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Cooler Master Blue Ice Cooler Master Blue Ice: If passive cooling on your North Bridge is holding you back, Cooler Master has an active cooler which may help you out.
Date: August 8, 2005
Manufacturer:
Written By: Huy Duong


The North Bridge is something many of us don't really think all that much about. For most enthusiast motherboards, some form of cooling usually comes stock, be it a passive heatsink or an active cooling solution. While passive cooling gives us the benefit of less noise, for overclockers, sometimes the included cooler may be holding us back from tweaking the board to its full potential.

We've pointed this out in countless motherboard reviews here at the Lair, but to be completely honest, rarely do we follow our own advice since we haven't been all that impressed with the choices out on the market since if we really wanted to turn a passive cooler into an active one, all one has to do is place a fan on top.

Cooler Master sent us their latest North Bridge (NB) cooler which we gladly accepted for two reasons; free schwag is always good (may as well be frank about it :P), and the is the first North Bridge cooler we've gotten that features heatpipe technology. This tech has worked well for Cooler Master with their CPU coolers, so let's see if it holds up against the mighty NB (Ed. Note: sic).

Measuring at 60mm x 47mm x 69mm, the Blue Ice is quite a large cooler compared to most stock NB coolers. The heatsink is constructed primarily of aluminum, surrounding the copper heatpipe and base. At 140g, it's not that heavy considering the size, and there shouldn't be any worries of it breaking free provided you install it properly. More on that later.

The above images illustrate the heatpipe running through the fins. While the fins help dissipate the heat, you may be wondering where the fan is. Rather than bulking up the Blue Ice further, Cooler Master has placed the fan (of the LED variety) inside the cooler, between the heatpipes. While we don't know why anyone would want to (the fan generates about 22 to 26dba), you can remove the fan by removing the four screws on the top of the cooler. We will touch on this during our performance testing.

As with most heatsinks we're seeing these days, long gone are the mirror finishes we've seen with past "premium" coolers. The surface has some hints of machining, but it is flat and with a bit of thermal paste, this is a non-issue. Cooler Master includes some thermal paste (we used out own), as well as parts for almost any kind of NB chip you can think of.

Installation Notes

Installation of the Blue Ice varies depending on the type of NB you have. We used a Socket 478 board from ASUS that features a flip chip i875 with four anchor points. Regardless of platform, the first thing you need to do is remove the existing NB cooler and the excess paste or TIM.

Once that is done, we placed the foam pad (needed for any flip chip design) on top of the Blue Ice. Keep in mind that this is a one shot deal, so if you switch from a flip chip to a flat NB, you cannot go back unless you were extremely careful peeling off this pad.

Next up is to put together the clips needed for installation. In our case, it was nothing more than attaching the hook into the anchor and sliding it into the base of the Blue Ice. According to Cooler Master's instructions, they suggest this step after placing the cooler on the NB, but we think it will be easier to do this prior. The anchor is designed to be slid back and forth along the base which will address concerns about all the various anchor positions of various motherboards.

Once you've put the anchors into place, hook it into your motherboard. It doesn't really matter how many anchor points you have (we've never seen more than 4), as the Blue Ice only requires two to be secure. Plug in the fan connection, and you're ready to go.

Performance

ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe: Pentium 4 2.4C @ 3GHz (12x250), 2 x 512MB Corsair TWINX PC4000 Ram, ATI Radeon 9600 XT, 120GB SATA Seagate, Lian Li V1000 Case, Cooler Master Real Power.

All tests were done with the V1000 Case closed and 1 stock 120mm fan, and 1 LED 120mm rear fan configured at full speed. The comparison cooler is the stock passive cooler the P4C800 comes with. We did have a 40mm fan left over from an older motherboard so that was fastened on top of the stock cooler for comparison. Arctic Silver 5 is the thermal compound used for both the coolers, and ambient room temperature was maintained at 23°C/74°F.

Prime95 was run for six hours, with Folding @ Home running in the background to warm the system up. During the actual tests, we ran Prime95 run for 20 minutes, with Folding @ Home running in the background.

Performance

Coolers
Idle
Load
Stock
38°C
45°C
Stock w/40mm fan
38°C
44°C
Cooler Master Blue Ice
35°C
40°C
Cooler Master Blue Ice (fan off)
37°C
44°C

In its active state, it was no surprise really that the Blue Ice clobbered the passive ASUS cooler. We also didn't see much improvement with a fan on the stock ASUS cooler, but not that the "passive" Blue Ice actually tied the "active" ASUS heatsink in our tests. Unfortunently, even with a Hyper 6 heatsink on top of our Pentium 4, we weren't able to improve overclocking (for stability) too much as we've probably already hit the limits of our board and CPU combo. For the record, our CPU did post at a FSB of 290, which is a 8MHz improvement over the passive ASUS cooler, but the system repeatedly crashed soon after.

Final Words

Cooler Master has designed a great NB cooler for those of you looking to replace your existing one. Not only does it look swank, it does a great job at cooling and easily the best solution we've come across outside of water.

Installation is relatively pain free. With coverage for up to four different types of chipsets, there shouldn't be any problems getting the Blue Ice to work on your motherboard. The Blue Ice is also near silent as we were not able to distinguish the "passive" and "active" modes with the rest of the case, video card, CPU and PSU fans running.

The only downsides we can see are some heatsinks that flare upwards may not fit on the board post-Blue Ice installation. This is something to consider if you have a massive cooler in place for the CPU. Another issue is the Blue Ice did not really improve our overclocking success with our particular test board, but your results may vary.

Pros: Good performer, universal installation, quiet.

Cons: Large CPU coolers may interfere with the Blue Ice.

Bottom Line: If you're in the market for a new North Bridge cooler, the Cooler Master Blue Ice should be on your short list. If does a great job at keeping your NB chilly, and cooler parts all around can only mean a good thing.

If you have any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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