Enermax’s white and black ETS-T40 CPU coolers reviewed

Dude, you just clicked through to a review of a CPU heatsink. Are you sure you want to do this? You know, there are plenty of good books you could be reading, instead. There are plenty of good games you could be playing, too, and some great movies out there. Heck, if I were you, I’d just be re-watching the latest Breaking Bad right now. Seriously, can you believe Walt?

Okay, so traditional CPU cooling is kind of a solved problem. You grab a few heat pipes, bend them into something approximating a U shape, and stack a bunch of aluminum fins (or copper ones, if you’re feeling fancy) between them. You throw in some kind of universal mounting scheme that works with the latest Intel and AMD sockets, and then you slap a 120-mm fan (or a couple of ’em) on the fin array.

Bada-bing, bada-boom, you’ve got yourself a modern CPU heatsink. So, where’s the room for innovation?

There isn’t much happening on the functional side of things, that’s for sure, but we’ve come across an interesting development on the cosmetic front. See, Enermax has put out a couple of tower-style coolers that feature a newfangled color coating. Enermax won’t say exactly what the special sauce is, but it calls it TCC, short for Thermal Conductive Coating. According to the company, the coating can “create better velocity of thermal transference and prevent oxidation on the contact surface.” (Yes. “Velocity of thermal transference.” There are some born wordsmiths in Enermax’s marketing team.)

Simply put, this coating is supposed to help, rather than impede, cooling performance. It also means Enermax’s ETS-T40 heatsinks are available in black and white as well as the usual metal hues:

Nice, huh? Here’s the full lineup:

The standard ETS-T40 over on the left flaunts its aluminum fins and copper heat pipes au naturel. Asking price: $34.99 at Newegg. The ETS-T40 White Cluster in the middle has a white coating and costs $49.99. The ETS-T40 Black Twister on the right has a midnight hue and is also priced at $49.99. In other words, you’re asked to pay a $15 premium for the funky TCC coating. That doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things, and $49.99 is still a pretty reasonable price for a decent-quality, tower-style heatsink. Especially one that looks this good.

Mmm. Even the quad 6-mm heat pipes are coated for a more uniform look.

Okay, so the pipes aren’t coated everywhere. They’re designed to come into direct contact with the CPU, and Enermax leaves the, uh, contact zone un-coated. I guess there’s not much sense in applying a fancy color coating something that’s going to be slathered in thermal paste and squished up against the CPU’s heat spreader. Bare copper may also make better contact with the CPU without a layer of color coating, thermally conductive though it may be, in the way.

If you look carefully at the picture above, you’ll notice the ETS-T40 White Cluster and Black Twister come with slightly different fans. Both fans are part of the ED122512H series, just like the one on the un-coated version of the ETS-T40. These are all 120-mm spinners with PWM connectors and magnetic Twister bearings. The EDH122512H-PDL on the White Cluster adds white LEDs, a three-way toggle to set the peak PWM speed, and a little switch on a wire (pictured above) to turn off the light show. The EDH122512H-PAL fan on the Black Twister features blue LEDs, no toggles or switches whatsoever, and fan blades that are flat, translucent, and fewer in number. By contrast, the blades on the other two versions of the fan are thinner and have a bumpy shape. Enermax calls ’em Batwing Blades.

Fan design minutiae don’t really concern us, though. What we’re really curious about is whether Enermax’s claim about thermal conductivity checks out. Do the white and black versions of the ETS-T40 perform just as well as the un-coated one? Can you be the PC enthusiast equivalent of a fashion victim without making your $300 CPU overheat? Let’s find out.

Performance testing

To assess the performance of these coolers, we strapped them to a Core i7-3770K on an open test bench. The processor was installed in a Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H motherboard, which also played host to 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM and a Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition graphics card. In the interest of simplicity, we left all firmware options to their stock settings, and we allowed the motherboard to regulate fan speeds automatically.

Our test involved letting the system warm up for 10 minutes and then launching AIDA64 to track temperatures and fan speeds. At this point, we let the system idle for another 10 minutes, ran a 10-minute CPU load, then let everything cool down during a final 10-minute stretch. Our CPU load consisted of Prime95’s large FFT torture test, which should have given our processor a good workout.

We tested the White Cluster with its peak fan speed set to 1800 RPM, to match the others. Since the stock fan on the Black Twister has differently shaped blades, we tested the Black Twister first with its stock fan, then with the fan from the regular, un-coated version of the ETS-T40. Oh, and we used our own, silicone-based thermal paste rather than the one Enermax throws in the box. Ours is easier to clean.



I’m not sure why the white fan had a higher speed at idle. It was perceptibly louder, too… might have been a dud. Either way, the peak fan speeds and temperatures under load were pretty much the same across the board, give or take a few RPM here and a couple degrees there. That means the color coating—and the differences in fan blade style—didn’t have a substantial impact on cooling performance. Heck, the black cooler did slightly better than the un-coated one.

Clearly, then, there’s no downside to mixing things up in the color department, at least with this particular line of coolers. That’s terrific news for those of us with windowed cases and a desire to impress. 

Now, we do have one beef with these heatsinks. Their mounting mechanism is kind of awful. There are too many parts, too many screws, and too many brackets. Also, the back plate has three unlabeled screw holes in each corner, and we were supposed to use the holes in an asymmetrical pattern for our LGA1156 socket. See the picture in our gallery. The manual outlined the screw distribution, but it did so from the wrong angle, as if we were supposed to peer through the circuit board during the installation process. Ugh.

To make matters worse, we ran into a strange problem with the first motherboard we tried, an Asus P8Z77-V LE Plus. Somehow, the board wouldn’t boot with dual-channel memory when any of our ETS-T40 heatsinks was installed. We tried all kinds of remedies: using different RAM, moving DIMMs around, using a different ETS-T40 variant with a different mounting bracket. Nothing helped. However, as soon as we swapped in the stock Intel heatsink, everything was peachy. We had no issues with our Thermaltake Frio, either, even though it has a similar, tower-style design. Perhaps the ETS-T40’s retention mechanism was tighter and warped the circuit board, or perhaps a component of the mounting hardware shorted something. Either way, this isn’t something you want happening outside of a test lab overflowing with spare parts.

That little quirk—and potential fluke—aside, the ETS-T40 series is a nice change of pace from the usual drabness and conformity of modern CPU heatsinks. Their cooling performance is good, the pricing is reasonable, and after a couple of tries, you’ll probably wrap your head around the mounting mechanism. Given the propensity of PC cases and motherboards to adopt black or dark-gray tones, there’s something to be said for having the option to color-coordinate. Since there’s no penalty for doing so, you may as well indulge your inner interior decorator. Why not, right?

Comments closed
    • Meadows
    • 6 years ago

    The good thing is that you didn’t test these against the stock cooler. That information would’ve been useless anyway.

    • Chrispy_
    • 6 years ago

    When these were first announced, I was saying that the paint would hinder the cooling performance, laws of thermodynamics, etc. A [url=https://techreport.com/news/24199/enermax-to-offer-all-white-cpu-cooler?post=701447#701447<]discussion ensued[/url<] with many different possible (and valid) theories. In testing, the black version is [i<]better[/i<] than the unpainted version for one reason, as far as I can deduce from the quick review, and it has nothing (directly) to do with the thermal conductivity of the paint (laws of thermodynamics, etc): The black version has lower airflow with the same fan running at the same voltage, because the same fan is running more slowly; This tells us that there is more flow resistance between fins of the painted version. whilst the layer of paint on each side actually makes each fin thicker in cross-section than the unpainted fins, this alone is unlikely to cause enough resistance to explain the fan speed difference. My guess is that the rougher surface is causing more drag, more turbulence (for increased forced convection), and a subsequent air pressure increase. The pressure increase is verified by the lower fan speed, and the higher pressure air would also benefit cooling since air is a more efficient conductor with increasing pressure. I'd have to make an educated guess that the gaps between the unpainted fins is sub-optimal, the black version kind of proves that a pressure increase works more effectively - both lower fan noise and lower temperatures. [b<]In short, Enermax's marketing about secret-recipe superpaint is all FUD, but the black version is still better for completely different reasons![/b<] Or maybe I'm just plain wrong and my engineering degree is outmatched by a marketing department's secret recipe for "magic paint" 😀

    • Klimax
    • 6 years ago

    Not much to be done in tower coolers, but there are alternative designs, which work too. (Sometimes even better. Zalman CNPS12X…)

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    Ambient temps during testing?

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    I was actually out for a good but inexpensive HSF to tame my FX-8350 a few months ago and I actually considered getting the ETS-T40. Eventually had to settle with a Deepcool Gammaxx 400 which was quite a bit cheaper and actually had comparable cooling performance. Since the Gammaxx 400 only came with one 120mm fan along and no splitter, I had to add another 120mm fan connected directly to the PSU’s molex connector, which means only one fan is regulated by the motherboard according to CPU temps. No biggie, I guess.

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]I'm not sure why the white fan had a higher speed at idle. It was perceptibly louder, too...[/quote<] Why not swap the white unit's fan with the fan from the black unit? That way, we can know for sure if it's just a dud and iron out the possibility that it is or not. It's just clamped on, isn't it? Should be ultra easy to swap out. I just don't buy what they're saying about that white coating not impeding cooling performance. I know black does help attract heat and so it could help 'pull' heat away from the heat source (not sure if there's a law in thermodynamics or something like that that supports this idea.. maybe it's black body radiation or something), but white? If it weren't for the similar noise and temp levels at load I'd think that the white coating does impede cooling and the motherboard senses higher temperature and spins the fan faster compared to [i<]au naturel[/i<].

      • Meadows
      • 6 years ago

      Black “attracts” heat? That’s a new one.

        • ronch
        • 6 years ago

        No, before you poopoo this, let me tell you that a few years ago I did read an article which seems to have said that black does improve heat dissipation. See how many old heatsinks are painted black? I believe it wasn’t just for aesthetics.

          • Cyril
          • 6 years ago

          [url<]http://books.google.ca/books?id=L4jtv2mX0iQC&lpg=PA137&ots=h9iatqZh20&dq=black%20paint%20infrared%20radiate&pg=PA137#v=onepage&q&f=false[/url<] [quote<] The ability of surfaces to emit infrared radiation can be very different from their ability to absorb and emit visible light. Such differences in infrared emissivities can be demonstrated visibly in the classroom using the apparatus described. The demonstration shows that black- and white-painted surfaces have similar infrared emissivities. The demonstration also shows that unpainted aluminum foil has a lower emissivity than the white- or black-painted foil. The infrared reflection spectra shown in Figures 1 and 5 substantiate this finding. [/quote<] [url<]http://littleshop.physics.colostate.edu/activities/atmos1/ColorAndCooling.pdf[/url<] [quote<] So, in this experiment, the two cylinders will cool at different rates. The bare aluminum cylinder radiates less and cools rapidly; the white cylinder (and the color doesn't matter—it could be any color at all!) will radiate more and so it will cool off more quickly. [/quote<]

          • Meadows
          • 6 years ago

          Dissipating heat is the opposite of attracting it.

    • Ryhadar
    • 6 years ago

    I’m no engineer but to me having “Enermax” carved into the fan frame would result in lower air pressure (since the air can escape from the lettering) which is something that is sorely needed on heatsink fans.

    I wonder why they put the extra work in at all honestly. A sticker would have sufficed. I guess it doesn’t matter anyway; I almost always swap out the fan.

    Cool heatsinks, nonetheless. Seems to perform just as well as my Noctua U12P — just with a lower price and crappier mounting system.

    • axeman
    • 6 years ago

    This article was mildly interesting. More mildly interesting than the latest Intel processor review.

      • indeego
      • 6 years ago

      Your comment was appropriate and especially appreciated for its brevity and charm.

      • swiffer
      • 6 years ago

      To be fair, there’s not much to say about Ivy Bridge-E, and the writing style at least made it interesting to read.

    • vargis14
    • 6 years ago

    When are they going to make a all Copper tower with all copper fins. Copper looks beautiful. I know it would be a healthy price premium with the price of copper these days but you would gain the ascetics of the copper shine but I am sure you would get better cooling also.

    Weight would go up a good bit but I don’t think it wold be breaking any motherboards.

    I would love to see a Cooler master Hyper 212 evo all copper unit to see the temp difference. and solder the fins on for gods sake:)

      • flip-mode
      • 6 years ago

      I have read that while copper is the better conductor, aluminum is better at dissipation, hence the reason you see copper used to the base and pipes and aluminum used for the fins.

      The other downside to copper is the added weight.

        • flip-mode
        • 6 years ago

        Love the downvotes with no reasons given; it would make sense if I had said something daft. Ah well. Here’s some info:

        [url<]http://www.overclockers.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1685319&postcount=10[/url<] [url<]http://www.thermshield.com/ThermshieldPages/Copper_vs_Aluminum.pdf[/url<]

          • Srsly_Bro
          • 6 years ago

          OK. Have another. You don’t need to thank me. 🙂

            • flip-mode
            • 6 years ago

            Thanks for the attention!

        • swiffer
        • 6 years ago

        Nope. That’s a myth perpetuated by heatsink marketing.

        Copper is a superior conductor of heat and electricity. This means it both absorbs and releases heat more readily. Reasons to use aluminum in a heatsink relate to material costs (copper is more expensive), keeping weight limits within design specifications (copper is heavier), and ease of production (aluminum is easier to work with).

          • flip-mode
          • 6 years ago

          Wow, lol, sounds like you read the links I provided in my own reply. Bravo!

            • swiffer
            • 6 years ago

            My apologies. I figured that if you made the false claim about aluminum, then any links you provided on the topic would be useless. I didn’t click on them.

            If you research an assertion and it turns out to be incorrect, perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the correction as additional information in an edit rather than a reply.

            • flip-mode
            • 6 years ago

            It’s all good man. You’re not the first one to do it; I’ve done it before myself.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 6 years ago

            You tried a valid internet argument technique – throw out some links to look authoritative and hope no one reads them. You just have to accept that the technique will sometimes fail when people do actually read the links.

            • flip-mode
            • 6 years ago

            Ugh. You must not have read them as the links actually correct my own inaccurate beliefs on the matter and go on to show that aluminum is not a better dissipator of heat.

      • sircharles32
      • 6 years ago

      Already been done.

      Thermalright True Copper = 4 lbs of pure cupric joy.

      Here’s a review: [url<]http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/coolers/display/thermalright-true-copper-u120x.html[/url<]

        • chµck
        • 6 years ago

        How hard would it be to shave down the base to expose the heatpipes?

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 6 years ago

        Ahh. Someone who possesses a memory which exceeds that of a Goldfish. +1, good sir.

        Quote from the article:

        “Evidently, no wonder happened. The solid-copper version of Thermalright’s super cooler is only 1~2°C more efficient than its aluminum counterpart. So, we can conclude that the copper giant doesn’t really demonstrate any serious advantage. Too bad, I really hoped to see at least 4°C improvement.”

        [url<]http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/coolers/display/thermalright-true-copper-u120x_8.html#sect0[/url<]

    • MadManOriginal
    • 6 years ago

    Once you cool black, you can never go back.

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      Not to mention that copper is a lot more expensive than aluminum. Pricy enough that metal theft are stealing copper lines and piping to make a decent buck.

        • Meadows
        • 6 years ago

        Nice swing, Captain Off-Topic.

          • flip-mode
          • 6 years ago

          That’s what you think, until your black copper heatsink gets stolen out of your PC.

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    Besides the aesthetics I imagine this could help with long term effects of oxidization and perhaps even dust build up. A more slippery surface would mean less dust caked to the fan blades and less need to blow out your cooler.

    I think Zinc coatings look cooler, especially when combined with a Zalman heatsink, that could just be my personal preference though.

    • Prestige Worldwide
    • 6 years ago

    No OC’d temps in the test results?

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 6 years ago

      Nachos, Lemonheads and my dad’s boat.

    • kcarlile
    • 6 years ago

    Love the first paragraph. Coulda made a couple of bucks by including Amazon affiliate links or something though! 😉

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