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Valkyrie Vind SL125 Review: Anime aesthetic meets underwhelming performance

Valkyrie has only recently come across our radar as a new cooling company on the block. The company’s website states the team is comprised of more than 360 members with over 17 years of experience in cooling, so (the math of the previous stats notwithstanding) we expected a lot when the Valkyrie Vind SL125 showed up.In the near future we’ll be looking at Valkyrie’s AIOs, but today’s review will cover the Vind SL125. Does it have what it takes to earn a spot on our best coolers list? We’ll have to put it through testing to find out. But first, here are the specifications from Valkyrie.Cooler specificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyCoolerValkyrie Vind SL125 – WhiteMSRP$69.99 USDHeatsink MaterialAluminumRated LifespanUnlistedSocket CompatibilityIntel Socket LGA 1851/1700/1200/115x/20xx
AMD AM5 / AM4BaseCopperMax TDP (Our Testing)~198W with Intel’s i7-13700KInstalled Size (with fans)125mm (L) x 109 mm (W) x 157.5mm (D)Warranty5 yearsToday’s best Valkyrie Vind SL125 dealsPacking and included contentsThe packaging of this cooler is extremely fancy, unlike any other air cooler I’ve tested previously.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The “box” you see above is actually two boxes held together by an outer frame, with the installation guide tucked in between the shell and the boxes.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)When you open the box containing the cooler, it has a bit of a dramatic effect presenting the product. You can see it in this GIF.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Included with the cooler are the following:HeatsinkTwo 120mm fansMounting for modern AMD and Intel PlatformsPre-applied thermal pasteExtra 1g tube of thermal pasteAnime-themed cover(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)LGA 1700 InstallationInstalling the Valkyrie Vind SL125n is fairly straightforward.1. First, apply the backplate to the rear of the motherboard.2. Next, use the included tool to secure the mounting standoffs to the backplate.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)3. Place the mounting bars on top of the standoffs, and secure them with the included thumb screws.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)4. Press the heatsink against the mounting bars and secure them with a screwdriver.5. Attach the fans.6. Connect the PWM and ARGB connections to your motherboard, and turn the computer on.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Features of Valkyrie’s VIND SL125▶ White and Blue Aesthetic(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Six Copper Heatpipes, Pre-Applied Thermal PasteThe Vind SL125 has six heatpipes connected to the CPU plate. It also features pre-applied thermal paste to make installation easier.If you need more paste, Valkyrie also includes a 1g tube for backup. (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Detachable coversThe cooler comes with your choice between two detachable covers. The default cover is white and feature’s Valkyrie’s logo. The second cover is anime-styled.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ 2x 120mm fans (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)I say this on almost every cooler review, but there’s more to a cooler than just the heatsink or radiator. The bundled fans have a significant impact on cooling and noise levels, as well as how the cooler looks in your case.This picture shows a fan installed in an incorrect orientation. This was corrected prior to testing. See the section about the fans below for more details. (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)You’ll need to be careful when installing the fans. If you look carefully, you’ll see the blades are shaped differently. Each fan pulls in a different direction, making it easy to install the fans incorrectly. The cooler will lose 10-20% of its cooling capability if this happens. An easy way to verify if you have installed the fans in the correct orientation is by looking at the Valkyrie logos – they should be facing each other, as shown in the picture below.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The fans include RGB strips cutting across the corners of each fan, providing an illuminating accent.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Swipe to scroll horizontallyModelUnlistedDimensions120 x 120 x 25mmFan Speed800-2,150 RPM ± 10%Air FlowUp to 80 CFMAir PressureUp to 3.14 mmH2OBearing TypeUnlistedLightingARGBMFFT5 Year WarrantyLGA1700 Socket BendingThere are many factors other than the CPU cooler that can influence your cooling performance, including the case you use and the fans installed in it. A system’s motherboard can also influence this, especially if it suffers from bending, which results in poor cooler contact with the CPU.In order to prevent bending from impacting our cooling results, we’ve installed Thermalright’s LGA 1700 contact frame into our testing rig. If your motherboard is affected by bending, your thermal results will be worse than those shown below. Not all motherboards are affected equally by this issue. I tested Raptor Lake CPUs in two motherboards. And while one of them showed significant thermal improvements after installing Thermalright’s LGA1700 contact frame, the other motherboard showed no difference in temperatures whatsoever. Check out our review of the contact frame for more information.Testing Methodology, and how my testing differs vs the competitionMy cooler testing is designed to emulate the conditions a user would actually experience when using a computer. Some reviewers test coolers using an open bench. I do not like this method, it reduces cooling difficulty. When you use a case, the internal temperature of that case will become higher than that of the room’s ambient temperature, increasing the saturation of the cooler and overall cooling difficulty. Testing outside of a case will give an advantage to weaker coolers, especially those with fans that aren’t very strong. Others test using a thermal heatplate. This method suffers from all the drawbacks of an open bench, but also doesn’t accurately represent cooling a CPU. A thermal plate evenly distributes a thermal load across the copper heat conduction square. The problem with this type of testing is that modern AMD Ryzen and Intel Core CPUs have most of their heat concentrated in a few hotspots – and cooling a concentrated source of heat is more difficult than cooling a source that’s spread evenly.The last thing I do differently from some cooler testers is that I insist on using relatively new CPUs for cooler testing because people building new PCs are likely using recent CPUs. Also, thermal density is just different with newer CPUs. Products like Ryzen 3000 “Zen 2” and older 14nm Intel CPUs have lower heat density compared to modern counterparts, due to a combination of using older manufacturing processes and running at lower clock speeds. Using a weaker cooler with an older CPU can make the cooler look better performing than it actually is with current-gen silicon. Today’s highest-end CPUs, whether Intel or AMD, are difficult to cool in intensive workloads. In the past. reaching 95 degrees Celsius or more on a desktop CPU might have been a cause for concern. But with today’s top-end CPUs, this is considered normal operation. Similar behavior has been present in laptops for years due to cooling limitations in tight spaces.All testing is performed with a 23C ambient room temperature. Multiple thermal tests are run on each CPU to test the cooler in a variety of conditions, and acoustic measurements are taken with each result. These tests include:1. Noise-normalized testing at low noise levels2. “Out-of-the-box”/Default configuration thermal and acoustic testing     a. No power limits enforced     b. Because CPUs hit TJ Max in this scenario, the best way to compare cooling strength is by recording the total CPU package power consumption.3. Thermal and acoustic testing in power-limited scenarios     a. Power limited to 175W to emulate a medium-intensity workload     b. Power limited to 125W to emulate a low-intensity workloadThe thermal results included are for 10-minute testing runs. To be sure that was sufficiently long to tax the cooler, we tested both Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE and DeepCool’s LT720 with a 30-minute Cinebench test with Intel’s i9-13900K for both 10 minutes and 30 minutes. The results didn’t change much at all with the longer test: The average clock speeds maintained dropped by 29 MHz on DeepCool’s LT720 and 31 MHz on Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE. That’s an incredibly small 0.6% difference in clock speeds maintained, a margin of error difference that tells us that the 10-minute tests are indeed long enough to properly test the coolers.Testing configuration – Intel LGA1700 platformSwipe to scroll horizontally

Thermal results without power limitsWithout power limits enforced on Intel’s i7-13700K, the CPU will hit its peak temperature (TJ Max) and thermally throttle with even the strongest of air coolers. When the CPU reaches its peak temperature, I measured the CPU package power to determine the maximum wattage cooled to best compare their performance.The general exception to this comes with the strongest AIOs on the market, which can keep Intel’s i7-13700K under TJ Max. This is no small task, as most 360mm AIOs still fail this test.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The performance of this cooler was underwhelming for the price it commands and the noise levels it creates. At 224W, it performed similarly to DeepCool’s AK400 and just behind Thermalright’s Peerless Assassin. This would be considered acceptable if the cooler ran quietly, but it does not. Reaching 48.2 dBA, the Vind SL125 is one of the loudest air coolers I’ve tested to date.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Thermal results with noise normalized to 38.2 dBAFinding the right balance between fan noise levels and cooling performance is important. While running fans at full speed can improve cooling capacity to some extent, the benefits are limited and many users prefer a quieter system. With this noise-normalized test, I’ve set noise levels to 38.2 dba. This level of noise is a low volume level, but slightly audible to most people.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)With our noise normalized results, the Vind SL125’s rank drops quite a bit in comparison to other coolers. Where it is in the middle of the road for results in maximum performance, our noise normalized results have it holding the ninth worst result we’ve benchmarked thus far. Most of the coolers that perform at this level during noise normalized testing are much cheaper.175W Cinebench resultsMost coolers on the market can keep Intel’s i7-13700K under its peak temperature if the power consumption is limited, so for this test, we’ll be looking at the CPU’s actual temperature.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)With a result of 59 C over ambient, the Vind SL125’s performance is middle-of-the-road. This would be a reasonable result, except that the cooler runs just as loudly as a full intensity workload, reaching 48.2 dBA. This means that you’re going to notice the sound of the cooler in intensive workloads or even in demanding games.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)125W Cinebench resultsThe lowest power limit I test with Raptor Lake CPUs is 125W. This is a high enough limit to allow the CPU to maintain its base clock speeds even in the most intensive tests, and most coolers should be capable of keeping the CPU below TJ Max (the max temperature before throttling) – even low-end coolers.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Really, thermals do not matter in this scenario. Even Intel’s stock cooler can handle a load like this with ease. Valkyrie’s Vind SL125 jas a result of 45 C in this test, which is on par with other single tower coolersNoise levels, rather than CPU temperature, are the most important factor here. Noise levels get a little better in this test, dropping to 40.9 dBA. This isn’t loud, but it’s certainly louder than most other coolers that I’ve tested.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Conclusion(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)When I first opened the Valkyrie Vind SL125, the detail and care of its packaging set my expectations high for its thermal performance. The white and blue design certainly stands apart from the competition aesthetically.But in testing, the Vind SL125 failed to impress. My main problems with this cooler are the noise and the price tag. If the fans ran quieter and the cooler was priced around $20 cheaper, It would be easier to recommend it for niche-themed builds.But as it stands, this cooler’s biggest strength is its looks, while its tested performance leaves something to be desired. […]

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UpHere C5C and D6Sec Air Coolers Review: Decent performance for less than $20

Not every brand can be a household name, but today we’re testing a couple of coles from UpHere, a brand that I recently discovered while shopping on Amazon. It was difficult to find information about them, as the company doesn’t maintain an English-language website. UpHere is a daughter brand of Dongguan Duban Electronic Commerce Co., Ltd., and appears to have been founded in 2016. UpHere primarily focuses on cooling solutions for the mainland China market, but its products are also widely available on Amazon and Newegg.Today we’ll be reviewing two of UpHere’s budget air coolers, the C5C and D6SEC. Both of these coolers feature direct touch heatpipes, but what really makes them stand out is price: The C5C costs less than $20 USD! With such a low price, one has to wonder if the cooler is actually strong enough to tame a hot CPU like Intel’s i7-13700K. Does UpHere have what it takes to earn a spot on our best air coolers list? We’ll have to put its coolers through testing to find out. But first, here are the specifications from UpHere. (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Cooler specificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyCoolerUpHere D6SECUpHere C5CMSRP$35.99 USD$16.99 USDHeatsink MaterialAluminumAluminumRated LifespanUnlistedUnlistedSocket CompatibilityIntel Socket LGA 1851/1700/1200/115x/20xx/13xx
AMD AM5/AM4/AM3(+)/AM2(+) / FM1/FM2Intel Socket LGA 1851/1700/1200/115x/20xx/13xx
AMD AM5/AM4/AM3(+)/AM2(+) / FM1/FM2BaseDirect Touch Copper HeatpipesDirect Touch Copper HeatpipesMax TDP (Our Testing)~219W with Intel’s i7-13700K~183W with Intel’s i7-13700KInstalled Size (with fans)125mm (L) x 125 mm (W) x 154mm (D)124 (L) x 76 mm (W) x 155mm (D)WarrantyNot specifiedNot specifiedToday’s best UpHere C5C and UpHere D6SEC deals(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Packing and included contents The packaging of these coolers is fairly standard, with molded foam and plastic coverings to protect the contents during shipping.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Included with the cooler are the following:HeatsinksFansMounting for modern AMD and Intel PlatformsThermal PasteFeatures of UpHere’s Air Coolers ▶ Direct Touch HeatpipesWhat initially caught my eye is that these coolers have five (C5C model) or six (D6SEC model) direct-touch heatpipes. Most units that feature direct-touch heatpipes are limited to four or less. To fit six of these on the D6SEC model, the heatpipes are slightly smaller.UpHere D6SEC pictured on the left, UpHere C5C pictured on the right (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Low PricingBoth of these coolers are quite affordable. The D6SEC model runs for $35 USD, and the C5C is even cheaper at only $17 USD. ▶ Install without removing the fans (D6SEC model only)The D6SEC model has indentions in the first heatsink tower, which allows you to slide a screwdriver through it to install the cooler without needing to remove its fans. This saves a few minutes during installation, and I imagine this would be considered most useful for those who build custom PCs.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Full RAM CompatibilityNeither model of UpHere’s air coolers interferes or overhangs DIMM slots in any manner, which means you can use these coolers no matter how short or tall your computer’s RAM is.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Heatsink designThe D6SEC has a fairly standard heatsink design, with 3 indentations.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The C5C’s heatsink has alternating, staggered indentations along the exit. These types of designs are intended to help improve the static pressure of airflow.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Included Thermal PasteUpHere includes a small 1g tube of thermal paste with each cooler. The paste is rated for 14.3 w/mK(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ 120mm fansThere’s not much to say about the included fans, but it’s worth noting that the fan included with the C5C features ARGB lighting and an infinity mirror. (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Swipe to scroll horizontallyModelD6SEC Cooler fansC5C Cooler fanDimensions120 x 120 x 25mm120 x 120 x 25mmFan Speed600-1600 RPM ± 10%800-1800 RPM ± 10%Air FlowUp to 68.2 CFMUp to 79.18 CFMAir PressureUp to 1.55 mmH2OUnlistedBearing TypeHydraulic BearingHydraulic BearingLightingNoneARGBMFFTUnlistedUnlistedLGA1700 Socket BendingMany factors other than the CPU cooler can influence your cooling performance, including the case you use and the fans installed in it. A system’s motherboard can also influence this, especially if it suffers from bending, which results in poor cooler contact with the CPU. In order to prevent bending from impacting our cooling results, we’ve installed Thermalright’s LGA 1700 contact frame into our testing rig. If your motherboard is affected by bending, your thermal results will be worse than those shown below. Not all motherboards are affected equally by this issue. I tested Raptor Lake CPUs in two motherboards. And while one of them showed significant thermal improvements after installing Thermalright’s LGA1700 contact frame, the other motherboard showed no difference in temperatures whatsoever! Check out our review of the contact frame for more information.Testing Methodology, and how my testing differs vs the competitionMy cooler testing is specifically designed to emulate the conditions a user would actually experience when using a computer. Some reviewers test coolers using an open bench. I do not like this method, it reduces cooling difficulty. When you use a case, the internal temperature of that case will become higher than that of the room’s ambient temperature, increasing the saturation of the cooler and overall cooling difficulty. Testing outside of a case will give an advantage to weaker coolers, especially those with fans that aren’t very strong. Others test using a thermal heatplate. This method suffers from all the drawbacks of an open bench, but also doesn’t accurately represent cooling a CPU. A thermal plate evenly distributes a thermal load across the copper heat conduction square. The problem with this type of testing is that modern AMD Ryzen and Intel Core CPUs have most of their heat concentrated in a few hotspots – and cooling a concentrated source of heat is more difficult than cooling a source that’s spread evenly.In discussions with industry representatives, one manufacturer (who wishes to remain anonymous) mentioned that in the past they once used heat plates in a thermal chamber during their design process, until they realized that method of testing was “giving us nice TDP numbers to print on the box, but is not reflective of the user experience at all.” They mentioned that switching to tests using real CPUs increased their testing time, but also provided valuable data to help improve their products. An example they provided is that this testing allowed them to properly observe “differences between AMD and Intel systems, which we can then address.”The last thing I do differently from some cooler testers is that I insist on using relatively new CPUs for cooler testing because people building new PCs should be using recent CPUs. Also, thermal density is just different with newer CPUs. Products like Ryzen 3000 “Zen 2” and older 14nm Intel CPUs have lower heat density compared to modern counterparts, due to a combination of using older manufacturing processes and running at lower clock speeds. Using a weaker cooler with an older CPU can make the cooler look better performing than it actually is with current-gen silicon. Today’s highest-end CPUs, whether Intel or AMD, are difficult to cool in intensive workloads. In the past. reaching 95 degrees Celsius or more on a desktop CPU might have been a cause for concern. But with today’s top-end CPUs, this is considered normal operation. Similar behavior has been present in laptops for years due to cooling limitations in tight spaces.All testing is performed with a 23C ambient room temperature. Multiple thermal tests are run on each CPU to test the cooler in a variety of conditions, and acoustic measurements are taken with each result. These tests include:1. Noise-normalized testing at low noise levels2. “Out-of-the-box”/Default configuration thermal and acoustic testing     a. No power limits enforced     b. Because CPUs hit TJ Max in this scenario, the best way to compare cooling strength is by recording the total CPU package power consumption.3. Thermal and acoustic testing in power-limited scenarios     a. Power limited to 175W to emulate a medium-intensity workload     b. Power limited to 125W to emulate a low-intensity workloadThe thermal results included are for 10-minute testing runs. To be sure that was sufficiently long to tax the cooler, we tested both Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE and DeepCool’s LT720 with a 30-minute Cinebench test with Intel’s i9-13900K for both 10 minutes and 30 minutes. The results didn’t change much at all with the longer test: The average clock speeds maintained dropped by 29 MHz on DeepCool’s LT720 and 31 MHz on Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE. That’s an incredibly small 0.6% difference in clock speeds maintained, a margin of error difference that tells us that the 10-minute tests are indeed long enough to properly test the coolers.Testing configuration – Intel LGA1700 platform Swipe to scroll horizontallyUpHere C5C: Price Comparison

Thermal results without power limitsWithout power limits enforced on Intel’s i7-13700K, the CPU will hit its peak temperature (TJ Max) and thermally throttle with even the strongest of air coolers. When the CPU reaches its peak temperature, I’ve measured the CPU package power to determine the maximum wattage cooled to best compare their performance.The general exception to this comes with the strongest AIOs on the market, which can keep Intel’s i7-13700K under TJ Max. This is no small task, as many AIOs fail this test.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The performance of UpHere’s C5C and D6SEC air coolers was on the lower end of the spectrum. The C5C model is technically the second-worst result we’ve seen from any air cooler tested here. But I don’t consider that a bad thing given its low maximum noise output and budget price of $17 USD.The D6SEC model had peak performance similar to Arctic’s Liquid Freezer 240 and BeQuiet’s Dark Rock Pro – but it makes a lot of noise to sustain that performance level, reaching 49 dBA! This is the loudest result I’ve recorded from any air cooler on this testing rig. I consider this a very bad result, because this thermal performance does not justify the loud maximum noise level.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Thermal results with noise normalized to 38.2 dBAFinding the right balance between fan noise levels and cooling performance is important. While running fans at full speed can improve cooling capacity to some extent, the benefits are limited and many users prefer a quieter system. With this noise-normalized test, I’ve set noise levels to 38.2 dba. This level of noise is a low volume level, but slightly audible to most people.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)When set to a low noise level, the D6SEC holds the same overall position in our charts as with the previous maximum performance results. UpHere’s C5C performs a little better in these terms, outperforming both Jiushark’s JF13K models and Thermalright’s Silver Soul 135 – cooling 183W during the course of the test. This isn’t chart-topping, but it shows the cooler performs well enough that you can set it to run quietly and not have to worry about throttling in common scenarios.175W Cinebench resultsMost coolers on the market can keep Intel’s i7-13700K under its peak temperature if the power consumption is limited, so for this test, we’ll be looking at the CPU’s actual temperature.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The C5C result is again technically our second-worst performer, but this is acceptable given its low price and relatively quiet noise levels. The D6SEC’s performance was acceptable, similar to Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 in both thermal performance and noise levels.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)125W Cinebench resultsThe lowest power limit I test with Raptor Lake CPUs is 125W. This is a high enough limit to allow the CPU to maintain its base clock speeds even in the most intensive tests, and most coolers should be capable of keeping the CPU below TJ Max (the max temperature before throttling) – even low-end coolers.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Really, thermals do not matter in this scenario. Even Intel’s stock cooler can handle a load like this with ease. Noise levels, rather than CPU temperature, are the most important factor here. Still, the thermal results of both coolers stay in line with previous results.The thermal performance of the C5C leaves a bit to be desired, but it runs quietly at only 38.2 dBA. Given the low noise levels and budget price for this model, I consider these results relatively good. The D6SEC model performs better thermally, but it also runs louder – reaching 41.4 dBA.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)ConclusionUpHere’s air coolers are budget-minded products that provide essential performance. Of the two coolers tested in this review, I’d personally recommend the C5C. It delivers decent thermal performance and low noise levels for less than $20 USD. You really can’t ask for much more given its low price.However, I would not recommend the D6SEC model due to its high maximum noise levels and because there are many alternatives that perform better and run quieter than the D6SEC for $30-$40, particularly from Thermalright.UpHere C5C: Price Comparison […]

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TeamGroup T-Force Dark AirFlow I SSD Cooler Review: The strongest NVMe heatsink you can buy

Until recently, cooling and storage was at best an afterthought for most enthusiasts and PC builders – it really wasn’t a concern outside of servers jam-packed full of hard drives. But current-generation PCIe 5 SSDs can transfer more data than ever before, and pushing those speeds can generate a fair bit of extra heat. With these modern drives, not only is some kind of cooling recommended, but it’s 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 that they can maintain their maximum speeds. Heatsinks large and small, with or without active fans, and even liquid cooling solutions are now available for NVMe SSDs.TeamGroup’s T-Force Dark AirFlow I is the latest M.2 NVMe SSD heatsink cooler to land in our test bed. It features a pitch-black design, a mini tower of fins with two copper heatpipes, and an active 40 mm fan for enhanced heat dissipation. Does it perform well enough to compete with the best SSD heatsinks for your storage? Before we get to the benchmarks, we’ll take a quick look at the features and specifications of the cooler.Cooler specificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyHeatsinkTeamGroup T-Force Dark Airflow IMSRP$34.99Heatsink MaterialMultilayered Aluminum AlloyCompatibilityM.2 2280Dimensions105 mm (L) x 55.5 mm (W) x 11 mm (D)Weight83 gramsWarranty1 yearPacking and included contentsThe Dark Airflow I arrives in a box similar in size to my Samsung S24 Ultra smartphone, but deeper. Opening the box reveals the heatsink in plastic packaging.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)You’ll find instructions on how to install the device printed on the inside of the box. Underneath the plastic packaging are thermal pads and a small screwdriver.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)InstallationThe installation of the NVMe heatsink is fairly simple. 1. To begin, you’ll first need to disassemble the unit. Then, you’ll take the base of the heatsink and apply the first thermal pad to it.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)2. Place your M.2 NVMe SSD onto the thermal pad. Take the second thermal pad, and place it on top.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)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 motherboard latch, and connect the PWM connection to a motherboard header.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Features of Teamgroup’s T-Force Dark Airflow I▶ Compatible with most GPUs Despite its larger size, TeamGroup’s Airflow I can be installed next to most GPUs on the market without compatibility problems. However, if you have one of the RTX 4090 GPUs that covers the NVMe slot next to your CPU, you’ll have to use an alternative slot.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Double-sided SSD cooling supportSome NVMe heatsinks only effectively cool the top side of an SSD – which means they’re not effective for drives with NAND on both sides of the PCB. This is especially a problem with the standard heatsinks used for most motherboards and will result in throttling if the NAND on the bottom side of the SSD is stressed. The Dark Airflow I supports double-sided SSDs and will keep both sides of the unit cooled effectively, which enables maximum unthrottled performance.▶ Tall heatsink with fins and two copper heatpipesThe Dark AirFlow I incorporates a black heatsink with multilayered aluminum alloy fins and two copper heatpipes for enhanced heat dissipation. It is quite possible that – with a little bit of modification – this unit could be adapted to effectively cool low-end CPUs.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Active fan for cooling supremacyIn addition to the fins and copper heatpipes, the Dark Airflow I also utilizes a 2510-type fan for better cooling performance.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Solid black aestheticEvery part of the heatsink – including the fins, the copper heatpipes, the fan, and even the cord of the unit  –  are all solid black.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Testing Methodology: How hot is too hot? Does cooling even matter for a SSD?With SSD heatsinks, many readers are likely 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. Many users who do 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 that 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, 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. When I was determining how to test these units, I consulted with many storage industry experts. They emphasized that modern PCIe 5.0 drives need at least some kind of cooling to avoid throttling and that even basic workloads can be impacted by minor throttling without a heatsink. Users with storage-intensive workloads will require a stronger heatsink, like the Teamgroup Dark Airflow I SSD heatsink we’re reviewing today, to prevent their drive’s 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, let’s 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 of handling strong thermal loads. However, many drives do not include a heatsink in the box, and it would be a bad ideal 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 platformSwipe to scroll horizontallyTo test the heatsinks, I’ve created a custom IOMeter script with input from experts in the industry. I run an initial test of 30 minutes after installing the heatsink to burn it in. After turning the system off and allowing it to fully cool down, I run another 30-minute test. I’ll repeat the process for verification and if there is no variance I consider the results accurate. If there is variance, I’ll test the heatsink twice more.Tests are performed inside of a real case, BeQuiet’s Silent Base 802. I use a 360mm AIO to avoid having the CPU Cooler potentially impact the results, but there’s an argument to be made that the most petite heatsinks should be tested under an air cooler. We’ll investigate this further in upcoming reviews to see how much – or little – this can impact the results of lower-end heatsinks.

Thermal ResultsThe thermal results of TeamGroup’s T-Force Dark Airflow I were phenomenal, stronger than any other SSD heatsink I’ve tested with a recorded temperature of only 39 degrees Celsius at the end of testing. It will ensure your SSD’s storage is consistent and is capable of cooling any workload thrown at your NVMe drive – no matter how intensive it is.With results this strong, I decided to test the unit againm, but without the fan. Despite this handicap, it still remained in the top 10 best-performing units landing at number 8.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Noise LevelsWhen I’ve tested NVMe heatsinks with fans, I always test them with my motherboard’s default setting, shown below. I don’t bother to adjust this because at this setting, none of the units I’ve tested ran louder than my system fans at idle – and I like a nice, quietly running system.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Personally, I think it would be quite pointless to run any of these heatsink fans at full speed. You won’t gain any performance, and this heatsink performs rather well even without a fan! If you are so inclined to run the fans at full speed, TeamGroup’s Dark Airflow I will reach up to 45.3 dBA. That’s just slightly quieter than Thermalright’s Phantom Spirit 120 EVO CPU cooler.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)But really folks – don’t run the fans of your SSD cooler at full speed. It doesn’t effectively do anything but increase noise levels.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)ConclusionTeamGroup’s T-Force Dark Airflow I is the SSD heatsink cooler you should buy if you’re looking for the best thermal performance on the market and don’t have concerns about price. Even with its fan removed, it kept our test SSD at 52 degrees Celsius after 30 minutes of stress testing, which is a very impressive result.It’s expensive and more complicated than smaller passive coolers, and it’s certainly overkill for the average consumer. But if you have an expensive high-end, high-capacity SSD and you often run storage-intensive workloads, $35 is a small price to pay to make sure you maintain the best performance possible while keeping the drive cool enough that heat doesn’t negatively affect the drive’s longevity. […]

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ID-Cooling FX360 Pro Review: Very good for $60

The AIO liquid cooler market has become much more competitive in the past year or so, resulting in stronger products available for lower prices than ever. Over the past year, top-performing AIOs have been available for as low as $120 USD. Today we’ll be covering ID-Cooling’s latest 360mm AIO, the FX360 Pro, which is available for only $60 – a price lower than many high-end air coolers. With such a budget price tag, I have to wonder if it’s actually strong enough to tame a hot CPU like Intel’s i7-13700K. Does the FX 360 Pro have what it takes to earn a spot on our best AIO coolers list? We’ll have to put it through testing to find out. But first, here are the specifications from ID-Cooling.Cooler specificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyCoolerID-Cooling FX 360 ProMSRP$59.99 USDHeatsink MaterialAluminumRated LifespanUnlistedSocket CompatibilityIntel Socket LGA 1851/1700/1200/115x/20xx
AMD AM5 / AM4BaseCopperMax TDP (Our Testing)~250W with Intel’s i7-13700KInstalled Size (with fans)397mm (L) x 52 mm (W) x 120mm (D)Warranty3 yearsToday’s best ID-Cooling FX360 Pro 360mm AIO dealsPacking and included contentsThe packaging of the AIO incorporates molded foam, plastic coverings, and cardboard to protect the contents.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Included in the box are the following:360mm radiator and CPU blockThree 120mm fansMounting for modern AMD and Intel PlatformsFrost X45 Thermal PasteCable management clips(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Features of ID-Cooling’s FX 360 Pro▶ Budget $60 USD MSRPThe most impressive feature of this cooler is the price – at only $59.99 in the US, it’s cheaper than many high-end air coolers and less than half the price of most competing liquid coolers.   ▶ Fully rotatable, braided tubing and full RAM compatibilityAs an AIO does not interfere or overhang DIMM slots in any manner, all sizes of RAM, no matter how tall, are compatible with ID-Cooling’s FX360 Pro. The tubes of the of the AIO are braided and are fully rotatable for ease of installation and setup.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ 27mm thick radiatorThe radiator included with the liquid cooler is 27mm, typical of most units currently on the market. ▶ Three Year WarrantyDespite its budget price of only $60 USD, the FX 360 Pro is backed against failures with a three year warranty. ▶ Large copper CPU baseThe base of the unit is large and comprised of copper to facilitate thermal transfer.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The top of the CPU black features a reflective black etched metal design.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Frost X45 Thermal PasteIncluded with the AIO is a tube of ID-Cooling’s new premium thermal paste, Frost X45. The thermal conductivity of this paste is advertised at 15.2W/M-K. We’ll be taking a look at this paste in more detail in our upcoming refreshed thermal paste tests. (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware) ▶ TF-12025-Pro 120mm fans I say this on almost every cooler review, but there’s more to a cooler than just the heatsink or radiator. The bundled fans have a significant impact on cooling and noise levels, as well as how the cooler looks in your case.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Swipe to scroll horizontallyModelTF-12025-PRODimensions120 x 120 x 25mmFan Speed500-1800 RPM ± 10%Air FlowUp to 82.5 CFMAir PressureUp to 2.55 mmH2OBearing TypeHydraulic BearingLightingNoneMFFTUnlisted▶ Cable Management ClipsIncluded are three plastic cable management clips to keep the AIO’s tubing tidy.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)LGA1700 Socket BendingThere are many factors other than the CPU cooler that can influence your cooling performance, including the case you use and the fans installed in it. A system’s motherboard can also influence this, especially if it suffers from bending, which results in poor cooler contact with the CPU. In order to prevent bending from impacting our cooling results, we’ve installed Thermalright’s LGA 1700 contact frame into our testing rig. If your motherboard is affected by bending, your thermal results will be worse than those shown below. Not all motherboards are affected equally by this issue. I tested Raptor Lake CPUs in two motherboards. And while one of them showed significant thermal improvements after installing Thermalright’s LGA1700 contact frame, the other motherboard showed no difference in temperatures whatsoever! Check out our review of the contact frame for more information.Testing Methodology, and how my testing differs vs the competitionMy previous review of Arctic’s Liquid Freezer III AIOs was quite controversial, and it made me realize that I need to better explain my testing methodology.My cooler testing is specifically designed to emulate the conditions a user would actually experience when using a computer. Some reviewers test coolers using an open bench. I do not like this method, it reduces cooling difficulty. When you use a case, the internal temperature of that case will become higher than that of the room’s ambient temperature, increasing the saturation of the cooler and overall cooling difficulty. Testing outside of a case will give an advantage to weaker coolers, especially those with fans that aren’t very strong. Others test using a thermal heatplate. This method suffers from all the drawbacks of an open bench, but also doesn’t accurately represent cooling a CPU. A thermal plate evenly distributes a thermal load across the copper heat conduction square. The problem with this type of testing is that modern AMD Ryzen and Intel Core CPUs have most of their heat concentrated in a few hotspots – and cooling a concentrated source of heat is more difficult than cooling a source that’s spread evenly.In discussions with industry representatives, one manufacturer (who wishes to remain anonymous) mentioned that in the past they once used heat plates in a thermal chamber during their design process, until they realized that method of testing was “giving us nice TDP numbers to print on the box, but is not reflective of the user experience at all.” They mentioned that switching to tests using real CPUs increased their testing time, but also provided valuable data to help improve their products. An example they provided is that this testing allowed them to properly observe “differences between AMD and Intel systems, which we can then address.”The last thing I do differently from some cooler testers is that I insist on using relatively new CPUs for cooler testing, because people building new PCs should be using recent CPUs. Also, thermal density is just different with newer CPUs. Products like Ryzen 3000 “Zen 2” and older 14nm Intel CPUs have lower heat density compared to modern counterparts, due to a combination of using older manufacturing processes and running at lower clock speeds. Using a weaker cooler with an older CPU can make the cooler look better performing than it actually is with current-gen silicon. Today’s highest-end CPUs, whether Intel or AMD, are difficult to cool in intensive workloads. In the past. reaching 95 degrees Celsius or more on a desktop CPU might have been a cause for concern. But with today’s top-end CPUs, this is considered normal operation. Similar behavior has been present in laptops for years due to cooling limitations in tight spaces.All testing is performed with a 23C ambient room temperature. Multiple thermal tests are run on each CPU to test the cooler in a variety of conditions, and acoustic measurements are taken with each result. These tests include:1. Noise-normalized testing at low noise levels2. “Out-of-the-box”/default configuration thermal & acoustics testing     a. No power limits enforced     b. Because CPUs hit TJMax in this scenario, the best way to compare cooling strength is by recording the total CPU package power consumption.3. Thermal & acoustic testing in power-limited scenarios     a. Power limited to 175W to emulate a medium-intensity workload     b. Power limited to 125W to emulate a low-intensity workloadThe thermal results included are for 10-minute testing runs. To be sure that was sufficiently long to tax the cooler, we tested both Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE and DeepCool’s LT720 with a 30-minute Cinebench test with Intel’s i9-13900K for both 10 minutes and 30 minutes. The results didn’t change much at all with the longer test: The average clock speeds maintained dropped by 29 MHz on DeepCool’s LT720 and 31 MHz on Thermalright’s Assassin X 120 R SE. That’s a very small 0.6% difference in clock speeds maintained, a margin of error difference that tells us that the 10-minute tests are indeed long enough to properly test the coolers.Testing configuration – Intel LGA1700 platformSwipe to scroll horizontallyID-Cooling FX360 Pro 360mm AIO: Price Comparison

Thermal results without power limitsWithout power limits enforced on Intel’s i7-13700K, the CPU will hit its peak temperature (TJ Max) and thermally throttle with even the strongest of air coolers. When the CPU reaches its peak temperature, I’ve measured the CPU package power to determine the maximum wattage cooled to best compare their performance.The general exception to this comes with the strongest AIOs on the market, which can keep Intel’s i7-13700K under TJ Max. This is no small task, as most 360mm AIOs still fail this test.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The thermal performance on this first test was surprisingly strong for a $60 AIO, performing on par with some of the best coolers we’ve tested, including DeepCool’s LT720 and Iceberg Thermal’s IceFLOE Oasis 360.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)To achieve this level of performance, the unrestricted fans run up to 51.5 dBA. This is a bit louder than I’m generally comfortable with, but not by much – and as our next round of results will show, it performs well at low noise levels.Thermal results with noise normalized to 38.2 dBAFinding the right balance between fan noise levels and cooling performance is important. While running fans at full speed can improve cooling capacity to some extent, the benefits are limited and many users prefer a quieter system. With this noise-normalized test, I’ve set noise levels to 38.2 dBA. This level of noise is a low volume level, but slightly audible to most people.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)With 235W cooled during the course of testing, ID-Cooling’s noise-normalized performance is better than most other coolers on the market.175W Cinebench resultsMost coolers on the market can keep Intel’s i7-13700K under its peak temperature if the power consumption is limited, so for this test, we’ll be looking at the CPU’s actual temperature.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The result of 51 degrees C over ambient is fairly good, in the strongest half of our results. The noise levels of 44.9 dBA in this test are just above the middle of the road. This is not the quietest cooler we’ve tested, but many AIOs run much louder in this test.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)125W Cinebench resultsThe lowest power limit I test with Raptor Lake CPUs is 125W. This is a high enough limit to allow the CPU to maintain its base clock speeds even in the most intensive tests, and most coolers should be capable of keeping the CPU below TJ Max (the max temperature before throttling) – even low-end coolers.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Really, thermals do not matter in this scenario. Even Intel’s stock cooler can handle a load like this with ease. Noise levels, rather than CPU temperature, are the most important factor here. That said, a result of 37C over ambient is one of the best we’ve recorded.Noise levels of 40.3 in this scenario aren’t loud, but it is a bit louder than I’d prefer.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Conclusion(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)ID-Cooling’s FX360 Pro features a sleek jet-black aesthetic and delivers top-tier cooling performance for a fraction of what competitors charge, with an MSRP of only $60. The only real downside to this cooler is that its fans run a bit louder than they need to, but it still performs well when limited to low noise levels – and that’s an acceptable compromise for a product priced so affordably.ID-Cooling FX360 Pro 360mm AIO: Price Comparison […]

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Arctic Freezer 36 Review: Raising the bar for entry-level air coolers

German company Arctic has been a mainstay in the PC cooling space ever since its founding in 2001. Today the company is known for its Freezer Air & Liquid CPU Coolers, MX thermal pastes, fans, as well as custom Accelero GPU coolers.Most of our cooling reviews cover higher-end products, but today we’ll look at Arctic’s latest budget air cooler, the Freezer 36 White ARGB. Does this cooler have what it takes to earn a spot on our best Coolers list? We’ll put it through testing and find out. But first, here are the cooler’s specifications, direct from Arctic.Cooler specificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyCoolerFreezer 36 A-RGB WhiteMSRP$33.87Heatsink MaterialAluminumRated Lifespan6-year warrantySocket CompatibilityIntel LGA 1700/1851
AMD AM5/AM4BaseCopper BaseMax TDP with Intel’s i7-13700K (Our Testing)219WDimensions104mm (L) x 126 mm (W) x 159mm (D)Features of Arctic’s Freezer 36 Air Cooler▶ Available in black or white, with or without RGBArctic recognizes that PC users have a diverse set of aesthetic tastes. As such, the Freezer 36 is available in black and white and with or without ARGB.Image Source: Arctic Cooling(Image credit: Arctic Cooling)▶ Full RAM CompatibilityArctic’s Freezer 36 does not impede or overhang DIMM slots in any manner – allowing installation of all sizes of DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, no matter how tall.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Industry-leading 6-year warrantyMany manufacturers offer just two- or three-year warranties for their products. Arctic indicates confidence in its manufacturing quality by backing its cooler with an industry-leading six-year warranty.▶ Direct touch heatpipesIf you pair an air cooler with a hot CPU like Intel’s i7-13700K, most will almost immediately hit TJ Max (the CPU’s maximum temperature) and throttle to a small extent. Arctic’s use of direct touch heatpipes prevents this from happening – the cooler is able to handle the full maximum turbo speeds of Intel’s i7-13700K for a short period of time, allowing unrestricted performance when it’s needed.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ LGA 1700 contact frameTo ensure the best possible performance on Intel systems, Arctic includes a LGA 1700 contact frame with the Freezer 36.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Arctic MX-6 Thermal Paste, Arctic StickerA small 0.8g tube of Arctic MX-6 thermal paste is included, which is sufficient for a few installations. Arctic also includes a sticker, for those who like to display their brand loyalty.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶ Arctic P12 PWM PST A-RGB 120mm fansOne of the most important aspects of a cooler are the fans included, which directly impact both thermal performance and noise levels. The ones included here are unchanged compared to previous-gen Arctic coolers: Arctic’s P12 PWM fans. These fans include an auto-stop feature, turning the fans off if PWM falls below 5%.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Swipe to scroll horizontallyModelArctic P12 PWM PST A-RGBDimensions120 x 120 x 25mmFan SpeedUp to 2000 RPMAir FlowUp to 48.8 CFMAir PressureUp to 1.85 mmH2OBearing TypeFDB BearingLightingA-RGBMFFT6 year warranty▶Tool-free fan installation A feature I love about the Arctic Freezer 36 is the ability to install the fans without using any tool, or even fan clips. The fans have screws pre-installed into the corners, and the heads of these screws snap into a fitting on the heatsink, which mounts the fans in place on the cooler. (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Packing and included contents(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The packaging of the Freezer 36 utilizes cardboard to separate and protect the individual components inside of the box.Image […]

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120mm AIO Roundup: Testing Be Quiet, Corsair, Cooler Master, and Enermax models

With most of the reviews I do for Tom’s Hardware, I’m looking to test the best CPU coolers on the market, capable of taming heat-intensive CPUs like Intel’s i9-14900K. However, not everyone needs a large dual-tower air cooler or a 360mm AIO.While I would normally recommend using a standard air or liquid cooler, there can be situations where a 120mm AIO will be the best option for certain niche configurations. So below, I’ll be looking at the smallest AIO models from Be Quiet, Cooler Master, Corsair, and Enermax to see which are worthy of your consideration – and which ones you should avoid.Spec Comparison TableSwipe to scroll horizontallyModelEnermax LiqMaxFloBeQuiet! Pure Loop 2 120mmCorsair H60x EliteCoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML120L V2 RGBCoolerMaster MasterLiquid 120L CoreRadiator MaterialAluminumAluminumAluminumAluminumAluminumRadiator Dimensions154 x 120 x 27152 x 120 x 27156 x 120 x 27157 x 119.6 x 27.2157 x 119.6 x 27.2Pump Speed1200-3200 RPM4000-5000 RPMUnlistedUnlistedUnlistedPump MTBF >50,000 hoursUnlistedUnlisted70,000 hours >70,000 hoursFan ModelUnlistedPure Wings 3 120 PWMSP120 RGB Elite PWMSickleFlow 120 RGBUnlistedFan Speed1800 RPM2100 RPM1500 RPM1800 RPM1750 RPMFan Air Flow58.03 CFM59.6 CFM47.73 CFM62 CFM71.93 CFMFan Static Pressure2.4mmH202.41 mmH201.46 mmH202.5 mmH201.86 mmH20Price$79.99$89.90$79.99$79.99$69.99Warranty5 years3 years5 years2 years3 yearsA summary of each cooler’s features▶ Enermax LiqMaxFlo 120(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Enermax’ LiqMaxFlo stands out from the competition with an fan included atop the CPU block, which can help lower VRM and RAM temperatures. I feel this could be especially useful in a space-constrained SFF system. It features low noise levels and has a user-accessible refill port.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶  Be Quiet! Pure Loop 120(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)True to its brand name, Be Quiet’s Pure Loop 120 features moderately low noise levels, and its design features an external liquid pump. Not only is there a user-accessible refill port, Be Quiet goes the extra mile by including 100 ml of additional coolant for those who might wish to refill their coolers in the future.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶  Corsair H60x Elite(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The best feature of Corsair’s H60x Eliteis its extremely low maximum noise levels of only 38.2 dBA, the quietest of all units tested in this review. It also features RGB on the CPU block and the fan.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)▶   Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML120L V2 and 120L Core(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The main difference between the ML120L V2 and the 120L Core are the fans included. The fan on the 120L Core is solid black, with mid-range noise levels. The fan included with the ML120L V2 runs quieter and features RGB illumination.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Testing methodologyToday’s highest-end CPUs, whether Intel or AMD, are difficult to cool in intensive workloads. In the past. reaching 95 degrees Celsius or more on a desktop CPU might have been a cause for concern. But with today’s top-end CPUs, this is considered normal operation. Similar behavior has been present in laptops for years due to cooling limitations in tight spaces.All testing is performed with a 23 degrees C ambient room temperature. Multiple thermal tests are run on each CPU to test the cooler to verify the accuracy of results. These tests include:1. Noise-normalized testing at low noise levels2. “Out of the box”/default configuration thermal & acoustics testing    a. No power limits enforced    b. Because CPUs hit Tjmax in this scenario, the best way to compare cooling strength is by recording the total CPU package power consumption. 3. Testing in Power Limited Scenarios    a. Power limited to 95W to emulate a medium-intensity workload    b. Power limited to 75W to emulate a low-intensity workloadTesting configuration – AMD AM5 PlatformSwipe to scroll horizontally

Maximum Intensity Thermal Testing and Noise LevelsIn the most intense workloads, AMD’s Ryzen 7 7700X will reach its peak temperature of 95 degrees Celsius, and as a result will thermally throttle to a small degree with all but the strongest of liquid coolers. When the CPU reaches its peak temperature, I’ve measured the CPU package power to determine the maximum wattage cooled to best compare their performance.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Of the coolers tested here, Be Quiet’s was the strongest, cooling approximately 118W during the course of testing. Of course, that is only half of the picture – noise levels are equally important.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The noise levels have quite a bit of variance here. Corsair’s H60x had the most ideal noise levels, reaching only 38.2 dBA. Cooler Master’s 120L was the loudest, reaching 46.5 dBA! But when you consider both the thermal results and the noise results, Enermax’ LiqMaxFlo had the best showing overall, with the second-strongest cooling results paired with the second-quietest noise levels.Thermal results with noise normalized to 37.3 dBA Finding the right balance between fan noise levels and cooling performance is important. While running fans at full speed can improve cooling capacity to some extent, the benefits are limited and many users prefer a quiet system. With this noise-normalized test, I’ve set noise levels to 37.3 dBA. This level of noise is a low volume level that is slightly audible, but shouldn’t bother even the most noise-sensitive of users.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)When the fans are manually tuned for low noise levels, Be Quiet lives up to its name, providing the best thermal dissipation in this noise-normalized test.95W Cinebench resultsFor a CPU like AMD’s Ryzen 7 7700X, common workloads won’t exceed 95W of power consumption – this is what you might expect from the most CPU-demanding games.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Be Quiet’s Pure Loop 120 again provided the best overall results heere, averaging only 78 C in our 23 C ambient temperature test setup. Noise results weren’t tested in this scenario, because they were essentially the same as the maximum noise results, due to the default fan curve.75W Cinebench resultsThe lowest power limit I’ve tested for these 120mm AIO coolers is 75W. This power level is more typical of what most users might see while running AMD’s Ryzen 7 7700X. Most games will use around 70W, in my experience.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Thermals don’t really matter in this scenario. If Intel’s stock cooler fit onto an AM5 motherboard, it would even perform well enough here. That said, Be Quiet’s Pure Loop 120 again provided the best thermal results, with a CPU package temperature of 65C.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)When noise levels are taken into account, however, Corsair’s H60x Elite and Enermax’ Liqmax Flo offer the best performance in common scenarios. Their volume levels measured only 36.4 dBA in this scenario – which is about as low as my noise meter can reliably measure.ConclusionIf I were in the market for a 120mm AIO, my choice of the coolers tested would be Enermax’ LiqMaxFlo 120mm. While it doesn’t offer the absolute best thermal results in maximum intensity workloads, it offers an ideal combination of thermal performance and low noise levels. Additionally, the fan atop its CPU block will help keep your VRMs and RAM cool, which can be useful for systems with less-than-ideal airflow. And systems like that are exactly where you’re most likely to want to use a small AIO in the first place.If you simply want the best thermal performance, get Be Quiet’s Pure Loop 120 – but it runs a little bit louder, it costs about $10 more than the competition, at $90. Users who want the quietest overall experience should consider Corsair’s H60x Elite, which when we wrote this was selling for $80. […]

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Hands-on with Be Quiet’s Dark Base Pro 901: Decibel dampener

Today’s best be quiet! Dark Base Pro 901 dealsBe quiet! is a name that’s likely well known by most readers of Tom’s Hardware, and as the name implies, the company is known for, among other things, high-end cooling solutions with low noise levels. I’ve recently tested their latest air cooler, the Dark Rock Pro Elite, and found it to be one of the best air coolers currently on the market. Today’s review will cover the Dark Base Pro 901, a full-sized PC case from Be Queit (as it will be preferred to for the rest of this review) that’s packed with a plethora of features ranging from wireless charging to 5.25-inch drive bay support (for all you optical drive die-hards out there), and even wireless charging.Case specificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyCaseDark Base Pro 901MSRP$329.99Size, including stands569 (H) x 275 (W) x 604mm (D)MaterialAluminum, Steel, and Tempered GlassCooling Layout SupportFront: Up to 3x 140mm fans/420mm radiator
Top and Side: Up to 3x 120mm fans/360mm radiator
Rear: 140mm radiator/fanExpansion Slots8Motherboard SupportE-ATX, XL-ATX, ATX, M-ATX, Mini-ATXStorage1x 5.25”
2x 3.5” with included parts, up to 7 supported with additional drive bays
6x 2.5” with included parts, up to 16 with additional drive baysClearanceGraphic Card Length Limitation: 495mm with HDD cage removed, up to 370mm with HDD cage installed
CPU Cooler Height Limitation: 190mm
PSU Length Limitation: 325mmFront I/O1x USB 3.2 Type-C
4 x USB 3.2 Type-A
1x Audio Port
1x Microphone Port
1x Fan Control
1x Power Button
1x LED ControlColor OptionsBlack, WhiteWarranty3 YearsPackaging(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The Dark Base Pro 901 arrives like most other cases, protected by molded foam, but the company also includes a cloth covering which can be used to protect the case from dust accumulation should you need to put it in storage.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The accessories are included in two boxes, one of which is packaged inside of the computer case. Among other parts like screws the accessories include the side radiator bracket, the 5.25-inch drive bay adapter, and a GPU anti-sag bracket.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)BeQuiet also included its Straight Power 1200W PSU for use while testing this case. While I’m not qualified to review a PSU in detail, I can say that this one is true to Be Quiet’s name and operates silently during most workloads. That’s likely helped in part by the fact that our test setup didn’t exactly push this 1200W unit to its power limits.Image […]

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Hands-on with XPG’s Battlecruiser II Mid-Tower Case: Transparency From All Sides

What really sets the XPG Battlecruiser II case apart from others is the ability to see through both the left and right sides of the computer case, allowing you to see all of your included components (and any cables you don’t manage to hide). That’s not the chassis’ only useful feature though, as we’ll discuss below. For those unfamiliar with the brand, XPG is a gaming-focused division of Adata, created in 2008. Its current lineup currently includes computer cases, SSDs, keyboards, laptops, and more! Before we dive into the company’s latest case, let’s take a quick look at the specifications, straight from Adata.Case SpecificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyCaseXPG Battlecruiser IIMSRP$180 USD for the base model
$200 USD for the model including the XPG Prime BoxSize550 (H) x 225 (W) x 506mm (D)MaterialSteel, 4mm Tempered GlassCooling Layout SupportFront: 120mm x3 (included), 140mm x3
Top: 120mm x3, 140mm x2
Rear: 120mm x1 (included)Expansion Slots$5.00Motherboard SupportMini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX, CEB, EEBStorageUp to 8 Drives supported in total
Up to 5x 3.5” drives
Up to 6x 2.5” drivesClearanceGraphic Card Length Limitation: 395mm (without front radiator)
CPU Cooler Height Limitation: 175mm
PSU Length Limitation: 225mmFront I/O1x USB 3. 2 Gen 1 Type-C
2 x USB 3. 2
1x Hybrid Audio Port
1x Reset Button
1x Power Button
1x LED ButtonColor OptionsBlack, WhiteWarranty2 Years(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Features of XPG’s Battlecruiser IIXPG Prime BoxThe version of the Battlecruiser II we tested includes XPG’s Prime Box, a hardware ARGB and PWM controller which supports 4 incoming ARGB and PWM connections.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Most ARGB and PWM controllers are rather similar. But the XPG Prime Box has one feature that sets it apart from others – it also supports motherboard USB expansion. The device is connected via a USB motherboard header, but it also supports two incoming connections of the same type. This is an especially useful feature if you have multiple devices that utilize these connections, as most motherboards only have one or two of these connections.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The device can be synchronized with your motherboard or controlled by the XPG Prime Box software. The software supports individually customizing each connected device, or you can synchronize them all to the same settings.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The lighting options are divided into two areas, where one can modify basic or more advanced settings. The basic options offer 4 customizations and will apply to each device connected if chosen.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The more advanced lighting options offer the ability to modify each connected device’s settings independently, nine preset lighting options that can be customized in detail, and the ability to save those customized settings and quickly change between saved settings.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Flexible storage optionsIn addition to any M.2 drives you might connect to your motherboard, the XPG Battlecruiser II offers support for as many as eight additional drives. You can install up to six 2.5-inch drives or as many as five 3.5-inch drives. Most of that storage is located on the rear of the case, but one drive can be placed in front of the motherboard, above the PSU.Image […]

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Hands-On With Corsair’s 2000D Airflow: Tall SFF Case Supports 360mm AIOs

Today’s best Corsair 2000D Airflow dealsCorsair is well known in almost every corner of the component, peripheral space, and PC space, offering up cooling and power supply options like H170i Elite 420mm AIO and CX750M Power Supply, as well as monitors, mice, and even laptops. Of course, the company is also a mainstay in the PC case realm, and its latest SFF chassis, the Corsair 2000D Airflow offers some interesting features for a case with this small of a footprint.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)The 2000D Airflow is a tall and slim SFF computer case that features mesh panels on all sides for maximum airflow, as well as 360mm AIO support – something that’s rare in SFF-style cases. We’ll also take a quick look at the SF850L PSU, which the company included with the case for testing purposes.(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)Case SpecificationsSwipe to scroll horizontallyCaseCorsair 2000D AirflowMSRP$139.99 USDInstalled Size271 (L) x 200 (W) x 458mm (H)MaterialSteel, PlasticCooling LayoutFront: 3x 120mm*, 2x 140mm (3x AF120 RGB SLIM Included RGB Version Only) *Dependent on the width of your graphics card, AF Slim Fans may be required for the front mount Side: 3x 120mm or 360mm AIO Rear: 2x 120mm or 240mm AIOExpansion Slots3Motherboard SupportMini-ITXStorage2x 2.5″ SSDs (3 if you purchase a 2nd mount)ClearancePSU Length: 130mm CPU Cooler Height: 90mm GPU Length: 365mmFront I/O2x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1x USB 3.1 Type C, 1x 3.5mm Headset Jack, PWR Button, Reset ButtonColor OptionsBlack, WhiteWarranty2 YearsFeatures of Corsair’s 2000D Airflow• SFX PSU SupportAs is common with compact cases, the 2000D Airflow doesn’t support full-size PSUs, so you’ll need an SFX PSU in order to use this case. The power supply mounts onto an included bracket, which can be removed from the case to facilitate easier installation.Image […]