Impressively Bad: Corsair A500 CPU Cooler Review & Benchmark

by birtanpublished on October 3, 2020

Coursers a 500 has been an embarrassing show of performance for the company's first revisit to air cooler isn't a long time but the upside is that it makes for an excellent showcase of some of our new testing equipment and methodology we recently unveiled our new testing methodology for CPU air coolers going forward primarily focusing on updates for air coolers but also adding in some changes for liquid coolers this is our first set of data to begin building those charts and will rapidly be adding to it over the next month the updates include about $10,000 worth of dummy heaters that we designed with an

Engineering firm plus the cost of the power supplies that drive them but also it includes heavily revamped real-world testing in this benchmark we'll be looking at the Corsair a 500 dual 120 millimeter single tower cooler versus the nagua NHD 15 not the D 15 s but the D 15 and the deep cool assassin 3 with some other coolers for quick reference before that this video is brought to you by gigabytes X 570 master motherboard the X 570 master is what we used for all of our rise in 3000 CPU reviews and for extreme overclocking streams with the 3900 X the master is built to handle

More current than you'll push through your Aizen CPUs it has actual finned heat sinks for the V RMS and it features a massively overhauled gigabyte BIOS pick up the x5 Sony master for your rise in 3000 cpu at the link in the description below so this is the cooler if you want to know more about the testing methodology we have the piece that's more than 30 minutes long talking about it we've also got an article that went up with it and those will be linked in the description below it's important stuff a lot of CPU cooler benchmarks especially by the community and comments

Are done incorrectly so we've spent basically six months really heavily refining what we have done over the last three years so that's all important you should know that stuff we're not going to talk about methodology here we've got a full video for that all right so the cooler itself it is $100 the Knox wet NHD 15 for reference is $90 at time of filming the deep cool assassin 3 with it's false advertising changes to the Amazon page is down to $90 as well so that puts this $10 premium for smaller fans from a less proven manufacturer in this world and we'll have to see how it

Does a couple of things immediately I'm not going to do a whole build section on this but top it's just an aluminum plate basically and it's really only there to try and make it easier to install the cooler everyone else on the market has figured out how to do this without eliminating 30% of the surface area of the product but this one cuts a big giant hole in the middle that's well I mean you could very nearly fit another fan in there this it's kind of going back to like – nique style cool and if anyone remembers them and there's a reason that they're

Not in business anymore so that's the top plate the fans were pointed out to us as being specifically worked on for the ease of positioning and we will give Corsair credit here they did a very good job with the positioning the the plastic slides for the fans but it's also not that hard to use a metal rail it's probably a whole hell of a lot cheaper and that's probably the ten dollar difference you see as a consumer so other than that there's really not a whole lot special there's a lot of things that went kind of poorly or were

Suboptimal the bottom for example this one is not one of the catastrophic ly bad units but it's one that should represent the average we also have two of these and I can feel just with my finger the difference in height between some of these heat pipes it's direct contact there's no cold plate it's it's not like an acceptor jack setup it's just direct contact and we tested the delta in service level nasaan this using the service level this meter we'll talk about that in today's review as well so at $100 it really prides itself on an ease of installation it's gone 120mm

Fans instead of 140 apparently this is so that corsair can fit in a wider variety of cases with shorter height clearance but overall I mean the only thing that's really restricting you there is going to be memory clearance with something that's big so they could have done it otherwise anyway there's no RGB LEDs we give it credit for omitting that has probably pained courts or to do so and I think that's really all we need to go over for methodology to check the other content let's just get straight into numbers we're gonna talk about the surface level this first and they go

Through thermals our first chart will likely be one that you haven't seen in a cooler review before will show some cold plates in b-roll first before putting the chart on the screen the chart will show a scatter plot of depth measurements taken with a precision service level instruments that we purchased the instrument is calibrated against a known small square of perfectly flat tempered glass that came from the calibration company that we worked with the gauge measures depth from a known zero point so we're able to see the Delta from one

Measurement to the next across the cooler surface this allows us to find microscopic imperfections in the surface of the cold plate down to microns of differences we take the measurements clockwise from a chosen top-left corner of the heat pipe if it's exposed or the cold plate if not and then move around then inward what we're looking for is basically equidistance point-to-point so we want to see consistency it's effectively impossible to have mass-produced perfectly flat cold plates on perfectly flat heat spreaders otherwise we would never need thermal

Paste but we're looking for as close to a zero Delta point-to-point as is reasonable here's that new chart the Corsair a 500 immediately illustrates what will become its weakest point throughout this review its unlevel and inconsistent in its unlevel miss part of this is shortly attributable to the exposed heat pipes while the rest is a result of manufacturing tolerances Corsair sent us to a 500 coolers after we voiced performance concerns and rejected the advertisement that they wanted to run for the 8500 on the basis of those bad results that we saw and the

Company noted that it had significant manufacturing defects in the first run but claims that it was only applicable for the press samples we tested both one of which was the newer sample and do not believe our units to be affected by the specific manufacturing defects that courser says included a deformity and the heat pipe that would be visible by the naked eye up to one millimeter in depth so we're unaffected here we didn't see anything that bad it was still bad just not there the second unit exhibited much the same level miss as the one we have

Here Corsair ranges from about seven microns to 77 microns with point-to-point Delta's caotic across the axis the Noctua Nhu 14s is a lower end single tower single fan cooler that is overall more consistent in its levelness the deep cool assassin 3 is the most impressive of both thus far and has nearly perfect deltas for several of the measurements with several data points at 15 microns the AMD Wraith prism revisions is also clustered centrally note that manufacturing variation run to run will impact single unit outcomes but we err

On the side of caution since we didn't anticipate review units should be more likely to lean towards the good end of production batches also we have two of them and they're about the same Corsair is a 500 has more variation in depth from a known zero point then it's tested competition and that's true against both units their own taste we'll have to fill these gaps and considering the average their own compound ranges from four watts per meter Kelvin maybe eight on the high end while copper runs closer to 400 watts per meter Kelvin at 25 C this puts

Corsairs manufacturing at a disadvantage you want as little thrown face as possible between those two interfaces our next chart normalizes the noise levels to 35 DBA between all the coolers it's easy for any CPU cooler to get to the top of the chart by running 110 rpm with loud fans but that's not impressive you could just brute force your way there with a faster fan and people don't have tolerance for jet engines that close to their heads we have 100% speed charts next if you really care but 35 DBA establishes who has the most efficient cooler design and eliminates

For overbearing fans note that 35 DBA doesn't actually mean anything in a vacuum unless you take the measurements at a set distance and with a known noise floor as noise meters are extremely sensitive to any mind you at distance changes and a lot of reviewers will leave out the information of how they took the noise measurement you can't just randomly pointed out the cooler you need a process so we take our measurements at 20 inches from the front of the fan it's 26 for the noise floor the wind is never directed at the meter because this would invalidate the result

And the noise floor of 26 DB would be about equivalent to a suburban house with the a/c off without any street noise and without much inside noise it's quiet in other words separately remember that it's all about how much power is being pushed into the cooler for the first chart it's about 123 Watts will test the 3950 acts later with more chip 'lets and higher power consumption at about 200 watts for some additional heat load time to get rid of the beat roll again and put the chart on the screen so this is 35 DBA for an r7 3800 X overclocked

With the Corsair a 500 as stated earlier we're starting with a limited set of coolers while we build out our new CPU core test bench for this one the Knox 20 cheat that's his present only to establish a floor for a weaker cooler that still improved overstock that's at 61 degrees Celsius over ambient so that have you into the 80s on an open-air bench and towards the 90 is in a warm average computer case our ambient temperatures are heavily controlled 21 degrees Celsius and is monitored every second of the test with less than plus or minus 1

Degree the Corsair a 500 equipped with relatively inefficient 120mm fans measures at 56.5 degrees over ambient for the 123 while EPS 12 volt load temperature the Noctua NHD 15 is with an error and is effectively equal at this power load but we'll talk about why that's not a good result for the a 500 and a moment assassin 3 is also within range all of these coolers including the single tower and hu 14s are about the same on performance on the 3800 acts when tested in this environment it's simply not enough power load to load the

Bigger coolers and so we lose test resolution and the ability to establish these small differences there are essentially you can think of this like benchmarking a CPU with a load which isn't sufficiently CPU intensive to illustrate differences between two parts that are otherwise very similar this isn't thermally intensive enough to really draw out the difference but it's still useful data that's all ok though because a lot of people will use their CPUs and their coolers this way so it's still useful to know for someone who isn't into overclocking the 3950 axe has

Significantly better heat flux it's got reduced voltage requirements against something like 3,800 X 3900 X 2 which means that there's a nonlinear scaling of cooler performance against stock CPUs the 3950 axe will be easier to cool then a 3900 ax in some instances but you're still dealing with more cores so keep that in mind as well we used our custom-made dummy heater to rapidly prototype our theory that a higher heat load would throw the results out of alignment for the most part and once we confirmed our thoughts we moved everything over to a 39 50 X real-world

Test you can learn more about our custom engineered dummy heaters on the GN Steve secondary channel these are units that we spent some time on and a lot of money on to work with a company to build them out for us all the same rules apply here but we're now at 198 watt heat load on a 39 50 X which has an extra chip lit version of the 3800 acts note that we previously disproved the belief that the heat pipe orientation against chip what's matters it's a different thing entirely that's not why we're switching the CPUs we're switching them to get higher power

Consumption it's only only relevant here the chip lit difference because it spreads the heat differently than 38-hundred acts so we only have three coolers on this chart because it was just added for this test specifically but we'll continue building on it as we add coolers in this limited chart we've established that the a500 begins to deviate more from its competitors the nhd 15 an assasin 3 remained within test variation and error of one another and so are functionally equivalent the Corsair a 500 begins to fall behind exiting error and marking a difference

Of 2 point 7 degrees Celsius load and about the same for idle this doesn't change the world in any respect and honestly wouldn't really matter in a practical sense but there's also just no reason to buy something that's objectively worse especially when cheaper better options exist of course there's a 500 is a weak showing for the company's first revisit to air coolers our dummy heater allowed us to test that the a 500 continues to fall behind as the heat load increases further but we're not able to easily test this on a real-world deployment since the

Processor begins approaching stability limitations at temperatures nearly 90 degrees Celsius TDI this would only really start to matter on something else like Intel HD DT where the gaps should further widen in theory but Theory only matters so much with these just don't buy something worse on purpose it doesn't make sense this chart is for Auto frequency results meaning we've eliminated our frequency control eliminating fixed frequency control puts frequency back into the hands of precision boost too which means that we deviate from pure thermal

Numbers and begin to look at a metric of frequency scaling versus performance you must control the frequency to have accurate throw measurements but we can use this for a different metric if frequency goes up heat will go up but two coolers with the same temperature aren't necessarily the same performance frequency might be higher on one of them it might be boosting higher because it's cooler we still control voltages and fan speeds with this one set to 35 DBA and 1.2 37v courgette or 1.06 3 vs or C get but frequency is left to control contingent

Upon thermals and this one the a 500 runs equal to the NOx wa NHD 15 both are with an error of each other the deep cool Assassin 3 ended up about 40 to 12 mega Hertz and so carries a 0.36% uplift over the Corsair a 500 these are basically the same none of these three big air coolers make much of a difference for frequency at least at least not from each other but they do have noise implications covered elsewhere in this content for perspective the stock and the erased prism revision see at 35 DBA ends up at around 40 100 megahertz so we've got a

2.4 percent range top to bottom remember that an average of all core frequency does mean that the 100 megahertz here and there will add up to materialise and potentially larger differences than a simple arithmetic Delta of the average all core number also note that we are running the voltage lower than the motherboard does by default so boards that push higher voltage will chop more off the top of the auto frequency scale this chart will show the 3800 X again same settings as before but now with a 100% fan speed for each cooler instead of 35 DB a noise normalized fan speeds

This means that we deviate from the controlled fan speed and coolers are allowed to run however loud they want we've added DBA markers next to each coolers name to help us and you identify where each one lands for noise as well as thermals Corsair gets absolutely embarrassed here although it's at the top of the chart you really need noise for a perspective it's just sort of depressing really coarse there's single tower dual 120 millimeter cooler has to run at 23 50 rpm and 50 1.1 DBA to equate the Noctua NHD 15 at 1500 rpm and 43.9 DBA that gets you the same thermal

Results remember that noise is logarithmic so the increase in volume is nonlinear every 10 DBA is about a 2x increase strictly and perceive the noise to the human ear this is a rule of thumb measurement for a subjective matter please note that we are not talking about acoustic power which scales differently but rather purely perceived noise to the human ear the deep cool assassin 3 in spite of its false advertising is still a better cooler than the Corsair a 500 it's not better than the NHD 15 here from an efficiency standpoint but it's a lot better than

The a 546 DBA and the same thermals of course considering that the Nhu 14s is within 2 degrees at 39 DBA none of these coolers look very good with this platform we'll need to move to a higher heat load to see differences and a lot of that will be numbers that we look at in future videos we're really focusing on the big coolers versus each other today the 39 50x chart doesn't how much much in the way of thermal differences this time but that's because they've all been configured to compete with the NHD 15 specifically NOx was cooler is the oldest here and each of

Its competitors on this chart marketed to press that their products would match the D 15 in this respect it's no surprise that there's not much distinction at full fan speeds we'll need to get some smaller coolers on here in the future and better determine how much an NH e 14s might fall behind versus the 3800 X charts even still once again course there's a 500 ends up as an embarrassment here it has to run significantly higher noise levels in order to achieve parity with its competition again there's just no reason to intentionally buy something

Objectively worse and more expensive unless you like the look and courser doesn't really fit that bill either so the conclusion for this one there's really no reason to buy something that's just objectively worse even if it's only a couple degrees and heavily controlled tests the whole point of doing testing like this is to try and find a difference and does two point seven degrees matter well not a whole lot but also if you well for one thing the noise profile of the other coolers is much better this one gets a lot louder and it doesn't gain anything for

That noise that's really the downside a lot of the time when you have something that runs super loud like annoyingly loud it also has more Headroom for performance but this one doesn't it falls off it levels out about where the d15 does that's significantly lower noise so there's really not a lot of reason to buy this because you're not even getting extra Headroom for overclocking with the higher fan speeds you're getting the same thing for louder and if you run them noise normalize then the others are a bit advantaged at higher power and heat loads but they're

Equal at a let's say 120 watt load for the 3800 X or something like that these scaling will increase as you moved to hdt parts if you happen to buy an Intel HD d2 part you really should be avoiding this one but even then it's not massively different it's just that it's different enough that is not worth buying and maybe you buy it for looks but there's not a lot of that going on here either so really what this is is this is coarse here trying to make a product that it can sell in its pre volt computer ecosystem that it is trying to spin up to compete with mzx ease build

That's what this product is because there's a lot of reason to buy it the DIY market so this is one where you know we exercised our right that we reserved with all advertisers with this particular product because of course they asked us to run an ad for it which is completely fine that is within the ad agreement they can ask us what products run ads for but we could also say no and so after we had tested this one we said you know what we just don't feel comfortable running ads for this it's not good enough it's not it's not

Objectively bad but it's bad in a sense of relative comparison which is all that really matters so we ret rejected that ran hydroxides instead but anyway this thing is not something we can recommend right now it has several service level 'no stop the main issue though it's one of them but fans are another one the noise profile is not good it is not competitive and noise normalize performance and it's not really a look or either so at least not in a unique way that matters so that's it for this one thanks for watching our first jump back into CB air cooler reviews and

Years we spent a long time getting back to this point because we've become so paranoid about data accuracy over the years we know enough now to know the the flaws in testing and that obviously makes it a lot harder to do because you start knowing enough that it slows you down but we're there now so thanks for watching subscribe for more go to patreon.com/scishow and access to get access to bonus footage you can subscribe to the GM steve secondary channel as well if you want to see the behind the scenes video we did publicly for our new dummy heaters and store

Document access dotnet to support us directly if you'd like to help us and making more videos about stuff like this we'll see you all next time

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