Everyone likes to be cool, right? That’s why we spend so long preening ourselves and following trends. I certainly do; it’s why I bought that ridiculous denim jacket in the 90s. CPUs are no different. Yes, you get a perfectly good cooling system with every boxed CPU, but is it enough? Well, I decided to replace the heatsink and fan on my i5 to see just what a difference it makes. And I will be using Arctic Cooling’s Freezer 13 to do so.
Details and Specs
First thing you notice about this unit even before you get it out of the box is the sheer size of it. Compared to the stock cooler, this thing is a lot larger. The Intel Stock cooler weighs just a bit over 500g and stands 30mm tall. This beast is over 4 times the height at a full 130mm tall so you expect it to be much weightier, actually, it’s 690g so considering all the extra heft, they’ve done a great job of making it light enough that you won’t worry about your motherboard snapping in half.
As well as being taller, it’s also deeper and wider (that’s what she said). At 123mm*96mm, it needs some good working room around it so don’t expect to be as easy to fit into a smaller case as Intel’s 75*75mm stock offering. If in doubt, measure the hell out of your components
It has 45 fins compared to Intel’s 42 but as you would expect, they are spaced out more so as to dissipate more heat. Alongside those is a series of copper heat pipes to carry that heat up to the fins, something that the stock cooler simply does not have. The fins have an interesting curved design, going down at the edges. This serves as a barrier to airflow escaping out the sides meaning that the included 92mm PWM fan doesn’t have to spin quite as fast.
My processor (an i5 4670k) does have a tendency to run quite hot on stock but its TDP is well below the limit of this cooler at 88. If yours is higher though, you should still be good. Arctic state that it can support a TDP of up to 140w, that’s enough for all current consumer CPUs including the notoriously hot-running Haswell-E i7s.
The surface isn’t quite a mirror finish, but it’s nicely smooth and it’s not far off. I imagine a bit of lapping could get it to a point where you could do your makeup in it, but I’ve always been of the opinion that as long as you put your paste on properly it doesn’t really matter. If you feel differently then it’s certainly possible to get that finish as a quick Google will attest.
It’s one of the cheaper coolers of its type and if you shop around, you should be able to pick one up for under £30. Considering that some of the class leaders for this type of cooler cost upwards of £70, a very reasonable price indeed. It’s good for AMD and Intel sockets, with mounting for 115x, 1366, 775, 939, AM2(+), AM3(+) sockets all included.
Installation was super easy. On an Intel rig, the installation process consists of putting 4 pins into the large mounting plate, fitting it in place into the motherboard holes, another 4 pins to secure it in place and then two simple screws to hold everything where it belongs. I didn’t even need to put any thermal paste on as it comes pre-applied with Arctic’s celebrated MX-4 paste. A bit more than I would normally put on personally to be fair, but I figure Arctic know what they’re doing and I’m lazy so I left it as it came. The plate is square so you can mount facing whichever way you want depending on how airflow is directed in your case. I have a traditional front to back setup so went for that.
If you’re an AMD user, then installation is even easier with just two lugs to be clipped onto the retention mechanism on your motherboard before screwing in the cooler. It’s literally a three-minute process to install for both platforms. Only thing to be careful of is when installing is making sure you line up the holes in the cooler with the holes on the mounting plate, otherwise you’ll have to slide it around and probably get thermal paste everywhere. It’s a shame to see that with such an easy to use mounting system, Arctic didn’t think to put any kind of guide in place to get the cooler and mount aligned correctly first time. Also, the Intel mounting plate is not symmetrical so work out how you want to install before you put it onto the motherboard, otherwise you’ll be doing it twice. Fortunately, the pins just need a good hard pull to get them back out again for remounting.
The fan is a simple clip on and off job but it is not a standard sized fan. If you were hoping to customise the cooler with your own fan, you won’t be able to just buy an off the shelf unit. There also doesn’t seem to be any way of moving the fan up and down as you often see on more expensive coolers. To counter this, Arctic have done a very good job at keeping the fan side of the cooler as narrow as possible. In my case, it doesn’t cover any of the DDR3 slots on my motherboard so clearance was not an issue. You can see here I have put one stick in the first slot and the fan isn’t in the way.
If your motherboard is shorter than mine then low-profile memory like these HyperX Savage sticks would be fine, as you can see the fan clears the top anyway. Be sure to measure carefully if you have taller RAM modules like the HyperX T1 or Crucial Ballistix as you may find that it won’t fit without removing the heat spreader.
Here’s the important part. I’ve got everything in place and it’s working fine, how does it perform? To find this out I did some stress testing in Aida64. I stress tested the CPU and FPU both together for 4 minutes on the stock cooler and on the Freezer. Ambient temperature was roughly the same as I did the tests within a few minutes of each other. Here’s what I found:
You can see the stock fan started with an idle temp of 35 and went to a peak of 67 whereas the Freezer 13 started with a lower idle temp of 29 and hit a peak of 43. It’s certainly a noticeable difference with the peak load temp is only eight degrees higher than idle at stock.
Those tests were of course at stock speeds and you wouldn’t buy a cooler like this unless you wanted to at least do a little bit of overclocking, so how does it cope with that? Well, I’m happy to say it copes very well. I’ve now overclocked this processor by 20% to 4.2ghz and another stress test gives me the following results:
Idle temps are now up to 40 degrees. You’ll notice a very brief peak on the graph of 65 degrees. At this point the motherboard sped up the fan and that temperature dropped again. Even with a moderate overclock in place, I still haven’t been able to reach load temperatures as high as the stock cooler and the fan doesn’t even need to spin at full speed all of the time.
Even when it is spinning at full speed, the fan is very quiet. I turned all my case fans off and I could only hear the fan with no background noise. It wouldn’t be audible above game sound at all and the hum that it does make is low pitched as well, making it less intrusive even when you do notice it. Not that the stock fan was particularly loud, but it was a little bit louder than Arctic’s fan to my ears.
Overall, I’m really pleased with this cooler. It was easy to install and has given me some good scope for overclocking. It’s nice and quiet and it strikes a good balance between size and usability. It has a very specific look which is going to be a matter of personal taste. I think it fits nicely in my system and the white fan does a nice job of picking up some colour from my case lights. Although smaller than other enthusiast grade coolers, it’s still a very large device so it won’t be for everyone. You will certainly want to measure up before buying if you’re not using low profile memory as the lack of an adjustable depth fan will be an issue depending on your motherboard layout. This is a shame as it’s the only flaw from this solidly-performing cooler.
Arctic Freezer 13 Review
If you’re looking for a good performing cooler at a good price, then you can’t go too wrong with this either for general use or overclocking. The physical size may make it impractical for some and I would really have liked to see the option to be able to adjust the fan height as this does limit the unit for a lot of users. Installation was easy but could be messy for a novice so take care.