap I will skip this one!

KJTheBuilder said...

I bought a Zalman Shenzhen cpu cooler model # CH-80A-01 off of ebay for about 9$. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. It took over 3 weeks to get here, and doesn't even cover the corners of my AM3 Phenom II 980 Black edition 3.7Ghz. Yeah, there's no way it would cool that monster. I just hope it cools my Pentium 4 3.2Ghz. The stock cooler on that is a heatpipe version I'm gonna try to use on the AM3 in the meantime.

Leo Gonzales said...

Thanks for this. 'Was gonna try this for a i3-2105 HTPC but not anymore...

I did however, purchase a PCCooler full-copper, tower-type heat pipe version on a 2120 with a slight mhz bump, and it is better than the stock cooler with average temps of around 32+C (if I remember it correctly).