ThermoLab BARAM CPU Cooler Review

Introduction

A lot has been made of the high TDP’s of Intel’s i7 range of processors, only surpassed by the 140W TDP of AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 BE, requiring more cooling especially when at overclocked settings. In terms of air cooling, many of the smaller designs just can’t cope with the heat demands of the i7’s and so the larger heatsinks with more fins, surface area and heat pipes have been left to fight it out to see which cooler performs best.

ThermoLAB, a Korean company, have created the BARAM – a huge aluminium heatsink with a very particular fin structure. But how will it contend with many of the other top air CPU coolers? Let’s take a look…

Features

  • With the efficient heat pipe arrangement, maximized the thermal distribution effects
  • Optimum fin structure to minimize air resistance intake
  • Optimized fin pitch for axial Fan
  • The air tunnel formed inside the stack-heatsink fins accelerates the airflow

Specifications

Compatible SocketsIntel Socket 775, 1366CPUs, AMD Socket AM3/AM2+/AM2 CPUs
Thermal Design Power (TDP)Max 250W
Product NameBARAM
Dimension67 × 132 × 160 (L x W x H)mm
Weight625g
Heatsink MaterialPure Copper, Aluminium
Dissipation Area7,580 cm²

Contents & Packaging

The packaging is very modest; a simple cardboard box giving rise to the specifications and some other basic information. The front sees a large ThermoLab logo along with the slogan “Effective Thermal Management Solution”.

This has always been ThermoLab’s style and seems to give a much more professional look and at least you are safe in the knowledge that you’re not paying for over-the-top packaging.

The product is made in Korea, and it appears that BARAM is a Korean word translating to airflow which is a nice touch. The applicable CPUs and a few basic specifications are also displayed.

Asides from the obligatory instruction manual a whole series of parts for the installation are included:

  • Smart clips x 4
  • Fixing bolts for Smart clip x 5
  • Backplate x 1
  • Fixing Bolts for Heatsink x 5
  • Rubber pad (For LGA775, AM2, AM2+, AM3) x 1
  • Insulation washers x 8
  • Thermal Grease x 1
  • Hand Nut x 5
  • Fan wire clips x 4

The spare bolts and nuts are a good idea (only four are needed) just in case you lose one by accident. Despite not including a fan, four fan clips come bundled with the BARAM heatsink which allows the option of a dual fan combination for a push-pull effect for extra cooling.

One other thing to point out at this moment is that a fan is not included and so a separate purchase of a 120mm is required.

ThermoLab BARAM

The tried and tested tower format is once again employed in this particular heatsink with a total of 54 aluminium fins attaching directly to the copper heat pipes. The fins are layered with an “in-out” architecture with curved edges. The benefit of such a design is to increase the surface area that the air (pushed through by the fan) comes into contact with and to make it easier for airflow to be pushed through the heatsink by reducing the air resistance of the intake. Thus, it’s not vital for the fan to have a very high static pressure.

The 130W TDP of the i7’s or 140W of the 965 BE is easily catered for too with a thermal design power at a maximum of 250W.

Five shiny copper heatpipes are utilised in the design but they have been cleverly offset so as to dissipate heat to all areas of the fin structure as opposed to having all the heatpipes in a straight line which can create “dead zones” in the structure which do little to aid cooling.

ThermoLAB also claim that the air tunnels formed inside the fin stack help to accelerate airflow as the spaced-out heatpipes do not block airflow as much as a straight line arrangement.

The top of the BARAM is relatively plain but of course, as we have come to expect from CPU coolers, the ends of the pipes are capped off professionally in two groups shaped like a number five on a dice (demonstrating the offset pipes).

The copper heatpipes feed into the base but are not flattened out to create a H.D.T. (Heatpipe Direct Touch) finish; on the contrary the base has an incredibly smooth machined finish that is ultra-reflective – in the picture below, an almost perfect reflection of the coin is visible.

Two small holes are located either side of the contact area for attaching the mounting brackets.

As was mentioned briefly before, a fan is not included with the BARAM and so a 120mm (120×120x25mm) fan will need to be purchased separately. Grooves are cut into the fins so as to use the wire clips to secure the fan(s).

Installation

The Test Setup:

ProcessorIntel Core i7 C0 920 @ 2.67GHz
MotherboardAsus P6T
Graphics CardXFX 1GB Radeon 4870
MemoryOCZ Gold Triple Channel PC3-10666 @ 1333MHz, 9-9-9-24 @ 1.65v
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB
Power SupplyNOX Apex 700W
EnclosureCooler Master ATCS-840
OSWindows Vista 64-bit

The installation method is by not the easiest to use but it does hold the cooler very securely on to the IHS. A universal backplate is used for all the CPU sockets with the long screws threading through the allocating holes which varies with the different sockets.

As with most installation methods, a set of mounting brackets screw directly on to the base. These brackets then sit over the screws from the backplate and are secured by four nuts.

This is where the fiddly part begins: the thumbscrews can be fiddly to do up especially if, like us, you are using a removal motherboard tray with the motherboard already installed and so it can be hard to get to some of the screws.

Finally, the 120mm, in our case, an NF-P12, just clips onto the front of the BARAM. All-in-all it’s not a bad way to install a CPU cooler and certainly keeps it very secure.

Testing

Methodology

At Verdis Reviews, we test CPU coolers by booting the PC up into Windows Vista and then taking temperatures in both idle and load states.

The temperatures are taking using Core Temp and averaging the four core temperatures. For idle testing, we simply leave the PC for 30 minutes and then come back and take the temperature readings. For load, we run prime95 for 20 minutes before taking temperature readings once more.

Thermal results will be recorded with the i7 920 CPU @ 2.67GHz (stock) and overclocked to 3.6GHz with Vcore and QPI voltages of 1.35V.

Finally, noise is that final factor that is tested; however, at Verdis Reviews, we are not yet at the stage where we can use high tech sound equipment and therefore, noise testing is left to the human ear – not the most scientific but it gives a good impression of how noisy the cooler is.

Ambient temperature was 18 degrees and a number of coolers were used for comparison purposes.

Results

At stock speeds, the BARAM heatsink does a great job second to only the Cooler Master V8 at high speeds. With the NF-P12 used with both the BARAM and NH-U12P heatsinks, this provides a very clear comparison between the two and the ThermoLAB cooler performs just a shade better.

The margin between these two coolers is the same at overclocked settings too but the BARAM does fall back a little behind the likes of the Triton 88 and once again the V8. One the whole though, the stats make for some impressive reading.

Noise

The noise levels are obviously predominately determined by the fan used in combination with the BARAM heatsink but it’s good to see that I couldn’t detect any vibrations with the NF-P12 attached.

Cost

The ThermoLAB BARAM is priced around the £32.99 mark which despite not including a fan, is actually not a bad price when you consider many high end coolers are around the £50 mark. Of course an NF-P12 fan will cost another £15 but there are cheaper alternatives to be had.

Conclusion

Performance wise, the BARAM heatsink is really very impressive keeping the i7 chip cool at both stock and overclocked speeds. With both the BARAM and NH-U12P heatsinks working in combination with an NF-P12 fan, the heatsinks can be compared very effectively with the BARAM coming out on top by a solitary degree – a small but notable margin over the highly respected NH-U12P structure.

The lack of a fan is a little disappointing but if could actually be a blessing in disguise allowing the user to pick a specific fan for maximum airflow or low noise levels instead of having an average fan included that is neither one nor the other.

The build quality is first rate with the very reflective base, shiny heatpipes and not a single blemish to note. Our first look at a ThermoLAB product has been a good one and the BARAM comes highly recommended – great job!

Pros

  • Great performance
  • High build quality
  • Reasonable price
  • Multi-compatible

Cons

  • Fan not included

 

Thanks go to ThermoLAB for providing the CPU Cooler for review.

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