We tested 30 m.2 SSD heatsinks to find the top performer: ID-Cooling Zero M05 and M15 Review

Storage cooling used to be an afterthought, but PCIe 5 SSDs can run hot.

ID-Cooling Zero M05 and M15
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

ID-Cooling’s heatsinks provide effective cooling for your PCIe 5 SSD. The M05 unit will be sufficient for most users, but professionals with storage-heavy workloads should consider the M15 instead.

Pros

  • +

    Very affordable at only $5-$10 USD

  • +

    The M05 offers basic cooling for common users

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    The M15 is capable of handling professional workloads

Cons

  • -

    The M15 cannot be installed next many air coolers

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Until recently, cooling and storage was at best an afterthought for most enthusiasts and PC builders. In short, it really wasn’t a concern outside of servers jam-packed full of hard drives. 

But current generation PCIe 5 SSDs can move data faster than ever before, and pushing those speeds for prolonged periods can generate a bit of extra heat. With these modern drives, not only is some kind of cooling recommended, it is often a requirement to prevent throttling or even crashing in some instances

Over the past couple of years, manufacturers have begun creating a wide variety of heatsinks and coolers for NVMe SSDs to ensure they’re able to maintain their maximum speeds. Heatsinks large and small, with or without active fans, and even liquid cooling solutions are now available for NVMe SSDs.  

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Today’s review will be our first covering this emerging category of products – we’ll be looking at two SSD heatsinks from ID-Cooling, the M05 and the M15. The M15 features a thick heatsink with fins and a copper heatpipe for effective heat dissipation. And the M05, on the other hand, is a simple heatsink designed for essential performance and maximum compatibility. To see if these coolers are worth spending your hard-earned build budget on (the good news is, these two cost between $5 and $10), we’ve tested them against 25 competing SSD heatsinks to see how they perform against the competition.

Cooler Specifications

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HeatsinkID-Cooling M05 / M15
MSRP$4.99/$9.99
Heatsink MaterialAluminum/Aluminum Fins + 6mm Heatpipe
CompatibilityM.2 2280
Dimensions73mm (L) x 22.4 (W) x 6mm (D) / 74.2mm (L) x 22.5mm (W) x 30 mm (D)
Net Weight38g / 80g

Packing and Included Contents

ID-Cooling’s ZERO M05 arrives in a small 12 (L) x 6.5 (W) x 2 (D) cm box. The M15 is the same but with a larger depth of 4.5cm. The M15 is protected by molded foam for the protection of the heatsink, whereas the M05 arrives in molded plastic. Included with each unit are the heatsink, screws, and thermal pads necessary to use the product.

Installation

The installation of the NVMe heatsinks is simple and generally quick to complete. 

1. First, you’ll take the base of the heatsink and apply the first thermal pad to it

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2. Place your M.2 NVMe SSD onto the thermal pad. Take the second thermal pad, and place it on top.

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3. Next, place the heatsink on top of the SSD and secure it using the included screws. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. The last step is to place the unit into an m.2 slot and secure it using a screw or a latch if you have a fancier motherboard.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Features of ID Cooling's Zero M05 and M15 SSD heatsinks

▶ Double sided SSD support

Some NVMe heatsinks only effectively cool the top side of an SSD – which means they’re not ideal for drives with NAND on both sides of the PCB. ID-Cooling’s Zero M05 and M15 both support double-sided SSDs and keep both sides of the unit cooled effectively.

M05: Low profile for maximum compatibility

The M05 model is fairly basic, featuring a simple aluminum heatsink with thick fins. As it is only 6mm tall, it is fully compatible with any component you might consider installing nearby.

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▶  M15: Tall and thick heatsink for maximum cooling 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

While the M05 is petite, designed for maximum compatibility,the M15 is 30mm thick and designed for enhanced thermal dissipation. In addition to the array of aluminum fins, heat is also transferred away from the SSD via the 6mm copper heatpipe integrated into the heatsink.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

As this is a taller heatsink, there will be some compatibility restrictions. You won’t be able to install this next to a CPU with some air coolers like DeepCool’s Assassin IV - the heatpipes of the unit interfere with it. Other air coolers like ID-Cooling’s A720, and virtually all liquid coolers, shouldn’t have compatibility issues and you can install taller heatsinks like the M15 next to them.

Testing Methodology

With SSD heatsinks, a lot of you are probably asking if it really matters. And if you’re a typical user who merely loads a few applications and games from time to time – you probably don’t need an advanced heatsink. I’ve run a variety of tests, and for common tasks like loading a game or application, you generally don’t need more than a basic heatsink – at least not with current SSDs and workloads. 

Most users who will need cooling for their drives will already be aware that they need one. This includes users whose workloads are IO-intensive or involve high-resolution video editing. 

We’re also trying to look to the future here, to an extent. While today’s common workloads might not need anything more than a basic heatsink, this may change with PCIe 6 and future standards which will allow for higher speeds (and potentially higher power consumption) in consumer SSDs. 

After consulting storage experts across the industry who work for Sabrent, Solidigm, Phison, Micron, and other storage manufacturers I’ve created an IOMeter script that’s specifically designed to stress an SSD’s controller and NAND, causing it to reach its maximum temperature (also known as TJ Max). The ambient temperature is maintained at 23 degrees Celsius while these tests are performed. The SSD used is Teamgroup’s Z540 SSD, which is powered by Phison’s E26 controller

This test will cause throttling when paired with lower-end heatsinks. For those heatsinks, we’ll be looking at the IOPS of the drive during testing. The more advanced heatsinks and coolers will be capable of keeping the SSD under its peak temperature – for these units, we’ll compare the actual temperatures of the TeamGroup Z540 SSD. 

How hot is too hot? Does cooling even matter for a SSD? 

When I was determining how to test these units, I consulted with many storage industry experts before I started testing. They emphasized that modern PCIe 5.0 drives need at least some sort of cooling to avoid throttling and that even basic workloads can be impacted by minor throttling without a heatsink. 

If peak performance in common scenarios like gaming is your only goal, then most basic heatsinks will offer satisfactory performance. However, users with storage intensive workloads will require a stronger heatsink, like the ID-Cooling M15 SSD heatsink we’re reviewing today, in order to prevent their SSDs performance from throttling. The impact of this potential throttling can vary; lighter loads won’t be impacted as much, but in the worst case scenario I tested I measured a 92% loss of performance without cooling on a PCIe 5.0 SSD. 

You might think that’s the only aspect to consider when looking at a heatsink, but the thermals of a SSD also have a huge impact on a drive’s longevity. Much like other electronic components, extreme variations in temperature cause wear and tear, reducing lifespan. Now lets be real here - most users shouldn’t need to worry about longevity, and instead should purchase a drive from a reliable manufacturer that has a good warranty. While this is our general recommendation, there are scenarios where this won’t apply - if you purchased a refurbished SSD at a discount, you can’t expect to have a long warranty.

Finally, there’s the matter of dealing with the hassle of a warranty. While it is nice to know that a failing drive will be replaced by the manufacturer, why create an environment where such a claim is likely to happen? I’d argue that it would be wiser to invest $10 or $15 into a heatsink to extend the lifespan of your SSD so that you don’t have to worry about dealing with the paperwork and time involved to process a warranty claim. 

In theory if your NVMe SSD arrives with a heatsink from the manufacturer, you shouldn’t need to worry about a heatsink at all. Most of the heatsinks I’ve seen paired with high end PCIe 5 SSDs are more than capable enough of handling strong thermal loads. However, many drives do not include a heatsink with the purchase of a SSD and you would be a fool to run a high-speed PCIe 5 SSD entirely uncooled as performance will suffer even in common workloads. 

When it comes to heatsinks for SSDs, the important thing to take away here is that every expert I’ve spoken to in the storage industry agrees that it is best practice to minimize temperature variations for the health and longevity of your SSD. How strong of a heatsink you’ll need is another matter for debate. In common scenarios, most users will be fine with basic heatsinks - but professionals or users with storage intensive workloads might want to invest in a stronger heatsink.

Testing configuration – Intel LGA1700 platform

Albert Thomas
Freelancer, CPU Cooling Reviewer

Albert Thomas is a contributor for Tom’s Hardware, primarily covering CPU cooling reviews.