Thermal & Acoustic Performance
To assess the performance of the Nautilus 500, we dusted of an older Athlon 64 4000+ that was built using AMD's .13 micron manufacturing process. Newer AMD processors built on the company's .09 micron process run cooler and overclock higher, but we wanted to stress the Nautilus 500 with a hotter running (relatively speaking) CPU.
We'll be comparing the performance of the Nautilus 500, with its fan in "low" and "high" speed modes, to an all copper Thermaltake air cooler. We have two sets of numbers for you below. One set was recorded with our processor running at its default clock speed and core voltage (2.4GHz / 1.5v) and the other set was recorded with the processor overclocked to 2.7GHz with its core voltage set to 1.65v. Idle temperatures were recorded using Asus' PCProbe software, after letting the test system sit idle at the desktop for about 5 minutes. Load temperatures were recorded after letting the Folding@Home client run for approximately 15 minutes with the processor at a 100% load. Ambient room temperature was 22.2oC (72oF) throughout all of our testing.
At our processor's default clock speed, the Nautilus 500 was far more effective than the air cooler. At idle, the Nautilus 500 kept the CPU between 11 and 12 degrees cooler than the Thermaltake CL-P0075. And with the processor running with a full load the Nautilus kept it between 8 and 9 degrees cooler. We noticed minimal differences in performance with the Nautilus 500's fan in low or high speed modes.
We pushed our CPU to its limits for our overclocked tests. With the air cooler installed, 2.7GHz was mostly stable, but the system did crash on us after running the Folding@Home client for an extended period of time. Not so with the Nautilus 500. With the Nautilus 500 installed, our CPU ran between 15 and 16 degrees cooler at idle, and 19 to 21 degrees cooler under load. 2.7GHz was completely stable after hours and hours of folding with the Nautilus 500. Please keep in mind, that not only will water cooling typically keep your CPU running cooler, but it may allow you to hit higher overclocked frequencies as well.
We also planned to give you some data using our trusty sound level meter, but we're happy to report that the Nautilus 500 was so quiet that out meter didn't register any sound from 1 ft. away. That's not to say the unit is completely silent, but it was too quiet to register on the meter. With the fan in low speed mode, there is no way you'd be able to hear the Nautilus 500 if it was placed under your desk. And with the fan in high speed mode, it was slightly louder, but still very quiet. A quiet running PSU or typical 7200 RPM hard drive will generate more noise than the Nautilus 500.