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NoFan CR-95C Copper Fanless CPU Cooler

A massive cylindrical heatsink, the fanless (and thus noiseless) NoFan CR-95C Copper actually cools processors with power envelopes up to 95W. This is unprecedented.

June 25, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
NoFan CR-95C Copper CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
NoFan
Street Price
US$100

NoFan is a small Korean outfit with only a handful of products in their catalog. The list of distributors and dealers is quite substantial, however, so availability looks pretty good most places in the world. Their most notable device is a passively cooled CPU heatsink as its part of a niche market. The last two heatsinks we tested that claimed fanless capability were based on traditional tower designs and produced disappointing results in completely fanless mode. The CR-95C, on the other hand, has been designed purely as a fanless cooling solution.

Interestingly, although we had some contact with NoFan a while back, this sample did not come from them. It was purchased by SPCR reader Mike Willis, and shipped for us to review. Our thanks to Mike Willis for his proactive support: Thank you!


The CR-95C box.

The CR-95C is huge and cylindrical, making it difficult to mount a fan and if the manufacturer’s name isn’t a big enough clue, there is no such option is supported. It’s available in two flavors, nickel-plated Black Pearl, and plain Copper (we’re examining the latter). This monstrosity has a radial design, with the structure of a massive but hollow barrow comprised mainly of copper. There are just four heatpipes which have been forged using NoFan’s IcePipe technology, the details of which have not been disclosed. All we know is that their heatpipes are slimmer, lighter, and wickless. NoFan also claims their product is dust proof, though it obviously doesn’t have a fan to build up dust on the unit directly.


Package contents.

The CR-95C is enclosed in a large plastic clamshell container and ships with a simple set of mounting hardware which is usually a good thing. Officially, it can be mounted on all modern AMD sockets and smaller Intel sockets (LGA775/1155/1156) and supports chips up to 95W, but there are mounting holes for LGA1366. It is however, unlikely to be capable of adequately cooling any 1366 processor properly without a fan.

NoFan CR-95C: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Model CR-95C
Dimension 180 x 180 x 148 mm
Weight 730 g
Thermal Resistance
(@25C Ambient)
0.51 C/W
Material Pure Copper, Pure Aluminum
Dissipation Area 217,036 mm2
ICEPIPE 1EA (43.200 mm)
Heatpipe 4EA
NOFAN Case Compatibility CS-30, CS-60, CS-70, CS-80

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The NoFan CR-95C Copper is composed of a copper base, four 6 mm thick copper heatpipes, a series of rounded copper wires (158 by our count), and some structural materials near the base which we believe is constructed of aluminum. According to our measurements, its dimensions are 18.3 x 18.3 x 14.7 cm (L x W x H) and it weighs 810 grams, significantly more than its specified 730 grams.


On its side, the CR-95C Copper resembles a high class hamster wheel. As the interior is completely hollow, it’s lighter than it looks despite its mainly copper construction. The wires that form the heatsink’s “fins” are looped to the heatppipes at the bottom.


Each wire is 1.67 thick and spaced 1.61 mm apart. They remind us thick metal coat hangers. They’re held together at the top by a grey plastic hoop, an eyesore what otherwise is an mpressively shiny piece of bling.


At the bottom, the plate above the base extends outward and forms a ring at the edge to support the heatpipes and the weight of the frame.


The heatpipes are split into teams of two, with each set spreading out and covering half of the frame in a semicircle. Solder fuses the base, the pipes, and the baseplate above together.


The base surface is one of the finest we’ve seen. It’s very flat and has been polished to a brilliant mirror shine.

INSTALLATION

The most critical aspect of installation is that the heatsink be securely
mounted. A firm mating results in good contact between the heatsink’s base and
the CPU heatspreader and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally it should
also be a simple procedure with the user having to handle as few pieces of
hardware as possible.


The CR-95C uses a fairly simple bolt-thru installation scheme.


Screws go through the backplate and are fixed in place to aluminum spacers on the other side. Tall brass standoffs are then secured to the screws.


The heatsink goes on top and spring-loaded bolts are inserted into the standoffs through the huge gaping hole in the middle. Wide slots are used for Intel installs rather than individual mounting holes so centering the cooler takes some patience.


The CR-95C is big enough to cause interference issues.


The heatsink covers the first expansion slot on most motherboards but it may even make contact with a card in the second slot depending on the components on the trace side so adding some kind of insulating material may be prudent. The CR-95C also covers up to three DIMM slots; memory has to be 34 mm tall or shorter to fit underneath. It also hung over the top side of our motherboard by about 4 mm.


The thermal compound imprint indicates good contact at the center though there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

TESTING

Testing on larger heatsinks are done on our
LGA1366 heatsink testing platform
, while smaller coolers tackle our LGA1155 heatsink testing platform. A summary of the test system
and procedure follows.

Key Components in LGA1366 Heatsink Test Platform:

Key Components in LGA1155 Heatsink Test Platform:

The systems are silent under the test conditions, except for the CPU cooling
fan(s).

Normally, our reference fans are used whenever possible, the measured details
of which are shown below.

Reference Noctua 140mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
28~29 dBA
1250 RPM
9V
21 dBA
990 RPM
8V
18 dBA
880 RPM
7V
15~16 dBA
770 RPM
6V
13 dBA
660 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 120 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1080 RPM
9V
13 dBA
880 RPM
7V
12 dBA
720 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 92 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1470 RPM
9V
12 dBA
1150 RPM

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • SpeedFan,
    used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensors. The sensors are not calibrated,
    so results are not universally applicable. The hottest core reading is used.
  • Prime95,
    used to stress the LGA1366 CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    8 instances are used to ensure that all 4 cores (with Hyper-threading) are
    stressed.
  • CPU-Z,used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.
  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform
    and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from the lab’s variable DC
power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise
did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using Prime95 to stress the processor and the
graph function in SpeedFan was used to ensure that the load temperature is stable
for at least ten minutes. The temperature recorded is the highest single core
reading. The stock fans were tested at various voltages to represent a good
cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 10~11 dBA and 21~23°C.

Cooling Performance

Our first test takes place on our demanding LGA1366 open test platform featuring a Core i7-965 at 3.2 GHz and 1.2V. As most fanless coolers have a TDP limit of 95W or less, we only ran 4 instances of Prime95 rather than 8 (it’s a quad core chip with Hyper-threading) for our load test.

Passive Cooler Comparison: Thermal Rise
(Core i7-965 @ 3.2 GHz, 1.2V, Prime95, half load)
Time Elapsed
Thermalright HR-02 Macho
SilverStone Heligon HE02
NoFan CR-95C Copper
Start
14°C
14°C
15°C
1 mins
41°C
37°C
41°C
2 mins
48°C
43°C
49°C
3 mins
53°C
49°C
53°C
4 mins
59°C
54°C
55°C
5 mins
65°C
60°C
57°C
6 mins
71°C
64°C
58°C
7 mins
76°C
68°C
59°C
8 mins
79°C
73°C
60°C
9 mins
FAIL
76°C
61°C
10 mins
FAIL
11 mins
12 mins
62°C
13 mins
14 mins
>15 mins

The CR-95C started off on par with the HR-02 Macho but after the four minute mark the rate of temperature increase slowed. The HR-02 failed (the CPU throttled) at about 9 minutes while Heligon HE02 lasted a minute longer. The CR-95C is the first heatsink to actually pass this test, stabilizing at 62°C after 15 minutes of operation. There was plenty of headroom too as the processor doesn’t throttle until it hits a thermal rise of about 80°C at room temperature.

Passive Cooler Performance: Thermal Rise
(Core i5-2400 @ 3.6 GHz, 1.3V, Prime95, full load)
Time Elapsed
NoFan CR-95C Copper
Start
4°C
1 mins
34°C
2 mins
41°C
3 mins
45°C
4 mins
47°C
5 mins
50°C
6 mins
51°C
7 mins
52°C
8 mins
9 mins
10 mins
53°C
11 mins
12 mins
54°C
13 mins
14 mins
>15 mins

The CR-95C also passed the fanless test on our less demanding LGA1155 test platform which is more contemporary with what is powering most modern systems. With a full CPU load, the temperature stopped increasing after the thermal rise hit 54°C which is fairly modest.

Thermal Rise Comparison (°C)
SPL (dBA@1m)
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Noctua NH-L12
(120 & 92 mm fans)
33
34
35
36
Thermalright TRUE
Spirit 120M
32
34
36
38
Noctua NH-U12S
33
34
35
38
Noctua NH-L12
(120 mm fan)
37
38
39
42
Prolimatech Panther
35
42
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
39
43
48
Reeven Arcziel
42
47
Scythe Samurai ZZ
45
46
52
NoFan CR-95C
Copper
(passive)
54
Noctua NH-L12
(92 mm fan)
42
44
47
51
57
Scythe Big Shuriken
43
46
61
Cooler Master
GeminII M4
53
56
64
Noctua NH-L9i
56
61
Scythe Kozuti
57
62
65
Phanteks PH-TC90LS
67
69
Reeven Vanxie
66
77
F

As the NoFan CR-95C does not generate any noise we placed its result at 11 dBA on our performance comparison chart (10~11 dBA@1m is our anechoic chamber’s ambient noise level). The CR-95C performs as well as a modest mid-range model with a fan running at very low, inaudible speeds. Note that every other cooler in this chart is considerably smaller and cheaper.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The NoFan CR-95C Copper is the first heatsink to actually pass our open platform cooler test without any assistance from a fan. Unlike the Thermalright HR-02 Macho or SilverStone Heligon HE02, it was designed from the ground up as a purely passive heatsink. There is no safety net, no fan mount option, and it doesn’t need one so long as the processor with which it’s paired doesn’t exceed the specified 95W TDP limit. We’ve encountered several “fanless” products that didn’t live up to their promises but the CR-95C passes muster with plenty of headroom.

It is a massive cooler though so there are some complications due to its size. It renders the top expansion slot on most motherboards unusable though this is not as big of an issue as it was in days past. The most commonly required expansion slot, PCI-E 16x (for discrete GPUs), is now typically placed in the second position and many boards have more than one. The fact that it hangs over multiple memory slots is a greater problem as many DIMMs are now outfitted with oversized heatspreaders — compatible RAM must be no taller than 34 mm (almost bare). The cooler may also extend past the top edge of the motherboard as well so a little clearance is required on that side as well.

It’s important to note that the entire genre of passive coolers, the CR-95C
included, is encumbered with some significant disadvantages. A heatsink half
the size and a third of the price can operate more efficiently with a fan running
at very low, inaudible speed. Furthermore, it can get rather toasty under high
extended load so some internal case airflow is may be needed, which defeats
the purpose of having a fanless cooler in the first place. Fanless CPU heatsinks
should really only be considered by those very sensitive to noise and hobbyists
who simply want something new or interesting to add to their rigs. For them,
the NoFan CR-95C Copper is a solid offering and superior to any previous fanless
solution we’ve tested.

We have some suggestions on how to achieve completely silent operation with
the CR-95C:

  • Use a case with wide open panels for ease of convection airflow.
  • If a discrete VGA card is used, choose one with a modest TDP and passive
    cooling.
  • Only SSD local storage; use network storage system to keep the noise of
    mechanical hard drives away.
  • Make use of temperature monitoring utilities to ensure things stay cool
    enough, especially as you learn the system’s limits.
  • Finally, consider adding an exhaust case fan near the CPU heatsink that
    you can turn on if necessary (with speed control, of course) during really
    hot weather or extended high CPU stress operations.

NoFan has created in the CR-95C an effective solution to what is obviously
a bit of a niche problem. That niche being the extreme edge of silent computing,
we can’t help but commend them.

Much thanks to SPCR reader Mike Willis for donating this CR-95C Copper heatsink sample for us to review.


NoFan CR-95C is Recommended by SPCR

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

SilverStone Argon AR01 & AR03 CPU Coolers
Noctua NH-U12S Slim Tower Heatsink
Cooler Master Seidon 240M: Dual Fan Liquid CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC90LS Mini Cooler
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M CPU Heatsink

* * *

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