Introduction

Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler

ThermoLab was established in 2005 and started by supplying companies with thermal solutions. While doing this they noticed there was a growing need for small PC systems. The sever market has several coolers for small systems but ThermoLab noticed there was not much for the SFF PC market, so they developed the Silencer Series coolers. The Silencer Series coolers are low noise, low profile, heatpipe coolers that are designed to not only out-perform the stock Intel heatsink, but are are the same size as or smaller - yes smaller! To do this, ThermoLab developed a new assembly technology called Power Clamping Technology, or PCT, we will see more on this later.

Let’s look at the specifications for the ThremoLab Silencer series coolers we are evaluating today; the Micro and the Nano.  With names like that they have to be small, right.

ThermoLab Micro Silencer

  • Dissipation Area 1,740 cm²
  • Fan
  • TIM (Thermal Interface Material)
  • CPU Compatibility
  • Motherboard Standards: Micro ATX, ATX
  • ThermoLab Nano Silencer

  • Dissipation Area 1,250 cm²
  • Fan
  • TIM (Thermal Interface Material)
  • CPU Compatibility
  • Motherboard Standards: Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX


  • Looking Closer

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler packing

    We will start by looking at the packing the coolers are shipped in. They are by far the smallest boxes I have seen a cooler shipped in, but even so, they are quite sturdy and protect the cooler well.

    Inside the Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler packing

    With the boxes open, you can see that they are not much bigger than the coolers themselves.

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Coolers compared to stock Intel

    With the coolers out of the box, we can get a feel for just how small they really are. From left to right: Stock Intel, Micro Silencer, and Nano Silencer.

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler PCT Technology

    Both the Nano and the Micro use what ThermoLab calls Power Clamping Technology, or PCT to assemble the cooler. The base has small grooves cut into it and the fins are pressed into the base. This not only increases the surface contact between the fins and the base, but it also removes a rattle point. No rattling fins means less noise. The orientation of the heatpipes is also the same on both coolers. ThermoLab says this arrangement allows the cooler to be unaffected by mounting orientation, but as we will see later on, most boards can only mount coolers one way due to the design layout.

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler TIM

    Both coolers bases are of the same design, and both come with TIM pre-applied to the base. The Nano (above) has a slightly smaller cooling area than the Micro. If it wasn’t for the fin design, I would have a hard time pointing out which was a Nano or Micro base. Notice how the heatpipe loops stick out from the base, this is what will ultimately dictate how you mount the cooler on the board. I will show this in the next section. You may also notice the base looks off-center as well. It is off-center to the fins but it is on-center with respect to the entire footprint of the cooler.

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler Base finish

    Under that pesky stock TIM is a flat aluminum base with a nice finish.


    Installation and Test System

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler mounting hardware

    Installing the coolers is quite easy, but despite being lighter than stock, they do not use the stock retention system, so removal of the board will be required. This is not a negative in my eyes as 99% of the coolers we see have you to do this. The mounting hardware is very simple and consists of 4x screws and 4x washer/spacers that can best be described as "top hats" with a hole down the center.

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler mounting system

    The screws and washers are put in from the back side of the board. This was easy to do and took all of 5 minutes at most to install.

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler Clearence

    Now here is where the design of the heatpipes pretty much dictated how the cooler was going to mount. The large loops of the heatpipes would have hit the heatsinks around the socket.

    Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer Cooler mounting

    ThermoLab used as much area around the socket as they could to make the foot print a large as possible to get the cooler as low as possible. So depending on the heatsink design on your motherbaord, you could have some fit up issues.

    Test system

    To test the coolers we ran it on our Intel Core 2 Quad test platform, which was then run only at the default settings. As a baseline all will be compared to the stock Intel cooler. All the temperatures were obtained by using Core Temp 0.95 after sitting at idle for 30 minutes and then again under 100% load for 30 minutes. To obtain 100% load, I ran four instances of Super Pi 32m calculation with the affinity of each set to a different core. The room temperature was kept a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22c) for all benchmarking. All of the coolers were tested with Arctic Silver Lumiere as the thermal interface material.

    The rest of the system is as follows

    Profile: The Normal User (No Overclocking)


    Micro Silencer Results

    Thermolab Micro Silencer Temperature results

    I started the testing with the Micro Silencer. When I first fired up the test system every thing seemed to be fine, as the system booted into windows, I noticed that the fan got extremely quiet. Thinking to my self “wow, now that is a quiet fan”, then I looked at it and noticed that the fan was not even spinning. Just as I was reaching for the power button to shut the system down the fan started to twitch, then went to 100% for a few seconds, then off again. So I started up Core Temp to see what the system temp was. The Q6600 was running with an average of 71.5*C, at 75*C the fan would kick on. Now this was with the system at idle, so since the cooler was system controlled I started to check all the settings. All the settings were at Intel default setting of 65*C for the system call for 100% cooling. Since I have had no issues in the past with PWM controlled fans not working properly, I moved forward with testing with the assumption/understanding this is how the fan works.

    Thermolab Micro Silencer Temperature results

    So against my better judgment I moved ahead with load testing and putting my faith that the PWM controls would keep the CPU from getting to extremely hot for the test. I was happy to see that the controls did there job and made the fan run, but I was not happy as it was not running at 100%, but only running at speeds 0-700 RPM at most. As the CPU temp approached 70*C the fan would slow, sometimes almost stopping. This was the constant back and forth for the entire testing. Since this was the first fan that I have seen in a desktop function like this I didn’t know what to think. I have seen coolers slow way down, but never completely stop. So I decided to attach one of my fan controllers I have laying around to force the cooler to constantly run.

    Thermolab Micro Silencer Temperature results

    With the fan running at 900 RPM the cooler came to life and to my surprise was doing a very nice job compared to the previous readings and the Q6600 was idling at a cool 42.3*C, almost 3*C under stock

    Thermolab Micro Silencer Temperature results

    Under load, the temps shot back up to the high 60’s, with the fan running at 900 RPM the Q6600 was setting at 67.5*C, 2*C over stock.

    Thermolab Micro Silencer Temperature results

    With the fan controller on High and the fan running at 2,200 RPM the Micro Silencer started to perk up. The Q6600 was idling at 37.8*C, 7.3*C under stock. With the fan running at almost its rated full speed the fan was much quieter than the stock Intel heatsink, but the fans 34dBA rating may be a bit loud for an HTPC.

    Thermolab Micro Silencer Temperature results

    With the system under load the Q6600 was running at 59.5*C, 6.3*C under stock.

    Now let's see how the Nano Silencer handles the Q6600 quad core.

    Nano Silencer Results

    Thermolab Nano Silencer Temperature results

    Like the Micro Silencer, I started with the cooler being installed as directed and the system controlling the fan. With the system idle, the Nano tried to keep the Q6600 cool, but like the Micro cooler, the temps were way high. The Nano kept the Q6600’s idle temp at a very toasty 73.75*C average, with the fan off most of the time and only coming to life at 79*C.

    Thermolab Nano Silencer Temperature results

    Reluctantly, I ran the load test. The Nano kept the Q6600 in the high 70’s low 80’s depending if the fan was on or not. The average over the 30min test was a blistering 78.8*C.

    Thermolab Nano Silencer Temperature results

    After letting the machine cool down I started the test with the fan controller installed. With the fan controller on low, the fan was running at a constant and quiet 1,000 RPM. The Q6600 was idling at 43.3*C, almost 2*C under stock.

    Thermolab Nano Silencer Temperature results

    Under load with the controller still on low the temps shot back into the 70’s with a temp of 73.5*C, about 8*C over stock.

    Thermolab Nano Silencer Temperature results

    With the controller on high, and the system idling, the Q6600 was running at a cool 36*C which is 9*C under stock. The fan was running at 2,400 RPM and was surprisingly quiet for a fan with a 30dBA rating.

    Thermolab Nano Silencer Temperature results

    Under load, the Q6600’s temps where back to the high side but still in a livable rage at 57.5*C, 8*C under stock.

    Conclusion and Final Thoughts

     

    Thermolab Micro and Nano Silencer Cooler

    I have some very mixed feelings about the Silencer coolers form ThermoLab, so let’s start with the good ones. The build quality of these two coolers is very good. The coolers are very quiet - mainly due to the fact that the fan didn’t run for the better part of the testing. Even with the fans hooked to a controller and forced to run, the sound levels were way better than the Intel retail boxed fan. The weight of the coolers are spectacularly light, at just half the weight of the stock cooler and perform better when used with a fan controller. The old adage towards coolers that ‘bigger is better’ could be getting dated after looking at these two coolers. This wouldn’t break my heart as some coolers on the market are tipping the scales at the 1,000g mark, so it's nice to use a cooler that won't bend and crack your motherboard when moving the case from one location to another. 

    Now for what I didn’t care for: Without the fans being hooked to a fan controller the temps where way high. This could be for the fact that the Q6600 was too much for the Nano and Micro to handle. Although, if this was the case the temps would have been just as bad with the controller as with out; but since the temps were not, it makes me lean to the fan controls being the issue.

    I think the Thermolab Nano and Micro Silencer coolers could be popular with the SFF and HTPC crowd as most won’t be using quad-core processors for their builds, but rather the lower range CPUs that produce less heat. The coolers themselves are not yet available at your favorite e-tailor as ThermoLab is currently working on getting the coolers to market and should be in the $30 range.

    Bottom line: ThermoLab’s first offering to the cooler world is solidly built and gives the SFF and HTPC crowds another option other than stock.