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Eight Low-Profile CPU Coolers For Your Compact PC, Reviewed

A recent look at ASRock's M8 compact barebones PC saw us undervolting our CPU in order to run stably, overclocked. This forced us to ask the question: how much cooling can we fit inside a slim enclosure? Eight heat sink vendors helped us find the answer.

Eight Low-Profile CPU Coolers For Your Compact PC, Reviewed : Read more
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  1. Good article.
  2. I knew the noctua was going to win before I even looked at the results.
  3. It is really nice to see a low profile round up when a year ago it was hard to find low profile coolers at all. I have to ask though, were these tested on an open bench or in an enclosure? I think to really judge them you have to put them in a box. Maybe not that silly ASRock chassis, but something a like a BitFenix.

    Also, every mini-ITX motherboard is a little different. It would take some work, but it would be nice to see coolers cross referenced with different motherboards for compatibility. Just reading reviews it is pretty common to find one or two "Didn't fit my board" comments while other reviewers found the coolers to fit perfectly.
  4. Quote:
    Several others asked us for a few additional millimeters of headroom, though that would have resulted in a viscous cycle


    Do you mean vicious? Because I'm fairly sure the cycle wouldn't be a thick liquid.
  5. I am surprised that the Cooler Master GeminII didn't make this list.
  6. i feel that only a few of them ( like 3 or 4 ) are really low profile coolers, rest are just normal size, bearing in mind that the big ones are labeled as tower coolers...
  7. Inches/Millimeters/Inches/Millimeters/Inches/Millimeters....

    It's good to see consistency ;)
  8. Those things are WAY TOO BIG for really compact mITX systems....

    I'm using one from Titan that is really small: 107x70x12.5mm (official dimensions are incorrect) for the skived copper heatsink and can use 60mm or 70mm fans...i'm using a Titan fan that is 70x70x10.

    Really compact....check my build at www overclock net:D

    I i will add soon more pics and you will see something that is really small.
  9. i got here the cp 12 se14 on the lian li v 351 pushed the 3770k 4.6ghz... not bad at all now the noctua is cooling the 3470 no problems.
  10. slomo4sho said:
    I am surprised that the Cooler Master GeminII didn't make this list.


    I was going to post precisely that.

    I have one for my A8 8350 (100W) and it does a wonderful job inside a TT SD200.

    And this is the CM cooler we're talking about: CM GeminII M4

    Cheers!
  11. When is Noctua going to start making their fans in different color schemes? Their current pink on brown is the only thing that's holding me back.
  12. Nice article, I would have liked to see a Cooler Master offering in there as well.
  13. I am surprised also that Cooler Master GeminII wasn't included.
    anyone else think its ironic that Silenx's entry was that one of the loudest?
  14. Yuka said:
    slomo4sho said:
    I am surprised that the Cooler Master GeminII didn't make this list.


    I was going to post precisely that.

    I have one for my A8 8350 (100W) and it does a wonderful job inside a TT SD200.

    And this is the CM cooler we're talking about: CM GeminII M4

    Cheers!

    toms asked the vendors. may be coolermaster chose not to participate or didn't meet the set conditions. 8 vendors sent their samples according to the article.
  15. lowguppy said:
    It is really nice to see a low profile round up when a year ago it was hard to find low profile coolers at all. I have to ask though, were these tested on an open bench or in an enclosure? I think to really judge them you have to put them in a box. Maybe not that silly ASRock chassis, but something a like a BitFenix.

    Also, every mini-ITX motherboard is a little different. It would take some work, but it would be nice to see coolers cross referenced with different motherboards for compatibility. Just reading reviews it is pretty common to find one or two "Didn't fit my board" comments while other reviewers found the coolers to fit perfectly.

    I agree, these need to be tested in a tight case, preferably one where the low height is needed ( so no Prodigy, no HAF XB since those can fit normal tower coolers. ) The numbers here show what they can do in a normal ATX case, and that's a valid as some people don't like the torque of a 1kg sink hanging off their CPU. But since you were specifically asking for low-profile clearance for something like the Tiki and M8, these coolers need to be tested in that type of environment.

    Guppy is right, you can't test every case and mboard combo, but if you could somehow finagle a run of three common boards and cases, it'd be very appreciated.
  16. If tested outside the case will change the results dratically if the heatsink is next to the lid and no exhaust holes directly above it. The shrouded fans will be struggling to get any air flow into it. This is where the silverstone, zalman, and silenx will be better.

    Ths silverstone may even pull ahead since it has the lowest mounted fan in the group, the air wil still be pulled through the heatsnink. the zalman should be able to pull some air from the sides if mounted next to the lid.

    the 92mm fan on the silenx is its major flaw.
  17. expl0itfinder said:
    When is Noctua going to start making their fans in different color schemes? Their current pink on brown is the only thing that's holding me back.


    As an NH-D14 owner, I can't agree more. But the fan cowling color is not "pink". It's more of a very light pale beige... almost skin colored (typical non-tanned white person's skin). I honestly don't think Noctua could have chosen a more ugly color combo. Seriously. I took mine apart and painted it with matte (flat) black model paint (cowling, fans) and it looks awesome...disappears into the case if you will and doesn't look so obnoxious.
  18. The Zalman surprised me.
  19. This is great, seems like a pretty good lineup. Not sure I would have included the Noctua, although the cooling results are significant I suppose. I have a couple of mini itx builds in my future, so this is very handy.
  20. Why Prolimatech Samuel is not added?
  21. expl0itfinder said:
    When is Noctua going to start making their fans in different color schemes? Their current pink on brown is the only thing that's holding me back.


    Definitely not pink :)



    The word was that there would be black versions of the fans but there has been no official release date yet...




    Then again, there is also these yellow ones...

  22. Someone Somewhere said:
    Quote:
    Several others asked us for a few additional millimeters of headroom, though that would have resulted in a viscous cycle


    Do you mean vicious? Because I'm fairly sure the cycle wouldn't be a thick liquid.
    And here I thought we'd be getting "stuck" :p

    Anonymous said:
    Inches/Millimeters/Inches/Millimeters/Inches/Millimeters....

    It's good to see consistency ;)
    It's the reality of living in the USA. Furniture is measured in inches, so you pick a case to fit it in inches, and that leads to cooler height in inches. Fan frames have been standardized in millimeters, as have system temperatures. And if you give most US citizens a cooler weight in grams, they'll need a slide rule to figure out what that means.
  23. de5_Roy said:
    Yuka said:
    slomo4sho said:
    I am surprised that the Cooler Master GeminII didn't make this list.


    I was going to post precisely that.

    I have one for my A8 8350 (100W) and it does a wonderful job inside a TT SD200.

    And this is the CM cooler we're talking about: CM GeminII M4

    Cheers!

    toms asked the vendors. may be coolermaster chose not to participate or didn't meet the set conditions. 8 vendors sent their samples according to the article.


    Yeah, it's a shame. I would have loved to see it up there in the charts.

    Cheers!
  24. Excellent article.

    The ITX board used in the review is atypical with its CPU layout, though. Most ITX board place the CPU right next to the PCIe. It would be nice if the review included a measurement of how far each heatsink extends beyond the Intel "square" that is drawn on the PCB to see if they would block the PCIe slot on a traditional ITX board.
  25. rwpritchett said:
    Excellent article.

    The ITX board used in the review is atypical with its CPU layout, though. Most ITX board place the CPU right next to the PCIe.
    Most? I count two from my closet:


    rwpritchett said:
    It would be nice if the review included a measurement of how far each heatsink extends beyond the Intel "square" that is drawn on the PCB to see if they would block the PCIe slot on a traditional ITX board.
    Maybe, but I've never counted on that square to be consistent. So I put the width, depth and offset. Most of these coolers can be rotated to fit most of those boards by covering the RAM and PWM rather than the slot.
  26. Crashman said:
    Most? I count two from my closet:


    To be fair, manufacturers are starting to have better layouts with 1150. For 1155 socket ITX boards, I count 10 out of 14 ITX boards on Newegg with the CPU crammed next to the PCIe. For AMD, it's 2 out of 4. Gigabyte and MSI still have the bad layout with 1150 ITX boards though. :(

    More ITX or other tiny form factor articles please. I love these.
  27. Glad to see Zalman take a good spot. Even more glad to see they got rid of their stupid Allen wrench head screws that their own tool strips out after 2 installs on my 9900max. The heatsink performs great. The mounting screws suck.
  28. How about a replacement for my AMD E-350D APU? I imagine none of these heat sinks will work on it.
  29. caamsa said:
    How about a replacement for my AMD E-350D APU? I imagine none of these heat sinks will work on it.
    When you already have a custom-fit cooler, your best option is usually to find a fan of the same size and figure out how to mount it to the original sink.
  30. Considering the CM GeminII M4 only weighs 7.36 Oz it may not have performed well here.
    That said it too like the Zalman has direct contact heat pipes so it would have been nice to see how it ranked.
    Here is an extensive review of the CM GII M4
    http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1278-page1.html
  31. I'm surprised you didn't include Noctua's true gem(s) for SFF cooling, the NH-L9i (intel) and NH-L9a (amd). At 1.5" in height (37mm) for heatsink and fan, you have an extremely small profile while also cooling effectively for only $50.
  32. can we PLEASE have measurements in mm or cm, and weight in kg? please. Can't you see that the imperial system just does not make sense?
    Sure a decimal system isn't optimal either, base-12 would have been the most useful, but at least it's consistent...
  33. squirrelboy said:
    can we PLEASE have measurements in mm or cm, and weight in kg? please. Can't you see that the imperial system just does not make sense?
    Sure a decimal system isn't optimal either, base-12 would have been the most useful, but at least it's consistent...


    It's the reality of living in the USA. Furniture is measured in inches, so you pick a case to fit it in inches, and that leads to cooler height in inches. Fan frames have been standardized in millimeters, as have system temperatures. And if you give most US citizens a cooler weight in grams, they'll need a slide rule to figure out what that means.
  34. How about one with the other in brackets? Because frankly I haven't got a clue what an ounce is without using Google.

    E.g. 120mm (4.7").
  35. Someone Somewhere said:
    How about one with the other in brackets? Because frankly I haven't got a clue what an ounce is without using Google.

    E.g. 120mm (4.7").
    Perhaps if you can get the boss to spring for a digital scale to prevent rounding errors :)

    The US is the land of 12-ounce cans of beer and 20-ounce bottles of other beverages, except milk that typically comes in gallons, half gallons, and cups. But the one-cup container says "half pint" just to confuse people who can't do fractions :p
  36. Crash, any chance we'll see some cooling numbers from these inside actual SFF cases? Maybe use the three smallest cases from the ITX SBM ( including the slimline bonus build? ) I know that'd require extra time, but it'd be incredibly useful to the SFF builders.
  37. RedJaron said:
    Crash, any chance we'll see some cooling numbers from these inside actual SFF cases? Maybe use the three smallest cases from the ITX SBM ( including the slimline bonus build? ) I know that'd require extra time, but it'd be incredibly useful to the SFF builders.
    I don't see how anything I use would be representative of anything but what I used, concerning a compact case. For example, SilverStone has a nice case with a fan blowing down from the top that would fit most of these cooler (probably all of them), but most cases lack that feature.
  38. Someone Somewhere said:
    How about one with the other in brackets? Because frankly I haven't got a clue what an ounce is without using Google.

    E.g. 120mm (4.7").


    Surprisingly, the conversions are similar and relatively easy to remember (because the numbers are close)

    1 inch = 25.4 mm
    1 ounce = 28.4 g (1kg = 35.2 ounces or 2.2 pounds)

    so quick rules of thumb (yes, this is off slightly, but it's relatively close)

    100 mm (or 10 cm) ~ 4 inch
    100g ~ 1/5th of a pound
  39. I made a suggestion to some companies about case CLEANING..but no one wants it..
    SO..
    THESE ARE GREAT, if you can keep your case CLEAN.. WHO wants to CLEAN THE DUST out of these? considering the air flow, it will all be UNDER the fins..

    My comment to a CLOSE BOX with a FORCED fan INPUT and OUTPUT...is that a vacumme cleaner?
  40. I was looking at the Zalman Low Profile Cooler for my son's computer before this article was published and on the basis of the rating went and bought it. I can testify it works really well and is very quiet installed on an AMD Phenom II 965 - certainly way quieter than the stock cooler that made the computer sound like a jet engine once the CPU was loaded up.
  41. ceaky said:
    After all, Noctua is much higher than any other. how many real SFF case can it fit?
    None of these can fit today's "real" SFF cases, because "real" Shuttle Form Factor has its own cooler. All of these will fit a "real SFF" case if you remove the factory cooler though.

    As for gaming cube cases made popular by Shuttle, you can go fairly big, usually just under 5". That's still too short for tower coolers though. The medium-compact cubes that came after give you around 4". And slim cases usually give you around 3".

    Getting to the intent of your original question, it fits over half the Mini ITX cases I've tested.
  42. Huh. I though SFF stood for Small Form Factor, not Shuttle Form Factor. You learn something every day (well, some days).
  43. Someone Somewhere said:
    Huh. I though SFF stood for Small Form Factor, not Shuttle Form Factor. You learn something every day (well, some days).
    It's been misappropriated. And other than that, "small" is not a form factor. Form factors have fixed dimensions :)

    In fact, the definition of "form factor" is "a standardized set of dimensions".
  44. ceaky said:
    in the market, no player now follows "a standardized set of dimensions". We have to check tons of information before we purchase anything. A Cube Case may house any of the coolers tested. But a "mini" one might take in half of them.
    That's a red herring. Every standard component follows a standard set of dimensions, including form factors that include Mini ITX, Micro ATX and ATX. Those form factors tell manufacturers where to put the standoffs, where to put the slots, the size and placement of the I/O shield, etc.

    So like I said, "small" is not a form factor. On the other hand Mini ITX is, and everyone who produces a Mini ITX case followed the Mini ITX form factor's fixed set of dimensions for the slot, standoffs, and I/O shield.
  45. everytime I saw the word "janus", I had a freudian slip. ugh
  46. It is sad that tomshardware did this benchmark in open air which pretty much never happens in RL cases. Low profile hsfs are meant to be used in htpc & compact cases which are usually air tight.
  47. nazgron said:
    It is sad that tomshardware did this benchmark in open air which pretty much never happens in RL cases. Low profile hsfs are meant to be used in htpc & compact cases which are usually air tight.
    To begin with, no they are not. And to end with, the best case for this type of cooler is a SilverStone model that has an intake over the CPU, but that specific case performs unlike any other case which means it would set unrealistic expectations.

    In other words, the best case for THIS roundup was no case at all. There simply isn't a "typical semi-compact" case that performs similarly to most other semi-compact cases.
  48. Does anyone know the different between the 8900 Quiet and the 8900 Extreme? Is the extreme the newer (better?) version? I'm building an M8 system and I think this is the choice I'll for for, cooling on a budget... Thoughts?
  49. I'm installing the backplate of the Zalman cnps 8900 extreme, but there seems to be another backplate that's already on the motherboard that's interfering with the placement of the new one. Am I missing something? Should I remove this previously installed backplate? I didn't use the double sided sticky tape and loading block because the directions said socket 1155 didn't need it, though it said nothing about socket 1150 I'm using with the i7 4770k, Haswell core. Help!?!?! Feel free to PM me!
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