The Arctic Cooling Alpine 64 heatsink is an economical lower-noise AMD Athlon64 heatsink that allows consumers on a budget an option for reducing computer noise. By way of its specially designed and vibration dampened fan, Arctic Cooling have put together a very simple extruded aluminum heatsink that handles the heat well without all the buzz and whine.
The Alpine 64 suspends its 2000RPM fan on four dual axial rubber vibration absorbing posts. The general purpose of which is to prevent fan motor vibrations from transferring to other areas of the computer chassis which could cause noise. The 90-ish millimeter fan minimizes turbulence and noise by essentially floating the impeller alone above the aluminum component. Typical noise sources created by air moving over the edges of the frame are removed from the equation. The whole package weighs in at just 486 grams, and judging by recent information the Arctic Cooling Alpine 64 should even be compatible with AMD socket AM2 heatsink retention frames... though we aren't 100% certain.
Unless you've tested as many heatsinks as FrostyTech has, you probably won't notice one of the most significant and arguably most straightforward aspect of the Alpine 64 heatsink; the lack of a centerline clamp-load mechanism. Stock AMD K8 heatsinks have all been designed with a simple rotating cam lever to lock onto the heatsink retention frame and apply the correct clamping force in one fell swoop. The cam lever apparatus typically runs down the center length of a K8 heatsink, so naturally it obscures the hottest portion of the heatsink base and prevents cooling fins from being situated there.
The Arctic Cooling Alpine 64 heatsink does away with all of that by implementing edge-of-the-heatsink clips. Two stainless steel clips are each attached to the plastic fan support frame with a single fine thread machine screw. The fan support frame is constructed of glass fiber reinforced plastic, so it should hold up well to the clamping forces and typical case temperatures without give.
When the clips are in place on the K8 heatsink retention frame, clamping force is applied by tightening the machine screws with a phillips screwdriver. As a result of this retention method, the body of the aluminum heatsink is all cooling fin without impediment to airflow. Basically, that means there are cooling fins directly over the portion of the heatsink in contact with the core of the AMD Athlon64 CPU below.
For an all aluminum heatsink tackling something like an Athlon64 X2 3800+, that's pretty important.
The only little nagging concern we have with this arrangement is the lack of a lock washer to prevent those clip screws from backing out.... It's unlikely, but case vibrations could influence these two screws to loosen over time.
Fan Vibration Isolation
One of the novel features of the Arctic Cooling Alpine 64 heatsink is how the fan is attached to the heatsink. Traditionally, fans are clipped or screwed firmly into place. Screws will hold a fan firmly, but do nothing to prevent rattling sounds from developing elsewhere if there is a little vibration going on. The AC Alpine 64 uses rubber fixtures at each corner of the fan hold it in place.
The rubber fan mounts reduce the chance of errant noises, and at the same time absorb or dampen some of the vibrations that are inevitably caused by minor imbalances in the impeller.
Arctic Cooling's 'dualaxial' rubber post hold the lightweight Alpine 64's fan in position, in both axis. The long term stability of the rubber fixtures with respect to drying out and becoming brittle, is the one component which remains to be seen.
FrostyTech's K8 Test Methodology is outlined in detail here if you care to know what equipment is used, and the parameters under which the tests are conducted. Now let's move forward and take a closer look at this heatsink, its acoustic characteristics, and of course it performance in the thermal tests.
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