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Our testing methods
Here are the specifications of our test system:

Processor AMD Ryzen 1700
Motherboard MSI X370 XPower Gaming Titanium
Memory Geil EVO X DDR4-3200 16GB (2x8GB)
Graphics card MSI Aero Radeon RX 550
Storage Adata SP550 240GB SSD
Power supply Fractal Design Edison 750W
Operating system Windows 10 Pro

Our thanks to AMD for contributing the motherboard, memory, and CPU we used in this review, and to Thermaltake for providing the Contac Silent 12 itself. We'll be using AMD's Wraith Max cooler as a point of comparison for the Thermaltake Contac Silent 12 throughout our tests.

Our heatsink testing cycle uses the following phases:

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

We used the following software in our tests:

  • Prime95 version 28.10
  • AIDA64 Engineer version 5.80.4000

Cooling performance
Here are the results of our thermal tests, plotted over time:

And here are the minimum and maximum temperatures that we measured during each testing phase:

During our tests, the Contac Silent 12 ran slightly cooler than the Wraith Max at idle, possibly thanks to the larger surface area of its fins. Whether with its silent cable or without, however, the Contac Silent 12 trailed AMD's premium stock heatsink by a few degrees under load. To be fair, the Wraith Max is a beefy, copper-heatpipe-bedecked affair in its own right, and it's not available to system builders at any price. Builders who need a heatsink broadly comparable to the Wraith Max don't need to spend a lot to get one for their Ryzen 7 1700X or Ryzen 7 1800X builds, at least.

Noise levels
 We took noise measurements for the Thermaltake Contac Silent 12 at idle and load during our testing using a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 running the Bosch iNVH application.  These measurements were taken 18 inches from the cooler and fan with the system on an open test bench.

At idle, the Contac Silent 12 produces impressively low noise levels. We measured just 26.3 dBA from our system at rest. At full load, the Silent 12 only produced 29.1 dBA with its silent cable installed. Running the system without the cable barely increased noise levels. If you demand an extremely quiet system, the Silent 12 doesn't exceed the Wraith Max's noise levels at idle. Meanwhile, the Wraith Max has to get appreciably louder than the Silent 12 to deliver its excellent thermal performance. Builders clearly have room to use a more aggressive fan profile or a 120-mm fan with stronger airflow to make up the performance deficit.

 I would comment on the Silent 12's noise character here, but I couldn't really notice the cooler over the ambient noise of my testing environment. That's excellent performance from such an affordable heatsink.

Overclocked performance
With the Contac Silent 12's stock-clocked cooling performance thoroughly characterized, I turned to overclocking our 65W Ryzen 7 1700 CPU. For reference, the Ryzen 7 1700 has a base clock speed of 3GHz, but it can boost up to 3.7 GHz or higher in lightly-threaded workloads.

With the Contac Silent 12 in place, we were able to achieve a 3.8GHz all-core overclock at 1.35V. At those settings, the cooler endured a 20-minute stress test of the CPU underneath. The AIDA64 utility reported a CPU package temperature of 71° C under this load, a perfectly fine result. Using the same multiplier settings and voltage, the AMD Wraith Max hit 75° C under the same workload. You could overclock the Ryzen 7 1700 using the Wraith Max, but those concerned about processor longevity might want to invest in the Silent 12.

You'll have to forgive us: we forgot to measure noise numbers for the Silent 12 with our OC in effect. Even so, when the Silent 12 has an overclocked CPU underneath, the low-noise cable has barely any effect on noise levels, so we'd leave it off. Both configurations basically match the Wraith Max's stock noise levels, however, so the Silent 12 is a fine choice if you want to overclock your Ryzen CPU and keep it quiet in the process.

Not every overclocker will be able to achieve the same results that we did because of the silicon lottery, but the Contac 12 should be plenty up to the task of cooling most any modestly-overclocked Ryzen chip. That's especially appealing given that AMD's X-series CPUs don't come with a CPU cooler, so the $25 price tag of the Contac Silent 12 won't add much to the total bill of materials for a Ryzen system.

Conclusions
During our testing of the Thermaltake Contac Silent 12, we were surprised by the abilities of this cooler. Normally, when we come across a heatsink as budget-friendly as this one, we expect it to be decent at stock speeds and maybe under a slight overclock.

The Contac Silent 12 doesn't beat out AMD's Wraith Max for thermal performance at stock speeds, but the cooler lived up to its name by undercutting the noise levels of AMD's Wraith Max by several dBA under load, even without the resistor cable attached. The Silent 12 also let us take our Ryzen 7 1700 up to 3.8GHz across all of its cores, and it was able to maintain reasonable temperature levels even during our 20-minute stress test. Not bad for $25.

The overall design of the Contac Silent 12 also impressed us, since it didn't obstruct any system components like our motherboard's DIMM slots or the first PCIe slot. We were further impressed by the simplicity and tool-free design of the cooler's mounting system. The included resistor cable lets builders reduce the operating speed of the cooler if they want to make it quieter, too.

We wish the Silent 12 cooled the Ryzen 7 1700 a bit better at stock speeds, but for its $25 price tag, we think it's a fine choice for anybody looking to cool most any Ryzen CPU with low noise levels and without spoiling the bang-for-the-buck of AMD's latest. Its fine value and high performance make the Contac Silent 12 an easy pick for a TR Recommended award.

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