Optimal M1 Cooling? (Air vs. AIO Water)

Napostrophe

Efficiency Noob
Original poster
Jan 3, 2019
7
2
Hello, all!

I'm going off to college soon and plan on building a PC in the NCase M1 to bring with me. The system will have something along the lines of:

  • Ryzen 7 3700x (once it comes out)
  • GeForce RTX 2070 (or comparable AMD card if one comes out soon, exact spec not decided yet, probably EVGA XC dual-slot. Prefer not to put an Accelero on it due to warranty)
  • 512GB 970 PRO NVMe SSD
  • 2TB 860 EVO SATA SSD
  • 16GB or 32GB of RAM (haven't decided on RAM yet, 16GB is probably fine but 32GB would mean enormous headroom and not upgrading for a long time)
  • Corsair SF600 or SF750 plat (SF750 not out yet, expected)
  • Noctua NF-A12x25 (2 on bottom, would buy more if watercooling)
This system will be used for gaming as well as heavy photo-processing (lightroom, photoshop, etc.)

Exposition done, here is my question:
What is the optimal cooler or cooler type for the 3700x (or 2700x, which is comparable in terms of TDP) in the M1 that is as quiet as possible while still providing good cooling performance?


I know there are reasonable coolers both on the air and water side (NH-U9S, Pure Rock Slim, Kraken X52, H100I pro, to name a few) but, obvious cost differences aside, which are quietest? Might a 120mm AIO with a separate adjacent fan be better? Does one option have worse acoustics but better temps?

Important note: whatever cooler I get I would load with as many Noctua fans as possible.


For anyone about to point me to Optimum Tech's video on the topic, I take what he says in that video with a grain of salt as I think his testing methodology was somewhat flawed due to inadequately controlling for variables, one example being that he only considered what came out of the box with the Kraken X52, despite giving the NH-U9S an additional fan. While his conclusions do make sense and his data does back them up, I just feel the need to get additional confirmation on the subject.

The community's input would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks!
 
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Nord1ing

Average Stuffer
Dec 5, 2018
80
34
In my opinion, there is no reason to use AIO, except for aesthetic look (if you select the side panel with window). The NH-U9S build will be as quiet (or even quieter) as AIO and more reliable.

Check this thread about air cooling in M1: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/case-study-air-cooling-inside-an-ncase-m1.2562/

P.S.: 32GB is far better, you can use part of memory for a ram disk (like imsoft ramdrive or others) to store web browser cache, windows temporary files folder, steam cache etc. And that temp. garbage is deleted on reboot. I am using that config for years already and found it very useful :)
 
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Napostrophe

Efficiency Noob
Original poster
Jan 3, 2019
7
2
In my opinion, there is no reason to use AIO, except for aesthetic look (if you select the side panel with window). The NH-U9S build will be as quiet (or even quieter) as AIO and more reliable.
Thanks for the response. Could you give me a ballpark idea of how the NH-U9S performs relative to an AIO? I want to have enough headroom to overclock in the future and I'm concerned that the overall cooling capacity of the U9S might be lower than a 240mm AIO, despite being able to dissipate heat comparably at lower clock speeds.

The issue I'm having is all I can find is anecdotal evidence of "I have [insert cooler here] and it works great!", without much information beyond that (maybe the occasional temp measurements, but without controlling for system specs they are meaningless), for both the NH-U9S and various 240mm AIOs. I know I can't go wrong with either but I personally don't like going solely off the "it worked for them" mantra.
 
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Bioforce

Airflow Optimizer
Aug 31, 2018
243
113
Thanks for the response. Could you give me a ballpark idea of how the NH-U9S performs relative to an AIO? I want to have enough headroom to overclock in the future and I'm concerned that the overall cooling capacity of the U9S might be lower than a 240mm AIO, despite being able to dissipate heat comparably at lower clock speeds.

The issue I'm having is all I can find is anecdotal evidence of "I have [insert cooler here] and it works great!", without much information beyond that (maybe the occasional temp measurements, but without controlling for system specs they are meaningless), for both the NH-U9S and various 240mm AIOs. I know I can't go wrong with either but I personally don't like going solely off the "it worked for them" mantra.

Bare in mind that the rumors indicate the new Ryzen 3000 chips will have very high TDP's. Rumors aren't exactly reliable, but if they are true the higher core count models like the supposed 3800X will have TDP's of 125+ Watts. You'll want to consult Noctua's handy TDP guidelines chart found here.

Based on that chart the U9S is rated for a TDP of 140W. If the rumors are true, you should be able to use a u9s, but your overclocking headroom will be limited. It's worth noting, however, that Thermalright has released a new 130mm high cooler with an advertised TDP max of 240W. A thread discussing it can be found here.

That cooler, while not released in the US yet, will likely be your best bet as it allows you to air cool in the ncase with a dual tower equipped with a 120mm fan. Supposedly it will see a US release early this year and will likely be available by the time the new AMD chips drop. This is the option I will likely roll with when I make my Ncase build.

That said, I think people give AIO's way more shit than they deserve. I've had a Corsair AIO in my current PC for the past 7 years. I don't hear any perceptible "pump noise" from it and it keeps my CPU at a nice, cool 60C under stress testing. On top of that, having a 240mm aio in the Ncase gives you some pretty serious exhaust compared to what you'd get when air cooling. Two 120mm's compared to a single 92mm if you run it in the standard configuration. Given that poor exhaust is a major weakness of many SFF enclosures, I feel the extra exhaust potential of a 240mm AIO has it's own value.

Overall, going AIO is a very safe bet for ensuring your cooling needs will be met. You get better exhaust and are more or less guaranteed to not be bottlenecked by your cooling when overclocking. However, the 130mm Thermalright Silver Arrow will likely give you similar CPU cooling with less noise at half the price, albeit at the cost of lower exhaust potential.
 

Bioforce

Airflow Optimizer
Aug 31, 2018
243
113
In my opinion, there is no reason to use AIO, except for aesthetic look (if you select the side panel with window). The NH-U9S build will be as quiet (or even quieter) as AIO and more reliable.

Check this thread about air cooling in M1: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/case-study-air-cooling-inside-an-ncase-m1.2562/

P.S.: 32GB is far better, you can use part of memory for a ram disk (like imsoft ramdrive or others) to store web browser cache, windows temporary files folder, steam cache etc. And that temp. garbage is deleted on reboot. I am using that config for years already and found it very useful :)

That's an interesting suggestion for the RAM disk. How much RAM do you dedicate to that setup?
 

ZodiacG66

Efficiency Noob
Jan 18, 2019
5
2
I have both an AIO and an air cooler and with all my testing I have found almost no difference in real world usage. The AIO is the alphacool Eisbaer 240LT and the air cooler is the BeQuiet Dark Rock TF. I have already replaced the pump on the 240LT as the 1st one failed (bought used so no warranty). The Dark Rock TF has a TDP of 220w so will handle the 2700x or the new 3xxxx ryzen cpu (can't find the TDP of the LT240).

I'm using the Dark Rock TF as it seemed to do a better job at cooling, was quieter, is more reliable and cost less .

Most AIOs ship with rubbish fans so will need to be replaced which adds to any overall cost (the ones with the alphcool were loud when the temps got over 50c) and even with better fans most wont beat a good air cooler. I have had 3 corsair AIO, all were returned as the pumps were defective, the EK predator AIO I had caught fire (well the pump housing melted and filled my room with horrible smelling smoke), the only AIO I would consider getting would be the BeQuiet silent loop 240, the pump is silent and the fans are quite good.
 
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Xender

Cable Smoosher
Jan 24, 2019
10
4
Look at my topic: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/ek-phoenix-240mm-will-it-fit.10129/
I have Intel i7 6700k (not delided yet) and EVGA RTX 2080 XC Ultra. For CPU cooling I am using Noctua U9S and it is bad in my opinion. I need to 92mm fans to spin at ~1200RPM to keep CPU around 75 C.

I tried all possible config of fans, even rear CPU intake doesn't work good enough. Additionally I have two Scythe Slip Stream Slim 120mm fans under GPU and thanks to that GPU stays cool and quiet but CPU is heated dramatically. Because of that I will order today Corsair H100X from Amazon and compare this with Noctua U9S. I hope it will be better.

I should have result tomorrow evening, so I will give you and update about direct comparison. ;)
 

Bioforce

Airflow Optimizer
Aug 31, 2018
243
113
Look at my topic: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/ek-phoenix-240mm-will-it-fit.10129/
I have Intel i7 6700k (not delided yet) and EVGA RTX 2080 XC Ultra. For CPU cooling I am using Noctua U9S and it is bad in my opinion. I need to 92mm fans to spin at ~1200RPM to keep CPU around 75 C.

I tried all possible config of fans, even rear CPU intake doesn't work good enough. Additionally I have two Scythe Slip Stream Slim 120mm fans under GPU and thanks to that GPU stays cool and quiet but CPU is heated dramatically. Because of that I will order today Corsair H100X from Amazon and compare this with Noctua U9S. I hope it will be better.

I should have result tomorrow evening, so I will give you and update about direct comparison. ;)

Please do. I'd be very interested to see that comparison. Despite the praise it gets, I've always been pretty underwhelmed by the results people get with the U9S in the Ncase. The main reason I'm expecting to do aircooling in my upcoming Ncase build is because the new 130mm tall Silver Arrow from Thermalright looks very promising. If not for that, I'd likely be doing a 240mm Corsair AIO as well.
 

teodoro

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Oct 8, 2018
109
77
I should have result tomorrow evening, so I will give you and update about direct comparison. ;)
I’m also interested in your experience with the AIO. I’m pretty focused on noise myself and while two A9x25 running at 1200rpm weren’t dead silent I definitely wouldn’t call them loud. What fan speed does your GPU hit under load? I don’t really do anything that’s exclusively CPU intense, so my GPU fans would always mask my U9S fans.
 

Nord1ing

Average Stuffer
Dec 5, 2018
80
34
Look at my topic: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/ek-phoenix-240mm-will-it-fit.10129/
I have Intel i7 6700k (not delided yet) and EVGA RTX 2080 XC Ultra. For CPU cooling I am using Noctua U9S and it is bad in my opinion. I need to 92mm fans to spin at ~1200RPM to keep CPU around 75 C.

I tried all possible config of fans, even rear CPU intake doesn't work good enough. Additionally I have two Scythe Slip Stream Slim 120mm fans under GPU and thanks to that GPU stays cool and quiet but CPU is heated dramatically. Because of that I will order today Corsair H100X from Amazon and compare this with Noctua U9S. I hope it will be better.

I should have result tomorrow evening, so I will give you and update about direct comparison. ;)
Nice! I an also interested to see aio results (in 1 hour stress load, like rendering)
 

Xender

Cable Smoosher
Jan 24, 2019
10
4
Corsair H100X arrived yesterday and I tested two configurations:
1: Intake fans on side panel and radiator:
It resulted in temps on CPU during gaming (Anthem Beta, Battlefield V) around 60-68 C (6700K stock, not delided) depending how much each core was used. Sadly this setup heated motherboard significantly, PCH was reaching 70 C. EVGA RTX 2080 XC Ultra stayed at 72 C with fans around 1400-1600 RPM.

2. Exhaust fans on side panel and radiator::
It resulted in temps between 62 and 72 C on CPU during gaming. However motherboard was much cooler (60 C on PCH). GPU was a little bit more cold at 69 C with fans around 1400 RPM. I think this configuration is better.

So what about AIO vs Noctua U9S? I love Noctua and simplicity of air cooling. Noctua delivers high quality product with great performance, still it is a bit difficult to properly exhaust heat from NCase. AIO has much better ability to exhaust hot air from NCase but honestly it feels like cheap Chinese toy in comparison to Noctua :(. Still AIO offered better sound performance and better temps on CPU (max 78 C vs max 72 C). After installation of H100X in my case I find the PSU is loudest thing now.

I think this is very important for NCase to have CPU with soldered IHS or replaced thermal material between core and IHS (delided). Secondary if you will use Accelero on GPU with exhaust GPU fans, intake side panel fans and exhaust rear fan, Noctua U9S should work really good, at lest good enough to not bother with AIO. I think even 9900K with soldered IHS and higher TDP should perform better in NCase than not delided 6700K.

Regarding cooling, I used two 120mm Noctua fans on radiator in push exhaust config. Two intake Scythe Slip Stream Slim (12mm) fans under GPU and one Noctua slip 92mm intake fan on rear. I am also considering fan swapping my PSU Corsair SF600 because it is really loud, with Noctua 92mm fan however I am not sure if 2000 RPM fan will be enough for this PSU.
 

rfarmer

Shrink Ray Wielder
Silver Supporter
Jul 7, 2017
2,325
2,394
Corsair H100X arrived yesterday and I tested two configurations:
1: Intake fans on side panel and radiator:
It resulted in temps on CPU during gaming (Anthem Beta, Battlefield V) around 60-68 C (6700K stock, not delided) depending how much each core was used. Sadly this setup heated motherboard significantly, PCH was reaching 70 C. EVGA RTX 2080 XC Ultra stayed at 72 C with fans around 1400-1600 RPM.

2. Exhaust fans on side panel and radiator::
It resulted in temps between 62 and 72 C on CPU during gaming. However motherboard was much cooler (60 C on PCH). GPU was a little bit more cold at 69 C with fans around 1400 RPM. I think this configuration is better.

So what about AIO vs Noctua U9S? I love Noctua and simplicity of air cooling. Noctua delivers high quality product with great performance, still it is a bit difficult to properly exhaust heat from NCase. AIO has much better ability to exhaust hot air from NCase but honestly it feels like cheap Chinese toy in comparison to Noctua :(. Still AIO offered better sound performance and better temps on CPU (max 78 C vs max 72 C). After installation of H100X in my case I find the PSU is loudest thing now.

I think this is very important for NCase to have CPU with soldered IHS or replaced thermal material between core and IHS (delided). Secondary if you will use Accelero on GPU with exhaust GPU fans, intake side panel fans and exhaust rear fan, Noctua U9S should work really good, at lest good enough to not bother with AIO. I think even 9900K with soldered IHS and higher TDP should perform better in NCase than not delided 6700K.

Regarding cooling, I used two 120mm Noctua fans on radiator in push exhaust config. Two intake Scythe Slip Stream Slim (12mm) fans under GPU and one Noctua slip 92mm intake fan on rear. I am also considering fan swapping my PSU Corsair SF600 because it is really loud, with Noctua 92mm fan however I am not sure if 2000 RPM fan will be enough for this PSU.

Nice setup and tests, all I can say is delidding makes a world of difference and gives you many more cooling options. I was using my 8700k in my Ncase prior to delidding cooled by a Dark Rock TF and cooling was decent but not stellar. I dropped a full 20C overclocked and 15C at stock clocks with the delid. I now have the CPU in a MI-6 case cooled by a Scythe Big Shuriken 2, 4.40 GHz to 4.6 GHz and temps never exceed 75C.

If you were to delid I have no doubt you could use the U9S even overclocked. Personally I would stick with the 240mm AIO without delidding.
 

Xender

Cable Smoosher
Jan 24, 2019
10
4
Nice setup and tests, all I can say is delidding makes a world of difference and gives you many more cooling options. I was using my 8700k in my Ncase prior to delidding cooled by a Dark Rock TF and cooling was decent but not stellar. I dropped a full 20C overclocked and 15C at stock clocks with the delid. I now have the CPU in a MI-6 case cooled by a Scythe Big Shuriken 2, 4.40 GHz to 4.6 GHz and temps never exceed 75C.

If you were to delid I have no doubt you could use the U9S even overclocked. Personally I would stick with the 240mm AIO without delidding.

My 6700k as far as I remember is to old for warranty so I can freely delid it. There are many "delid-services" in my country for 15$ so it is cheap and I lose nothing. It would be awesome to tune down fans to 800-1000 RPM and keep NCase silent. I am also looking for solution to decrease my PSU noise because it is nightmare.

I am also thinking about upgrading platform to Ryzen 3 or next gen Intel platform. Still I am waiting... Then I will consider moving back to ATX standard for ultra quiet setup. It is really hard to keep NCase quiet. It isn't ultra loud but I can't say it's silent. :(