Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on June 22, 2012
Today, we are testing the Xigmatek Dark Knight “Night Hawk Edition” CPU cooler. It has a conservative design (with tower heatsink, three 8 mm direct-touch heatpipes, and one 120 mm fan) except for the matte black ceramic coating on the heatsink and heatpipes.
The Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition (let’s just call it “Night Hawk” from now on) is not a matte black version of the Dark Knight, which we already reviewed. Although they both have a tower design with three 8 mm heatpipes, those two coolers are very different, not sharing even the mounting system.
A matte black coating is, theoretically, a good idea, since the more reflexive a surface is, the worse it is to irradiate heat. However, on active (i.e., fan equipped) coolers, heat conduction from the fins to the flowing air is the main heat transmitting occurrence, and irradiation is almost irrelevant.
The box of the Night Hawk has a front window that allows you to see the fan (but not the heatsink) as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: heatsink, fan, a small bag of thermal compound, manuals, and installation hardware. The Night Hawk comes with only one fan, but it supports two, coming with the rubber bolts for installing two fans.
Figure 3 displays the heatsink of the Night Hawk.
This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.
Figure 4 illustrates the front of the heatsink. Notice that all parts of the heatsink, including fins, base and heatpipes, are covered by the matte black coating.
Figure 5 reveals the side of the cooler. The fins are folded at the side, creating a partially closed surface.
In Figure 6, you can see the top of the cooler. The fins have recesses at the four sides, creating concave areas on the heatsink.
Figure 7 illustrates the base of the cooler. This is the only part that is not covered by the matte black coating. The three 8 mm heatpipes keep direct contact to the CPU.
Figure 8 reveals the 120 mm fan which has four white LEDs. It has a four-pin connector, which means it supports PWM speed control.
Figure 9 shows the Night Hawk with the fan in place.
Figures 10 and 11 show the installation of the holder frame on the motherboard. You must put the backplate on the solder side of the motherboard, and then attach the four thumbscrews from the component side. Afterwards, put the metal bars (each one has a screw at the center) in place, securing them with thumbnuts.
Then, put the cooler in place, holding it with a transversal bar.
The last step is to install the fan, as shown in Figure 13.
We tested the cooler with a Core i5-2500K CPU (quad-core, 3.3 GHz), which is a socket LGA1155 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power). In order to get higher thermal dissipation, we overclocked it to 4.0 GHz (100 MHz base clock and x40 multiplier), with 1.3 V core voltage (Vcore). This CPU was able to reach 4.8 GHz with its default core voltage, but at this setting, the processor enters thermal throttling when using mainstream coolers, reducing the clock and thus the thermal dissipation. This could interfere with the temperature readings, so we chose to maintain a moderate overclocking.
We measured noise and temperature with the CPU under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all cores, we ran Prime 95 25.11 with the “In-place Large FFTs” option. (In this version, the software uses all available threads.)
We compared the tested cooler to other coolers we already tested, and to the stock cooler that comes with the Core i5-2500K CPU. Note that the results cannot be compared to measures taken on a different hardware configuration, so we retested some “old” coolers with this new methodology. This means you can find different values in older reviews than the values you will read on the next page. Every cooler was tested with the thermal compound that comes with it.
Room temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer. The core temperature was read with the SpeedFan program (available from the CPU thermal sensors), using an arithmetic average of the core temperature readings.
During the tests, the panels of the computer case were closed. The front and rear case fans were spinning at minimum speed in order to simulate the “normal” cooler use on a well-ventilated case. We assume that is the common setup used by a cooling enthusiast or overclocker.
The sound pressure level (SPL) was measured with a digital noise meter, with its sensor placed near the top opening of the case. This measurement is only for comparison purposes, because a precise SPL measurement needs to be made inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, which is not the case here.
Operating System Configuration
We adopted a 2°C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2°C are considered irrelevant.
The table below presents the results of our measurements. We repeated the same test on all coolers listed below. Each measurement was taken with the CPU at full load. In the models with a fan supporting PWM, the motherboard controlled the fan speed according to core load and temperature. On coolers with an integrated fan controller, the fan was set at the full speed.
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.||Temp. Diff.|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3||18 °C||50 dBA||2850 rpm||69 °C||51 °C|
|Corsair A70||23 °C||51 dBA||2000 rpm||66 °C||43 °C|
|Corsair H100||26 °C||62 dBA||2000 rpm||64 °C||38 °C|
|EVGA Superclock||26 °C||57 dBA||2550 rpm||67 °C||41 °C|
|NZXT HAVIK 140||20 °C||46 dBA||1250 rpm||65 °C||45 °C|
|Thermalright True Spirit 120||26 °C||42 dBA||1500 rpm||82 °C||56 °C|
|Zalman CNPS12X||26 °C||43 dBA||1200 rpm||71 °C||45 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 Max||20 °C||51 dBA||1700 rpm||62 °C||42 °C|
|Titan Fenrir Siberia Edition||22 °C||50 dBA||2400 rpm||65 °C||43 °C|
|SilenX EFZ-120HA5||18 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||70 °C||52 °C|
|Noctua NH-L12||20 °C||44 dBA||1450 rpm||70 °C||50 °C|
|Zalman CNPS8900 Extreme||21 °C||53 dBA||2550 rpm||71 °C||50 °C|
|Gamer Storm Assassin||15 °C||48 dBA||1450 rpm||58 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 400||15 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||60 °C||45 °C|
|Cooler Master TPC 812||23 °C||51 dBA||2350 rpm||66 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 300||18 °C||43 dBA||1650 rpm||74 °C||56 °C|
|Intel stock cooler||18 °C||41 dBA||2000 rpm||97 °C||79 °C|
|Xigmatek Praeton||19 °C||52 dBA||2900 rpm||83 °C||64 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P SE2||18 °C||42 dBA||1300 rpm||69 °C||51 °C|
|Deepcool Frostwin||24 °C||46 dBA||1650 rpm||78 °C||54 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio Advanced||13 °C||56 dBA||2000 rpm||62 °C||49 °C|
|Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition||9 °C||48 dBA||2100 rpm||53 °C||44 °C|
In the graph below, you can see how many degrees Celsius hotter the CPU core is than the air outside the case. The lower this difference, the better is the performance of the cooler.
In the graph below, you can see how many decibels of noise each cooler makes.
The main specifications for the Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition CPU cooler include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition has an excellent cooling performance, especially when taking into account that it is a medium-size cooler with only one 120 mm fan. In our system, it doesn’t interfere with any memory socket, allowing us to install memory modules with tall heatsinks in any socket if that is what we want.
The noise level is reasonable for a high-performance CPU cooler, and the Night Hawk looks really cool inside the case, with its “stealth-like” coating and the semi-transparent fan with white LEDs. The price tag is very attractive, too.
In short, the Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition has great performance, good noise level, great look, and an excellent price/performance ratio, deserving our Golden Award.