It's fair to say that Xigmatek are perhaps better known for their range of cases than their range of CPU coolers. But lets not think that because of this they don't know what they're doing. The Prime, or to give it it's "Sunday" Name the Prime SD1484 appears to have all the right ingredients to make it a good if not great mid range/enthusiast cooler.
4x8mm heatpipes -check.
Direct contact heat-pipes - check.
Tower type design - check
2x140mm fans - check.
However anyone who's ever baked a cake from a recipe will tell you, it's one thing to have all the right ingredients, but it's another thing to be able to put them together properly and finish up with something edible. For a better look at the full list of ingredients please see the Technical specification below.
Intel CPU Compatibility
AMD CPU Compatibility
90.3 CFM (max)
18 dBA (max)
4 Pin PWM
800 to 1200 RPM
140 x 140 x 25 mm
PWM Fan Control
1 x Xigmatek Prime Cooler
Up Close: Packaging and Accessories.
The Prime comes packaged in a sturdy cardboard box, with the exterior giving graphic representation of the contents as well as product specifications and highlights. Inside the Prime is nestled in an expanded polystyrene cut out, with the first of the 140mm fans having it's own separate section. Accessories and instructions are also contained in a separate small box. This separation of items within the packaging goes a long way to protecting them from damaging each other in transit, and as the example I received for review had clearly had something of an impact along the way with the contents being perfectly preserved I think we can safely say that the packaging is up to the job.
Also included, although packed separately is a second 140mm fan, shown below with the contents of the fixings and accessories box. The long gangly black things in case you're wondering are the rubber fan attachment clips. Acting sort of like bungees they not only secure the fans to the cooler but also serve as noise and vibration isolators. It's the first time I've come across this method of fitting personally, although I have seen it used on other heat-sinks. I was a little nervous to begin with with regards to how much force to use as I was worried about snapping them or slitting them on the fins of the heatsink, however as it turns out I needn't have worried as you can pretty much stretch them as much as you like. All that said, it would have been nice to see a few spares in the box to cover any disasters.
Up Close: Single fan configuration.
As the Prime can be run with either single or dual fan set up I thought I'd show each in turn. Starting of course with a picture of it naked as the day it was born.
The Prime stands 159mm high with a width of 145mm. With a single fan attached the depth of the prime comes in at 90mm. In the set up I used this was just enough to interfere with any tall heatsinked RAM I may have installed on the first slot of my MOBO. As it was, with just the 2nd 4th and 6th slots filed I had no issues. The fan that comes included within the box is of the 4 pin PWM variety as pictured below.
At 140mm wide the fan covers every part of the heat-sink and does to some extent overlap the edges at the top and bottom, I guess making sure there's not even a small part of the prime that goes without air being blown over it. From the picture in the bottom left, taken through the heat-sink from the rear we can see that the heat-pipes are quite evenly spaced with a slight bias to the outer edges over the centre.
Up Close: Twin Fan Configuration.
It's when we add the second fan that this heat-sink really begins to step out of the shadows and give a bit of a hint as to what it might be capable of. Don't forget these aren't little 120mm fans here. What we have is two 140mm fans in a push pull configuration (well we do if I've put them both on the right way round, don't laugh, it's very easy to get it wrong). Unlike the primary fan the second fan is a standard 3 pin affair but identical in all other respects.
I have to be honest when I first saw the bungee method of attaching the fans I thought it was more than a bit cheap and to be frank a bit naff and inelegant. My first impressions weren't in anyway allayed when I made my first attempts at attaching them, being very worried of snapping them or worse still bending the fins on the heat-sink. I have to say my fears were unfounded as both the bungees and the heat-sink are a good deal more resilient than I had given them credit for, and although it can't be denied there is a definite knack to using them they are on the whole a very ingenious piece of simplistic engineering. I'd actually go as far as to say that having encountered many and varied forms of attaching fans to heat-sinks, I am now something of a convert to the bungee technique
Up Close: Up really close
If you've ever pulled in a night club you'll know that it's often only in the cold light of day and in better lighting conditions than the average club provides that you finally get a good look at the the at the goods as it were. It's fair to say that often what you thought was a super model may well look more like an air-fix model (of the Bismark). What I'm trying to say here is that it's often only when we get really up close to something that we get a real feel for quality and how well it's put together. Well I can tell you that if you happened to wake up next to the Xigmatek Prime the following morning you wouldn't be looking to make a hasty exit (actually if you did make up next to a heatsink after a night on the town it probably means you've been out with Tom. Ask Mr Strawberry about the colour of his "motions" following a certain beer drinking session and you'll get an idea of what I mean)
Back to the Plot then. yes this is a well put together piece of kit. The heatsink is of the direct contact variety with each flattened milled pipe affording a large surface contact area. The quality of the Nickel plating is high with no perceptable faults or inclusions.
The thin Aluminium fins are evenly spaced and almost form two individual towers were it not for occasional groups of twin bridging fins between the two sets. The uppermost aluminium fin has a very faint Xigmatek logo imprinted on it, which for the life of me eluded my ability to get a good photograph of it.
To Finish of the close ups I thought I'd pop in a few Macro shots of the fins and heat-pipe terminations.
Fitting the Xigmatek prime is a simple two stage affair, in many ways almost identical to the Enermax ETS-T40 which if you've read that review you'll know filled me with a sense of happiness and well being. The same sense that all is right with the world is felt when fitting the Prime. Nice easy to understand instructions, with clearly labelled parts and options for many many sockets to be accommodated. A single reversible backplate provides mounting for all supprted AMD and Intel sockets, with pass through bolts going from back to front and being held securely by front side plates. The heat-sink is then positioned with a cross bar locking it in place by means of spring tensioned screws. You have to fit the heat-sink without the fans attached of course which is typical for a cooler of this size, and like most medium to large sized coolers attaching the fans after can be a bit of a fiddle. Start to finish you're looking at around ten minutes to do the job. No bleeding knuckles were sustained and no swearwords were used.
As i've said in the past, if this section's short then that's a good thing. And as this section's very short then this must be a very good thing indeed.
To provide continuity the test set up is as always
Gigabyte UD3R V2
Intel i7 950 @ 4GHz 1.25v & 1.35v
Mushkin Radioactive 2000MHz
Cooler Master Storm Trooper
For the first test we set our i7-950 overclocked to 200x20 @ 1.25v for a clock speed of 4.0GHz. We allow the system to idle for 10 minutes and then run Prime95 'maximum heat maximum stress' setting for a further 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes we note the temperatures of all cores and the ambient temperature of the room. An average of all cores is taken, then the ambient temperature is removed from this figure and this gives us the delta temperature. Delta is the temperature difference above ambient which is a truer reflection of the heat-sink performance rather than mere maximum figures. Testing in an Igloo or the Sahara would give vastly different maximum temperatures, yet the Delta could be the same. As this unit is supplied with 2 fans I have tested in both single and dual fan configuration.
The second test follows all steps from above but with a 200x21 @ 1.35v for 4.2GHz overclock, the extra voltage in this test allows us to see if the heat-sink can cope when extreme loads and overclocks are applied. As with 4.0GHz the Heatsink was tested in both single and dual fan configuration.
What to make of the Prime then? Well from the performance figures I'd have to say things are looking up. I wasn't actually expecting the Prime to do as well as it did. Having reviewed the Coolermaster Hyper 212 and the Enermax ETS-T40 I was expecting much of the same, mainly because on the face of it the Prime looks to be much of a muchness with the afore mentioned coolers.
The devil is in the detail as they say, and in this case the detail lies in the use of 8mm heat-pipes instead of 6mm, the use of 140mm fans instead of 120mm, and the option to use two of these fans rather than one. On their own each of these variances wouldn't contribute a significant improvement, but when combined there is a definite difference to be seen. As the saying goes, "The sum of the parts appears greater than the whole".
Not only does it best the two coolers mentioned above but it's also able to stand toe to toe with a few of the bigger boys, not least of which is the massive BeQuiet Dark Rock Pro. The Prime is a good £15 cheaper than the Pro but able to outperform it at 4.0 and come pretty close to matching it at 4.2GHz, all that without the RAM clearance issues and the Pro being a bit of a git to fit. The story is much the same with the Prolimatech Super mega, The Prime pretty much matching performance at 4.0 but being slightly bettered at 4.2. Again it's worth remembering that the Super mega is a massive cooler with a price tag to match, and that's before you've factored in the cost of the fans.
Quality wise Xigmatek are ticking all the right boxes also. OK it's not the most glam unit in the world but then if you find tower coolers glamorous and perhaps strangely arousing you probably need to seek medical advice. It has a good weight and feel about it, the Nickel plating is of good quality, there are no bent fins, no smears or defects on the aluminium and the unit is well boxed and presented. Add to all that the ease of fitting and things continue to look Rosy. Damn it, I can't even criticise the instructions (and boy do I love to do that given the opportunity).
So how could it be improved? Well if I wanted to be really picky (and when don't I) I'd have to say that at full tatt the fans aren't the quietest I've heard on a cooler, the (Enermax's taking that title). Not actually noisy, just not silent. The box gives the noise rating of the cooler as 18dB-A however the fans themselves on the Xigmatek website appear to be rated at 21dB-A. I'm inclined to go with the later figure as opposed to the former, but remember this is purely a subjective rating of perceived noise on my behalf. Also, remember we do all the testing at 12Volts so the fans are run flat out. Hook the fans up via the PWM and things change considerably with the fans only stepping up from near silent to a bit of a whir when workload demands. While were talking about fans, it's worth remembering these aren't LED units, although Xigmatek do make a version of this fan that is. So don't do expecting any flashy light shows or case illumination. That said I do quite like the waveform styling and the nice touch of the twin silver styling strips on the leading edges of the blades.
I started this review by saying that having the right ingredients for a cake doesn't necessarily mean you're going to make anything remotely edible. In other words a lot of it has to do with how you put the ingredients together. So as a company primarily recognised for making good cases are Xigmatek good at making heatsinks? Can Xigmatek take the ingredients for a cake and put them together well?
Who knows? But they certainly seem to know a good baker. Let me explain. In my life I know I can do some things well, my core business as it were, but baking just ain't one of those things, so if I need a cake baking I go to a baker and tell them what I want. It's exactly the same with a lot of manufacturing, and not just PC components. If a company wants something making it will tend to go to an OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) and ask them to make something to their own recipe. They use the skill of the 3rd party baker to make the cake that tastes the way they want it to at the price they want to charge for it
It's not surprise then that when you look at Toms review of the Havik that you will see more than a few similarities with the Prime. Essentially the Prime is a Havik with 2 less heat pipes. Everything else right down to the fans are exactly the same. Mainly because they are made by the same people in the same factory..... Xigmatek.
None of this should detract from the point that the Prime is a good cooler, but then it should be, it's made by a good baker. Throw into the mix that you can pick this up for a smidge under £40 and it gets hard to resist such a tempting offer.
Thanks to Xigmatek for the Prime on test today, you can discuss your thoughts in our forums.