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AMD's Wraith CPU cooler reviewed


Boxed gets better
— 7:42 AM on February 8, 2016

If the results of our last hardware survey are any indication, most TR readers toss the CPU coolers Intel and AMD include with their processors in favor of aftermarket replacements. I'm no different. My parts shelf is rife with stock coolers whose only saving grace is their usefulness as a frame of reference for our aftermarket heatsink reviews.

As anybody with ears can tell you, stock heatsinks often don't sound that great under load, and they usually turn in thermal performance that's best described as "good enough." Even affordable third-party coolers offer a big step up in cooling and acoustic performance.

AMD is acutely aware of this problem. Going by this comparison video, the company's last-gen stock cooler for many of its CPUs is sorely lacking in the acoustics department. The Wraith cooler, introduced at CES, is meant to change that.

At first glance, the Wraith easily takes the title of the nicest stock cooler I've seen. This heatsink has four copper heat pipes that wind through a fairly dense fin array. A hefty copper base plate serves as the go-between for these heat pipes and the processor's heat spreader.

The Wraith's shroud is gussied up with an LED-backlit AMD logo that's invisible when the cooler is off. This looks neat, and it's pretty fancy for a boxed heatsink. Problem is, unless you have a case with a big window and you're looking at the cooler at just the right angle, this logo will be quite difficult to see in use. It does look nice on our test bench, though.

Taking the Wraith apart reveals a Delta Electronics QFR0912H 92-mm fan. AMD uses four foam isolators on the fan frame that might provide a bit of extra vibration reduction while the fan is spinning. The power connector for the LED logo is integrated into the four-pin fan plug.

AMD billed the Wraith as a constant-fan-speed cooler at CES, but the included fan doesn't seem to come with any special sauce to enforce that restriction. The Gigabyte GA-990FX-Gaming motherboard that AMD sent me to test the Wraith with didn't have any trouble treating the fan as a regular PWM spinner with a range of controllable speeds.

Since it's a boxed CPU cooler, the Wraith can't be purchased on the open market. Instead, AMD will include this cooler exclusively with its FX-8370 CPU right now. This $200 chip offers eight Piledriver cores (or four modules, if you prefer) running at 4GHz base and 4.3GHz turbo speeds, all wrapped up in a 125W TDP. The FX-8370 seems like it'll be a worthy challenge for this heatsink.

Installing the Wraith on a Socket AM3+ board is about as simple as it gets, so we're not going to devote an entire section to the mounting process for this review. Snap the Wraith's two metal clips over the motherboard's plastic mounting points, push a lever to the left, and that's it. We don't even have to apply thermal compound, since AMD includes a pat of it on the base of the Wraith. Now that the cooler is mounted on our CPU, let's see how the Wraith performs.

Our testing methods
Here's the full configuration of our test system:

Processor AMD FX-8370
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-990FX-Gaming
Memory 8GB AMD Memory DDR3-1600 (2x4GB)
Graphics card Asus Strix Radeon R9 Fury
Storage Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD
Power supply Cooler Master V550
OS Windows 10 Pro

Our CPU cooler testing regimen is as follows:

  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows 10 desktop
  • 20 minutes of the Prime95 Small FFTs CPU torture test
  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows 10 desktop

Our thanks to AMD for providing us with the FX-8370 CPU, the Gigabyte GA-990FX-Gaming motherboard, the Wraith cooler, and the memory for our test system today. Thanks to Kingston, Asus, and Cooler Master for their contributions to our test rig, as well.

Our test data is logged using AIDA64 Engineer. To rule out a given case's cooling performance as a factor, we ran our tests on an open bench. The ambient temperature in our testing environment was about 70° F. Noise measurements were performed 6" directly above each cooler using an iPhone 6S Plus running the Faber Acoustical SoundMeter application. The CPU cooler and power supply fan were the only noise sources present in the testing environment.

As a point of comparison for the Wraith, I brought out Cooler Master's Hyper D92. This $45 cooler is a TR Recommended winner that we suggest as a step up from stock coolers in our System Guide, so it seems like the perfect foil for the Wraith. Since the Hyper D92 doesn't have thermal paste pre-applied, I used a generic thermal compound that's representative of what one might get with the average aftermarket heatsink.

For reasons we'll discuss in our noise testing section, I had to set up a custom fan curve for the Wraith in Gigabyte's Windows utility for the GA-990FX-Gaming. To do so, I played with a series of load speeds to balance thermal performance against noise and temperatures. Eventually, I settled on a curve that let the Wraith idle at its 700-ish RPM minimum speed and ramp up to about 1400 RPM under load. Any faster, and the fan began to sound coarse to my ear.

Both coolers were tested with a single Corsair 120-mm fan directed at our motherboard's VRM heatsinks, because, well, this happened without it under load:

The system was perfectly stable without active cooling on the power-delivery components of the motherboard, but I didn't want to risk toasting anything. That fan was controlled by one of the 990FX-Gaming's onboard fan headers.

If you have questions or comments about our testing methods, be sure to leave a comment on this review or post a question in our forums.