Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
To understand the cooler we are about to show off from our box-o-coolers from Alpenfoehn, you are going to need to know a bit of the history behind this cooler. First, Alpenfoehn started off with one of their original cooler designs, the Brocken. The original Brocken used a 120mm fan to cool the tower; in this cooler, the fins were solid from side to side. After some time, Alpenfoehn released a second generation of Brocken that utilized a 140mm fan and a split tower design, which they named Brocken 2. We happen to have that cooler as well, but we will save that for phase three of our Alpenfoehn cooler reviews.
Today we will be looking at the third cooler in the Brocken line, the Brocken ECO. There must have been some feedback with concerns surrounding the dimensions of the Brocken 2 following its release, because the newer Brocken ECO is a more compact design. In addition to reduced dimensions, the Brocken ECO is also aimed at reducing cost, and features a 120mm fan rather than a 140mm fan. Despite being more compact than the Brocken 2, the Brocken ECO is intended to stay within the same thermal range as the Brocken 2.
Alpenfoehn opted to keep most of what made the Brocken 2 such a hot seller, so the Brocken ECO has a lot of the same things that the Brocken 2 offered. There is still a split tower design to the fins, and it also still uses the tightly spaced layout that eliminates aluminum between the pipes in the base. The coolers even use the same type of fans.
The major changes to the design are more subtle. For instance, the Brocken ECO has one less heat pipe than the Brocken 2. The ECO also has a lack of any plating to the fins, and the lack of a top cover, so the pipe tips are exposed on the ECO. On top of these changes, the Brocken ECO is shorter, thinner, and it's not as deep as the original designs were.
Now that you have a good sense of how the Brocken line has progressed, we should jump into our review, and see just what sort of performance this cooler doles out. We can also see what a much larger cooler design than the Sella will offer in terms of audio and thermal results, so we can determine if it is worth the cost increase to get a larger Alpenfoehn cooler. Let's get to it.
The chart provided below shows us that the Brocken ECO is 65mm thick, and once you add 25mm more for the fan, it's 90mm in total. The ECO is 126mm wide, and it stands 150mm tall from bottom of the base to the tips of the heat pipes. This cooler is comprised of four 6mm diameter copper heat pipes that run from the aluminum base that help secure them, up into the stack of 45 aluminum fins on either side. Each fin is 0.40mm thick. The base of the cooler where it makes contact with the CPU uses what Alpenfoehn refers to as "Gapless Heat pipe Direct Contact," or "Gapless H.D.C." This is where the heat pipes are laid right next to each other, rather than having bits of aluminum between them.
To cool the pair of towers in the Brocken ECO, there is a single 120mm fan shipped along with the cooler. Alpenfoehn was also kind enough to send along another 120mm fan to match it, so we could do some dual fan testing, and see how much more efficient this design can be. These 120mm PWM fans are capable of speeds of up to 1500 RPM, and deliver 111.14 cubic meters of air flow. For those not willing to look up the conversion, that is roughly 65 CFM pushing through these stacks. We see no audio measurements in the charts, but rest assured, Alpenfoehn coolers are designed with silence in mind.
At the bottom of the chart, we see the Brocken ECO is capable of mounting to all the Intel sockets still worthy of a new cooler, from LGA775 through LGA2011. In terms of AMD, anything from AM2 through socket FM1 are fair game. The last bits on the chart cover the supplied TIM, four fan clips, anti-vibration measures, and the manual.
Again, with all of these Alpenfoehn samples, cost is not a prohibitive factor; it is availability that kills things for North American buyers. Using a bit of Google-fu and looking at other sources, we were able to locate current pricing on the other side of the pond. Just like the Sella, we found the ECO at OCUK, where they list the cooler for a measly £24.95. At this time, currency conversion places the cost around $42; it is hard to look past a cooler like this. It may not be the most compact cooler Alpenfoehn offers, but the Brocken ECO has definitely raised an eyebrow with the performance it offers.
In sort of a bad Photoshop job, the Brocken ECO image has been placed on some wood planks and a black background to highlight the cooler. The black background also makes the company name, logo, and product name pop out with the use of white text.
On the right side of the packaging, we find a trio of renderings across the top that offer dimensions. Below these renderings, we see the naming once again, and we also get our first peek at the Gapless H.D.C. of the base.
The back of the box offers a specifications chart that is no more informative than the list we just discussed. It also offers a compatibility list of CPU sockets this cooler will fit, and a large chunk at the bottom is used to denote that this is a CPU cooler.
A major part of the design and its efficiency is due to the Wing Boost 2 fan included in the kit. Here they address its design, offering that the fans can provide good flow, good pressure, and still keep the noise levels to a minimum. Alpenfoehn even explains bits in the fan's design and how they help performance.
The Brocken ECO and its fan are sandwiched between two protective plastic trays to keep them safe during transit. The trays keep the bits inside off the walls of the box, and offer a place at the bottom to ship all of the hardware that goes along with the Brocken ECO. While we do prefer better methods of packing coolers, Alpenfoehn does prove that when done right, more economic packing methods can be successful.
Alpenfoehn Brocken ECO CPU Cooler
With our first glance at the Brocken ECO, we can see there is a lot going on in this design. Not only is the tower split, but the fins are angled downward in the middle as well. Following the fins to the outside edges, we find the fins are pressed over the pipes that are spread apart, and are set up in multiple groups of three long fins and one shorter fin.
The sides are left open in this design; since the ECO has twice the airflow of the Sella with a larger fan, we can only assume they saw no need to close them off. Look at the base though; more specifically, look at how the pipes are offset. This is how Alpenfoehn offsets the CPU cooler to allow full memory compatibility.
We took a different viewpoint on back of the cooler. This is to show that the edges protrude outside of where the fan will sit on the fins. Where the fan does push air through the straight fin sections, each of them has a saw tooth pattern to break up the air, and raise the efficiency of what little air flow is provided.
As we spin around to this side of the cooler, from a lower angle we can see that there are defined grooves to accept the fan clips that hold the fan in place, and it is ready for two fans out of the box. We can also see that offset of every fourth fin, and that there was some off angled fins due to the lack of support on the sides.
The top of the Brocken ECO is more basic as well. The four pipe tips are visible, and the aluminium for the fins is exposed. This does not lessen the cooler in any way; it's just not as fancy as the Brocken 2.
The base of this cooler comes protected with a clear sticker that is very easy to miss at first glance. Of course, this is why they also paste the text on there, warning it needs to be removed.
Peeling the sticker allows an unimpeded view of the Gapless H.D.C. The aluminium section of the base is used for mounting and holding the heat pipes in at the sides only. By squeezing the pipes together, they all make contact with the CPU; and this makes the base more efficient than those with aluminium strips between them.
Most will use the Brocken ECO with the one fan that comes in the box strapped to the cooler.
Of course, since Alpenfoehn sent along a matching fan, and the hardware kit offers four fan clips, we will also be testing the Brocken ECO in this configuration.
Accessories and Documentation
We found a very solid setup of parts in the hardware set. There are Intel top brackets at the top, with the universal backplate being flanked with half of the AMD top brackets. To allow the use of the cross bar at the bottom, the Intel and AMD legs are combined to offer both orientations for AMD users to choose to use.
Here we have four thick plastic spacers, and a set of small screws to assemble the top brackets for AMD use. The bottom shows the LGA2011 hardware, the thumbscrews that lock all the hardware to the motherboard, and the studs that pass through the plate and are held in place by the spacers.
Also as part of the kit, we were sent the LGA775 pre-load spacer, a set of eight rubber fan isolation pads in the black strip of rubber, a set of four plastic stickers to isolate the backplate for AMD use, and a small tube of thermal paste.
Along with all the rest of the gear, there is also this set of four wire fan mounting clips. These simply tuck into the fan screw holes nearest the cooler, and with very little pressure, stretch around the cooler and clip into the sides.
We are also given this 120mm Wing Boost 2 PWM fan to cool the Brocken ECO. This fan offers nine S-shaped blades with black on black coloration for the fins and frame. The fan is powered with a four-pin header at the end of a sleeved cable, but also has a pigtail to allow another fan to be powered as well, allowing one header and PWN circuit to control both fans.
The manual offered with the Brocken ECO is well illustrated, but the text that goes with the images is very basic. It does walk through both AMD and Intel installations, but pay close attention to the images for orientations, as descriptions seem to omit the fine details.
Last but not least, we also have the secondary fan sent along with the Brocken ECO. This is the retail version of the Wing Boost 2 120mm fan. While all of the specs are the same from one fan to another, the major change in the retail versus the supplied fan is that the retail version sports a cool blue ring in the frame, and a blue sticker on the hub.
Installation and Finished Product
This universal backplate is already isolated for Intel use, so we just had to align the pins and send them through, locking one side into the backplate so they won't twist later. Also, the plate can be oriented both directions for AMD and Intel. In our instance, it only fits in this direction, where another board may have an IC, making the other orientation the premium choice.
Once the studs are passed through the holes, each receives a plastic spacer. Then, the Intel mounting plates are placed at either side, and all of it is mounted to the motherboard via the thumbscrews used at each corner.
Almost as wide as the memory in front of it, the Brocken ECO stands with the majority of the fan's intake clear from even taller memory like ours. Although, we did notice that the fan did not go as low as the top of the cooler since it has to rest on top of the screws of the cross bar that locks the cooler to the motherboard hardware.
Because of the offset that the heat pipes take from the base into the bottom of the fin stack, even this larger bodied cooler and its fan stay clear of all four memory slots.
From here we see the Brocken ECO takes up much more room than the Sella on the motherboard, but there is still room for a second fan off to the right. With the extra plug hanging from the stock fan, it just begs for a second fan to be added.
With the cooler mounted on the motherboard, and the motherboard and the Brocken ECO now mounted into the chassis, we can now step back and take stock. It looks pretty good with the aluminum and copper, and it does offer enough space for a second fan and to still have access to the eight-pin, but the fan clips may cause issues with a card in the first expansion slot.
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.
While we expected a couple of degrees of performance boost on the Sella with the Brocken ECO, our stock testing shows that our fifty-three degree result is right in line with the Sella. The performance gained from a second fan shocked us a fair bit. Even with this low level of power going to them, once the second fan was added we got the results down to 51.75 degrees, which is only about five degrees away from the best cooler money can buy currently.
As we applied the overclock, the gap widens from first place, but the results are still admirable for a 120mm fan based contender in this list of monsters. As shipped, with one fan, the results were 74.75 degrees. With the second fan added, we notice a slight drop in performance, with only slightly more than a degree change in overall temperatures.
Noise Level Results
With 7.5 volts going to the fans, and a reported speed of 955 RPM, we found the fan only produced 32dB of noise at close range. From any distance in a closed chassis, this fan will likely not be the loudest fan at idle.
Once we allowed the fans to spread their wings with 12 volts going to them, we found them spinning at 1470 RPM, and delivering 50dB of noise into the room. Of course, this last number is quite large when it comes to coolers these days, but the reality is that this range of noise will only be heard on the hottest nights, or in the longest of gaming sessions.
Let's go ahead and be really blunt here: The Alpenfoehn Brocken ECO is neither a trend setter, nor is it one of those super flashy coolers that looks absolutely stunning through the window of your chassis. However, what does make this cooler stand out in our mind is its proficiency in all the areas that really matter when it comes to cooling. The mounting is superb, and is based on a system that many of the top brands out there are currently using in one form or another, and the cooler is rock solid when installed properly. The fan is easy to get on and off and it is isolated from the cooler. Additionally, with the pigtail on the Wing Boost 2 fans, adding a second fan is easy as pie, and offers dual fan control from a single PWM IC to match fan speeds better than what two controllers with different sensors are capable of. Lastly, Alpenfoehn won us over with the amount of "tricks of the trade" employed in this design at such an affordable price.
There are just a few issues we need to address with the Brocken ECO. In our opinion, the inner packaging works well enough for most people. But the reality is that without any sort of fin spacing folded into the fins by design, the movement in transit with the fan so close allowed the fins to get out of whack, and in need of fine tuning. This could easily be remedied with foam somehow, and it would not cost fortune to do.
While the performance was sort of average in both thermal and audio results, we feel this cooler is only fan limited. Considering the amount of noise we are dealing with at the high-end, you may as well keep going a few more dB, and offer some eighty or ninety CFM fans. Again, minimal cost difference here, but it would make a huge impact on the thermal performance, which would be well worth a bit more of a hum in the office. The thing is, no matter how you look at this cooler, for the price that Alpenfoehn is offering the Brocken ECO at, it is still hard to pass over, even with mediocre chart results.
The more of Alpenfoehn and their coolers that we get to see, the more and more we are impressed with them. We only had tales of grandeur from forums or press releases to go from before, but now we are getting a grasp on what they are all about, and just what sort of value they bring to the cooling game. It is rare that you run across a company that is looking to fill the voids left by all the big name cooler makers out there raking it in by the bucket loads. It is especially rare to see this happen with coolers that not only fill the voids, but do it at a great price point.
With the Brocken ECO, and the Sella we just looked at, Alpenfoehn knows they are not the cream of the crop, and can charge accordingly. Even with all we just covered, it still comes down to the fact that you can get reasonable performance out of a cooler that will not hog the motherboard, allows for a second fan with relative ease, clears the memory and motherboard screws, and only hits the pocket for roughly $42. I am sure there will be an influx of emails to Alpenfoehn asking them to find a U.S. supplier of their coolers, as they are just too affordable to not ponder intently if this is enough cooler for your needs.
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