Mini-ITX CPU Air Cooler Round-Up

Test Results And Conclusion

Below is the hardware for our 2015 Reference PC, minus the test cooler of course, and with a slightly different power supply to reduce excess heat and promote airflow. The whole package is tested inside of the QBX case from Cougar to help simulate a compact case with average airflow.

Test System Configuration

SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
Software
GraphicsNVidia GeForce 353.20
ChipsetIntel INF 10.0.27
Benchmark Configuration
Prime95v27.9, AVX FFT length 8K, continuous for at least 2 hours
RealTemp 3.70Maximum Temperature, All Cores Averaged
Galaxy CM-140 SPL MeterTested at 1/4 m, corrected to 1 m (-12 db), dB(A) weighting

Test Results

For added reference, we included the test results of Noctua's well-reviewed NH-L12 MiniITX cooler so that we have something to compare today's results against. Additionally, the ambient air temperature was maintained at 26 degrees Celsius (78.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

At full fan speeds, Reeven's RC-1001b Brontes and be quiet!'s Shadow Rock LP give the NH-L12 a run for its money, either meeting or exceeding its performance. At 50 percent fan speeds, a small gap develops between the coolers, but they're still quite close to the performance of the NH-L12. More importantly, it's worth noting that despite its lower 95W TDP rating, the Brontes manages to hold strong against its larger competitors. Meanwhile, SilverStone's Argon AR06 and ID-Cooling's IS-VC45 are also locked in tight competition, albeit with much less impressive results.

It's a bit disappointing to see such mediocre performance out of the Argon AR06 and IS-VC45 coolers given that their fan speeds are so much higher than their competition. Moreover, we would have liked to have seen better results from the IS-VC45 given its 130W TDP rating. Moving on, it is a bit surprising to see that the Brontes managed to remain as quiet as it did given its 2200-RPM fan speed.

After seeing the fans speeds above, the acoustic performance of the Argon AR06 and IS-VC45 shouldn't come as much of a shock to anyone. Nor is it much of a surprise to see that the Shadow Rock LP performed well given be quiet!'s proven fan design and low operating speed.

At 50 percent fan speeds, the Brontes and Shadow Rock LP manage near identical efficiency, and we only get to see the true winner at full fan speeds. However, given the size difference between the coolers, that gap would probably shrink if the Brontes had just a bit more bulk to its heat sink.

With one of the lowest price tags of our round-up, the Brontes achieves a clear value win over the Shadow Rock LP, although only on paper. When you take into account the size differences and feature sets of the two coolers, that small difference in value doesn't add up to all that much. In any case, we still hand the overall win and our Editor's Choice Award to the Reeven RC-1001 Brontes since it better fulfills the overall role of a compact cooler due to its size and performance. be quiet!'s Shadow Rock LP receives our Editor Recommended Award and we're giving SilverStone's Argon AR06 cooler our Editor Approved Award.

Meanwhile, the lackluster performance and minimal feature set of the IS-VC45 push it to the bottom of the pack when it comes to any value consideration. Finally, almost all of these coolers look good when it comes to value, regardless of their performance, when compared to the size of the NH-L12 and its $60 price tag. 

SilverStone Argon AR06

Reeven RC-1001 Brontes

ID-Cooling IS-VC45

be quiet! Shadow Rock LP

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Chris Miconi is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware,covering CasesFollow us on FacebookGoogle+RSSTwitter and YouTube.

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21 comments
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  • megamanxtreme
    I was hoping for one that can be mounted like the stock AMD cooler, without having to rely on pulling-out the motherboard to install the back plate.
  • why_wolf
    For these kinds of small form factor coolers I would greatly appreciated seeing the stock Intel cooler in there. No point in buying 3rd party if it can't beat stock.
  • farlandprince
    What kind of a roundup is this?

    you missed like 10 available coolers ...
  • Onus
    The Reeven appears to be available at Newegg, but all their products also tack on a $20 shipping charge.
  • SuperBox
    The Shadow Rock LP does not require the use of low profile memory, standard memory without a tall heat spreader can fit.
  • Calculatron
    I love cooler round-ups!

    Please tell me that more are coming!
  • DonkeyOatie
    Shame some of the older coolers you have reviewed, like the RAIJINTEK Pallas or Xigmatek Januscould not have been included, so the earlier reviews could be 'normalized' with this hardware kit
  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Cryorig?
  • NMOGV2
    How about the inclusion of the scythe big suriken 2 rev. b? For 40$ it's an amazing little cooler.
  • Yuka
    No GeminII M4? :(

    I wish you guys can include them, as well as include (when available) the new boxed cooler from AMD, plus Intel boxed coolers.

    Cheers!
  • 10tacle
    I'm curious what the requisites were for just these four coolers being tested. Was a notification sent out to all the mITX cooler makers to ask for a sample product to test and these are the only four that were sent? Or was it a case of not all mITX cooler makers were reached out to? It's not real clear in the intro.

    Tom's tested eight of them back in Nov. 2013:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/low-profile-heat-sink-mini-itx,3639.html
  • Crashman
    202972 said:
    I'm curious what the requisites were for just these four coolers being tested. Was a notification sent out to all the mITX cooler makers to ask for a sample product to test and these are the only four that were sent? Or was it a case of not all mITX cooler makers were reached out to? It's not real clear in the intro. Tom's tested eight of them back in Nov. 2013: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/low-profile-heat-sink-mini-itx,3639.html
    You'd probably be upset if you found out that these were leftover samples sent with things like the big coolers that I test and the small cases that he tests, so let me be nice and say that he has the full license to pick up on small cooling reviews where I left off. So this is just the intro to a series of reviews.
  • 10tacle
    8708 said:
    So this is just the intro to a series of reviews.


    Ah....I had to read the intro again to fully understand after your response. Thanks Crashman! Fully understood.
  • cmiconi
    As Crash mentioned earlier (and as I mentioned in the article), most of these coolers came with the mITX cases I received. We also had a couple requests from manufactures to test their products. I've still got a couple of coolers on hand that need to be tested at some point, but I've shifted my focus back to cases for the time being, so it's going to be a bit.

    That does leave me some time though to start sending out requests for samples and I'm open to suggestions on what to request. Also, if there's enough demand for a particular theme (i.e. budget coolers) I can also put together another round-up.
  • Janemba
    What about AMD Wraith ? Its Mini-ITX cooler
  • gadgety
    I'd like to see tests based on cooler height: This is the best performer up to 40 mm, 45 mm, 50 mm, 55 mm, 60mm, 65mm etc. At least when I go searching for a cooler one of the first questions I ask is "will it fit." In addition it makes the comparison more relevant. A 75mm cooler will likely be better than a 45, or 58mm. The second question is "how does it perform" and the third "how much is it". Q2 and Q3 I might switch but the first one is not negotiable. I also think that the stock cooler should be in all comparisons.
  • bit_user
    Thanks for the article.

    879769 said:
    I'm open to suggestions on what to request. Also, if there's enough demand for a particular theme (i.e. budget coolers) I can also put together another round-up.
    I'd love to see how Scythe Big Shuriken II Rev. B compares. I have one paired with a Noctua 140 mm fan on my Sandybridge-E. I don't know if it's compatible with Skylake, though.

    Something I've seen on at least one other site is to take another set of cooling measurements using a common reference fan. This is helpful for those of us who would swap fans anyway, and it's a more direct apples-to-apples measurement of cooling efficiency.
  • Daniel Ladishew
    Thank you for testing a product in the environment it was meant to be used in! This is a great start to a (hopefully) comprehensive series of reviews and a truly useful roundup. Thanks guys!
  • RedJaron
    Do you per chance have an ITX FM2+ board to check RAM clearance when you review these?
  • Crashman
    570460 said:
    Do you per chance have an ITX FM2+ board to check RAM clearance when you review these?
    First of all, I'd like to appologize to everyone for the missing information.
    The NH-L12 for example has 0.5" of offset. That's important to know if you're wondering "can I turn this thing to fit the other way". I later started listing which directions the offset pointed (front/rear left/right). When you have both the dimensions AND the offset, you can figure out what the biggest cooler to fit your board will be.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/low-profile-heat-sink-mini-itx,3639.html

    Second of all, one reason the NH-L12 was included in both articles is so that a reader could compare the differences of various coolers (such as "this one is cooler than the NH-L12, what does the previous article say about the other one). So the NH-L12 is the "conversion factor" cooler.
  • GeoDash
    Quote:
    Cryorig?



    Not always the best. They're still beat by other companies.