Thermolab Baram Blows In

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TEST RESULTS

Cooling Results

The Thermolab Baram is a very good performer. Thermal rise was 18°C above ambient at 12V, and 25°C at 5V. This is a very narrow temperature spread. The Baram is quite good with limited airflow and it may work well enough as a passive CPU cooler. The Nexus fan is generally inaudible at 9V or lower unless the ambient noise level (and the rest of your computer) is extremely low.

Thermolab Baram w/ reference Nexus 120mm fan
Fan Voltage
SPL @1m
Temp
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
16 dBA
39°C
18
0.22
9V
13 dBA
41°C
20
0.23
7V
12 dBA
43°C
22
0.26
5V
11 dBA
46°C
25
0.29
Load Temp: CPUBurn for ~10 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (21°C) at load.
°C/W: based on the heat dissipated by the CPU (measured 78W); lower is better.

Compared to many other tower coolers reviewed recently, the Baram doesn't quite make the top ranks. The latest top performers clearly best the Baram, but the differences are relatively modest unless you're running a CPU that draw a lot more power than the 78W measured on our Pentium D950. Remember that the vast majority of current CPUs are rated for 65W TDP or lower. In actual use, none of these will generate anywhere near the heat of our test CPU. Any of the heatsink models listed will provide perfectly good cooling with an effectively inaudible fan.

°C rise Comparison: Thermolab Baram vs. Competitors
Heatsink
Nexus 120 fan voltage / SPL @1m
12V
9V
7V
5V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
11 dBA
Thermolab Baram
18
20
22
25
Scythe Ninja 2
17
18
20
23
Thermalright U120E
12
14
17
24
Thermalright HR-01+
13
15
16
20
Xigmatek HDT-S1283
13
15
18
22
Noctua NH-U12P
14
16
17
21
All results generated with our reference Nexus 120mm fan.

As with any cooler supplied without a fan, both cooling performance and acoustics are strongly affected by your choice of fan and the speed at which it is run. With a fan like our reference, it will be optimized for super low noise. The Baram can probably achieve much better cooling performance with a more powerful fan, but at higher noise levels. A second 120mm fan in a push/pull mode could also improve the cooling performance, again at the cost of higher noise. Other tech review sites will probably explore the performance of the Baram with a higher speed fan and with two fans; we have no interest in running any fan noisier than our reference at 12V.

For your reference, here are the latest acoustics measurements and recordings of our reference 120mm fan, from our anechoic chamber. The recordings was made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

The recording is intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 10 second segments of room ambient, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Thermolab Baram provides very good low noise cooling performance with a quiet 120mm fan, but it does not make the top ranks of tower coolers. It is a bit surprising that better performance was not achieved, given the large area of the fins, and the high integrity of the overall build. However, the results speak for themselves: Against the short list of high performance tower coolers that accommodate standard size 120mm fans, the Baram falls in last place. The spread is not that big, with only 4°C separating it from the top performer, with the reference fan at full or minimum speed. And it is being compared to very good company, the very best coolers for low airflow performance we've tested in the past year or so.

Where the Baram falls really short is in the mounting arrangements. The Socket 775 mounting hardware and procedure is flat out bad. It's true that once completed, the heatsink is securely in place, but the process is painfully awkward. The AM2 socket mounting is obviously easier, but the inflexibility of fan direction is another negative. Like Scythe with the Ninja 2, Thermolab needs to go back to the drawing board. There are many good mounting systems to imitate, and some of the best are right on our short list of tower coolers. Makers of DIY aftermarket coolers really have to remember a simple fact: Their customers are mostly buying their products for fun, as a hobby, for personal interest. Getting challenged with poorly thought-out assembly kits is not most people's idea of fun.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price of US$52 seems steep, especially when compared to the prices of some of the competition. Thermolab does not appear to have resellers in North America at this point, however, so the MSP may be moot. That being the case, we sincerely hope Thermolab reworks its mounting hardware for the Baram so that by the time resellers are set up, it comes with better hardware. It is possible that a better mounting system might also result in better cooling performance.

Thermolab Baram
PROS

* Very good performance
* Nice build
* Greener packaging
CONS

* Poor mounting system
* Not quite as effective as competitors
* High MSP

Our thanks to Thermolab for the heatsink sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
Zalman 9300AT: Not me too, but me again
Noctua NH-U12P Tower Cooler
Zerotherm Zen FZ120 CPU Cooler
Noctua NH-C12P: A Top-Down Cooler Rises Up
Thermalright HR-01 Plus: 2nd Gen Killer Tower Cooler
Scythe Ninja 2: Tweaking a Classic

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