Fans, Temperatures, And Noise
Lian Li’s stock 140 mm rear fan is incredibly loud. So, we slowed it down to a bearable 550 RPM using a resistor. Much below that and the cooler won't even start. But without this drastic measure, there's really no point in trying to optimize the fans inside. A painfully apparent 40 dB(A) from 50 cm away is just too loud.
Thermalright's stock fan on the AXP-100 is alright, but if you want a 100 W APU and a quiet machine at the same time, the combination simply isn't good enough.
Zotac’s mini-ITX motherboards only support temperature-dependent PWM fan management via profiles. So, you'll want to make sure that any replacement you buy sports a four-pin connector.
Noiseblocker eLoop B12-PS PWM
Noiseblocker's eLoop B12-PS PWM is quiet and looks great to boot. You do have to pay top dollar for its premium performance, though. Then again, a higher price is worthwhile for the blend of effective cooling and conservative acoustics.
Registering 34.1 dB(A) for the entire system at full load, the setup ends up being very living room-friendly. The fan seldom even makes it to its maximum 1500 RPM. Instead, it usually settles in at about 1300 RPM when gaming, resulting in an even better 32.6 dB(A). At idle, the system generates 30.8 dB(A), which is mostly due to the fan around back.
Bringing Back Disco: Enermax T.B.Vegas Quad and Single
As you've probably figured out by now, based on some of my older stories, I have a small obsession with lighting. If you share my fascination, then you'll love the Enermax fan's effects, especially its new sparkle mode. I also like the ability to set a maximum RPM at three different levels without modifying the fan's minimum rotational speed.
I left the fan at its maximum setting, since we're controlling the PWM curve through the motherboard's firmware anyway. It’s still pretty quiet, hitting 36.2 dB(A) under full load and 34.4 dB(A) during gaming workloads. And remember, the original case fan is louder than our CPU cooler at idle.
Overall, Enermax’s fans serve as a satisfactory alternative for cooling AMD's A10-6800K quietly and with a little more flair. In case you're interested, the exact models we used were: T.B.Vegas Quad (UCTVQ12P) for the four-color version and T.B.Vegas Single (UCTVS12P-BL/R/W) for the single-color versions in blue, red, or white, respectively.
I tried to capture the effects on video, but they just look better in real life.
Temperatures and Noise
The temperatures we're reporting are for the APU with its integrated graphics engine active. Consequently, they're the observed maximums. The Core i5-2500K running at stock clock rates on Zotac's H77-based motherboard isn't much cooler, since I optimized the PWM curves for quiet operation rather than lower thermals. Identical temperatures can be achieved at significantly lower fan speeds, though I can't report the actual comparison data since I ran the Intel-based platform on an open test bench just to garner performance data.
|Noise Levels and APU Temperatures||Idle||Gaming||Full Load|
|Stock Fan 90 mm||31.7 dB(A)38 °C||38.9 dB(A)54 °C||41.7 dB(A)62 °C|
|Noiseblocker eLoop B12-PS PWM||30.8 dB(A)32 °C||32.6 dB(A)46 °C||34.1 dB(A)55 °C|
|Enermax T.B.Vegas||30.8 dB(A)32 °C||34.4 dB(A)45 °C||36.2 dB(A)54 °C|
Even with a 100 W APU, the flat CPU cooler with a capable fan manages to provide compact dimensions, reasonable cooling performance, and pleasant noise levels. This is about as good as it gets, unless you go for the Intel-based system with a passively-cooled graphics card instead. The only thing that keeps that setup from being totally silent is the rear case fan.