NoFan CR-80EH Passive Heat Sink Review
It's fair to say that when it comes to our "testicles out" gaming rigs we're not really that bothered about achieving true silence. For the most part we're happy with a bit of a low hum when we're on the desktop and more than delighted if when gaming the noise level doesn't reach decibels that cause blood to leak from unexpected and inconvenient orifices. On the other hand, there are those situations and applications where very low noise, or for that matter, even total silence is a highly desirable commodity. We are of course thinking of such things as HTPCs, dorm room builds or perhaps just low energy home servers, which may out of circumstance have to live in the lounge or bedroom. It's also fair to say that counterpointing those of us who want their desk-tops to be total power houses, toting multi rad, multi fan set ups enabling massive overclocks, there are also enthusiasts out there who strive equally hard to build simple desk top machines that make as little noise as is humanly possible. It is towards these strivers for silence that NoFan pitch the CR-80EH, a CPU cooler that, as it has no fan (Duh), and as such makes no noise what-so-ever and will enable those who wish to walk the Ninja route to achieve their aim.
NoFan achieve this silence by building a cooler that is on the face of it a large double layered basket of copper wires, somewhat resembling a shuttle cock with the rubber base cut off. The copper wires are held in place by a black frame at their upper most edges, meeting at the base where they join the copper contact plate. As a result of this large surface area 97,157mm squared to be exact they are able to provide enough passive cooling to negate the need for a fan.
Silence though does come at a price, and that price is performance. The CR-80EH is targeted at CPUs with a TDP lower than 80W and is not intended for use on overclocked systems where the volts, and therefore the need to dissipate heat from the chip has been increased. With this in mind and as there was really little point in strapping it to our socket 2011 rig, we varied our usual testing methodology, instead opting for a build based around the AMD A8 we have used in previous HTPC test set ups. We also chose to apply the same tests as we did when we looked at the Streacom fanless case design as we felt this would give us something of a benchmark to measure against. The results as you will see if you refer to the previous page were on the whole good, the most important metric we feel being the temps when the system was used to display HD video. We also decided to test not just in a totally fanless "passive" set up, but also in an arrangement where a few case fans were generating a bit of light through case airflow. Adding this through case flow gave a 6-7 degree drop in the recorded temps and would also serve to provide valuable cooling to Mosfets, VRMs and NorthBridge areas of the board. Starving these critical components of air will lead to them getting very hot indeed and will most likely not end well. Whether or not you opt for active or passive NoFan make it clear that the CR-80EH must only be used in cases where there is a top case vent allowing the rising heat to escape.
The other caveat of CR-80EH ownership is the sheer amount of space it takes up inside the case. The problem isn't so much the height, as at just 113mm high it will fall within the spec of a great many cases. The real issue is the diameter. In order to negate any ambiguity NoFan themselves give guidance, asking that you ensure you have a clear 92mm 360 degree radius of space measured from the centre of the CPU socket. In small cases this could very well take you right up against the roof or side panels and as we saw when we mounted it into our test trooper brought us only a matter of a few millimetres away the rear case fan, and as we also saw it will also get very close to the first PCI slot, bringing it to within almost touching distance of our GPU. The interference issues sadly don't stop there though. Nofan claim to have improved RAM clearance however as we found, you're still very much limited to RAM no taller than 32mm high and dressed in nothing more than standard heat sinks.
It needs to be appreciated that we are not reviewing this cooler and measuring it against the others in the torture test charts. To do so would be stupid. The CR-80EH is something the others aren't, it is truly silent. If you're planning on buying this for a low power dorm room, bedroom, HTPC or home server build you're going to have to be very selective about which case and hardware you pair it with, but in doing so, and if chosen well you could very well end up building yourself one of the quietest systems around. The market is niche, but it is there, and the CR-80EH slots in nicely. Silence may well be Golden, but it's also Copper.
And so to the scoring. If you're surprised to see a score of nine for performance remember that noise levels as well as absolute cooling power form a part of this element of the scoring so the NoFan does well here. At £40 we feel it's reasonably priced for an all copper unit. It goes without saying that the CR-80EH gets a silence award and were it not for the fact we had already awarded it to the bigger brother it would also have taken the Innovation award.
Thanks to Quiet PC for sending the cooler in for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.