Water cooling is at last an option for your small form factor PC.
Mini-PCs are booming, as evidenced by the huge range of Mini-ITX motherboards on the market. They’re even good enough for gaming now, with cards like AMD’s Fury Nano delivering desktop performance in a potent little package. Unfortunately their lack of space for a cooler means overclocking in an SFF PC has been a tricky proposition… until now. Corsair’s new H5 SF is an All-in-One liquid cooler delivers a huge increase in cooling performance, but it comes with a few caveats.
As you can see, this thing is still rather large. The small radiator (167mm x 40mm x 57mm) is fitted to a huge 120mm blower fan (120mm x 32mm), while Corsair’s standard water block design attaches to the CPU. The entire unit sits on a bracket that mounts to a standard Mini-ITX motherboard, raising it several centimetres above the board. Installation is up to Corsair’s usual standards, with excellent instructions and one of the best CPU socket mounts in the industry.
Compared to a standard low-profile HTPC cooler, we saw a huge 12C decrease in load temps on our overclocked i7-6700K at 4.5GHz. Noctua’s LN9i peaked at 78C while running 3DMark, whereas the Corsair cooler clocked in at just 66C. However, this comes at a price – fan noise. We measured a fan noise of 46dB, a huge increase over the Noctua. With many mini-PCs serving double duty as both gaming and media PCs, this fan noise is a real problem during media use. Even at the slowest fan speeds it’s noticeable, a result of the blower style cooling fan. There’s also the shape of this thing – you’re unlikely to find many mini-PC cases that won’t need some form of modification to make this thing fit, as many have 3.5” drive bays that will sit right where this cooler needs to be.
We certainly appreciate the cooling prowess of the H5 SF, but the issue of fan noise is a big one. Combine this with the need to modify your case to make it fit, and the H5 SF becomes a rather niche item for those building heavily modded, high-performance mini-PCs. For most users, sticking with a low-profile cooler and a non-overclocked CPU will offer the preferred experience.
Corsair H5 SF low-profile CPU cooler
“We certainly appreciate the cooling prowess of the H5 SF, but the issue of fan noise is a big one.”
Mini-ITX compatible • 1000-1800RPM fan speed • 120mm fan • Total height of 84mm when mounted.
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