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Asus Arctic Square Asus Arctic Square: Looking like part of a muscle car engine, we find out if it can cool as well as it looks.
Date: August 8, 2007
Provided By:
Written By: Scott Harness
Price:

At one time, not so long ago, you could go to any PC Hardware website and see a lot of reviews regarding third party CPU Heatsinks and Fans. That trend has however died down in recent years. Not that their isn't any, just that the number has dropped significantly. Heatsinks for CPU cooling started as passive, then moved to active as the heat generated by the latest processors rose. Time went on, speeds of CPU's increased and so did the performance of coolers to compensate. Aluminium gave way to copper, and hybrid units began to appear. Differing designs, larger fans, higher quality manufacture, a greater surface area, all became the norm with the expected next iteration of heatsinks as CPU speeds and heat output rose. There was an obvious need for new designs, a market for third party cooling, even basic cooling.

Eventually, heat from CPU's began to drop as manufacturers began to engineer more efficient CPU's, manufacturers included heatsinks capable of cooling the CPU's they shipped with and the mass need for third party coolers began to drop. Also, water-cooling became more mainstream and a lot cheaper as well, offering another option over traditional heatsinks.

However, a newer technology has become widely used for CPU cooling and a small resurgence in third party coolers has emerged as manufacturers perfect their implementations of it. The Heat-pipe. Using capillary phase change action, heat-pipes extended the efficiency of the average heatsink beyond that of a solid block and fins. These days, heat-pipes are even used to cool your motherboard components, but the most common use for PC Cooling via heat-pipes is the CPU Cooler. Now while I'm sure some of you might be surprised, the CPU cooler we have today is made by none other than (who actually make a lot more products than the average consumer might think). Let's check out the .

Specifications

CPU Support Intel® Core™2 Extreme / Intel® Core™2 Quad
Intel® Core™2 Duo / Pentium® processor family
AMD Athlon™ 64 X2/ FX
AMD Athlon™ 64/ Sempron™
Thermal Resistance (RCA) 0.25o C/W
Acoustic at Normal Operation (dBA) 25
Dimensions (mm) 106x108x135
Cooler Material Copper Base (Nickel Plated to prevent Corrosion) with Aluminium Fin and 4 copper Heat-pipes
Net Weight (g) 666
Connector 4 Pin with PWM Control
Fan Dimensions (mm) 92x92x25
Fan Speed 2,300 rpm +- 10%

 

The box for the Arctic Square is quite large, as is the cooler itself. All the pertinent information is on the box and you get a good view of the branded chrome a like top of the cooler. Asus provide a carrying handle on the box although the item is deceivingly light.

Opening the box you can see that the cooler is suspended between two halves of vacuum formed plastic with all the mounting and extra parts needed at the bottom.

Asus supply a lot of components for use during mounting, from screws to back plates to complete brackets and plastic stand offs; everything to allow you to use the Asus Arctic Square on a variety of different setups.

I'll get into the mounting system in a little while but let's move onto the cooler itself. Looking a little like a high performance carburettor intake from a Harley Davidson more than a CPU cooler, you are instantly given an impression of heavy solid bulk, but the cooler is much lighter than it appears. Truth be told, it also doesn't feel as solid as you would expect, however there isn't much danger of it falling apart; appearances can be deceiving. A small circular blue badge adorns one side of the cooler.

I've not counted the fins, and I'm not going to. Suffice to say there are a lot and it is a lot of surface area. Turning the cooler over so we can see the bottom shows off the heat-pipes as well as the internal fan nature of the product. The fan is a transparent fan with a circular housing and sits inside the cooler itself; the top of the cooler can be removed quite easily so there is no reason you couldn't replace the internal fan with one of your own choosing. The fan is an LED fan as you will see later.

The heat-pipes terminate at the block, which at first glance might appear to be aluminium like the fins, however it is indeed copper. Asus have had the base (which isn't much bigger than the heatspreader on a Core 2 Duo) nickel plated which helps to prevent surface corrosion and discolouration.

Installation will be different for each setup, but since we've tested using an LGA 775 setup, we will show you the installation method for that.

The included back plate for the socket 775 setup helpfully comes with a sticky pad which you peel off and attach to the back of your motherboard. The sticky pad won't hold it in place permanently but it will hold it long enough to make your installation easier; not quite a second pair of hands but just as helpful in this case.

Turning our attention back to the front, we need to use the included 4 plastic stand offs and the silver screws. With the supplied bracket put into position, the stand offs in place and screws put through the correct holes, you then just need to screw them into the back plate and through the motherboards mounting holes.

You can then place the cooler into position in the bracket and on your CPU. It will only fit two ways as the heat-pipes will sit against the bracket, so you can't really get that part wrong. The final piece to the mounting puzzle is the retention arm, which is spring loaded and slides underneath the cooler to both sides of the bracket. Locked into the four lugs on the bracket, pushing down on the arm supplies tension to the cooler onto the CPU. Installation complete. It probably took me about 45 minutes to do the first time around (including motherboard removal and replacement) but knowing how to do it now would reduce that to around 30 minutes.

It might seem a little unwieldy and gives you visions of it crashing down on your graphics card but the majority of the cooler is aluminium and very light; having held it in my hands I have no concerns about weight. Once powered up, the cooler is very quiet. Not silent, and the noise level is adjusted by the motherboard according to load, but at lowest levels it is pretty quiet. It's also quite attractive with the low level blue glow leaking out of the fins.

The installation might be considered a little fiddly by some, but there where no problems caused by it. The chrome/mirror finish does however mean that for a show case you will be worrying about fingerprints.

Test Setup: EPoX EP-5LWA+, Intel 3.73GHz Extreme Edition*, 2x512 Kingston PC2-5400, X1800XT, Chieftec BX01B Case

*This CPU tends to run quite hot under load and provides a good real world setup that requires more than stock cooling.

Idle and Load temperatures were recorded over a three day period (for each cooler) at various intervals (5 records each) and the then averaged. Readings were taken while room temperature was at 23C Ambient. For Idle readings, the PC was booted into Windows and left for 15 minutes to do nothing. Load readings where taken after an hour of Orthos CPU testing.

The stock cooler doesn't do too badly for idle temperatures but once under full load the temperature rapidly rises to the 63C mark and then slowly climbs up to a rather unhealthy 67C over the next hour. The Asus Star Ice gives much better results of only 52C under load. The Arctic Square however, bests the lot with a 47C maximum load temperature; within 2C of the stock coolers idle temperature and at a much lower noise level.

Final Words

When I was first offered the , I wasn't as excited as I usually am for hardware. The bottom line is I like my water-cooling, and in recent years the CPU cooler market has lost it's attraction. However, I was intrigued by the design of the and was hopeful that it might prove to be interesting. Holding it in my hands for the first time I became more than a little concerned that it just wouldn't be able to perform all that well. It was mainly aluminium and quite light considering the size. Testing proved it to be quite the sleeper though, with load temperatures almost as low as the stock coolers idle temperatures. The lightweight nature became a positive.

There was no doubt it was attractive in pictures, and sure enough seeing it in person didn't change that view, but rather enforced it. It's quite big but not what I would call bulky. I'm sure a few modders can think of some interesting themed case installations involving the ; Harley Davidson or some high performance muscle car engine theme perhaps.

Installation was certainly not as simple as a stock cooler, and while it could take you up to an hour the first time around, it isn't a difficult process. supply components for mounting on most types of motherboard and the installation varies for each, but the included instructions are easy enough to guide you through it.

One mis-conception I had was that the specifications didn't match the reality; at first glance the base of the cooler appears to be a solid aluminium block, but it is in fact as stated a copper block. have nickel plated the base to help prevent corrosion and discoloration.

All in all, the has a good mounting system, looks great, and performs really well. There are no real negatives that I can think of despite some deceiving first impressions. Add this one to the short list of coolers worth buying.

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

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