Passive Zalman cooler fit for 77W CPUs

For those obsessed with silencing their PCs, passive cooling is the holy grail. A cooler can’t make any noise if it has no fans or other moving parts. Zalman’s latest design fits the bill, and it’s already won an Innovation Award ahead of next year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Dubbed the FX100-Cube, the cooler surrounds an open center channel with four walls of vertical fins anchored to 10 heatpipes. As one might expect, the heatsink is rather substantial, with 5.9" x 5.9" x 6.2" dimensions and a weight of 1.9 lbs. FanlessTech says the cooler is rated to dissipate up to 77W, which rules out most AMD CPUs but covers everything in Intel’s Ivy Bridge family, including the top-of-the-line Core i7-3770K.

There’s no word on how much this monster will cost or when it will be available to the public, but you can expect to see the cooler on display at CES in January. We’ll be at the show, and we may have to visit Zalman to see this puppy in the flesh. Given the downward trend in processor TDPs, I’m sure more cooler makers will start dabbling in passive designs.

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    • ish718
    • 7 years ago

    Damn, 2lbs of metal to dissipate 77w of heat

    • vargis14
    • 7 years ago

    Almost looks like a borg cube!

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    So the corners are just added to make it look like a radiator and they don’t really do anything except impede airflow? I still wonder why they don’t have some mechanical engineering interns design things for them, although Zalman is all about style rather then efficiency.

      • jwilliams
      • 7 years ago

      I was also wondering about the corners. It is hard to tell from the picture, but I guess the corners may be for heat transfer. It looks like 4 heat pipes run up from the CPU plate, one to each corner. And then the corners seem to be connected to 3 heat pipes running in a ring around (and through) the radiator fins. I guess the “3” heat pipes running around the perimeter are actually 6 heat pipes (each going half way around?), since the specifications say there are a total of 10 heat pipes.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        I think the corners are just supposed to look like a radiator, they may be covering heatpipes, but it just looks like a plastic or metal shroud over the top of them. Really stupid idea.

    • bjm
    • 7 years ago

    This heatsink and [url=https://techreport.com/news/23903/cooler-master-new-lan-case-is-funny-lookin<]this case[/url<] would make for a nice combo.

    • jwilliams
    • 7 years ago

    That Zalman (at 880g) is even heavier than the 730g NoFan CR-95C:

    [url<]http://www.quietpc.com/nof-icepipe[/url<] and the NoFan is rated up to 95W. It does look like the "radius" of the Zalman is a little smaller than the NoFan, so that could be an advantage if space is tight. By the way, for those saying that you cannot build a completely passive computer with something like this, I say you are wrong. As long as you are okay with integrated graphics, it can be done. I have a nice passive system with an Enermax Fulmo case (removed all the fans...lots of perforated surfaces for natural convection), a Kingwin STR-500 platinum passive PSU, a NoFan CR-95C heatsink, and an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU with HD4000 integrated graphics. Since I am not a gamer, that GPU is fine, and the system runs great without any fans at all. One advantage I've noticed is that the case does not get much (if any) dust accumulation inside. I think it is because the natural convection cooling draws air gently in at the bottom and exhausts it at the top -- the updraft keeps floating dust from settling down inside from the top, and the intake at the bottom is apparently gentle enough that it does not suck much dust in.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    Rubbish.

    Nofan have fanless 100W models that are much lighter than this.

    There’s no way I’d be happy strapping 1.9lbs to a motherboard.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]There's no way I'd be happy strapping 1.9lbs to a motherboard.[/quote<] If you have your mobo vertically mounted, you can support the heatsink with some foam pads. If it's horizontally mounted, the heatsink weight doesn't matter much

    • Farting Bob
    • 7 years ago

    This design doesnt look like its very efficient though. It uses sheer size and surface area, but most of it will be wasted. For good passive cooling you need space in between the fins to allow air to freely move. Most of those fins are so close to eachother that it will ruin airflow, you’d need fans elsewhere in the case to cool it properly.

      • jwilliams
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t know. It looks okay to me. It appears that there is an open center channel in there. I think it is designed so that no matter which way you orient the heatsink (except completely upside down), there will be a vertical path for heat to rise through natural convection .

        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        I agree with Bob – those fins are pretty close.. also, even though it’s designed to be installed in any orientation, it would be more optimized if it was designed for one particular orientation, so all the fins would be aligned for maximum natural convection

          • jwilliams
          • 7 years ago

          You need to look at the design. When you have a vertical channel set up, like this design does, the spacing of the fins can be fairly narrow. Heat rising through natural convection can create significant pressure through a channel such as this. I think it is likely that the designer tested several designs and found that this spacing works fine.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            Yeah, actually, I take it back. This [i<]is[/i<] designed for a particular orientation (i.e., horizontal mobos). This would be horrible for vertical mobo installation. And you're right - I'm sure they've done simulations to make sure the fin spacing is fine, and those are certainly more accurate than my eyeballing

            • jwilliams
            • 7 years ago

            I think you are being fooled. Take a good look at the picture on fanlesstech. The top view looks something like this (with the top grating removed):

            [code<] | | | | | _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ | | | | | [/code<] So even with a vertical motherboard orientation, there is a vertical channel for heat to flow through by natural convection.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            Is that what it looks like? There are no fins in the middle? I haven’t found good pictures of it with the top removed..

            If the “side fins” in this figure extend to the middle, they block the vertical channel => reduced natural convection

            EDIT: it’s a bit difficult to see from the fanlesstech pic, but yeah – I guess the middle is empty. But wouldn’t you agree it’d be better to have fins in the middle that [b<]are[/b<] aligned to the top/bottom fins in your ascii figure? More surface area that's in direct natural convection path

      • TheMonkeyKing
      • 7 years ago

      Actually it looks like the mushroom cloud that appears when my CPU blows.

        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        So AMD CPUs have nuclear reactors in them? No wonder they are running so hot and need water cooling

    • Shambles
    • 7 years ago

    You’re still going to need case fans for this thing. Might as well keep a fan on the CPU cooler itself and have a cooler that’s half the weight, size, and price with better performance.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    I want to see someone mount this on a mini ITX board 😀

    Anyway, passive cooling with some case airflow is nothing too crazy or new…Scythe Ninja anyone?

      • Lazier_Said
      • 7 years ago

      Passive cooling with case airflow isn’t. It’s just moving the fan.

        • cegras
        • 7 years ago

        Except you’ve eliminated the heatsink fan, and in the case of the intel stock cooler, one that can get quite noisy…

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        Unless you’re going to have case fans anyway. True passive systems concern me because of passive components and it’s why some airflow is always a good idea.

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          “true passive” is difficult to achieve at these power levels..

          I have two rigs without CPU fans. One is with an i5-670 Clarkdale (73W TDP). The CPU heatsink is massive, and had to be installed vertically, so the fins would be vertical, and natural heat convection would take the hot air to the top back corner of the case where I have a huge gaping hole (courtesy of using a PicoPSU instead of a regular ATX PSU). Works great, and is absolutely without fans whatsoever.

          The second one has i7-2600K Sandy Bridge (95W TDP). This is in a small case, and unfortunately the mobo orientation is such that the heat sink fins are horizontal, so natural heat convection doesn’t do the trick. Also the case it quite a bit smaller (and filled to the brim with stuff). I had to add a very slow, quiet case fan where the PSU would normally be – conveniently, that happens to be right next to the CPU heatsink (there’s 1/4inch of space between the fan and the heat sink).

          I’ve tried running the SB rig fully passively a couple of times, and it sort of works, but as soon as the CPU gets loaded, it heats up fast enough that in 5mins it starts throttling… and it takes forever to cool down, so overall the system gets really slow for long tasks (such as overnight X264). A superslow case fan keeps it below thermal throttling point indefinitely, and keeps the heat sink cool enough that when needed, I can get good turbo action longer.

          EDIT: as jwilliams made me realize, this Zalman fan would work with horizontal mobo orientation. Maybe I should open up my SB rig and replace the heatsink…?

          … nah, too much work. Maybe I’ll use this for the next build, though

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            To me true passive is like Everest – people climb it because it’s there. But a small amount of airflow done ‘silently’ – which involves more than just using a regular case with slow fans, it involves smart case layout, fan placement, damping, and component selection – is much more easily attained and can allow for less performance sacrifice as well. Your 2600k is a perfect example.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            I don’t disagree – passive is hard.

            But easy doesn’t make a fun hobby

        • ludi
        • 7 years ago

        Technically correct, but not how the terms are used in practice. The only fully passive case is those uber-expensive HTPC chasses that look like a high-end component amplifier with the heatsinks all exposed and such.

        I had a friend once set up a machine with a passive power supply, aftermarket passive GPU cooler, and a passive CPU cooler, and exactly two 120mm case fans (1/ea front and rear) dialed down so low you really couldn’t hear them run unless your ear was about a foot away from the case. That’s about as close as it gets without buying actual exotica.

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      Even the thermalright 120 extreme did a good enough job with some processors.

    • Srsly_Bro
    • 7 years ago

    How cute.

      • OdinsBalls
      • 7 years ago
        • ludi
        • 7 years ago

        Right, now try to carry one of these things past TSA screening.

          • Sargent Duck
          • 7 years ago

          Funny story, I actually tried that once (except it was in Canada). I was coming home from an extended stay in Calgary and had shipped my computer via ground, but fearful that my massive heatsink (forget what it was…) would fall and damage the computer during shipping, I took the heatsink off and decided to put it in my checked luggage. It of course caught the attention of security who made me take it out.

          Unfortunately, the security officer was “not natively born in Canada” and didn’t understand what heat sink meant. Despite me trying to explain that it cooled off electronics, she gave me the evil eye and called over one of her co-workers, who wasn’t natively born in Canada. Repeat. Eventually the manager came over (who was born in Canada), took one look at it and let it go through.

            • esterhasz
            • 7 years ago

            Were they American?

            • Voldenuit
            • 7 years ago

            Just be glad you didn’t have to move [url=http://www.autoblog.com/2012/11/16/fords-1-0l-ecoboost-engine-makes-the-journey-to-la-in-a-carr/<]one of these babies[/url<] past TSA. 😉

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            IT’S A BOMB!

            • Airmantharp
            • 7 years ago

            I had no problem checking a pistol- the rules even say you can check ammo if it’s in a box. Even did this in the military with our rifles; those DID surprise the TSA guy though (not born in USA or Canada…) at DFW. The guys in Utah? They see that crap all the time :).

            I will admit that a heatsink is a little more conspicuous- normal people don’t mess with such things.

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