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Thermalright is one of the top names in PC cooling with a wide array of heatsinks to cool just about any component in a computer. Thermalright has recently released the AXP-100, which is designed for small form factor PCs, such as HTPCs and mini ITX systems. The AXP-100 will be pitted against a direct competitor, the Samuel 17 from Prolimatech, as well as a few larger heatsinks. Will the AXP-100 live up to the Thermalright name?
Specifications & Features
(Courtesy of Thermalright)
|Dimension||121.1 x 105.47 x 44.15 mm (L x W x H)|
|Heatpipes||6 x 6 mm|
|Fin||Thickness = 0.5 mm; Gap = 1.9 mm|
|Fin Count||28 + 6 + 5 = 39|
|Copper Base||C1100 pure copper nickel plated|
|Motherboard to Fin||27 + 8 = 35 mm|
|Tested Cases||Case Compatibility List|
|Included TY-100 Fan Specifications|
|Dimension||108.25 x 101.5 x 14 mm (L x H x W)|
|Rated Speed||900-2500 RPM (±15%)|
|Noise Level||22-30 dBA|
|Air Flow||16.0-44.5 CFM|
|Optional TY-140 Fan Specifications|
|Dimension||152 x 140 x 26.5 mm (L x H x W)|
|Rated Speed||900-1300 RPM (PWM)|
|Noise Level||17-21 dBA|
|Air Flow||28.3-73.6 CFM|
- Designed for ITX and HTPC systems.
- Total height is only 58mm (2.28 inches) including the TY-100 fan.
- The adjustable Enhanced Fan Mount is capable of mounting Thermalright’s TY-140 series fans & 120mm fans.
- Full nickel plating of the six heatpipes and heatsink body ensures optimal anti-oxidization.
- Supports all modern CPU sockets and platforms.
Packaging & Accessories
Anyone who has seen Thermalright packaging can tell from the pictures below that nothing has changed. Thermalright uses very generic boxes that are blank aside from their logo and the product name; not a single fluff was given.
Upon opening the box, the accessories and manual are resting on top of foam padding. Peeling the first layer of foam away reveals the TY-100 fan that comes with the AXP-100. Removing the next layer exposes the AXP-100 itself, wrapped in plastic and nestled in more foam. Good job on the packaging by Thermalright. They shouldn’t have to worry about damage caused by shipping, that’s for sure.
The included accessories are pretty typical, just all the mounting hardware needed: fan adapter plate, backplate, screws, and washers. What I do like is that even though a 14 mm thick fan is included with the AXP-100, Thermalright also threw in screws to mount the thicker ~25 mm fans to the adapter plate.
Meet the AXP-100
With the AXP-100 out the box and plastic bag, we can see the compact heatsink in all of its 39-fin, 6-heatpipe glory. There are a couple gaps in the fins at the edges of the heatsink that are used to get a screw driver down to the mounting crossbar. You may have already noticed a small detail that Thermalright added from the image featured on the frontpage; they put their logo on all the heatpipe end caps.
Another top view shot, and a better bottom view to see the base. The AXP-100 has a very smooth and shiny base, and we can see an almost perfect reflection of my deck’s handrail.
On to the fans! The included fan is a 14 mm thick low-profile TY-100 fan, but Thermalright was kind enough to supply their TY-140 fan for testing as well. We can see the size difference between the fans below.
Here are the labels that let us know how much power these pull. The TY-100 is 12 V and 0.25 A for 3 W, and the TY-140 is 12 V and 0.20 A for 2.4 W.
The installation reminds me a lot of the Venomous X installation except on a much smaller scale. The first step is to set up the bakplate with four screws and washers in the correct mounting holes, LGA1155 in this case. Next, put the backplate on the back of the motherboard, then tighten it down with four thumbscrews. Then, attach the mounting bracket to the four thumbscrews by using four small Phillips head screws.
Note: If there are extruding components on the backside of the motherboard that interfere with the backplate, then the backplate doesn’t have to be used. Just put the white washers on the screws, feed the screws through the mounting holes from the backside of the motherboard, and secure them with the thumbscrews.
Now it’s time to put the AXP-100 in place and mount it by using a crossbar that attaches to the mounting bracket with two screws. One of the screws was seemingly impossible to get in place with the VRM heatsink in the way and no magnetic screwdriver. So, I used electrical tape to hold the screw on my screwdriver until I got the screw started, pulled the screwdriver out with the tape, discarded the tape, then finished screwing in the screw.
The last thing to do is to mount the TY-100 fan using the included screws meant for the 14 mm thick fan.
Note: If using a small form factor cases, such as the Lian Li PC-Q03, where the PSU is mounted beside the heatsink with the PSU intake facing the heatsink intake, then it could be better to mount the fan in a pull configuration so that the air is pulled from the heatsink and gets sucked out of the case through the PSU, instead of having the two fans fighting each other.
Installing Larger Fans
A unique feature of the AXP-100 is its fan adapter bracket that not only allows fans with 120 mm spacing be mounted, and it also allows the fan to be offset vertically or horizontally by ±15 mm (30 mm range) to help avoid potential clearance issues. Installing the bracket is fairly straight forward. All that has to be done is aligning the slots with the TY-100 mounting holes in the position desired, then secure it with the four small screws. Next, pick your favorite fan with 120 mm mounting holes and mount it with the included screws.
Test Setup & Methodology
|Processor||Intel i7 3770K @ 4 GHz|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus V Gene|
|RAM||Corsair Dominator GT DDR3-1600 6-6-6-20|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 670 SC|
|Storage||OCZ Vertex 2|
|Power Supply||Seasonic SS-1000XP|
|Fluke 52 II Dual Input Thermometer|
|Tenma Sound Level Meter|
Cooling performance was tested as follows:
- Disabled all BIOS settings that cause the CPU clock speed and/or Vcore to fluctuate.
- Arctic Cooling MX2 thermal paste was used for consistency.
- Both included fans and Gentle Typhoon AP-15 fans were used for testing.
- Ambient temperature was measured with a Fluke 52 II at ~1 inch from the intake fan.
- Varied Vcore from 1.050 V to 1.400 V in 0.050 V increments to increase heat.
- 5-pass 2048 MB RAM LinX runs at each Vcore interval were used to load the CPU.
- CoreTemp 1.0 RC4 was used to record minimum and maximum core temperatures.
- Stopped increasing Vcore once a core reached 90+ °C.
Sound level in dBA was measured 10 cm from the intake fan, and then estimated for other distances using the following formula:
L2 = L1 – 20 * log10(r2/r1)
- L2 = dBA @ desired distance
- L1 = dBA @ reference distance
- r1 = reference distance
- r2 = desired distance
Why estimate sound level instead of measure at further distances? It’s because the meter I’m using is most accurate between 40-130 dBA, so I wanted to measure really close to the source to make sure I’m in that range to get the most accurate measurements.
Size Comparison to the Samuel 17
Before we get to the actual numbers, I’d like to show a comparison between the Thermalright AXP-100 and Prolimatech Samuel 17. As you can see from the pictures below, these two heatsinks are almost exactly the same size with very similar surface area, the AXP-100 is on the bottom with the Samuel 17 on top of it. This makes the AXP-100 and Samuel 17 direct competitors as far as performance is concerned. From just looking at the two side-by-side, I would expect them to perform close to the same, but let’s see what the results show.
The AXP-100 beats the Samuel 17 + AP-15 when using either the TY-100 or AP-15. With the TY-100 the AXP-100 was around 2 °C better than the Samuel 17, and with identical AP-15 fans the AXP-100 performed around 3 °C better. I was pleasantly surprised that the AXP-100 cooled better with the TY-100, with it being a low-profile fan. The AXP-100 can’t touch the other, larger heatsink in performance, but that’s not its purpose. It’s made to be good for its size and perform well in those tight spaces of HTPCs and mini ITX systems. The AXP-100 seems very good in that regard.
Interestingly, the AXP-100 performs worse with the much bigger 140 mm TY-140 installed. However, it performs better with the 120 mm Gentle Typhoon AP-15, but not as much as I would expect. It seems the TY-100, even though small, is a very good fan for its size. I’m thinking the TY-140 is actually too big for the AXP-100 and the more narrowly directed airflow from the TY-100 and AP-15 works better. It’s also worth mentioning that the TY-140 does cool surrounding motherboard components rather well, it’s just at the price of higher CPU temps.
Using the included TY-100 fan, the AXP-100 is one of the louder heatsinks tested. This is expected from the low-profile fan since smaller fans are typically louder than the thicker, lower RPM fans. The AP-15 and TY-140 produce around the same amount of noise when attached to the AXP-100, but the AP-15 performs much better on the heatsink. When at typical distances all the heatsinks tested should be around 30 dBA or less, and combined with a case, there would probably be louder fans in your system than the ones on the heatsinks.
The AXP-100 is a highly versatile and compact heatsink designed for small systems. It can be installed with or without the backplate, in case there are large components on the back of the motherboard. Larger fans with 120 mm mounting hole spacing can be used, if desired. The fan adapter plate allows the larger fans to be shifted around to best fit the specific motherboard, RAM, and GPU combination to prevent potential clearance issues.
The AXP-100 performed well against its direct competitor, beating it in performance on all counts. The included TY-100 was surprisingly good for its size, but upgrading to a more powerful 120 mm fan will net a degree or two better temps. When using the TY-100, the AXP-100 was one of the louder heatsinks tested because of the small fan, but the noise really wasn’t bad when listening from ~3 feet away.
The only downside, for me, was having to tape the mounting screws to the screwdriver when securing the crossbar to the mounting bracket. So, installation can be a little tricky, but it’s doable.
Overall, the Thermalright AXP-100 is a great choice for those small builds with limited space, and its versatility with installation adds a lot of value of the heatsink. The MSRP is $59.95 seems fair when considering the performance compared to the Samuel 17 which is $45 and doesn’t include a fan. The AXP-100 is definitely a heatsink to recommend to people building a SFF PC.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)