Note: A couple of images in this review are corrupt. My apologies. They have not survived the test of time. ”Digital files last forever”, my rear-end they do!
The Silver Mountain 2 is, of course, the successor to the original Silver Mountain, the subject of techangel’s first ever review back in 2001. Back then the Silver Mountain was quite a shock outsider, coming into quite an established performance heatsink market with pretty much no heritage in the field. Akasa are no newcomers though.
They produce heatsinks for many of the big name PC assemblers, such as Time here in the UK. Whilst many of us would shudder at the suggestion that anything Time related could possibly be any good, a large scale producer of computers is going to do a fair bit of research before trusting the CPUs used in their thousands of PCs to a heatsink manufacturer. This not only means that Akasa have a lot of experience in producing heatsinks but also in gaining recognition (in the form of recommendations) from both Intel and AMD, the undisputed giants of the consumer CPU market.
The Silver Mountain was Akasa’s first real foray into the performance cooling market, and has been followed by many mid-price models such as the Icicle range. The Silver Mountain 2 really represents their first serious contender to the enthusiast market since the first mountain.
I will be testing the Silver Mountain 2 in my current rig, an Athlon 1.33Ghz chip running at stock speed and voltage. I’m not an overclocker – there’s really not much point for the things I use my PC for. Rather than providing some peculiar rating for the heatsink, that means pretty much nothing, I will show how it performs on my processor (a fairly average speed, thus a fairly good real world test) and how it compares against a number of other coolers (which will increase as I review more). The last page will show where the Silver Mountain 2 stands.
The heatsink is constructed from solid copper, coated in silver. Copper is a great conductor of heat, meaning it can draw quickly from the cpu core. The silver aids the dissipation of heat from the fins – a pretty good combination of materials. Unlike more normal heatsinks, with long fins the whole length of the sink, the SM2 has a large number of rectangular pins inserted into the base. This means more surface area exposed to air, and more surface area means better heat dissipation. The pins are well attached to the base, with no gaps evident and no messy soldering. The fin spacing is generally very even, altho as can be seen in the picture taken from above the sink, a few pins on my sample are slightly bent away from the rest.
I’m very happy to report this heatsink bucks the trend as far as socket A coolers go. Most have clips that only attach to a single lug on the socket. The SM2 has a clip that uses all 3 lugs on both sides of the socket, as you can see below.
When I spoke to Paul from Akasa about the SM2, he was quick to ensure I didn’t overlook their “TIM” (the Thermal Interface Material). The TIM is the little square heat transfer pad that heatsink manufacturers usually include with on products. Generally these TIMs have very average performance, and the norm is the remove the pad immediately and use some thermal grease instead. But Paul told me that Akasa are using a very efficient pad, the Shin-Etsu. The pad is a phase-change material, meaning when it gets hot it becomes a free flowing liquid. The chemical make up is such that the resulting liquid can fill the tiniest gaps between the heatsink and cpu core – the point being to maximise contact between the core and heatsink base. So as requested, I left the TIM intact for testing, before replacing it with some grease to compare.
First impressions of the pad were good. The contact between the core and heatsink was good, as shown by this picture of the base once removed.
I did intend to test the Shin-Etsu pads by using them on other heatsinks, and by using a fresh one on the SM2 after the grease tests. However, the extra pads I was sent broke up and were un-usable. I don’t know why this happened, perhaps the early samples I was sent need a little improvement, or maybe this was simply a duff batch.
First up, results taken using the Silver Mountain 2 with it’s attached Shin-Etsu thermal interface material:
Delta Screamer, Shin-Etsu:
Click on the images to expand them, or simply note that the numbers mean as follows -
Current temp, Low temp, Max temp, Average temp.
The Delta keeps the max temperature slightly lower than the Sanyo fan. As you can see, the average temperature is kept lower using the Delta… once the cpu is brought up to maximum temperature, the sanyo wasn’t quite able to bring it back down to the starting idle temp. The Delta did a much better job of lowering the temperature, while the sanyo managed to keep the cpu at a fairly happy medium. Overall, I was impressed with the sanyo fan’s performance.
Next, the TIM was scraped off and “CoolerMaster High Performance Thermal Compound” used in it’s place. Here’s the results, again using both fans:
Sanyo-Denki, Coolermaster compound:
Delta Screamer, Coolermaster compound:
So there we have it. The compound performed slightly better than the Shin-Etsu. I was dissappointed, mainly as I was hoping for good things from the Shin-Etsu. If you look at the results however, the system temperature was slightly higher when the Shin-Etsu’s were tested. Unfortunate as this is, I don’t live in a laboratory and so I can’t accurately control the room temperature. This could effect the performance of the cooler, although since there are only a few degrees in it, I would say the Shin-Etsu has a performance very close to that of the thermal compound. That would suggest that rather than removing it and replacing with compound (as has become the norm), people buying the Silver Mountain 2 could use the included thermal pad with no real degredation to performance. That means saving a fiver on the tube of arctic silver, which can only be a good thing.
The day after I did these tests, I was testing some Spire coolers. I noticed they were all doing quite well, better than I expected given these Silver Mountain 2 tests. So I retested the SM2 with thermal compound (as I couldn’t retest the Shin-Etsu’s) and got some better results. I guess it must have been a significantly colder day, even though my thermometer seems to read between 24.5 and 25.5 pretty much every day… anyway, here are the second set of results, which are the set I will use to compare the SM2 with other coolers.
Sanyo-Denki, Coolermaster compound retest:
Delta Screamer, Coolermaster compound retest:
The Screamer here kept the system at a fully loaded temperature of just 42 degrees celcius, a very low temperature. The Sanyo did very well too, at just 3 degrees more. The low temperature of the screamer (in blue, 39) is only higher because there was little-to-no time in between removing the delta and installing the sanyo to retest. My bad!
I am impressed with the Silver Mountain 2. Well, no, to be more specific I am impressed by the Silver Mountain 2Q. I won’t ever recommend a heatsink using a delta fan any more (not at full voltage anyway) since they are so ridiculously loud. My days of putting up with that kind of noise are over, and I think most of the world (except really crazy overclocker kids) would agree. But the Silver Mountain 2Q (using the 60mm sanyo denki fan) is not loud, is not annoying, and performs excellently.
If you are a serious overclocking freak and want even more performance from the SM2, then by all means slap a delta on it (well, or buy the Silver Mountain 2 package as opposed to the 2Q). As demonstrated, the delta can shave a few more degrees off of the top temperature. It’s not for me, but if you put up with it then you will get improved cooling.
The Silver Mountain 2Q retails for around £30 (you can pick on up at here), so it’s not cheap. It is quieter than most CPU coolers I have used though, so if you’re looking for performance at low volume you might be able to justify the extra spend.
However, for under £10 you can get a Spire WhisperRock II cooler (here) which, as the name suggests, is a pretty quiet cooler. I will have a review of the Whisper up soon, but I can tell you now it’s equally as quiet as the SM2 but doesn’t perform quite as well. So for overclockers the Silver Mountain 2 represents a great solution – great cooling without the noise usually associated. For those just looking for a quiet cpu cooler, I can’t justify the £30 price tag.
Silver Mountain 2 (horrible loud loud loud ARG delta fan)
No need to buy thermal paste
It’s just too noisy
Silver Mountain 2Q (lovely tranquil quiet AHH sanyo fan)
No need to buy thermal paste
Nowt else really!