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Spire Verticool SocketA CPU Cooler
Date 26th September 2004
Author Evan "SLATYE" Slatyer
Editor James "Agg" Rolfe
Manufacturer Spire Coolers
Vendor LowNoisePC


Spire has recently released its last Socket A heatsink, the Verticool. Previous designs, such as the excellent Falcon Rock II and Whisper Rock IV, have been excellent performers at a low cost. To see if Spire has continued the tradition, I bought a Verticool, a Whisper Rock IV, and a tube of Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste from one of OCAU’s sponsors, LowNoisePC. I compared these with my current CPU heatsink, the Spire Falcon Rock II, and also a standard AMD heatsink.

Click to Enlarge
From left to right: the Falcon Rock II, Whisper Rock IV and Verticool.

The Verticool is more expensive than Spire’s other main Socket A heatsinks, at $49 AUD. However, it is still significantly cheaper than some other popular coolers for Socket A – most notably the Zalman CNPS 7000 series and the Thermalright SP-97.

Design:
The Verticool is one of a new design of heatsink, using a lot of fins which are connected to the base by heatpipes. Heatpipes are essentially a phase-change heat transfer system, allowing a lot of heat to be moved very quickly from the base of the heatsink to the top fins with very little resistance. In the Verticool, Spire have used two U-shaped heatpipes to transfer the heat, and these extend from the base of the heatsink right to the top of it. Unfortunately, I was unable to adequately photograph the heatpipes though the highly reflective fins.

Click to Enlarge
The base of the Whisper Rock IV (left) compared to the Verticool (right).
Note that the Verticool base is in fact copper.

The Verticool is one of the very few heatpipe coolers available for Socket A. Traditionally, heatpipes are not well suited to Socket A systems because of their weight and weight distribution. In a normal heatsink, all the fins most be located close to the heat source (the CPU) to maximise dissipation. Heatpipes allow much longer distances between the heat source and the fins, which has in turn led to much taller heatsinks with large numbers of fins right at the top. While the Pentium 4 and Athlon 64 mounting systems can deal effectively with this stress, and have little trouble accepting heatsinks weighing 1Kg or more, the standard socket lugs on Socket A simply cannot take the stress. Zalman’s CNPS 7000 series and Thermalright’s SP-97 get around this by using mounting holes, but these are only available on a small proportion of Socket A mainboards and installation requires removal of the mainboard from the case. Spire has been able to maintain use of the socket lugs by lowering the Verticool’s weight to only 333g. A significant proportion of this mass is in the copper base-plate itself, while the top of the heatsink is made primarily from light aluminium. This should ensure that the heatsink does not endanger the socket.

Like the Falcon Rock II and Whisper Rock IV, the Verticool uses all six socket lugs, giving it more stability and also allowing it to be used in systems where the centre lug has been broken off. The clip mounting system has also been upgraded – in previous designs, Spire heatsinks required the use of a flat-bladed screwdriver for attachment. The new clip can be attached with a finger, and is much easier to attach and remove.

Noise:
Noise has traditionally been a strongpoint of Spire coolers. All are significantly quieter than the AMD stock heatsink, and while they do not reach the low noise level of many of Zalman’s coolers, the lower cost generally makes up for this. The Falcon Rock design was improved with the Whisper Rock, which offered similar performance at a lower noise level. While the Verticool is supposed to be as loud as the Falcon Rock, I found that this was not the case. When compared to the AMD stock heatsink, the Falcon Rock II was a lot quieter, but there was a definite ‘whine’. The Whisper Rock IV was quieter and with less of the whine. The Verticool has completely eliminated the whine, and is quieter than either the Whisper Rock IV or Falcon Rock II. I think this is a big plus for the Verticool – the whine from a fan can be very annoying, while the lower-frequency noises tend to be more acceptable.

The fan noise is strange, since all the heatsinks use the same model fan (all are made by F.T.C, and use the model number FD80825B1L). This is also the same model number used for the Spire case fan I use. I suspect that over time, F.T.C has decreased noise at the cost of performance, while retaining the same model number. There are definitely some differences in fan design, such as the aluminium-framed fan used for the Falcon Rock II, which also has significantly squarer and flatter blades than the transparent fans.

Click to Enlarge
Clockwise from the top left: the fan used for the Verticool; a Spire case fan; the fan used on the Whisper Rock IV; the aluminium-framed fan used for the Falcon Rock II.


All original content copyright James Rolfe.
All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without written permission.
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