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Old 21-02-16, 11:08 AM
Nine Iron Nine Iron is offline
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Arctic Freezer i11 review

An upgrade from an i3 to an i5 3550 has forced a new cooler. My Akasa K32 couldn't cut the mustard any more (far too loud at full load), and I tried a Zalman 8900 - that weighed as much as a brick, but was still too noisy for me.

I decided to go for a tower-type cooler, considering the Arctic Freezer 7 Pro v2 (not keen on the push-pin fitment, not for a tower cooler) and the CM 212 Hyper Evo (probably too tall for my case) before I came across the Freezer i11.

Presentation

Usual Arctic quality - nice packaging, generous accessories, including the excellent and renowned MX-4 thermal paste (be it a piddling sachet – they aren’t daft!).

Build quality

Perfectly acceptable for the price (£18-odd). It's no DH-14, or anything; the fins are a bit "tinny" and a couple of them were a bit bent out of the box, but that's easily fixed. The mounting for the 1155 et al processors… well, it definitely does the job, but the flexy metal brackets may strike some as cheap-looking. However, I’m a fit-and-forget kind of guy, so I don’t really care that much.

The fan, though, is especially good, and I think this is where the money has gone.

Installation

It's a bolt-through - you'll need access to the back of the board. Very luckily there was just enough room behind my case to slip the backplate in without taking the board out; indeed, I was able to install it with my case in the vertical position (sticky pads on the backplate – well done, AC), which I consider the yardstick for "easy” when it comes to coolers. Once it's in, it's not going anywhere – very secure.

A nice feature is that it can be made to point in any of the four directions. I went with front-to-back in accordance with my case airflow, but out-the-top is also an option if you've got fans in the roof. I really approve of this because it’s very rare that we’re able to do it.

(A word on memory clearance: mine is Ripjaws - this kind - and the fan just sits properly



Anything taller will cause problems. If you mount it and find the fan won’t sit down, it’s a re-mount, I’m afraid!)

Performance


Temps

(I've got the i5 locked at a 35 multiplier, no Turbo (don't need it, don’t want it – 30-40% more power for one core to go to 37?), and the board won't let me under-volt. This shakes out to a 1.152 V maximum vcore at full load, according to CPU-Z.)

Idling, the hottest core sits comfortably in the mid-30’s (max delta of 15*C). I should add that C1E and EIST are disabled, so the i5 is at 3500 MHz all the time. Cannot ask for more, here – under 40*C is heaven for semi-conductors.

Fully loaded with Prime 95's in-place FFTs, the maximum temperature is 69*C (49*C max delta). In fact, the hottest core sits in the mid-60's and only occasionally bounces up to 69*C. Also, within one second of killing P95 the temps are back down to mid-40's. No complaints whatsoever – sub-70 while being kicked in the nads far more than any real-world stress would do?

(I am well aware that this cooler is rated to 130 W and that I am not stressing it in the least – CPU max power draw is 55 W, for reference – but headroom makes things quiet.)

Noise

(The CPU smart fan target is set at 65*C in the BIOS - I’m prepared to allow a 70*C max if it keeps the fans slower for longer.)

At idle I simply cannot hear this thing. As in, stopping the fan with my finger makes no difference whatsoever to the noise. HWM reports 750 RPM, which is as low as it will stoop, and no day-to-day tasks will make it go any higher. Not even video rendering. Only stress tests can wake mine up.

With the CPU at max-chat under benchmarks the fan girds its loins and climbs to… a frankly laughable 23%. And even this is only in fits and starts; 17% covers it for everything except load-cycling between tests. I would have to mute my speakers to hear it, and even then it's borderline. In all honesty, opening your window to let road noise in will pretty much kill it sound-wise.

Quietness is always #1 on my list when it comes to coolers, and that box has been ticked most emphatically by the i11.

Value for money

I paid less than £20 for this cooler. To put this into perspective, others rated for half the power are going for similar (and more) money. I’d call it a bargain, especially as it’s only a couple of quid more than the much-loved Freezer 7 from which it evolved. If you’ve got the room in your case, none of the blow-downs that can be had for twenty quid really make any sense, and nor do the ones that cost more.

Conclusion

I consider this the perfect “gateway” tower cooler for those looking for silence with low-mid range CPUs. The top-drawer K-series stuff will almost certainly tax it into the audible range, but I am firmly in the camp of over-cooling-for-quiet; I’d rather have, say, a 100 W cooler running at 50% than a 50 W cooler running at 100%.

Would I change anything? Only one thing springs to mind: the fan, oddly. Brilliant as it is, the fact that it’s built into its shroud means that

a) it can’t be replaced with a generic one, and

b) it can only be mounted to push into the cooler, and if you run into memory clearance issues that’s one airflow direction you’d have to cross off the list.

Ideally, the fan could be separated from the shroud and turned around for a pull-mode mounting on the opposite side of the memory. (Ironically, the step-up i30 addresses both of these niggles with a generic fan in a separable cowling).

This is me really struggling, though, because I am delighted with this cooler.

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Old 21-02-16, 12:12 PM
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tinytomlogan tinytomlogan is offline
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