Weight: 450g Size (with fan): 160.5mm (H) x 120mm (W) x 65mm (D) Fan Speed: 500 - 1500 RPM Stated Noise Level: 18.3 – 24.6 dB(A) Warranty: One Year Standard Warranty Supported Sockets: Intel LGA 1366, LGA775, AMD 754, 939, 940, AM2
Akasa has consistently impressed us with its CPU coolers in the last 12 months, with the 965 being our budget cooler of choice and the 966 “Blue Aurora” one of the best bang for buck coolers out there. Akasa seems to understand the compromises between cooling and noise very well, so we were excited to see what it would bring to the table for the launch of Core i7.
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The answer is the Nero, which rather than fiddling while your CPU burns, uses the direct contact method to keep your CPU cool. It’s a technique we’ve seen previously in OCZ’s line of Vendetta coolers, and one that, in our experience, can be very effective.
Rather than using a finely machined base to make contact with the CPU through which heat-pipes then run to take heat away, with a direct contact cooler the heat-pipes are bent and machined in such a way that they are the base, removing a link in the thermal chain and improving performance while keeping costs down.
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The Nero is a fine example of the technique, using three U shaped copper heat-pipes which run the full height of the cooling stack and which make direct contact with the CPU with a flat and well machined base. The heat-pipes are divided by an aluminium block which fills in the gaps of the base and allows for the fitting of the mounting brackets, of which Akasa has included LGA 1366, LGA 775 and AM2 varieties, so it’s not just Core i7 owners being catered for.
Of course, the downside of direct contact coolers is that the thermal contact surface isn’t perfectly flat, with the joins between aluminium block and heat-pipe leaving visible gaps between each other. However, in the past this hasn’t harmed performance, and Akasa has done a good job of making the joins as small as possible – a little extra TIM applied to the CPU is all that’s necessary to fill in the cracks.
The three heat-pipes rise through a large stack of aluminium cooling fins, which make use of both curved and ruffled edges to stimulate air turbulence over the fins. The design houses the rubber mountings for a 120mm cooling fan, which are actually surprisingly hard wearing – we’ve fitted and removed the included cooling fan numerous times and the rubbber mounts were still standing tall – something that cannot be said for the similar OCZ Vendetta.
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The included black 120mm cooling fan is a pretty standard affair, but manages to be wonderfully quiet even at full speed - a major bonus for a high end CPU cooler, as well as coming with a braided 4-pin cable. The real ace up the Nero’s sleeve though is its price. The savings involved in using a direct contact cooling method means that the Nero is by far the cheapest cooler on test, coming in at less than £25 - a veritable bargain.
So How is it to Mount?
Not too bad at all actually. We’ve chosen to mount the coolers on test onto an MSI X58 Eclipse motherboard, which has PWM and Northbridge coolers in pretty close proximity to the 1366 mounting sockets. However, thanks to the Nero’s fairly thin design it’s easy enough to mount without the fan fitted, even using the push-pin mounting system. Adding the fan makes things a little more crowded, but it’s still a fairly easy fit as far as high end heatsinks go, and is perfectly secure once in place.