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SilenX IXTREMA Pro IXC-120HA2

SilenX is a fairly newcomer to the cooling industry. Thier latest IXTREMA Pro IXC-120HA2 has a radical design where the heat pipes extends all the way to the base of the heatsink. In addition, this heatsink has the ability to mount two 120mm fans. Join us as we put it through the tests and see if this heatsink can compete with other big players on the market.

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INTRODUCTION

We have seen many newcomers to the computer cooling industry; and lately, many of these newcomers have been making a name for themselves, like Noctua and Zerotherm.  These companies are now competing against well-established manufacturers like ThermalRight and Zalman, and today, we will be reviewing another heatsink and fan from SilenX - even another manufacturer that is quickly becoming a big player in the PC cooling industry.

With a name like SilenX, we get an idea of what SilenX’s main focus is when it comes to computer cooling, and it wouldn’t be wrong to expect a heatsink and fan that keeps the computer running cool and its noise levels down.  In fact, SilenX was started “as a hobby [by] a group of engineering students in search of silence,” and we have high hopes that their iXtreme Pro Heatsink delivers.

SilenX

SilenX has been a privately-owned and operated company based in southern California since 1995. There are several research and design facilities in addition to our primary warehouse facility and our renowned technical support and customer service center. Originally a high-end systems integrator for silent computers, SilenX shifted its focus to manufacturing silent PC components in 2002 and established factories in the United States, China, and Taiwan.

Our retail products are distributed in numerous countries around the world. We also have an OEM division that manufactures fans, thermal heatsink solutions and power supplies for various applications in computing, consumer electronics and other industrial uses. Our specialty is in low noise components as we have among the lowest noise cooling equipment in the industry.

Numerous awards have been won by our products in the consumer computing world for delivering a combination of the lowest noise levels without sacrificing high performance. Reviewers from around the world have praised our products for being on the forefront of the silent PC industry. Our commitment to the finest quality makes SilenX products both reliable and competitive.

PACKAGING

IXTREMA Pro is actually a family of products from SilenX that includes CPU and GPU heatsinks of various sizes.  The whole line of products includes CPU heatsinks in sizes from 80mm to 120mm for all current motherboard sockets, and GPU heatsinks in 80mm for most ATI and nVidia graphics cards.  Here, we will be looking specifically at the 120mm version of the IXTREMA Pro CPU heatsink, the IXC-120HA2.

   

The packaging of the IXC-120HA2 is surprisingly small considering it is a 120mm heatsink and fan.  The box is colored with a strong red and black scheme to grab your attention.  I like the minimalist approach of the packaging as it saves space and materials (of course, in the company’s view, it may simply be saving their cost).  Inside the shiney box is where you will find the heatsink, wrapped around a plastic mold that is separated from the accessory box.  The packaging of the unit is excellent, and there is no way that it would get damaged during shipping.

SPECIFICATION

 

Heatsink Specification

SKU

ICX-120HA2

Rated dBA

9-24

Dimensions

125.4 x 104.2 x 155.8 mm

Base Material

Copper Heatpipes, aluminum plates

Fin Material

Aluminum

Fin Surface Area

9000 cm2

RPM

685g

CFM

900-1700

Current Draw

36-84

Power Consumption

0.16-0.36A

Bearings

1.92-4.32W

CPU Compatibility

Socket 754, LGA775, 939,940, AM2

ICX-120HA2

The heatsink looks just like any vertical mounting heatsink until you look at the bottom.  Here we see that SilenX has melted the heat pipes directly to the base of the heatsink to create contact with the CPU for better heat dissipation.  Furthermore, ICX-120HA2 utilizes four 8mm copper heat pipes arranged in a U-shape to direct heat to the 55 aluminum fins.  The total surface area for heat dissipation is 9000 cm2.

SilenX states that the heatsink uses an eight mm copper heat pipe.  As we can see, the heat pipes resemble the letter U, so I am not sure if it’s eight pipes extending from either side of the base, or four pipes that are bent around the base.

  

The heatsink’s dimensions are 125.4×104.2×155.8 mm (LxWxH) and it weighs 685g.  The weight leans toward the heavy end, but overall is nothing to worry about, and there is no need for any support underneath the motherboard.  The heatsink’s base and fins are is made with aluminum and the heat pipes are made with copper.  The aluminum fins are shaped like the letter X, or perhaps a butterfly.  I am sure the design is simply for an aesthetic purpose and does not add any functionality or enhance performance.

 

The IXC-120HA2 is compatible with Intel Socket 775 processors (Pentium 4 all the way to the latest Core 2 Duo/Quad) of any speed.  Also, it is compatible with AMD Socket 775, 939, AM2, and AM2+ of any clockspeed.  Noticeably missing from the list is the AMD Socket F.

The included 120mm fan is rated to run at 900~1700 rpm with an airflow of 36~84 CFM.  The 7 fin fluid-dynamic bearing fan connects to the motherboard’s fan header with the three pin fan connector.  The package states that the fan comes with four blue LEDs, but the unit I received did not, so I am not sure if this is a mistake on the packaging.  You can mount either one or two fans on the IXC-120HA2, and the fan speed can be adjusted with the included controller.  Unfortunately, you can only control the speed of one fan, as the unit only comes with a single fan controller.  The fan comes with padding on all four corners, which helps to absorb the vibration.  Unfortunately, like the fan controller, SilenX does not include additional padding for another fan, which I think is a major oversight.

The fans are attached to the heatsink with two pieces of wire.  The wires clip onto the heatsink and the two ends of the wires then clip onto the fan.  I would like to see SilenX find a way to have the fan clip stay on the heatsink when the fan is removed, to make internal installation easier if the heatsink is installed inside the case.

In addition to the heatsink and the fan, we get a bag of thermal paste, an installation manual, a bag of screws, one fan controller, fan clips, and double sided tape for the fan controller.
 

INSTALLATION AND IMPRESSION

Installing the IXC-120HA2 is quite easy.  If you are using an AMD motherboard, you do not need to install anything, as the heatsink simply uses the bracket for the AMD stock heatsink.  For an Intel based motherboard, you would have to install the included mounting bracket.  Fortunately, you do not need to remove the motherboard from the case as it uses a somewhat modified version of the Intel push pin.  To install the heatsink, you would first align the mounting bracket to the motherboard CPU mounting holes, then push down the four pins to secure the mounting bracket.  SilenX chose to use plastic screws to eliminate any noise that would otherwise generate from metal screws.

The manual instructs you to install the mounting clips to the heatsink, but the unit that I received has the mounting clips already installed.  I am not sure if this is a typo in the installation guide; but regardless, it’s easy to install if needed.  Simply latch the mounting clip to either side of the bracket and press down on the lever to secure the heatsink to the bracket.

The installation of the unit is fairly similar to the old Socket 939 AMD stock heatsink and fan.  I really like the ease of installing the heatsink and the fact that the same process and accessories are being used for both AMD and Intel socket based motherboards. 

 

Like many other aftermarket heatsinks where the mounting bar/bracket can cause issues with the 680i’s power regulator’s heatsink, the ICX-120HA2’s mounting bracket is literally sitting on top of the heatsink.  It does not conflict, but I can see potential problems arising with certain motherboards using taller heatsinks for the voltage regulator and power phase.

 

Since the ICX-120HA2 is mounted vertically, it does not usually have any clearance problems around taller components near the CPU area, like many horizontal mounted heatsinks.  However, due to the rectangular design of the heatsink, it may pose some problems for some of the newer motherboards that have extensive heat pipes surrounding the CPU area.  What this translates to is that you can only install the heatsink in one direction - despite that it is capable of installing in any direction.  With the EVGA 680i board, I can only install the heatsink with the fan facing the Northbridge.

The cooling fins are about 4.5 cm above the motherboard; and with a single fan installed, you will be looking at approximately 10cm in width. With two fans installed, the unit will be 12 cm in width.  So be sure to have enough room near the CPU.

In addition, the heatsink may have some issues with certain taller Northbridge heatsinks.  When the heatsink is installed on an EVGA 680i board, the heatsink fan is literally sitting on top of the Northbridge heatsink when the fan is installed facing the Northbridge.  Despite this, there’s absolutely no issue with the clearance or the function of the fan.  The NVIDIA 680i motherboard’s Northbridge heatsink is somewhat taller than those on most motherboards, so I wouldn’t expect many users out there to experience similar problems, unless the Northbridge is taller than usual.

Since the heatsink does not use as much horizontal space as a horizontal mounted heatsink, you will still get full access to the DIMM slots - even the one that is closest to the CPU.
Overall, I do not foresee any major issue with the installation of the heatsink on most current motherboards.

TEST CONFIGURATION

 

Test Platform

Processor

Intel E6600 Core 2 Duo at 2.4GHz and 3.2GHz

Motherboard

EVGA 680i (BIOS P32)

Memory

2GB of XTREEM TXDD1024M800HC4-D DDRII-800MHz (4-4-4-12)

Drive(s)

Western Digital Caviar SE16 250GB (WD2500KS-00MJB0)

Graphics

XFX GeForce 8800GTS Fatal1ty ForceWare 169.25

Case

None

Power Supply

Enermax Galaxy 850W

Display

Gateway FPD2485W

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit

 

 

Test Candidates:

  • Noctua NH-C12P
  • ThermalRigth SI-128
  • SilenX ICX-120HA2
  • Retail Intel Cooler

RESULTS

The SilenX IXP-74-11 fan speed can be adjusted from 800 to 1500 rpms.  We decided to test the temperature of a single fan running at minimum and maximum RPMs to experience both the best and worst scenarios.  With the fan set at 800 rpm, the noise level is absolutely quiet.  However, at 1500 rpm, the noise-level of the IXP-74-11 is a tad noisier than the S-Flex SFF21F, which also runs at 1500 rpm.  However, once we put the side panel on the case, the noise is barely audible.

At idle, the fan speed does not really affect the CPU temperature, but once the CPU is under load, we see a 4-5 degree difference with the fan running at 1500 rpm.  The performance gain is even better with an overclocked processor, resulting an eight degree C gain under load.

With two fans installed, the noise level is noticeably higher when both fans are running at 1500 rpm.  Unfortunately, since SilenX only supplies one fan controller, there is no way to adjust both fan speeds.  We decided to test this two fan configuration with one fan running at 1500 rpm - constantly pulling hot air away - while positioning the other fan to cool the heatsink at 800 rpm.

The result is quite surprising.  The two fan configuration provides a considerable performance gain, but with the second fan running at a higher speed of 1500 rpm the gain is not as dramatic as with the fan running at 800 rpm.  In fact, we gain only approximately one degree C, even when the processor is overclocked.

Comparing the performance of single vs dual fans, we can get an idea of how much more cooling the second fan achieves.  Clearly, having the second fan cooling the heatsink has some effect.  We see a 3~4 degree C drop in the temperature with two fans, compared with a single fan blowing at 1500 rpm.  The performance gain may not seem as great given the noise level of two fans running at 1500 RPMs, but do keep in mind that the result is measured with dual core processors, and there could be more potential with quad core processors, or higher overclocking.

RESULTS, con’t

To make a qualitative comparison, we put the same NF12 onto all of our previously tested heatsinks.  In addition, we have included the result of the SilenX ICX-120HA2 with the IXP-74-11 fan running at 1500 rpm.

 

 

 

The performance of the SilenX is excellent, beating the Noctua NH-C12P by a hair.  It is the best heatsink among the test candidates.  We can see that SilenX’s own IXP-74-11 fan actually performs slightly worse than the NF12, despite that it is running at 1500 rpm vs NF12′s 1300 rpm.  Though the noise-level of the IXP-74-11 is not too bothersome, if you absolutely need a quiet setup, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to replace the fan.

With two fans, we get even better cooling, just as expected.  We are able to shed four degrees C on the overclocked processor.  This is definitely the solution for those milking that little bit of clockspeed, but I am not sure if the noise-level is worth it.

CONCLUSION

We have tested yet another great CPU heatsink with the SilenX IXC-120HA2.  With one fan attached, the performance rivals many good 120mm heatsinks and fans on the market today.  The added bonus of the SilenX ICX-120HA2 is its ability to have a second fan attached to assist in cooling.  This means that you can crank out that last attainable clock speed increase if you are willing to push it.

The fan that is included with the ICX-120HA2 runs fairly quiet even at the highest speed; but as our tests suggest, there may be better choices on the market that run quieter and has higher CFM.  Nonetheless, the included fan is not a bad choice, and with the included fan controller users would have the ability to fine-tune their optimal noise-level and temperature.

At retail price of $59.95 USD, the SilenX IXC-120HA2 would be a great investment for those super-overclockers who wishes to stay with air-cooling instead of liquid cooling and still be able to achieve a substantial result.  Compared to other heatsinks we have reviewed lately, like the Noctua NH-C12P, we can see that either cooler would be an excellent choice for any overclocker.  If vertical space and noise is not a factor, choose the SilenX with two fans for the best overclocking result.  However, if you need a quieter system and still wish to overclock, then go for the Noctua because of its much quieter fan.

SilenX ICX-120HA2 will receive a score of  8 (extremely good) out of 10 and Bjorn3D’s coveted Seal of Approval Award for the excellent performance and ease of installation.

 

Pros:

+  Excellent performance
+  Easy installation
+  Supports all current processors
+  Supports two fans
+  Fan runs fairly quiet
+  Three year warranty

Cons:

-  Does not come with noise damping pad for the second fan
-  Fan controller only works with a single fan
-  May not fit in small cases where vertical space is limited

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