I get quite a few coolers to test that pass over my desk. Most of these coolers follow the basic tower design and heatpipes of various quantities and diameters that remove the heat either by directly touching the IHS of the CPU, or removing it from an aluminum or copper base. What soon follows after the design is to start looking at a sufficient cooling mechanism or a high CFM fan in most instances. We should all know by now that with high CFM fans brings with them an elevated noise level as well.
Very few CPU cooler manufacturers are actually moving to the realm of silent cooling; this leading to a more enjoyable user experience. There seems to me almost a magic number at the 65-70 decibel range for me personally, where a fan becomes almost too much noise for daily use; but every user has a different take on the noise levels that are comfortable for them.
Thermaltake is one of the smaller percentages of manufacturers that are taking the jump to silent computing. They have developed a line of ISGC, or Inspiration of Silent Gaming Cooling CPU coolers. Thermaltake incorporates a new fan to cool this line-up of coolers, the Pure Silence ISGC Fan 12. This fan provides a decent amount of CFM and has some technology involved to keep the noise levels down to a whisper while in use. More on these fans will be discussed later in this review.
Today I take a look at one of these Inspiration of Silent Gaming CPU coolers, the ISGC-300 from Thermaltake. Incorporating the Pure Silence ISGC Fan 12, this stands to be one of the quieter coolers we have tested. Really, with a name like Pure Silence, what would you expect? Time again, to see if Thermaltake can meet or exceed my expectations and get into the business at hand.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The ISGC-300 uses a copper base with an aluminum top plate to remove the initial heat from the IHS. The heat is then carried away by four, 6mm diameter, copper heatpipes that pass through the 33, sawtooth, aluminum fins awaiting a push from the fan. The heatpipes are then capped with black tips where they protrude the top fin of the cooler. Thermaltake chose to compliment this with the ISGC Fan 12. This is a 120mm, 58.3 maximum CFM, fan that spins at a maximum of 1300 RPM. This is a nine bladed, flower shaped fan with a fin design that reduces another 3% of the fan noise, maximizing at 16 dBA. This fan has variable speed control built in with an inline dial, which I will show later, so it is simply powered with a 3-pin fan header. Overall weight isn't really an issue with the ISGC-300 coming to the scale at 697g.
Availability at this point in time is nil. Thermaltake is still aligning all the appropriate ducks lined up in a row, before it hits retail shelves. Through discussions with Thermaltake I was informed to expect the ISGC-300 to hit store and e-tailers shelves at the end of April to the beginning of May. This isn't too far off, so if this cooler is the way you want to spend your dollar, don't worry, it will make it to retail real soon.
With no availability at this time I cannot provide the handy links to e-tailers shelves as I usually do. I was able, however, to find out that the projected MSRP on shelves will be in the order of $43 U.S. Dollars. Unless Newegg gives them some sort of promotional shipping deal, expect to incorporate an additional $7-10 for basic shipping. Even with shipping included this does leave the ISGC right around that $50 mark of a lot of coolers. It seems to me to be a reasonable asking price, but let's open it up and let the testing decide how much bang for the buck we get with the ISGC-300.
Thermaltake takes the all black approach to packaging again, but this time lacking the familiar checkerboard pattern I'm used to seeing on their packages. The ISGC-300 is presented plainly in the front and is accompanied by Zoe wielding a very large sword. At the bottom explains the meaning of ISGC over a few of the coolers features.
The right side of the ISGC packaging displays the specifications atop of the compatibility chart and features list.
The rear of the ISGC-300 package uses most of the room discussing the chosen ISGC Fan 12 and its features. At the bottom is a conceptual drawing of the cooler in action followed with three key product images.
On the right side Thermaltake makes a brief statement about this product in ten various languages and uses the bottom for barcodes and certification information.
Removing the outer package reveals a very snug inner package that aids in protecting the ISGC-300 from any shipping mishaps. Just a bit of unfolding of the cardboard flaps will get you to the cooler and the accompanying hardware.
The Thermaltake ISGC-300 CPU Cooler
Removed from the inner package, the ISGC-300 comes with the ISGC Fan 12 already clipped to the cooler. You can see here that with only 33 fins, the 120mm fan gets excellent coverage of those fins.
Turning the cooler to review its profile shows those 33 fins with their ends bent to support each other. You can also see just how much the 120mm fan stands proud of the fins both above and below. Something else that stands out here is how Thermatake uses black caps to cover where the heatpipes protrude the top of the cooler.
This angle provides a look at a couple of things I'd like to point out. First is the Sawtooth design of the fins. Both sides are shaped like this, as you will see a bit later. Second is that Thermaltake uses a slightly staggered offset to the heatpipes to try and maximize the airflow through them.
Removing the fan and laying the ISGC-300 down, you can see the Sawtooth design is carried out on both sides. Thermaltake has also built this cooler to allow for two fans in a push/pull configuration. The only issue I see is the cooler nor the ISGC Fan 12's come with any extra wire fan clips. This may have just been an oversight as this is still not on the market yet.
Just to take a step back and see the ISGC-300 without the fan and to give yet another perspective of the large black heatpipe caps.
Close to the business end is the heatpipes. As you can see, Thermaltake makes very gentle bends to these 6mm pipes that seem to be clamped into the base. This makes the heatpipes a bit more oval and actually should add to the foot print that can absorb heat.
And here we have the money shot! The base is copper and level, but as you can see there are slight imperfections in the base. This is way more visible in the camera image than with the eye. Under normal observation, the base has a mirror like finish.
Here is a closer look into the ISGC Fan 12, 120mm, 58.3 CFM, Pure Silence fan. As you can see, the flower like fan blade shape is no exaggeration, it does look like a daisy when not in motion. This combined with the relief notches cut in the tips of each blade aid in drastically reducing overall fan noise levels.
I just wanted to display the part number for those looking to grab a ISGC Fan 12 at a later date, as well as to allow you to see the usage requirements of the fan. Notice at the bottom right of the image, this fan has two leads running off it.
Those two leads end in a 3-pin motherboard power header, and the other with a detachable clip is the variable speed controller that allows you to fine tune noise versus performance.
Accessories and Documentation
Upon opening the inner package, I was greeted with a bunch of hardware and instructions for mounting the ISGC to various sockets. There is an AM2/AM2+ back plate and three bags of goodies for application.
The first bag contains Thermaltake's tube of supplied TIM. Below this is four, flat head driven nuts for LGA775/LGA1366 mounting on the back of the motherboard. Two sets of washers, one in black, high density foam, the other set is in clear nylon to the right. Lastly are the four, countersunk, Phillips head drive screws for mounting the various brackets to the base of the cooler.
The middle package contains two of the three sets of mounting brackets. These two are for LGA775 at the top left and AM2/AM2+ on the right. The bottom left risers are for mounting of both the LGA775 and LGA1366 sockets.
Of course we can't leave out the LGA1366 mounting brackets that were packaged in the third bag.
Thermaltake has included a comprehensive parts list in the opening of these instructions, which makes the clearly labeled parts in the diagrams and application instructions very easy to comprehend and follow. These instructions are also multi-lingual and carry over with more languages on the reverse side.
Also included is a very specifically written out warranty pamphlet with a breakdown of warranty by region as well. I wonder why there is no Key 3 Spirit sticker and information included in the ISGC-300? Again, I'm going to assume it's due to this being an early sample.
TweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
As you can plainly see, temperatures in either test are nothing to write home about. In defence of Thermaltake with my take on this is, for the average user this cooler is going to perform well in comfortable temperature ranges; it just isn't something I would recommend taking your processor to extremes on. Considering this is accomplished with a very quiet 58 CFM fan, I realize that quiet doesn't always equal cool. By no means is 62.9 Celsius hot, just a bit on the warm side. Today's 45nm processors can take that sort of temp all day long; it's more about personal comfort with each buyer.
Here is where I was really surprised! The single fan testing was very impressive, to, well, dead silent. With the Pure Silence ISGC fan 12 accompanying the ISGC-300, it was even quieter than the Noctuas I had previously tested. Granted, this cooler doesn't perform as well as the same Notctua cooler, but this is Thermaltake's first leap into the silent market and they have definitely got a full grasp on this half of the equation.
Thermaltake has definitely impressed me with the overall silence of the ISGC-300. The usage of the ISGC Fan 12 is a hit in my book. The real issue here is what you plan to do with the day to day usage of your processor. If you just want to run it as-is or with a mild overclock, this cooler is right for just that. If you are looking to squeeze out every last drop of MHz with whatever voltage needed to accomplish this, I can see the ISGC becoming easily saturated before you get there, making this not the ideal choice. In most instances where absolute silence is a must, there usually is very limited overclocking in the equation anyways.
With an asking price of $43 U.S Dollars I don't think Thermaltake is asking too much for what they offer. As I mentioned, the Noctua is a better cooler in temperature performance and a virtual coin flip on fan performance, but it also requires almost twice the price to attain the Noctua. This is where I think Thermaltake is right in asking what they are for a very silent solution for the masses of buyers out there. If silence is what you desire in a CPU cooler, look no further, Thermaltake offers just that.
Is the ISCG an enthusiast's choice for an extremely overclocked cooling solution? No. Is the ISGC a silent alternative at a good price point? Yes. With that out of the way I will say this; if someone was to ask me for a bang for the buck silent cooler for average use, the ISGC series are the coolers I am going to recommend. I really hope Thermaltake takes this concept and evolves it to different designs and fin arrangements, as I don't think it would take all that much to bring temperature levels down and open themselves up to the enthusiast buyers as well.
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