Thermaltake’s Contac Silent 12 CPU cooler reviewed

Many air and liquid CPU coolers have come out recently for builders exploring an AMD Ryzen system. To capitalize on this renewed interest in AMD-compatible heatsinks, Thermaltake cooked up the Contac Silent 12, a Socket AM4-ready cooler that can snap onto Ryzen motherboards right out of the box.

Image: Thermaltake

The tower-style construction of the Contac Silent 12 features the usual copper heat pipes and aluminum fin stack we expect from air coolers these days. The tower measures in at 6″ (153 mm) high and 5″ 127 mm wide, just a few millimeters shorter and a bit wider than Cooler Master’s evergreen Hyper 212 Evo.

The base plate of the Contac Silent 12 cold plate is made of aluminum. This heatsink uses a direct-contact design, so the copper heat pipes run under the bottom of this plate. The direct-contact arrangement theoretically allows for the most effective transfer of heat away from the CPU and into the cooling fins.

Like most tower heatsinks, the Contac relies on a stack of fins to dissipate the heat that is being transferred away from the CPU by the copper heat pipes. These aluminum fins are each 0.4 mm thick, and they’re spaced 2.2 mm apart to allow for optimal airflow.

Thermaltake pairs this cooler with a single 120-mm fan to keep air flowing over those fins. This fan features a low-noise hydraulic self-lubricating bearing for long life, and it can be controlled using a PWM signal from most any modern motherboard for quiet operation.

Despite its wide 500-RPM-to-1500-RPM PWM range, Thermaltake includes a throttling mechanism it calls a “low-noise cable” that builders can use if they feel like reducing any potential racket from the cooler. This cable sits between the fan and the PWM header and reduces the RPM range to 400-1100 RPM.

 

Installation 

To keep life simple, Thermaltake takes advantage of AMD’s factory mounting system with the Contac Silent 12. The preinstalled clip system works like AMD’s own stock heatsinks, so it can mount on all recent AMD sockets, including the new-and-slightly-modified AM4 mounting hooks.

To mount the cooler to an Intel socket board, builders need to use the included adapter, which uses the same push-pin mechanism as Intel’s stock heatsinks. Once this adapter is in place on an Intel board, the cooler mounts to the bracket the same way it would with an AMD platform.

No matter what type of CPU is going underneath the Contac Silent 12, builders will want to install the fan using the included pair of wire clips. First, builders will have to put the metal hook on each end of the clip through the holes on the fan that would be used for screws. This assembly then clips between the fins on the tower. The best way we found to mount the fan evenly is to press in one fan clip first and then count the number of fins up to the lower wire of the clip so that the process can be repeated on the other side of the cooler.

With the fan in place, the last step is to install the Contac Silent 12 onto the board. Like AMD’s stock coolers, one needs to clip the bracket down by pressing down on the clips until they lock into place on the Socket AM4 mounting hooks. A leaf spring running across the base of the cooler then holds the assembly in place.

Once it was mounted, we were happy to find that the Contac Silent 12 didn’t obstruct any of our board’s DIMM slots. Even with the tall heatsink on our test system’s memory modules, there was still enough room to allow for airflow to the fan.

With this cooler, we also didn’t see any issues with clearance over the board’s first PCIe slot. That means even the largest graphics cards and the Contac Silent 12 can coexist on most any motherboard.

All in all, the Thermaltake Contac Silent 12 is easy to install. It requires no tools to mount on AM4 boards, and the only cable one has to plug in is for the four-pin PWM header on the motherbard.  Let’s dive into our testing results so we can see whether the Contac Silent 12 can take the heat or whether it burns up on re-entry.

 

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.

Comments closed
    • mcarson09
    • 2 years ago

    A 120mm cooler for $25 or less is always a good thing.. 120mm is my favorite fan size due to all the options available.

    • DrDominodog51
    • 2 years ago

    Welcome to TR, Kevin.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    I know it’s not new to AM4 but I do worry about large tower coolers attached by two plastic lugs.

    It takes me back to the bad old socket A days when the lugs would snap and a block of metal would crash-dive onto the back of your Matrox Millennium. If your were lucky the resulting destruction of the graphics card would blow the PSU fuse in the system before the Athlon melted itself in an even more expensive failure.

    The solution back then was to put six lugs on the retention bracket, and here we are again with larger coolers than those days and still only two plastic lugs….

    • flip-mode
    • 2 years ago

    I am really impressed with the cadence of article publishing this week. Well done TR team.

    • just brew it!
    • 2 years ago

    Looks like a reasonable cooler, provided the fan holds up. I’ve had enough TT fans fail on me prematurely that they’ve earned a spot on my “avoid” list.

    I’ve never had a problem with the fans Cooler Master uses on their CPU coolers. Unlike Thermaltake, all of my CM fans have far outlasted the warranty (and my expectations, given that they use sleeve bearings).

      • DPete27
      • 2 years ago

      I agree, all Thermaltake products are on my “avoid”list.

      Although the CM 212 EVO might be the stalwart, I’ve never actually used one. And the reports that I’ve heard about the sub-par mounting mechanism gives me pause.

      Nowadays Cryorig’s products are quite attractive when on sale. ie the Cryorig H7 for $30.

      • mcarson09
      • 2 years ago

      120mm fans are easy to replace. I don’t care for TT myself but I’m willing to look at any brand that tries to release a 120mm fan supporting cooler. Now TT’s watercooling cooling parts are a different story.

    • synthtel2
    • 2 years ago

    It takes space like a 212 EVO, costs only $5 less than a 212 EVO, and performs only about as well as a Wraith Max? [s<]I'm having a bit of trouble seeing the reason for recommending this, really.[/s<] W.r.t. the first result where it cools only a bit less for a whole lot less noise, most coolers will do that if you manage fan speeds appropriately. On mine (NH-D9L, using it as an example just because I know its details off the top of my head) there's hardly any difference at all in cooling effectiveness between 70% and 100% fan speed. If you were to put that resistor in line with the Wraith in the non-OC test, I bet it would turn in results right about in line with the Contac there too. Edit: On further research, while there's a sizable gap in fin area / weight / airflow in the 212 EVO's favor, the Wraith Max (impressively) hardly performs worse. That makes both the Wraith and the Contac significantly better than I gave them credit for.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      For AM4, the 212 Evo needs extra parts that you have to get from CM.

      The performance ain’t great. The CM Hyper T4 would be a good point of comparison, and it should perform similarly to the 212 Evo.

        • synthtel2
        • 2 years ago

        Ah, maybe I’m too used to dealing with Noctua, where compatibility is a non-issue.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          It was aggravating in March, I’ll tell you that much. Took a month to get a kit from anybody (both Phanteks and NZXT).

            • synthtel2
            • 2 years ago

            So I recall you saying. I’d hope companies like CM have got the whole thing seamless by now, but to someone who’s had that much trouble with it, guarantees of seamlessness could be nice.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            I’m sure that in currently-shipping boxes they’ve got it sorted. Just never know how long something has been on the shelf. 😆

      • Flying Fox
      • 2 years ago

      I suppose the $5 you pay for the EVO gets you an extra pair of clips to do a 2-fan combo.

        • synthtel2
        • 2 years ago

        Not being made by Thermaltake is also a big plus IMO, but it’s true, there’s less of a performance gap than I thought.

      • mtcn77
      • 2 years ago

      Granted, Wraith Max is neither for the retail, nor the aftermarket. Mr. Kampman may have omitted that point in the succinct review which as a whole I found very refreshing.
      Contac duly has the upper hand, Wraith Max is not quiet: it has a heavy duty fan, but not everlasting like more recent hydro-bearings and its conduction is slower than direct contact heatpipes.
      As the only contention of the product, the Thermaltake fan can easily be replaced later on.

        • synthtel2
        • 2 years ago

        Aren’t the Wraiths ball-bearing? It’s a questionable decision for high frequency noise (now that you mention it, the review didn’t mention the character of the Wraith’s sound), but I’d trust their reliability much more than what fan vendors often try to pass off as FDBs.

        Direct contact heatpipes are mid-tier. They’re better than cheaping out on a more conventional contact surface, but a more conventional contact surface done right is still better (Noctua’s stuff, for instance).

        It looks to me like the Wraith in this review is having issues with questionably-tuned fan control (and probably coarse windings resulting in a high minimum speed, but companies like AMD don’t have too many options when it comes to that), not anything fundamental about heatsink or aerodynamic design.

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