Cooler Master needs no introduction at this point in time. I'm almost positive anyone reading this has heard of their cases at least with names like the HAF, the Storm series and of course one of the long time work horses, the CM 690. All of these I have or will very soon have reviewed. But we aren't here to discuss cases or power supplies; this is after all a cooler review.
With a full line-up of coolers on the market from Cooler Master, we have had the opportunity to see quite a few of them already. They have come in all shapes and sizes so far, from the rather large V10 and slightly smaller Hyper Z600R to the smaller sized Hyper TX-3 and both of the 212's, we have seen what Cooler Master can do with new concepts. This time, though, the plan is a little different.
Working with a concept designed many years ago, Cooler Master has decided to revamp another of their work horses like when they redid the CM 690 not to long ago. Cooler Master pulled the Vortex 752 from the shelf and thought of what they can do to make this cooler capable of handling the heat of today's more demanding multi-cored processors. To the think tank they went and they have come back with the Vortex Plus.
At first glance they are very similar, although I will be sure to point out all of the changes. Let's see what exactly it is that Cooler Master has brought this time and see for ourselves if this is in fact a capable cooler for the masses.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
This little cooler packs quite a bit into the limited area that it will consume on top of your processor. Unlike its predecessor, the 752, the Vortex Plus utilizes four 6mm copper heatpipes and two separated sections of the cooler, one pre-cooler on the base and a set of 45 aluminum fins comprising the bulk of the surface area. The fan on the Vortex Plus lays parallel to the motherboard, so not only does it use just under 55 CFM of air to cool the processor through both sections of the cooler, but adds a flood of airflow to the motherboard components as well.
The Vortex plus may be small, but it seems at a glance to be thought out very well. Since it is what I almost consider low profile, they have made sure that the Vortex Plus will not conflict with things like capacitors, or even memory modules. That's right, Cooler Master cleared a bit of the fins underneath to be sure that even on a micro-ATX motherboard everything should be accessible and operational while the Vortex Plus is in place. With the fan attached it can even add air flow to the memory if the slots are close enough to the socket; however, it will need to be regular height modules. Fancy heat spreaders are not going to cooperate well.
Since this cooler was supposedly introduced at CES this year and I say supposedly as I couldn't afford to see it there myself, little has been written about its actual release date. I am happy to tell you, though, that even though it isn't on shelves currently, Cooler Master has set a quite affordable $29.99 MSRP. That sort of pricing takes it from the must have to fit in my HTPC, to a cooler to ponder for any cooling situation. Time to get a closer look at the Vortex Plus from Cooler Master and see if this compact, low priced offering can handle the task it is set out to do.
Cooler Master sticks to what the customers know and the Vortex Plus is packaged in their customary colours of white as the background and almost purple as the accent. There is a nice image of the Vortex Plus and the Blademaster fan that accompanies it. And just below are a few of the new sockets that are supported.
As usual, Cooler Master uses a side to explain in many languages that this is a CPU cooler inside the box.
The rear of the box is where you will find a pretty thorough features list along with a few product images so you can see what the features actually are.
On the last side we find a complete list of compatible sockets and full list of the specifications of the Vortex Plus and the Blademaster fan.
Sliding the contents out of the box, I found the cooler is surrounded in high density foam and the fan packet in a separate cardboard "box". I little extra time in packaging went a long way; the Vortex Plus arrived in perfect condition.
Opening the clamshell of foam, you can see the Vortex Plus ships quite snug and secure.
The Cooler Master Vortex Plus CPU Cooler
Where the original 752 design was all aluminium fins from top to bottom, the Plus changes the game a bit. Here we have not two, but four pipes making direct contact with the IHS of the CPU. Some of that heat is quickly transferred into the aluminium pre-cooler. What travels up the 6mm heatpipes is then transferred to a set of fins laying parallel with the motherboard,
The design of the cooler is slightly offset to compensate for both clearance nearest the socket and allowing room for memory to go underneath, keeping this Vortex Plus very low profile.
These four pipes are angled outwards for a better distribution of the heat into the fins at more equal spacing. This also makes for less of a "dead spot" for the fan to deal with.
Looking down into the cooler, you can see the fan will have no issues cooling the fins while still cooling the pre-cooler as well. If the memory is close, you can see the fan will cover at least cooling the first one of them.
Direct contact does put the heat in the pipes faster and a flat base helps even more, while the base is left in a more basic milled finish versus a good mirror polishing, but it is flat across the base. There are V grooves next to the pipes as they pass through the aluminium support. I would suggest a layer of TIM be applied, as the "dob" in the middle will get eaten up by the voids next to the pipe before it makes it to the edges of the IHS.
Here is the six bladed, 92mm, Blademaster fan that ships with the Vortex Plus. It has potential to spin up to 2800 RPM and put out 54.8 CFM while being controlled with the 4-pin PWM motherboard connector. The fan had rubber pads applied to the corners to fight vibration by isolating the fan from the fins.
Adding the fan is pretty simple, just set the fan on top, blowing down into the cooler and using the wire fan clips, and lock the fan in place.
Again, looking from the top, the Blademaster covers quite a bit of the fins surface area and definitely can cover the pre-cooler. Let's get a look at what else ships with the Vortex Plus so I can get it in place for testing.
Accessories and Documentation
The mounting hardware that ships with the Vortex Plus is pretty inclusive. In the back is the Intel universal mounting solution. In the middle are two variations on the AMD mounting. The bottom has the thumb latch for the AMD bar on the right, and of course a couple of wire fan clips.
Additionally in the kit you will find the Intel locks and push pins to keep the universal mounting plates locked onto the board, along with a syringe of Cooler Master's own thermal compound.
I guess I was the lucky winner! I got two sets of instructions. Better to get a little bit more than be left with none at all. This fold out is very well written and easy to understand for both AMD and Intel applications.
Test System &Testing Results
Test System & Test Results
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.
At idle, the Vortex Plus is commendable. For such a small cooler is it holding above average results.
I was a bit surprised in what the Vortex Plus was capable of at load. Keeping up with a cooler like the SpinQ is quite good considering the gross difference in surface area the SpinQ has over the Vortex Plus.
The gifts keep coming with the Vortex Plus. Really good temps are a huge plus, but as you can see it does this with relative silence.
At a full go, the Vortex Plus can get kind of loud. When in a chassis and tucked on a shelf in a HTPC situation, it shouldn't be an issue, as movies and light browsing shouldn't spool up the fan that much. But it's good to know it has the ability to keep things under control if the room warms or tasks get heavier.
I have to say that the results dropped my preconceptions like they were a bad habit. For a cooler that even while still in the box, I can hold in one hand, I wouldn't have expected these sorts of numbers. The email I first received said Cooler Master was making no compromises to make an effective cooling solution. To some extent that is true, at least it's true as far as the Vortex Plus goes; I'm just not sold on the hardware.
I was able to make both the AMD "bars" and the Intel push pin set up work, I really despise the lack of pressure that these push pins offer. I know I may have knocked Cooler Master before about the big and bulky nut and bolt system they used for years on their bigger coolers and to be honest, I missed it this time around. I understand that things need to be done to keep costs down, and still offer an affordable solution to both cooling and mounting concerns. I would have taken a brown box, or maybe cheaper foam packaging over push pins, though.
Even with the mounting foibles, I can't really say much else bad about the Vortex Plus, other than Cooler Master needing to get this on shelves soon. Do I think it can cool an i7? At stock it should be able to handle things well, but I wouldn't plan to overclock too much. For an i5 or i3 I think it would handle them well. For any other processor, it should do just dandy.
For those looking to build an HTPC, most CPUs in there are stock runners anyways and the Vortex Plus offers terrific cooling for the size it takes up, or rather doesn't take up. If I were in the HTPC building game, or looking to replace the factory cooler in any SFF build, I would definitely make sure I looked at the Vortex Plus when they hit shelves.