Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
This is going back in history of computing a fair bit, but there used to be a time where 80mm or 92mm fan-based CPU coolers were the only option. This was long before 120mm fans became the standard, and long before most of the mammoth coolers we all gravitate to today. Most enthusiasts will say there is really no place for a cooler so small and compact; yet, it is not quite small enough to fit into all of the SFF chassis that are flooding the market today. For the most part, we would have to agree, but there are other aspects to consider as well.
Even the most seasoned enthusiast has built a web surfing and email machine, or something for the living room that doesn't need to do much more than to play a movie, or maybe some Flash based gaming. In this sort of a build, cooling is still a consideration, but in reality, there is always the stock cooling option. The issue here is that stock coolers are usually pretty rubbish -unless you are speaking of the AIOs that come with some of the AMD lineup. Otherwise, you have a small chunk of metal to cool the CPU, and they tend to be very noisy for the piss-poor performance that they offer. In these instances, you need a stock replacement cooler that is more efficient, and has less noise from the fan. Also, nine times out of ten, users are looking for something very affordable.
Before Enermax delivered this latest sample to our door, the advice on any forum would have been to go and grab one of the Cooler Master Hyper 212 coolers. While most manufacturers have closed their vision to larger coolers or to adapting to some form of an AIO, it has been years since we have seen anything as affordable (and now even more compact than the Hyper 212 series). Hopefully the new ETS-N30-HE (the HE at the end signifies High Efficiency), is able to stand up to the rigors of our testing, without leaving the CPU to throttle. From what we have already seen, even this early into the review, we can say that while it is a bit old-school, Enermax has something that may just surprise those looking for a stock replacement cooler that can take quite a bit of abuse, and won't hurt the wallet.
The chart provided covers two versions of this cooler. There is the ETS-N30-HE we received for testing, and there is also the slightly less efficient (but fancier model) ETS-N30-TAA, which comes with a T.B. Apollish Advance fan with all its pretty lighting abilities. Both of the coolers are capable of mounting to all of the relevant socket types still on the market, and even a few EOL ones. The coolers' dimensions are 92mm long, 79mm wide, and 134mm in height; with the fan installed the width increases to 50mm, but the height remains the same. The ETS-N30 coolers weigh in at a mere 290 grams. The fins and base plate are made of aluminum, and copper is used for the trio of 6mm diameter heat pipes.
Along with the Dow Corning TC-5121 thermal paste that is supplied, we also find a UCHE9P ED922512H-PA, 92mm fan to keep this stack of 43 aluminum fins cool. The chart shows this fan to be capable of delivering 55.4 CFM of air flow, and 4.37 mmH2O of static pressure. With 12V being sent to this fan, it is noted to run with only 28 dB(A) of noise. While this version does not come with any LEDs in the fan, there is the other option in the TAA, but you will lose some air flow and static pressure by opting for the LED fan. Both models offer a plastic clip for the fan to connect to the fin stack; the fan is screwed to the clip, but also offers rubber pads to isolate the fans vibrations.
As far as trying to locate the cooler goes, we are finding that it is still relatively new. Amazon drew a blank at the time of writing this review, as did many other common places to buy from within the U.S. We were able to find it though, and we were really surprised with the pricing we found. At Newegg.com we were greeted with the super-affordable pricing of $24 U.S. dollars, and shipping is just ninety-nine cents. You read that right: for just $25 U.S. dollars, you have the opportunity to ditch that stock cooler. And, as you will soon see, what seems like something from yester-year, still really has what it takes to easily handle the power from today's PC.
If we haven't caught your attention yet, you might need to check for a pulse. There are not many coolers on the market at this price that can do what the Enermax ETS-N30-HE can do, and we already know we will be recommending this cooler for those with the needs we have covered thus far.
The front of the packaging used to package both versions of the ETS-N30 coolers is sort of plain, which helps keep the costs down. The HE (which is what we will be testing) is on the left, and the TAA is to the right with its fancy LED lighting.
As we spin the box to the right side, we now see a full blue panel with white text, and renderings. The test covers the full specifications we just discussed, and also offers dimensional drawings of the cooler to make the customer fully aware of what is inside of this packaging.
Around back of the box, we see the naming at the top, and that is followed by a list of nine key features, and brief descriptions. As we continue down the panel, we then run into four images covering the Stack and Vacuum Effects, the HDT of the base, the hardware, and the fan bracket.
The left panel is also blue to match the opposing panel, but this time we see that there is the description of this being a high performance, compact CPU cooler with SF and VEF technologies, which offers direct contact heat pipes, and a fancy fan on the TAA model -all of which is all repeated in twelve different languages.
To protect the cooler inside of the box, they have employed the use of more cardboard. There is a grid that is built to house the CPU separate from the hardware. This is also very structurally sound when inside of the other box, and it allowed this ETS-N30-HE to arrive in terrific condition for images and testing.
Enermax ETS-N30-HE CPU Cooler
The 92mm fan covers the majority of the fin stack; nearly eighty percent of all of the leading edges. It also isn't very hard to judge how small and compact this tower design is; especially considering that fan takes up most of the image.
We went ahead and removed the fan and clip to gain a view of the leading edges. We can see that the edges stick out the most, there are two thin grooves to either side, and the central section is inset to allow the fan to build a bit of pressure before that air is slammed against the fins edge, which boosts efficiency.
Looking at this side of the cooler, we can see that the fan clip surrounds the fins a bit before it clips into the side of the fin stack. We can also see that this fan is PWM compatible with its 4-pin connection at the end of the braided fan cable.
As we view the back of the tower, we find the fins are shaped exactly the same, and adding a second fan is quite possible to increase its efficiency -although, there are no provisions included in the hardware for mounting a second fan.
This last upright image of the ETS-N30-HE gives us the perfect opportunity to discuss the closed sides of the fin stack, which helps to keep in the limited air flow of that 92mm fan. We can also see that the trio of copper heat pipes keeps the same spacing from the base, all the way up to where they protrude from the top fin.
As we get a view of the top fin on this Enermax cooler, we can see the Enermax name is pressed into all of the fins. We also see two air scoops to either side of the rear edge. These features are carried out on all of the fins to disturb and channel the air flow and increase the performance of this compact design. We also see an arrow to the right side of the fin, and this denotes the intended airflow path to take full advantage of the fin design.
The cast aluminium section of the base has two holes at either side to mount socket hardware to the cooler. Across its base, there is a protective sticker in place to keep the copper pipes from oxidizing and to protect the finish from milling.
As with most HDT style coolers, there are some gaps that will swallow up the thermal paste, but the pipes are wider in the contact area to help alleviate this. Also, we recommend a line of paste down each pipe, rather than the blob method, to be sure the copper is taking away most of the heat. With everything being milled at once, the surface is mostly flat against a straight edge, but there are some gaps in the material, as well as the rough texture left from milling them that makes it unlevel.
Accessories and Documentation
These are all of the Enermax brackets that are included. There is a universal back plate for both AMD and Intel mounting that has plastic isolating both sides of it. There is also the large AMD top bracket, and off to the right is the Intel mounting legs that attach to the cooler. Also, notice that the AMD bracket can go on both ways, so socket orientation is of no concern.
This bit of the hardware contains the more universal bits of the kit. Here we have the studs to mount to LGA2011, other Intel and AMD motherboards, along with four red washers to protect the top of the motherboard. The bottom row offers thumbscrews to mount the cooler, the sample of Dow Corning paste, and four small screws to mount brackets to the base of the cooler.
On this side of the instruction sheet we have the Intel mounting guide. There are ten easy to follow images at the top showing how the installation is handled. If you do get stuck, there is a bit of text below to help guide you through the steps. The reverse side of this sheet offers the AMD mounting instructions in the same exact fashion.
We also found this to be a fitting place to look at the fan and bracket. Here we can see the model of the fan, along with its power draw. We can also see that inside of the plastic clip there are rubber pads covering the screws that mount the fan, to keep it isolated from the edges of the fin stack.
Installation and Finished Product
We are pretty sure the back plate is intended to install in the other direction, as it is notched for the socket screws. However, we followed the orientation in the instructions, and found the raised section in the middle does clear all of the socket screws. In the end, either orientation will work.
To lock the back plate to the motherboard, we took the four studs, added a washer to isolate the motherboard, and screwed them in until the threads stopped it from continuing.
At this point, we also got back into the hardware and grabbed the brackets for the cooler. There is a smoother side to these brackets, which we face upwards, but since they are flat pieces of metal, they can go on either way, since there are no countersunk screws that hold it into place.
While removing the fan is a must to easily mount the cooler to the motherboard, all we have to do is send the thumbscrews down the studs until you run out of thread.
Once we took a step back to get this view of the cooler behind the memory, we again gain perspective on the overall size of this cooler, or more accurately, the lack of size of the ETS-N30-HE.
The cooler easily slipped in behind our pair of memory sticks in the motherboard without any hassle at all. From here, we can see that even populating the nearest slot to the cooler will be no issue for those who want to run four sticks, or those that have a LGA2011 system.
It wasn't until the point when we had the ETS-N30-HE fully mounted (and we even remounted the cooler to verify), that we realized our sample is slightly bent toward the back of the cooler. While this shows no signs of issues that would cause testing to be askew, it is a little distracting optically.
Our last image shows the ETS-N30-HE as most users would see this cooler installed in their system. What we notice right away is all of the room we get back with a cooler such as this. Plus, connecting power leads, switching out the memory, or even using the top PCI-e slot, are all easily possible.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results
Test System Setup
To see our testing methodology, and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article.
As we look at the 53.5 degree result of the ETS-N30-HE when we tested the CPU at stock, it may seem a bit low. The reality is that it is over twenty-five degrees better than the stock cooler, and is within five degrees of the best air cooler on the chart.
This is where this cooler really shines, and it proves you don't need to spend $100 for a cooler to do all of the basic things most people use a PC for anyways.
Of course, as the overclock is applied, the Enermax cooler does get very close to the eighty degree mark, with the temperature topping out at 78.33 degrees. While this is at the bottom of the list, again, when compared to the stock cooler that allows the CPU to throttle at this point, we were able to complete all rounds of testing, even if a bit warm.
Noise Level Results
This is also where the Enermax ETS-N30-HE shines. With 7.5V supplied to the fans, we could barely hear the fan at a foot away from the PC. So, for those of you looking to rid the PC of near double the dB level: this cooler is more than capable of handling the thermal end, as well as doing it quietly, making it eligible for HTPC systems as well.
As we allow the 92mm fan to spread its legs and run at full speed, the noise level definitely comes up. There are very few ways to get the sort of air flow ratings and static pressure ratings in a 92mm fan without the sound of rushing air. Considering at every 10dB sound actually doubles, it is still much better than a dozen or so other solutions we have tested.
First of all, we have to look at this review in a certain perspective to really appreciate what the Enermax ETS-N30-HE really brings to the market. Of course, when you want a thin single tower cooler, most people gravitate to the Xigmatek lineup, as they are somewhat affordable and usually perform well. If you are really budget-conscious, or have no intentions of overclocking your system, the standby has always been the Hyper 212 series from Cooler Master.
Well, the day has come to where the Hyper 212 is no longer the only budget-friendly solution capable of handling the rigors of what most systems will dish out with ease, and has the potential for some mild overclocking without the need to envelope the top half of your system with a mammoth air cooler or some $100 AIO.
While we can't deny the cost efficiency of this design, we feel you are getting your
dollars' worth; plus a little bit more. With this design, you are getting the performance level of most 120mm solutions to offer HDT and a single fan. The bonus here is that most of those coolers are 165mm tall, and here with the Enermax cooler, we have only 135mm of height to deal with, so thinner mid-towers and some of the Mini-ITX cases can also benefit from a cooler like this -especially versus the stock cooling options.
Let's be honest here: this cooler is not what you want if you are in a point's race at HWBot. That was never the intention at Enermax either. The idea was to make a compact, single tower cooler that is capable of replacing the stock cooler with less noise involved. They also took this design a bit further and added in tricks of the trade like fins with deformations to help with the air flow, venting to help direct the air, and closing off the sides to keep that limited air flow in the cooler and removing heat. On top of that, this cooler crosses over for many applications, from gamers on a budget, right into an HTPC; even in a rig like ours, where we fully expected it to fail, it was able to come out the other end, and while warm, it was capable of even more punishment.
For the mere cost of $25, I don't see any way we could have expected more, or been more impressed with the amount of cooling potential that can be had in such a compact design.
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