EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink - Visually Pleasing M.2 Cooling

EKWB is a Slovenian manufacturer of high performance water cooling parts and accessories designed to meet the needs of the most discerning PC enthusiasts. EK gets their name from the initials of their founder, Edvard Konig, who began designing and manufacturing water blocks back in the late 1990's, eventually producing and manufacturing his first line of waterblocks in 2003. Since their inception, EKWB has built a reputation for making some of the best water cooling components in the industry and they also have a lineup of AIO cooling solutions for users who don't want to get involved with full loop water cooling. Today, I am looking at the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink, a product designed to reduce temperatures of M.2 storage devices while also giving a unique aesthetic to a typically green or black sticker-covered M.2 drive. EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink - Visually Appealing SSD Cooling Manufacturers like Samsung and Intel have been pushing M.2 NVMe drives that are capable of insane low latency performance for years now, but these drives are known for their penchant to run at high temperatures under even normal workloads, which can cause performance throttling once reaching a certain threshold. For everyday users, performance throttling of M.2 storage drives due to thermals is probably an afterthought and the major SSD manufacturers have safeguards built into their drives to help avoid long term damage due to heat. For PC enthusiasts who want to ensure their M.2 drives are running optimally and reduce the risk of throttling performance, EKWB has produced custom aluminum M.2 NVMe heatsinks in a variety of colors. EKWB EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink Colors and Prices Black - $18.49 shipped Blue - $18.99 shipped Gold - $18.99 shipped Green - $18.99 shipped Nickel - $18.49 shipped Purple - $18.99 shipped Red - $18.99 shipped Despite the name, the EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink can work on pretty much any 2280 length M.2 storage drive, whether it is SATA or NVMe based, which is good, because I've seen plenty of M.2 SATA that can use a little help running cool. With so many users these days opting for M.2 NVMe storage due to its small footprint and incredible performance, the EKWB M.2 heatsinks are a product that makes sense, as long as they work as intended and help lower the overall temperature of an M.2 SSD. EK-M.2 NVME Heatsink Technical Details Materials used: Enclosed: EKWB - M.2 NVMe Basic Retail Box EKWB ships the M.2 NVMe heatsinks in a small white box with the color of the EKWB block noted on a darkened box.  Our samples arrived in excellent condition, with all of the boxes properly sealed and looking good, with no external damage. While the box doesn't have any visual flair, it's perfectly adequate for the product it contains and suitable for the worldwide market that EKWB is serving. EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink - Opened Once you open the EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink box, the heatsink assembly along with an assortment of included components slides out. EK has packaged everything well within the little box and it all arrived undamaged and in good condition. The thermal pads and included clips seem to be high quality parts. EKWB NVMe Heatsink - Antistatic Bag EKWB ships every M.2 NVMe Heatsink in a protective bag with an EKWB anti tamper sticker in it, which keeps the heatsink well protected during shipping. If you should receive an EK M.2 NVMe heatsink without this protective packaging, it may have been tampered with or used previously. EKWB M.2 NVMe Instructions The instruction guide included with the EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink is very basic and more of a parts diagram than anything, as it doesn't have any steps or detailed info on how to do more daunting steps, like getting the clips on optimally. EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink, Thermal Tape EKWB includes two different thickness of high quality thermal pads with their M.2 NVMe Heatsink. These pads are to be used to ensure proper contact between the M.2 drive and heatsink and EKWB includes enough material to do a couple of installs. There is tape to protect both sides of the material and this tape can be a bit tricky to peel, but that's better than having it fall off during shipment and leave your thermal pads covered in debris. EK-M.2 NVMe Backside of Heatsinks The packaging of the EKWB M.2 NVMe heatsinks is adequate and professional, with EKWB taking every step to ensure the customer is receiving a complete product that is well packaged and ready to be installed with little modification, right out of the box. Our heatsinks arrived in good shape, without any missing parts or shipping-related damage.

A Closer Look At The EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink

EKWB M2 NVME - Multiple Colors The EKWB M.2 NVMe heatsink features two pieces, both manufactured to exact standards from high quality aluminum. The main heatsink is 3.5 mm tall from the base to the top fin, with the fins having about 2mm of spacing between them. The main piece of the EKWB M.2 NVMe heatsink is very solid and durable, with all of the fins consistent and smooth. EK has several colors available, with the black, red, nickel and blue versions pictured above and purple, green and gold not pictured.  Regardless of color, each EK M.2 NVMe heatsink features the same exact reflective EK logo and the look is absolutely beautiful, with EK taking time to ensure the heatsinks have an industrial appeal paired with a decent selection of beautiful anodized colors available. Looking closely, we can see that EK has done a good job with the machining on these heatsinks, though there are some small scratches in the nickel that I noted. EKWB M.2 NVME Heatsinks, Base The base of each EKWB M.2 heatsink is machined well, though I was able to polish them a bit more than they were from the factory and the bases were certainly far from smooth, with some having light scratch marks and other minor imperfections. Given that these use a thermal pad for interface and the surface is smooth enough, I doubt lapping would help much, especially given the thin amount of material available. I'd recommend to anybody purchasing a new heatsink to clean it properly with some isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth before use, as there is no telling what could be on the surface left over from manufacturing and it's always nice to make sure your surfaces are clean before mating. EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink - Backplate The backplate for each EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink is the same, a thin, nicely machined piece of aluminum with proper cutouts for the screw and clips. Because the backplate has a hole on one end, it is impossible to line up improperly. The backplate is the same length and width as the top part and is very nicely manufactured. The thin nature of this backplate allows for the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks to not interfere with motherboards that have proper spacing while giving the main heatsink a solid foundation to grasp and hold to. I've seen some solutions that just sit on top of the drives with thermal tape, but don't actually secure to the drive beyond that, so EKWB has done a good job with their heatsinks when it comes to providing the foundation for a secure installation.  

EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink Performance Testing

For temperature testing, I used a Samsung 960 Evo 250GB on a Gigabyte Z370 Gaming 5 in a closed case environment with a controlled room temperature of 22.2C/72F without any heatsink installed to get pre-installation temperatures. To get the Samsung 960 Evo to maximum temperature, I simultaneously ran heavy IO, SSD-specific tests like CrystalDiskMark 6 and AS-SSD in a continuos pattern over 30 minutes, noting the peak temperature of the drive. I've found these tests on loop with high file sizes running concurrently while running a GPU intensive task like Furmark in the background will get my 960 Evo to maximum temperature quite quickly. Samsung 960 Pro - Typical Load Temp Before EKWB M.2 Heatsink

My Samsung 960 Evo OS Drive Regularly Would Top Off At 58.0 Celsius in a 22 Celsius Room During Heavy IO Before the EKWB M.2 Heatsink Installation

Samsung 960 Evo, No Heatsink, Z370 Install

The Samsung 960 Evo 250GB prior to installation of the EKWB M.2 Heatsink

My testing was designed to quickly simulate real-world results and whether the EKWB M.2 heatsink would lower my 960 Pro from its typical 57-58C running temperature under load. 58C is a bit hot for my liking, but still quite a bit away from the throttling limit of the 960 Pro, which kicks in around 70C and lowers the performance of the drive in order to decrease heat output. My biggest concern when running my 960 Pro wasn't actually that the drive was nearing 60C, but that the drive would get to that temperature so quickly with just average workloads and then struggle to get down to lower temps when running at near-idle situations, like watching Youtube videos. I also tested the drive thermals without a heatsink by doing a 30 minute run of GTA:5 and noting the maximum temperature, which got to a warm, but not alarming 49C. This temperature can also be attributed to the SSD being warmed by a nearby video card, since my 960 Pro NVMe SSD is installed in the area between the GPU and CPU, where there is no direct airflow. This particular area can get very hot, as it sits above the video card above is in the center of the system. During installation of the EKWB M.2 NVMe heatsink, I ensured that the thermal pads had proper contact across the drive and did not remove any of the stickers from the Samsung 960 Evo, as this would void the warranty. I did clean the drive with a cotton swab covered in 100% isopropyl and blew it off with compressed air to ensure it was completely clean and free of any dust or debris that could impede thermal conductivity. I monitored the on-drive temperature monitor using HWInfo and Corsair Link to make sure both programs had consistent reads. EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink - Maximum Temperature

Following installation of the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink, the maximum drive temperature dropped by 7C.

Running AS-SSD and CrystalDisk concurrently, Previously, I would see this test reach 58C during peak with the 960 Evo 250GB drive and no EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink installed. After the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink was installed, the test reached a maximum of 51C at peak. GTA:5, which previously had the drive reaching 49C-50C was now topping off at 44C. The EKWB NVMe heatsink was certainly doing its job and reducing drive temperatures under heavy IO and gaming workloads. Perhaps most impressively was the amount of time it took for the drive to reach maximum temperature. Without the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink, the Samsung 960 Evo would quickly scale up in temperature and reach its maximum very quickly. It took a lot longer for the Samsung 960 Evo to warm up to maximum when using the EKWB M.2 NVMe, the drive slowly worked up to its maximum temperature rather than jumping their immediately.

Installation Notes: Take Your Time, The Thermal Tape Can Be Tricky

Unfortunately, my camera was giving me some trouble during the installation phase and didn't save a block of photos from my pretty uneventful installation, but I did take notes. EKWB includes two different thicknesses of thermal tape with their M.2 NVMe Heatsinks, so that users can ensure the heatsink is making proper contact with the various components of the M.2 SSD. For example, on the 960 Evo from Samsung, I found that you need to use a .5mm thick piece on the back side of the drive, which EKWB instructs. However, the top side of the drive where the memory sits needs a piece of .5mm tape, while a 1mm thick piece should be used on the controller area towards the connector to ensure proper contact. EKWB doesn't include this information in their instructions, despite the 960 Evo being one of the most popular NVMe drives on the market. EKWB - Installed With Thermal Clips The metal clips that EKWB includes with the M.2 NVMe Heatsink can be a little bit tricky to get installed if you haven't worked with them before. Just make sure to clip the single hook side onto the heatsink first and then move the other side over slowly. You can use a small screwdriver on this side to pop the clip into place, but it wasn't necessary for me to do so when installing on my 960 Evo 250GB. I would say between the tape and the clips, installing the EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink isn't something an inexperienced builder should do, just because of the potential damage that can come to an expensive NVMe drive if the installation is done improperly. For experienced system builders and people are mechanically inclined, installing the EK-M.2 NVMe should be a piece of cake once you get your thermal tape measured out and cut properly. EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink Installed On Z370 With both an aesthetic improvement and notable improvement in performance, I can safely say the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks were worth installing. In this world of PC customization that includes RGB lighting and other expensive additions that don't aid in performance, the $20 EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks actually offer performance benefits along with their aesthetic appeal. While I wasn't near throttling, it is nice having peace of mind knowing my drive is running a lot cooler at full load. A 7 degrees celsius cooling improvement probably doesn't look so impressive on paper to your average person raised on the imperial measuring system, but just imagine going from a 115 degree dessert to a 70 degree hillside, that's the temperature difference we're talking about when using the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink on a Samsung 960 Evo drive. Let's wrap up this review and see how the EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink stacks up and whether you should buy it.

EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink Conclusion

The quality of the EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink is solid all around, with the aluminum pieces both being manufactured to high standards that customers would expect from a company like EKWB. The included clips and thermal tape were high quality product and EK took care to include more than enough thermal tape for customers to be able to a couple of installations, or fix any mess ups they might have when getting their installation perfect. Everything fit together well on my samples and I was able to install three of the heatsinks, one on my 960 Evo, the other two on my Samsung 850 Pro M.2 drives, without issue. The EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks look simply amazing and add a lot of visual appeal over a typical green or black PCB M.2 SSD that is covered with stickers. EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks - Multiple Colors Available All of the anodized colors that EKWB has available for the M.2 NVMe Heatsink lineup look great and will allow users to customize their systems to a specific aesthetic, which is what I think a lot of users will turn to these heatsinks for in the first place, with cooling performance being secondary. Let's face it, in the world of PC customization, aesthetic appeal often takes the driver seat, with other considerations secondary. Thankfully, these EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks offer cooling performance improvements to go along with their aesthetic appeal. I was pleasantly surprised to see a 7C reduction in load temps, going from 58C to 51C on my Samsung 960 Evo 250GB when using the EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink. My results aren't going to be the same as everybody, since there will be a lot of variables at play, but I have no doubt that these EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks will improve thermal performance for most users out there. While I wasn't nearing throttling on my drive, the mere fact that this EKWB M.2 heatsink is shaving 7C off of the load temperature means it is doing its job. Heading into the review, I wasn't sure such a small heatsink could help drastically improve thermals on an SSD and I figured I'd see a couple of degrees performance improvement at best. For a passive heatsink relying on simple thermal pads for contact and clips for securing things together, a 7C reduction in temperatures is impressive. EKWB could stand to improve the instructions that come with their M.2 NVMe Heatsinks, as the included instructions, while basic and easy to follow, didn't include information regarding specific drives or inform users that thermal tape modification would be necessary. Installing these heatsinks isn't a "one-size-fits-all" scenario and EK would be well off to inform customers of this in the literature included in the box. If a user were to just follow EKWB's instructions and install the heatsink with the tape as instructed on a 960 Evo, they'd find their heatsinks couldn't be clipped on properly because the entire assembly was too thick, due to the tape EK told users to use not being proper for the type of chips on the 960 Evo. The included clips work well, but they are definitely tricky to get on, so perhaps EKWB could do some development there to make this product a little more user-friendly. EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink Installed On Z370 Quality M.2 NVMe drives aren't an inexpensive investment and for just $18.49 at Amazon for an EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsink, you can ensure that yours runs cooler and has a better chance of avoiding thermal performance throttling. EKWB EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsink Colors and Prices Black - $18.49 shipped Blue - $18.99 shipped Gold - $18.99 shipped Green - $18.99 shipped Nickel - $18.49 shipped Purple - $18.99 shipped Red - $18.99 shipped While I saw a 7C reduction in temperatures, I have to imagine scenarios where users see even better improvements, or slimmer improvements, it just really depends a lot on system configuration and airflow around the drive. I just hope EKWB can improve their literature and make installation just a bit easier in future revisions by improving clip and mounting design, because these are some awesome looking heatsinks that offer surprising cooling performance. Just be sure to check compatibility your system and make sure you have proper spacing for the installation. Also, before you buy, keep in mind that EK-M.2 NVMe Heatsinks aren't supposed to be used with M.2 drives that have chips on both sides. Legit Bottom Line: If you are concerned about thermals on your M.2 drive and want an improved system aesthetic, look no further than the excellently built EKWB M.2 NVMe Heatsinks.