OCZ Gladiator Max CPU Cooler Review

Introduction

With the introduction of Intel’s latest range of processors – the i7 series – thermal solutions manufactures have been caught between two minds: to create a new cooler which is better able to counter the 130W TDP of these new processors or to create a mounting mechanism for an existing CPU cooler in their range to allow it to fit the LGA1366 motherboards.

OCZ took the decision to do the later and created the Force II support brackets for the Gladiator Max. The cooler follows popular tower format design utilises a single 120mm fan but will this be enough cooling for the high heat-producing i7 920? Let’s find out…

OCZ’s Take on the Gladiator Max

Combining a distinctive stacked fin array, heat-pipe direct touch (HDT) design, and a large low-noise fan, the Gladiator series is built to take on the cooling challenges of today’s most powerful processors and ensure your system functions at its peak.

Utilizing the proven performance of the latest HDT design, the Gladiator series has direct contact with the processor using four copper heat pipes to ensure the most rapid heat transfer. The unique “folded” fin configuration also helps maximize surface area while maintaining a compact form factor.

Engineered to aggressively dissipate heat produced by high-speed CPUs, the Gladiator series can tackle any challenge in the overclocking arena. These coolers run quiet courtesy of a large fan mounted with anti-vibration rubber connectors to reduce excess noise, perfect for a media centre or office desktop where silence is a top priority. The versatile and user-friendly Gladiator series is compatible with AMD AM2/939/754/755 and Intel 775 sockets and can be installed quickly and easily by end-users at all skill levels.

Features

  • H.D.T. (Heat-pipe Direct Touch) Technology
  • 4 Pure Copper Wall Heat Pipes allow for superior heat transfer
  • Anti-vibration rubber design for noise reduction
  • Light weight aluminium fins
  • 120mm highly efficient PWM fan
  • Ultra-Quiet 19-26 dBA
  • Easy to install: LGA775 push-pin/ K8 & AM2 tool-less clip

Specifications

  • For Sockets AMD 754/755/939/940/AM2, Intel LGA775
  • 4 Pure copper heat pipes for superior heat dissipation
  • Pure Aluminium alloy fins for ultimate durability

Fan Specs:

  • Size: 120mm x 120mm x 25mm
  • Weight: 780g (with fan)
  • Rated Voltage: 12V DC
  • Fan Speed: 800-1500RPM
  • Noise Level: 19.6 – 26.4 dBA
  • Bearing type: Rifle
  • Life Expectancy: 40,000 hours
  • Connector: 4-pin with PWM

Dimensions:

  • Heatsink: (L)63 x (W)120 x (H)165mm

Contents & Packaging

The box for the Gladiator Max is visually very interesting. The front is mostly taken up with a cut-out window showing off the 120mm fan inside; the Gladiator CPU cooler uses a 92mm fan but this ‘Max’ version has been given a larger 120mm in order to be a ‘High performance CPU Cooler’ in the words of OCZ.

The background colour is a mixture of light and dark blues further probably with the intention of further emphasising the cooling ability of the Gladiator Max.

The back is home to a large image of the cooler showing off the H.D.T. (Heat-pipe Direct Touch) base along with a host of contact information at the bottom.

The sides are reserved for the multitude of features and specifications.

Inside the box, the cooler and bundled accessories are housed inside a foam protector to keep them safe during transit. The list of accessories is as follows:

  • LGA775 pushpin clips
  • K8/AM2 clip
  • Sachet of thermal paste
  • Screws
  • Rubber fan mounts
  • Installation manual

The rubber fan mounts are the equivalent to wire fan clips but they don’t require rubber strips like the clips do as the rubber mounts absorb the vibrations.

OCZ also kindly sent a tube of their Freeze thermal paste and an LGA1366 mounting clip but I’ll come on to those in more detail a little later.

OCZ Gladiator Max

The Gladiator Max follows the tower format design featuring a large stack of aluminium fins with four heatpipes running through the design so as to give a maximum surface area for heat loss. The closeness of the fins allows for a greater amount which in turns leads to a higher surface area and better cooling.

However, tight fins can sometimes have an adverse cooling effect as without the correct fan with a high static pressure to push the air through the smaller gaps, the air does not flow as well.

The shape of each individual fin is a little different to the conventional rectangular shape; instead the aluminium fins are semicircular with a dip through the centre. This not only breaks up the linear movement of the air so as to increase cooling but also projects the area over a greater area.

The top fin has an indented OCZ logo and as we have come to expect, the pipe ends are nicely rounded and polished.

The heatpipes are slightly offset from one another too so as to ensure heat is evenly distributed and also reaches all parts of the heatsink for maximum cooling.

The copper pipes are polished up giving the Gladiator Max a much more attractive look; aesthetics are vital in today’s ever-more looks-conscious society.

The base for this particular cooler is something that is being explored more and more. In times gone past, the base was generally a cooper block that encased the heatpipes in order to create a very smooth and flat finish for a better contact with the IHS of the processor. However, for this cooler and other’s using H.D.T., the heatpipes are flattened out at the bottom allowing direct contact without the need to any extra copper layers.

In theory this should mean that more heat is transferred to the fin stack and thus dissipated; in reality the technology is still to be proven though with some coolers excelling and for others, the less said the better.

In any case, the base for the Gladiator Max looks to be very well-manufactured created a smooth finish although of course the small grooves between heatpipes cannot be avoiding but a good TIM should fill up these gaps anyway.

Now let’s move onto the fan. Branded with the OCZ logo, this black 120mm design has an operating speed of 800-1500RPM at a noise level of 19.6-26.4dBA.

The life expectancy of the fan comes in at 40,000 with the use of a rifle bearing. Other small aspects have been paid attention by OCZ such as routing the wires behind a black clip to keep them tidy.

The total weight of the cooler (with the fan attached) comes in at 780g – not too heavy allowing the use of the push-pin clips for the LGA775 socket without putting too much strain on the motherboard PCB.

OCZ Freeze Thermal Compound

OCZ sent a tube of their top thermal compound over too so we will be testing it out against the NT-H1 we normally use for testing.

Features:

  • New Proprietary Non-Toxic Formula
  • Low Thermal Resistance
  • High Thermal Conductivity

Specifications:

  • Thermal Resistance: 0.032 degrees/W
  • Dielectric Constant @ 1kHz: 10.0
  • Specific Gravity: 3.5g/cm3
  • Shelf life: 24 months
  • Oxidation/ozone/solvent Resistance
  • RoHS Compliant

The tube arrives in blister packaging. The front has some a blue/ ice crystal background linking in with the Freeze title.

The back is home to the stats, a brief blurb on the thermal compound and some usage instructions.

The tube is reasonable size and contains a light grey paste inside. The consistency seems about right with it not being too runny or too sticky – just right for spreading.

 

Gladiator Max LGA775/LGA1366 Mounting Bracket

The mounting kit comes in a little box with some blue wisps on the front making an X. The front has a list of features and the back a set of instructions on how to use the parts inside.

Inside there are lots of bits and pieces: a backplate for the LGA1366 and backwards compatible with LGA775. A number of screws and springs for holding everything in place and a sticky sheet in the shape of the backplate to hold it to the back of the motherboard making installation much easier.

Installation

The Test Setup:

ProcessorIntel Core i7 920 @ 2.67GHz
MotherboardAsus P6T
Graphics CardXFX 1GB Radeon 4870
MemoryOCZ Gold Triple Channel Platinum-10666 6GB (3 x 2GB)
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda 3.0GB/s 7200.10 500GB,
Western Digital Caviar Blue 160GB
Power SupplyNOX Apex 700W
EnclosureCooler Master ATCS-840
OSWindows Vista 64-bit

The first part of the installation is very routine, have your screwdriver at the ready and attach the mounting brackets to the base of the heatsink using the provided screws and the holes either side of the base.

Then align the brackets with the backplate beneath the motherboard and using the long screws and a spring, screw the brackets into the backplate – it sounds a little complicated here but it’s very easy.

Attaching the fan is very simple with the anti-vibration rubber mounts. They just clip over a fin and then push into the heatsink. Once all four are in place the fan covers the whole fin stack ensuring that airflow is pushed through each and every fin.

Testing

Methodology

At Verdis Reviews, we test CPU coolers by booting the PC up into Windows Vista and then taking temperatures in both idle and load states.

The temperatures are taking using Core Temp and averaging the four core temperatures. For idle testing, we simply leave the PC for 30 minutes and then come back and take the temperature readings. For load, we run prime95 for 20 minutes before taking temperature readings once more.

Thermal results will be recorded with the i7 920 CPU @ 2.67GHz (stock) and overclocked to 3.6GHz with a Vcore of 1.35V.

Finally, noise is that final factor that is tested; however, at Verdis Reviews, we are not yet at the stage where we can use high tech sound equipment and therefore, noise testing is left to the human ear – not the most scientific but it gives a good impression of how noisy the cooler is.

Ambient temperature was 18 degrees and the Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 and reference coolers were used for comparison purposes.

Results

Cooling

The OCZ Gladiator finds itself in the middle; it easily beats the Intel reference cooling as expected but it’s still a few degrees of the Noctua LGA1366 cooling. However when you consider that the Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 is not only a larger heatsink but also has dual fans, you can see that the OCZ Gladiator Max has done pretty well.

Overall this is solid performance and although to those users still not familiar with the i7 technology, the temperatures might seem a lot higher than say from a dual core processor and this is due to the higher TDP, up at 130W.

Thermal Paste

As you can see the OCZ Freeze compound is right up there and almost on a level par with the very well-renowned NT-H1 just losing out by a single degree at load states. Moreover, it is able to beat Scythe’s compound by a few degrees.

Noise
This is one area of testing that I was very impressed with, the single 120mm fan was really very quiet and virtually inaudible above the other fans in the test rig – for silent enthusiasts this might well be a great contender.

Cost
The OCZ Gladiator Max will set you back around £30 which is a very reasonable price indeed. When you look at the Noctua cooler that is over £50, yes you do get a better performance but the OCZ Gladiator Max is a much better alternative if you don’t want to break the bank.

Conclusion

This particular cooler doesn’t have the fire power to beat the real top end coolers such as the NH-U12P SE1366 but it offers a very solid set of temperatures that are fine for most users. The noise levels are really very impressive and this is due to the single fan configuration; of course max performance will come from heatsinks with dual fan setups but for silent enthusiast this would be a very good contender.

This is probably not the best air cooler for overclockers wanting to squeeze every last bit of performance from their i7 processors but then those enthusiasts will probably be looking at water cooling or even something a bit more extreme.

The OCZ Gladiator Max is a very reasonably priced CPU cooler that can offer solid performance and very low noise levels. It’s not the best ever but it’s well worth a look, especially if silence is vital.

Pros

  • Solid Results
  • Very quiet
  • Affordable
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Not able to match results of really high end coolers
  • Have to purchase the LGA1366 mounting bracket separately

Thanks go to OCZ for providing the cooler for review.

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