Thermaltake NiC-F4 Review

ccokeman - 2012-08-12 18:04:45 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: October 20, 2013
Price: $39.99

Thermaltake NiC-F4 Introduction:

Cooling your high, or even moderately priced processor is going to require something more robust than what comes in the retail box. Large cooling solutions have been around for quite some time and some have bordered on the edge of insanity when you look at the size and pure weight penalty imparted to the motherboard. One of the chief problems with these large cooling solutions is not that they don't cool well enough, but that the end user gives up DRAM capacity or cooling performance due to how the fans need to attach the heat sink itself. That, in a nutshell, is the conundrum we face with the latest motherboard designs. However, Thermaltake has an answer for the problem with their line up of Non-Interference Coolers, hence the NiC in the naming of this cooler from Thermaltake — the NiC-F4. Featuring a heat pipe direct-contact design with 4 u-shaped heat pipes, this offering is rated to handle up to 180 watts thermal energy. Equipped with dual fans and a large slim tower, the NiC-F4 is compatible with all current CPU socket types from both Intel and AMD. Priced at a meager $40, the NiC-F4 looks like it is equipped to outperform one of the most popular inexpensive tower coolers — the Hyper 212 Evo. Lets dig in and see what Thermaltake has to offer with the NiC-F4.

Thermaltake NiC-F4 Closer Look:

The packaging of the Thermaltake NiC-F4 shows the cooler on the front panel in bright contrast against the black background. Surrounding the front panel are some of the product highlights including the 180W thermal capacity, the 4 6mm heat pipes, the two fans, and that it is Intel socket 2011 compatible. The back side goes into more detail on the specific feature set that makes this cooler just what it is, including the direct-contact heat pipe design, the fact that it uses dual fans to manage the thermals, the thin profile of the NiC F4, and more. The right side of the packaging lists the product specifications. Themaltake does provide a wealth of information on the outside of the procuct

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internally, the NiC-F4 is well packed with the fans not mounted to the slim tower. Once everything is out of the box you can get a feel for what's included in the box. You get the tower heat assembly, the pair of fans, and mounting hardware for the heatsink and fans.

 

 

The accessory bundle includes hardware to mount the NiC-F4 into all of the current sockets from AMD and Intel including socket 2011, the fan mounting brackets, thermal paste, and instruction and warranty documentation so you can follow the directions to put the mounting system together.

 

 

Moving to a slimmer design to eliminate one of the chief obstacles in cooling Intel socket 115X series systems is going to provide a lot of opportunity for the end user looking to populate all of the available DIMM slots on the board without compromising cooling or using low-profile modules.

Thermaltake NiC-F4 Closer Look:

Measuring 155H*140W*50L mm in size and weighing in at 688g, the Thermaltake NiC-F4 is fairly robust in size yet is light enough not to cause a concern about overloading the PCB. The 50mm thick dimension is what makes this concept work as we see in the installation pictures. Thermaltakes NIC-F4 uses a pair of 120mm PWM fans to provide the airflow needs of the 4-heat pipe equipped tower. The red and black fans used to provide the airflow are well suited for use on any board but match up particularly well with the likes of the ROG series from ASUS and the Gaming series boards from MSI. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stripped down to its essentials the Thermaltake NiC-F4 is a tower-style heat sink that uses a quartet of nickel-plated copper 6mm heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the contact face of the cooler to the aluminum fin array. The fin array surface is concave, directing airflow towards the center of the array. Mounting holes are situated along the outside edges of the fin array. At 140mm wide the array looks like it will support fans up to 140mm in size with the included fan brackets. Each of the four 6mm heat pipes is neatly capped at the top of the fin array for improved aesthetics. On top of the contact surface the heat sink base has large blocks that help locate the retention hardware.

 

 

 

Thermaltake's NiC-F4 uses a direct-contact heat pipe design allowing the thermal load to take a more direct route to the large fin array. The surface is not smooth, but most direct contact designs usually are not. Depending on the size of the gaps between the heat pipes and base material you may need to use more thermal paste than normal when mounting the cooler. DIrectly from the factory the contact face is covered with a protective film that needs to be removed before using the NiC-F4.

 

 

A pair of interconnected 120mm PWM sickle blade fans are used to provide the airflow needs of the NiC-F4 and run in a Push-Pull configuration. By connecting the two fans together you only need one connection to the motherboard to have the fans function fully. The fans are rated to run between 800-1600RPM at 12V using 0.17A to consume 2.04W. Rated at between 18.0~30.2 dBA these fans are quiet enough to keep you from annoying the household while stll providing 79.28CFM at an air pressure rating of 1.911 MM-H2O. The cables are sleeved for a sleek look and terminate in a 4-pin fan header connector.

 

 

When it came time to install the NiC-F4 I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the mounting system has become over the past few generations. No longer was it a fight to get the heat sink installed and connected to the mounting hardware. The mounting system has evolved to a system much like what Noctua is using to more accurately clamp the heat sink in place. Looking at the space around the heat sink in my chassis you can see that it fits well in the test chassis and provides the benefit of fitting the fans into place without any tweaking to make the mounting system and fans work as intended. I was concerned initially with the large gaps in the contact surface that need to be filled with thermal paste to allow the cooler to function as intended.

 

 

 

Solid construction and a new mounting system are in Thermaltake's favor on this latest line of heat sinks in the NiC series.

Thermaltake NiC-F4 Specifications:

P/N
 CLP0606
Compatibility
 Intel LGA  2011/1366/1155/1156/1150/1150/775
AMD
FM2/FM1/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2
Heatsink Dimension
 155H*140W*50L mm
Heatsink Material
 Aluminum Fins
Copper Heatpipes
Heatpipe
 Φ6mm x 4 pcs
Fan Dimension
 120 x 120 x 25 mm(L xW x H)
Fan quantity
 2 pcs
Fan Speed
 800-1600RPM
Rated Voltage
 12V
Start Voltage
 9.0V
Rated Current
 0.17A
Power Input
 2.04W
Air Flow
 79.283CFM
Air Pressure
 1.911 MM-H2O
Noise
 18.0~ 30.2 dBA
Life time/Fan Life time
 40,000 hours
Fan control
 PWM
pin connect
 4 pin
Cooling Power
180W
Weight
688 g

Thermaltake NiC-F4 Features:


 

All information Courtesy of Thermaltake @ http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/products-model.aspx?id=C_00002030

Thermaltake NiC-F4 Testing:

Testing of Themaltake's latest high performance air-cooled solution will be accomplished installing the cooler into the test system mounted into a case, not a test bench. Most systems are built and mounted into a sealed (relatively) chassis, so this method will be used to generate the load and idle results to give a real world view as to what kind of cooling performance one can expect, based on the test system listed below. Of course, your results may vary due to case design and ambient air temperature by several degrees. The CPU load is generated by Prime 95 version 27.7 for a period of two hours, with a cooldown period of one hour after the computer has returned to an idle state. Real Temp 3.70 is used to log the temperatures over the time frame with the highest and lowest averages across the four cores of the Core i7 2600K test CPU. Ambient temperatures are kept at 24 °C throughout the testing to minimize the impact of a variable temperature. Each cooler is tested with the manufacturer supplied thermal compound as delivered. Many of us have our own TIM favorites, but for the end-user without a half dozen tubes of thermal paste laying around, the supplied TIM will have to do and is how these coolers will be tested.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Coolers:






 

   

 

   

 

At idle, both stock and overclocked the NiC-F4 was able to keep my Core i7 2600K at 26/27 °C or about right in the middle of the comparison field. That field contains cooler costing much more than the NiC-F4. Now when you get to the overclocked results, again the NiC-F4 keeps pace with other higher priced CPU coolers delivering 51 °C at stock speeds and 73°C when overclocked. Pretty impressive results for a $40 cooler. As far as noise is concerned I heard none at all from within the chassis. That alone for a cooler in this price range and hearing some of the screamers on earlier high end coolers from Thermaltake I am truly impressed with the results.

Thermaltake NiC-F4 Conclusion:

Thermalatake's NiC series CPU coolers address one of the big concerns that the community faces when using larger more efficient coolers. They almost always impact the amount of memory one can install and how many DIMM slots can be populated. Most require either low-profile DRAM modules or only populating the slots furthest from the processor socket. If you are only using 8 or 16GB of memory in a 2 x 4GB or 2 x 8GB configuration you can most likely get away with taller modules. Filling up all the DIMM slots is going to necessitate a compromise in either DRAM capacity or alternate fan mounting solutions at best. The NiC series and specifically the NiC-F4 will allow you to populate all of the DRAM slots and still use a large efficient cooling solution with both fans properly attached to maximize airflow through the curved 0.4mm aluminum heat sink fins. In my test system the fans still sat some 2 to 3mm from the large heat sinks on my Mushkin Redline modules fulfilling the design parameters of the NiC series. A pair of 120mm PWM fans are used to provide the airflow through the heat sink. Just looking at the dimensions of the fan mounting surface it looks like a pair of 140mm fans could be used to further enhance the cooling capacity of the NiC-F4. Even so the 120mm fans do a great job of providing the airflow needed at a low noise level. Rated for operation between 800 and 1600RPM the fans are whisper quiet from 2 feet away even under full load and fans speed. Something I was pleasantly surprised to not hear.

Cooling performance was about in the middle of the comparison field. That my sound bad but considering a lot of self-contained liquid cooling solutions are part of the field, the perspective changes when you see this $40 cooler outperforming coolers that cost more and deliver less. The red and black fans are going to match up nicely with the abundance of red and black themed boards on the market from all of the top manufacturers including ASUS, Gigabyte, and MSI. It's a good-looking cooler that performs well.

Installation of a high-end cooling solution can be simple or infinitely challenging depending on the manufacturer. Thermaltake's earlier mounting solutions were, needless to say, challenging to install for some people requiring patience to get it right. The installation hardware on the NiC-F4 is similar in design to that of other high-end solutions in that it is a captured four-post design with brackets attached to the four corners with a connection point for the heat sink hold down mechanism. I found this design with a new plastic backplate much easier to install and attach the heat sink to. This really is a step up in the configuration and installation of the cooler. The only gripe I have (and this one is covered by the cooling performance) is that the direct-contact heat pipe surface is less than flat, requiring additional thermal compound to fill in the spacing between the 6mm heat pipes and the aluminum base. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised with the performance fitment and ease of installation of this new cooler from Thermaltake. At $40 it stands its ground and delivers pretty good cooling peorformance by comparison, providing some real value to the end user looking for a high performance, lower cost cooling solution that will allow some decent overclocking without seriously overheating the CPU. Thermaltake got it right with this one!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: