Thermalright AXP-200 Review

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Brand: Thermalright
Model: AXP-200
RRP: (estimated) £40 (At time of the review)

Thermalright is an enthusiast-grade cooling provider in the computer industry. They were formed in 2001 and have since then set many standards in terms of performance cooling products in the world today. They were the first on the market with an all-copper based heatsink when they began in 2001 and they were also the first to make full use of heat pipes to improve the heat dissipation greatly. One such cooler that instantly rings a bell in my mind is the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme (TRUE) which was by far one of the best of its time, providing cooling performance up to 10°c better than any other competitor on the market.

Thermalright have also moved into the ITX range of coolers and today I am going to be looking at the AXP200 which is a mere 73mm tall with the fan installed. There are six 6mm heat pipes on the cooler which should provide great heat dissipation. However, will it be up to the task of cooling the Intel Core i7-4770K or will it struggle to tame the beast? Let’s take a quick glance at the specifications before we open this thing up and put it to the test.

Heatsink Specifications:
Dimension: L150 mm x W140 mm x H60 mm
Weight: 475g
Heat pipes: 6mm heatpipe x 6 units
Fin: T = 0.5 mm ; Gap = 2.0 mm
Fin Pcs: 1+17+17+5+9 = 49 pcs
Copper Base: C1100 Pure copper nickel plated
Motherboard to Fin: 22+8 = 30 mm & 34+8=42mm

TY-14013 Fan Spec
Dimension: L150 mm x H140 mm x W13 mm
Weight: 90g
Rated Speed: 700~1300RPM±15%
Noise Level: 30.6dBA(Max.)
Air Flow: 64.52CFM

A brown box with the Thermalright brand in the centre is something which we have become accustom to. Ever since I can remember, back in the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme (TRUE) days, the packaging has remained the same. Extravagant packaging is by no means a requirement, but it does attract the consumers’ attention. The rest of the box is just as plain and colourless as the front so without further blabbing on, let’s open up the box and see this cooler in the flesh!

 

Opening the box will reveal a white cover and a manual on the top. Upon further inspection, it is actually a compartment which houses all of the mounting mechanisms.  There are quite a few accessories that come with this cooler but they are mainly to do with the mounting system. The mounting bracket is near enough identical to that of the SB-E and that means it should be quite easy to mount (from past experience) in my opinion. Others on the other hand really struggle so I guess it is down to both experience and personal preference when it comes down to this mounting mechanism.

 

Underneath the box of accessories lays the fan which is only 7mm thick. It has a maximum rating of 64.52CFM at circa 1300RPM. This is a fair amount of airflow when you consider that it is only 7mm thick and that there are fans out there which are double the thickness and struggle to push that much air.

The first thing that you may notice about the cooler is its enormous surface area. It is 140mm wide by 120mm long. The way in which you mount it is entirely up to you. I opted to have it blowing over the RAM modules in this instance but you can set it up to blow over the voltage regulating circuitry.

 

Underneath the cooler you can see the base in which it comes into contact with the CPU. The radiator itself is quite thin but then again, you cannot have it massively thick as this cooler is designed to be low profile.

 

There are a total of six heat pipes on this cooler which are 6mm in diameter. These should aid the heat dissipation and provide fast heat removal from the base and into the fins.

Installation is something which many users either love or loathe. I personally like the way in which the Thermalright mounting system works. It’s simple and easy to figure out, and easy to mount too. To start off, you have to install a back plate which has the relevant mounting holes drilled out. You need to put four screws through which bolt into the screw nuts on the opposite side of the motherboard.

 

Once the back plate and four screw nuts are securely in place, you can proceed to install the bracket which the cooler bolts into. It is simply a case of putting it over the top of the screw nuts and securing its position with four more screws.

 

Once you’ve installed the bracket, it’s a case of applying thermal paste, mounting the cooler and putting the securing bracket into place which is then finally mounted using two more screws. It was a little annoying to mount as the cooler is top heavy which means it falls over, so you have to balance it with your hands whilst keeping the mounting bracket in place as well as putting in a screw from the top, all at the same time.

 

RAM clearance is something that is somewhat limited by this cooler but you can have it blowing over the VRMs as mentioned before to give you as much RAM clearance as you could possibly desire. There’s usually very little point in having air flowing over the RAM as it doesn’t generate much heat but having the cooler over the motherboards power circuitry may result in the heatsink coming into contact with the exhaust fan (if any are installed) which is why I chose to install it this way.

Test Bench
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K
CPU Cooler: Thermalright AXP-200
Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z87X-OC
RAM: G.SKILL RipJawsX 2x4GB (8GB) 2400MHz CAS 10
Graphics: Intel HD4600
Storage: Crucial M4 64GB
PSU: Enermax MaxRevo 1350W 80PLUS Gold

Methodology

Acoustic performance
Each cooler will be tested at night as it is naturally the quietest time of the day. A decibel monitor is placed at 30cm away from the cooler which is much closer than you would probably be sitting but it allows for consistent readings in my eyes.  The system is left to idle for five minutes to ensure it is at its most rested work load and then the readings are taken. The fans are on PWM mode rather than ‘x’ volts as some fans will not spin without it getting its start voltage.

To find out how much noise the fan(s) will make under a full loading, I plug them straight into a 12v line to ensure that they are running at full speed to give you an idea of how much noise is created at maximum RPM ranges.

Thermal performance
Thermal performance is judged on four factors overall; the idle temperature at stock and overclocked speeds as well as the loaded temperatures at stock and overclocked speeds. During the testing, whether that be the idle or loaded testing, the system is either in idle or full load for a duration of five minutes before any readings are taken. The average temperature across all four cores is then noted down and used as the results. All room temperatures are recorded beforehand as well as during the test to ensure that the delta temperature is as accurate as possible.

Acoustic performance is something which I consider to be vital. I for one hate noisy computer fans and I will spend the extra money to obtain premium fans that omit less noise. Some people don’t have an issue with it but others do which is the reason I chose to measure the sound levels that come from the fans that are supplied with the cooler(s) on test.

I was surprised to see that a fan this size actually made the most noise whilst the system was in idle. I can only assume it is due to the actual thickness of the fan which means it needs to spin faster to shift an equal volume of air.  However, it isn’t considerably more noisy over the other fans in my opinion as it is still very quiet.

Under loaded circumstances, the fan is a fair bit noisier but the noise doesn’t represent a vast amount of airflow. Given the thickness of the fan, and how fast this fan spins at 12 volts, it is understandable.

First thing is first. This is obviously a cooler aimed at the HTPC/ITX range of computer chassis which means that the performance is aimed at a quiet/low powered system rather than a fully-fledged Intel Core i7-4770K running at 4.5GHz (or more) but I did decide to test it at both stock clock speeds which I’ve put down as 3.9GHz permanently as that is what it turbo boosts up to and at 4.5GHz as well.

The idle and load delta temperatures at stock were not too bad and although they were the warmest out of the set of coolers I’ve got on test at the moment. It’s certainly not anything to worry about though. It’s to be expected due to the coolers size and the fan attached to it.

The overclocked temperatures were something that I will comment on. This cooler was not able to maintain a reasonable temperature under full loading when the CPU was at 4.5GHz. It hit 97°c within roughly twenty seconds and I stopped it before it got any higher to avoid any damage being caused to my chip. It’s most definitely not capable of dissipating that much heat but I wasn’t really expecting it to be able to do so either.

I did install a different fan, namely one of the beasts that ships with the Silver Arrow SB-E, on to this cooler to see whether the added airflow over the pins would improve the temperatures but alas it did not improve it enough to warrant a pass on my 4.5GHz settings. The temperatures did come down by as much as 5°c but it was still very warm.

Before we kick off into the conclusion, I want to explain why I only have four coolers included in my current results. The reason is that I have been delegated the air coolers and Gavin will no longer be doing them. He will be taking care of the water cooling side of things. Well, that’s one reason. The other is that my CPU runs a lot warmer than Gavin’s, even when the same voltages are used. I omitted all of his results as it leads to unfair representations and I then decided to start afresh. Do not despair, there are plenty more coming very soon!

This is the first HTPC/ITX cooler that I have had the chance to test and I must say that it is an impressive one at that. It may not be able to cope under an overclocked i7s heat output but it does a great job at stock speeds. It manages to keep the CPU well within acceptable levels and it does so without deafening you at the same time.

I do like the look of the cooler as it reminds me of the original Silver Arrow variant which is Thermalright’s biggest and best air cooler on the market. Looks aren’t everything but I must say that it performed admirably for its size. I wish I had more low-profile coolers to compare it against but I do have a gut feeling that this is going to be one of the best performers out there. I hope that I can put this to the test to find out whether that is indeed the case or not relatively soon.

Pricing is something which I’d like to bring up next as it is the inevitable part of a review. It’s an important factor that nearly everyone takes into consideration. There’s no official pricing on this particular cooler as of yet as it is not even in stores yet. Thermalright (as far as I know) do not have an official release date or pricing but if I were to guess, I’d have to say that it won’t be much more expensive than the current AXP-100 that is available at various retailers today.

Overall, I’d say that this is a great low-profile cooler and I’d highly recommend it based on my testing. ITX systems rarely have case windows so looks may not be the most important factor here, but in my eyes the cooler definitely did not fail to deliver which is a very similar story in the performance sector too.  Whilst it didn’t manage to pick up an award from me today, it did still perform great and it was close to five stars. If it could hold 4.5GHz, it would’ve taken an award.

Many thanks to Thermalright for providing us with a sample.

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

The Thermalright AXP-200 performed great given its size. It’s not overly noisy, and it manages to keep a heat producing monster like the i7-4770K at stock cool enough without being loud. It would make for an ideal cooler in a HTPC or ITX system where space is dear.

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