Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
For those of us on this side of the pond, the Germany based company Alpenfoehn is not one of the first companies that comes to mind when hunting down a new CPU cooler. This is due to the fact that their products tend to stay on their side of the pond for sales, and most sites that have reviewed their products tend to be where they are selling best. After about a year after our requests to see what they had to offer, our luck has changed sort of out of the blue, and Alpenfoehn reached out to us to have a look at four of their latest offerings, running the gamut from a compact economical solution, on through to the midrange. They have even sent along their newest flagship cooler as well.
Not having anything prior to go from as far as preconceived notions, or any factual information about Alpenfoehn, we found ourselves reading their mission statement. In their mission statement, they inform us they have been in the game since 2006, and are in the business of offering top quality products with great value.
Even without having read their mission statement, we can learn a ton about a company just from the package that arrives at the door. Here Alpenfoehn stepped forward and individually wrapped all of the coolers with great care, then placed them in a box to make the long journey to us. On top of this, without request, we were also sent a set of Alpenfoehn fans to accompany these coolers. Of course, this will get the name of the fans out there, but it also gives us the chance to run dual fan testing on the majority of what they have sent to us.
Today, as the title suggests, we are beginning with the smallest of Alpenfoehn's offerings, and working our way up to the flagship. Just because the new Sella is small doesn't mean you should count this cooler completely out of the game just yet. Yes, this cooler is based on a 92mm fan, but its compact nature is something sorely missed in the realm of SFF chassis design. Of course, this is a stock replacement cooler that offers better thermals and lower audio levels cast into the room, but by how much and at what cost? These are the things we plan to cover as we look at one of the very few coolers that will fit in the tighter confines a lot of us find ourselves in these days.
The Sella is a tower style cooler that comes in a very compact design. This cooler uses HDC, or Heat pipe Direct Contact, where three copper 6mm diameter heat pipes come together side by side in the base of the cooler. The pipes then run vertically through the thirty nine 0.35mm thick aluminum fins, where the fan is called into action to remove the heat from the cooler. All told, this assembly is 53mm thick, and when you add 25mm of fan thickness to that number, it is 105mm in width. Additionally, even though the box specs show differently, the Sella stands at only 129mm in height. Height is where this design really wins, as the CPU cooling world has moved into massive dual-towers and AIOs. Not too many companies even thought to make an air cooler for the smaller and much more compact world of SFF chassis designs that are all the rage right now.
Cooling this tower is accomplished with the employment of a single 92mm fan. This fan moves 62.8 cubic meters of air per hour, which means there is roughly 37CFM to cool the fin stack. Another thing that bodes well for the Sella is that this fan is rated at only 20.7 dB(A) of noise, which is audible, but in a small box across the room, it will be very hard to pick out the source this of audible noise. This fan uses an alternating fin pattern on the leading and trailing edges to break up and increase air flow efficiency. There are also rubber pads applied to all four corners of this fan to make sure vibration from the fan is not an issue.
The Sella will also only mount to some of the latest processors on the market, and rightfully so, as this compact cooler may not be up to the challenges of cooling LGA1366 and LGA2011. This cooler is engineered with permanent AMD mounting on the base of the cooler. By this we mean that there is tab lock hardware that will lock down to any stock AMD mounting bracket. For Intel mounting, there is a mounting ring and some push pins that can be added to allow the AMD latches to clip onto an Intel board.
At this time, we are unable to locate this cooler inside of the U.S., but Amazon has a history carrying Alpenfoehn coolers, so hopefully these will arrive soon as well. Surfing the net from over the pond, we easily found a few locations where the cooler is available. Within these listings, on the higher-end of the pricing spectrum, we found the Sella available for £18.95 at OCUK with few in stock.
With a currency conversion check, we were able to establish that this cooler should be priced somewhere around $32 on this side of the pond. So, not only can you get something near silent, and small enough to fit in a lot more small chassis designs than the typical offerings out there, but we also see that obtaining one will not break the bank. So far, it appears the Sella is off on the right foot; let's hope it remains just as graceful throughout the rest of this review.
The Alpenfoehn Sella arrives in a primarily white box with darker tones toward the bottom to help highlight the name and the image of the cooler. Off to the left, and below the cooler image, we also find mentions of the 92mm PWM fan, its performance and ease of install, and just what sockets are supported.
Both of the smaller ends, and one of the longer sides of the packaging are identical; they show the Alpenfoehn name and flower logo, and sport the Sella cooler name in blue at the bottom.
The last thinner side of the packaging offers a full panel dedicated to the company name and logo.
All of the relevant information on the cooler is located on the back of the box. Here we find that typo in the dimensions, the CPU compatibility chart, and a whole other box to tell us that the product inside is a CPU cooler.
With the Sella being so compact, it weighs in at just over 400 grams with the fan. This permitted Alpenfoehn to use two layers of plastic to support and protect the cooler, fan, and hardware inside. We also see that the cooler is kept separated from the hardware and the fan to insure it arrives in great condition. This method held up well, as our cooler arrived in perfect condition.
Alpenfoehn Sella CPU Cooler
Our first look at the Sella shows a stack of thirty-nine aluminium fins that are press fit over a trio of 6mm diameter heat pipes. Moving to the base, we can see the top offers a passive heat sink above the area where the pipes make direct contact to the CPU.
With such a compact cooler, it is nice to see that the sides of the cooler have been closed off to make the most of the air flow from the 92mm fan. Wire fan clips can be attached on either side of the closed section. As we look near the bottom, we can see an old style AMD latch blocking the pipes.
We took another angle as we looked at the back of the Sella; this way, the edge design of the fins are in full view. So, along with closed sides, the fins are arranged to allow air to flow deeper into some sections, and get disturbed faster in other sections to increase flow and efficiency.
As we would expect, this side is also enclosed just like the other side was, and at the bottom we find the other latch for the AMD style mounting this cooler uses with both Intel and AMD mounting.
The top of the cooler allows the pipe tips to protrude through the natural brushed aluminum fins, and even has the Alpenfoehn name embossed into the fin between the pipes.
Alpenfoehn chose to go with the sticker style protection for the base of the Sella. This sticker is easy to spot, and informs users that it needs to be removed prior to installation.
The trio of 6mm heat pipes are spread across the base, and have sections of aluminium from the base running between them. We can see that the base was milled all at once, and is relatively flat. There are some gaps next to the pipes to contend with, and we see no TIM in there now, so we can assume these are in direct contact with the aluminium chunk of the base.
By skipping ahead, and utilizing some of the hardware and the 92mm fan, we can get a much better sense of what the cooler looks like, and just how compact this cooler really is.
Accessories and Documentation
Here we have the Intel mounting hardware. There is a large ring with a pair of tabs on it to allow the AMD locking hardware to work with Intel sockets. There are sleeves that need to be inserted into the ring that allow users to change between LGA775 mounting, or LGA115X. Once the sleeves are in the ring, and the ring is set on the motherboard, there are pins that drive through the sleeves and lock this all onto the motherboard.
Here you can see the sleeve that is inserted into the ring in the side of the opening marked LGA1156. If you wanted to install this on a 775 CPU, then the sleeves would need to go into the grooves closer to the inner ring.
Inside of the hardware box, we also found this pair of wire fan clips to attach the fan to the cooler. We are also given a small tube of thermal paste that is good for two or three mounting attempts.
The manual for the Sella is pretty basic, but then again, so is the installation process. The front of the guide shows a rendering of the cooler off to the left, and to the right we find a parts list so you can be sure you have everything needed to continue on to the installation.
This side takes you step-by-step through the entire process of installing the cooler for Intel at the top, and AMD at the bottom. For AMD, things are very simple. Just add some TIM, clip the stock hardware to an AMD mounting bracket, and plug in the fan. Then you are good to go. For Intel, the ring, sleeves, and pins need mounted to the board, then mount it like an AMD socket.
Inside of the larger box, we find the 92mm fan with its seven wide blades that allow it to force airflow through the fins of the cooler. We also see there is a four-pin connection on the end of a black sleeved cable, which matches the fan blades and frame.
There is no sticker on the back of the fan hub to define the model number of this fan, but we do see that there are four rubber pads. There is one pad placed in each corner to isolate the fan from the aluminum fins.
Installation and Finished Product
The Sella Intel hardware locks to the motherboard much like an Intel stock cooler. At the end of each sleeve there are two tabs that pass through the motherboard holes. Once the ring and sleeves are properly in place, you then drive the pins through the sleeve, expanding the tabs, and locking the ring to the motherboard.
We do happen to have this ring oriented incorrectly. To get a standard vertical mounting of the cooler, the tabs need to be at the top and bottom. We did this for fit first, because our motherboard's "armor" poses issues with the mounting. To get this cooler on correctly, we had to lock the cooler to the ring, then force the ring down, and insert the pins to allow it to be in the vertical orientation.
Most coolers are almost as wide as the memory, and much taller than the Sella, so you can start to appreciate the shorter overall height the Sella offers; especially if you are looking to air cool in a small form factor chassis.
Alpenfoehn also made sure to address clearances around the cooler as well. Not only will this keep from blocking the first PCI slot, but it does not interfere with screwing in the motherboard, and it won't compromise room for the memory, as it fully clears all four slots.
Even once we have the Sella hanging in the D-frame, the compact nature of this design is most apparent. Of course, the offset fin design, embossed name in the fin, and the bits of copper poking out are nice to look at as well.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests, and Noise Results
Test System Setup
I would first like to thank ASUS, InWin, Corsair, and Fractal Design for supplying products for me to test with.
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.
While the Sella is not at the top of the charts, we did not really expect this much performance. At idle we saw temperatures of 27.5 degrees, and once loaded and running with the stock clocks, the 55.25 degree average is still 25 degrees cooler than the stock solution.
Considering the cost of its closest competitors, the value of the Sella is really boosted in this range thermally and economically.
To be honest, we assumed this cooler may even allow the CPU to thermal throttle once we applied the overclock. To our surprise, not only did it fail to throttle, but the 77.25 degree average here drops more than twenty degrees off the stock solution. There was also little to no noise, depending on the point of the PWM curve.
Noise Level Results
With only 7.5 volts of power delivered to the 92mm fan, we found it to be just audible at a foot away in the open air system. The meter reported the fan to be 33 dB at this time.
Once 12 volts are allowed to pass through the fan, some hint of the 92mm nature of the fan is audibly perceivable. Keep in mind, it is rare that you will hit the high-end of the PWM range in normal use, or even streaming something on the HTPC. So, this 48dB rating is worst case scenario in an open air chassis.
We can completely understand the logic behind Alpenfoehn releasing a cooler like the Sella. In a huge cooling market, where everyone promotes the idea that bigger is better, and liquid is even better than that, it stands to reason that someone should go back to the basics? It has been a long time since we have seen anything this compact without diving into C-Style coolers, and while those are effective solutions, most of them are even taller than this. At a maximum height of 129mm, this compact tower will fit inside of cases like the ones we recently saw from Lian Li, Thermaltake, and BitFenix. While we are an enthusiast driven site, we also understand the plight of the everyman, and realize not everyone needs or wants a $100 cooling solution for a more basic setup. However, even when we cranked up the heat, the Sella took it very well.
When it came to the thermal results, the Sella stood its ground on both sides of the testing. The Sella quietly took the stock run, and without too much fuss from the fans, it was even able to handle the overclocked settings fairly well. As for the noise level, we can recall the days when the 92mm fan was still king, and there was a ton of noise from a huge portion of those coolers. So, while the Sella did start to climb in decibels as the voltage was increased, we found Alpenfoehn did a great job of balancing the fan noise with performance; the Sella offers levels of both that can be appreciated.
As we addressed, the mounting hardware, posed issues for our specific motherboard. However, with some creativity and persistence, we overcame that obstacle and got the cooler ready for testing. The latch system works really well. It gave AMD sockets plenty of mounting pressure, and even with the all plastic mounting hardware, the cooler was very secure once installed. While our motherboard is the exception to the rule as far as cooler encroachment goes, it is still something to ponder if your motherboard has restrictions or really wide phase heat sinks.
The main thing that will keep this cooler out of the hands of most of our readers is availability. While the Sella can be accessed pretty easily almost anywhere on the other half of the globe, on this half of the globe, we will just have to hope Amazon gets shipment. Or, (hint to Alpenfoehn here) maybe sometime in the future, Alpenfoehn will expand availability of their coolers so we too can benefit from their designs and offerings.
For now, the current go-to, budget cooler on this side of the pond has to be some version of the Hyper 212. However, even there, the cooler is based on a 120mm fan, and exceeds the height of the Sella. In my opinion, the Sella is just as capable as the Hyper 212. Also, considering how well the Sella handles its business with half the air flow of the Hyper 212, the Sella's near $30 U.S. dollar pricing is just that much tastier. It is just a shame these aren't on shelves here now, because we are sure loads of potential buyers would love to get their hands-on one after reading this.