Once again we’re turning our attention to small form factor hardware, something I think people are going to become more and more interested in over time. Whether building your own Steam Box, or an HTPC for your living room, you are going to need to be aware of the specialized hardware that is available for these specific needs.
Today we’re looking at the ITX30 CPU cooler from ThermoLab. You may not have heard of this company, but they have been around for over 10 years now, making retail and industrial thermal products. Since their products are rarely seen outside Korea, it makes sense that one would be unfamiliar with them.
The ITX30 fits the specific niche of being a cooler designed for Intel CPUs that is no more than 30mm in height. We actually reviewed a very similar product, the Noctua NH-L9i, a while back. That cooler was 37mm tall with a fan, so the ITX30 pushes specs even further. Of course we’ll be comparing the two by the end of this review, to see if either one is capable of cooling a Haswell based Core i3 CPU with the lowest amount of noise possible.
|Socket compatibility||LGA1150, LGA1155, LGA1156|
|Height (with fan)||30 mm|
|Width (with fan)||100 mm|
|Depth (with fan)||94 mm|
|Weight (with fan)||300 g|
|Max. Rotational Speed (+/- 10%)||2500 RPM|
|Min. Rotational Speed (PWM)||300 RPM|
|Max. Acoustical Noise||27 dB(A) (@ 1 meter)|
The ThermoLab ITX30 is fully copper, with a pair of 6mm sintered powder heatpipes running through it. This full copper design is what should allow it to keep up with the Noctua despite being much smaller, but the price is still very reasonable. The ITX30 costs 36,000 Won on ThermoLab’s store, or about $33 USD. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it is even available outside Korea. Perhaps as they get more publicity, demand will build with interest. If the ITX30 can perform closely to the NH-L9i (which costs $50), it will certainly deserve some attention.
The installation method of the ITX30 is similar to the Noctua cooler, and most other mini-ITX oriented coolers. While I don’t really like installing heatsinks by installing screws from the bottom of the motherboard (see our Be Quiet! Shadow Rock TOPFLOW review for more on this), it’s actually not too bad with small coolers such as this.
Once installed, you can see just how short the ITX30 is. It will barely reach above most VRM heatsinks, and if you have standard profile DIMMs, they will almost certainly be taller than it. If the 37mm height of the NH-L9i was too tall for you, then it probably doesn’t get much shorter than this.
That being said, it uses up every single millimeter of the area available around the socket, with the ends of the heatpipes protruding beyond spec. Because of this, you will have to take care during installation so the heatpipes don’t get in the way of any onboard components, or reach beyond the top edge of the motherboard if there is no room there in the chassis it’s being installed in.
ThermoLab ITX30 Performance
Let’s get straight to the performance results. We’ll be comparing the ITX30 with two taller coolers – the Noctua NH-L9i, and the stock Intel Core i3 cooler (this is the one without a copper slug installed into it). To test performance, we ran them on a Core i3 4340, which is clocked at 3.6 GHz, which has a TDP of 54W. You probably won’t want to install this or any low profile cooler on a CPU with much of a higher TDP than 65W without some extra case ventilation. Go any higher than a 77W model, and you should then consider disabling turbo.
Each heatsink ran LinPack x64 AVX for 30 minutes on an open bench, with an ambient temperature of 19 degrees celsius. The resulting number is an average of the maximum temperature of each CPU core (in this case, two). Fans were run at 100%:
Both the ThermoLab ITX30 and the Noctua NH-L9i outperform the stock Core i3 cooler by a significant margin. The Noctua then outperforms the ITX30, which is expected with a larger heatsink with a bigger 92mm fan.
None of this would matter if any of the coolers were extremely loud. To test this, we used a noise meter with A weighting, placed 7cm from the side of each cooler with the fan running at full speed.
All three coolers performed at a level that makes them essentially indistinguishable from ambient sound in a ‘normal’ quiet setting. At 51 db(a), the ITX30 is extremely quiet for a low profile 80mm fan running at 12v.
If you are building a system, and are looking to use the smallest chassis possible – I mean really small, along the lines of the VESA monitor-mountable SilverStone PT13, you will be quite limited with your choice of CPU coolers. Because chassis like these have a 30mm height limitation, you may have to consider either lowering the CPU spec to a slower model, or a ULV model, or deal with a loud low-profile OEM CPU cooler that leads to a hot, noisy system. However from what we have seen, the ThermoLab ITX30 provides enough cooling performance to allow one to use a 54W or 65W TDP cooler with very little noise.
The ThermoLab ITX30 provides enough cooling to allow you to push the CPU spec further in extremely small enclosures, and that itself is worth the price of admission. Speaking of which, it is also quite affordable compared to the competition, at just around $30.