The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Although a lot of CPU cooler manufacturers are constantly trying to stay relevant and deliver a continuous flow of products throughout the year, there are also companies that tend to build just a few coolers that are really good at what they do. The latter companies are able to ride successful designs for a few years, and still stay competitive. One such company that fits into the latter category is Thermalright, and proving this concept, it has been nearly two whole years since we saw their last smaller form factor cooler, the AXP-100. This also sort of leads us into a discussion of why this cooler was designed; the AXP-100 was designed to fit inside of the smaller mini-ITX cubes and SFF chassis, where standard tower coolers tend to fail.
Since they had huge success with the original Macho design, Thermalright thought they should make a smaller version to appeal to the small form factor chassis market, and not just offer the much larger versions that are just too big to fit. In this pursuit of compact design, Thermalright also realized that many users demand coolers that can handle rigorous workloads, but also customers expect silence as well. In this latest submission, this is precisely what we have at hand. The new Macho 90 is a smaller bodied cooler, claimed to run in a near passive configuration, and should still be able to tame most of the current processors on the market today.
The new Thermalright Macho 90 ships with a fan, but keep in mind, it can only produce near 40CFM of air pressure, hence the near passive operation. Taking all of that into consideration, along with the fact that this is a stout little cooler, we may not even pass all of the testing. Also, with no rated TDP for this cooler, and the fact that there is no LGA2011 hardware, there has to be a limit to what this cooler is capable of in extreme environments. Unfortunately, that isn't the intention at all. Think silence for a HTPC, or even something very quiet in the office, where the processors are left virtually stock, but should do better than the stock option, while still offering a custom cooling option that fits in the tightest of spaces.
The specifications are not what we would call expansive; Thermalright offers just enough to get by in this chart. In the test to the left, we see that they mention the 102mm length and width, along with the low 135mm of height that will allow this cooler to fit into much smaller cases. We also see that this cooler is 450 grams in weight, not including the hardware. The cooler is based on four 6mm diameter heat pipes, and uses a nickel-plated copper fan and base. What we don't see is that there are twenty-seven 0.15mm thick aluminum fins that have been louvered and shaped for the most effective use of the limited air flow offered by the fan.
We are given a TR-9225BW-1 92mm fan to cool this tower. This fan adds an additional 102 grams of weight to the cooler, and we are given the important stats for it. This fan will spin from 800 to 2000 RPM, and it's rated to stay at or below 27 dBA of noise. At full speed, via the four-pin PWM connection, this fan can deliver 39.36 CFM of air flow.
Shopping around for the Macho 90 inside of the States right now is fruitless; this cooler is simply not available here yet. We are told that over the pond, the Macho 90 will be available with a MSRP of 29.99 Euros, including the 19% VAT. With the help of a current currency converter, we found that is roughly $36 dollars in the U.S. market. Considering how things are seemingly stacked against the Macho 90 from the start with its limited air flow and compact size, we feel that the price is justified, especially once you see what this cooler is actually capable of achieving.
This is the back of the packaging, but if it were us, we would definitely put this bold green panel facing outward to grab the attention of passing customers. Along with a view of the cooler inside, we find the site address, previous awards Thermalright has won, and the Macho 90 name in large black print at the bottom.
To the right of that bold green panel, we find an all-black panel. Here, Thermalright uses white text to display three versions of a very condensed specifications chart.
Since the panel we now see is an inverse version of the opposing panel, there is really nothing new to discuss, but the cooler and information shown here do not have the same pop that bright green side offered.
The last panel on the exterior of the packaging goes back to the bright green background; however, this time we find eight images with descriptions of features and included bits. We also see the tagline "Innovated - not imitated" to the center of this panel.
Opening the top of the box immediately provides us with the installation guide, and it is resting on top of the hardware box. Under that box, there are sections and layers of dense foam surrounding the cooler and fan, keeping them centered and separated during transit, which allowed our sample to arrive in great shape for testing.
Thermalright Macho90 CPU Cooler
Peering into the front of the fin stack of the Macho 90, we see the stack of twenty-six aluminium fins, with a twenty-seventh fin at the top that has been anodized black. Judging the size of the base as opposed to the rest of the cooler should offer a fair perspective as to how small this cooler is.
While the sides of this cooler are left open, we see that each fin has rows of tabs to help direct and trap the air flow that is running across them. From this side, we can also see that the heat pipes are slightly offset in an attempt to shift the cooler away from the memory.
From this usual angle, the back looks just like the front side did, so we are showing this side from the top. While there isn't enough fan clips for multiple fans, the back of the cooler has holes in the fins for the clips at the back, and is cut away on the back to support a fan to draw air, rather than having air pushed through it.
The only thing that really changes from side to side is the offset of the nickel-plated heat pipes, as the left pair bends differently from the right pair.
As the cooler lies on its face, we can now see the multitude of tabs that are cut into each fin, and if our count is correct, there are thirty-six tabs cut to direct air around the four heat pipes, and out of the back of the cooler. There are also two tunnels cut into the fin, and this allows the cooler to be easily mounted with the provided screwdriver.
The view from the bottom shows us that the fins have been pressed on over the heat pipes, but at the base, we see evidence of soldering. Of course, they are both nickel plated for protection, but the polished base also has a protective film applied.
The base is polished to a mirror shine, as evidenced by the reflection of the motherboard screw in the base of this cooler. It is high in the center, and does not drastically drop off at any point, not even nearer to the edges where contact is not made.
Jumping ahead just a bit, we gathered some of the hardware, and went ahead and installed the fan isolation pads, and the pair of fan clips.
If initial impressions did not seem to show how compact this cooler is, as we see it now, the 92mm fan is completely covering the fin stack, and does not stand taller than the protruding heat pipe tips on top of the cooler.
With the fan on the Macho 90, and now seeing it in profile view, we don't have very high hopes for the offset mattering much with that fan sticking out so far to the right like it is.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of a box, sealed in a larger bag, we find all of the hardware Thermalright provides. There is the cross bar to mount the cooler, a bag of screws and risers, and a packet of Chill Factor paste at the top. The bottom offers AMD and Intel plastic spacers packed in with the fan isolation pads; there is also the top mounting ring, and the pair of fan clips to mount the 92mm fan.
As for that 92mm fan, we get this black framed fan with seven wide, white blades. Of course, this fan tops out at near 40CFM, but with PWM in control of that four-pin power connection, it is likely that you won't see nearly that much in normal operations, allowing Thermalright to claim that this is a nearly passive cooling solution.
We are also given the installation guide that starts out with a parts checklist, and then breaks into separated AMD and Intel mounting instructions. While the text and explanations are not all that great, the diagrams and imagery used should easily get you through the installation process with little hassle.
Installation and Finished Product
To start off the installation process for the Macho 90, we take the smaller Intel spacers, and send screws through them and the back of the motherboard. There is no back plate for this cooler.
The screws that run through the back are used to tighten the standoffs too. The standoffs do have a nylon washer under them, and the screws will run out of threads as they tighten completely to lock them into place.
Next, the top mounting ring gets screwed onto the top of the standoffs, providing a way to mount the cooler to the motherboard with the holes on the sides of the ring.
While we did not show the screwdriver with the rest of the hardware, we thought it best to show it for its major use. While it can obviously be used on the rest of the screws too, this driver is just long enough to fit down the tunnels in the fins, and being magnetic makes mounting the cooler a breeze.
When it comes to the actual installation of the Macho 90, we did find that the fan wants to ride much higher on the cooler in our test system. Even with memory that has no spreaders on it, you need low-profile DIMMS to allow the fan to ride in the proper location to keep the height to 135mm.
As you can see here, the fan is resting as low as it can go, actually sitting on one of our sticks after the tip of the spreader was removed. Not only does it encroach on this space, but it limits two, and even possibly the third slot, depending on the width of the spreaders.
As we move back and look at the depth of the Macho 90, we now see why the cooler is designed to take a fan on the back, as well as the front. This way, when the memory becomes an issue as it does here, you can simply put the fan on the back of the cooler, and use it that way -there is plenty of room.
Due to the very compact nature of this design, there is also full access to the screws around the cooler, and the first PCI-e slot has enough room to put any desired card in that slot. Considering most mini-ITX motherboards only have one slot, the Macho 90 has a great thing going. Most other tower coolers that fit small boards tend to block almost everything else.
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 for that information.
We began testing with our 4770K at stock speeds, but upon limiting the fan's voltage manually, we found that the Macho 90 delivered a 55 degree result. While that's not the best on the list by any means, at this point, we do have to address the fact that this cooler is almost dead silent in this test run.
Our initial impressions were thrown out of the window, as on paper, this cooler had us thinking it may fail this series of tests all together. We are pleasantly surprised to see that with only 40 CFM of air flow at this point, we were still able to tame a very healthy overclock with the Macho 90 as well.
Noise Level Results
When we mentioned the cooler was nearly silent at stock, we were not kidding. A foot away from the cooler, we took the 25dB rating you see in the chart, and outside of a foot from the chassis, the fan on the Macho 90 could not be heard over other sources of noise in the system.
Even with the fan set free to do its worst in noise production, we like that it only goes up to 47dB. Not only does it compare well to more expensive solutions, but considering low noise is not associated with a 92mm fan in general, this result is pretty impressive.
Considering the Thermalright Macho 90 is made for a niche market, we do feel that the design, its compact size, and the limited noise it produces will make this a great solution for those looking to air cool inside of a small form factor chassis. Taking that one step further, where most other tower coolers tend to block off important things like the only PCI-e slot on a board, with the Macho 90, these concessions were all taken into account when designing this cooler. The result is a cooler that provides the end-user with the best possible cooling solution at a really great price.
When it comes to these smaller systems, they are usually used for light gaming, internet surfing, emails, or even possibly in a HTPC. With the limited noise, specifically when under the control of the PWM circuitry, the Macho 90 is a great solution for those instances. What shocked us a bit was when the processor dumped a bunch of heat into this cooler, we found that even while thermal results were not great, the Macho 90 was more than ready to take on what we could give it.
The Macho 90 did not allow the processor to throttle. This means that even if gaming is on your mind, and so is a healthy overclock, you don't have to opt to pack in an AIO when there are coolers like this out there at a third of the cost.
While it may be some time yet before we actually have stateside access to the Macho 90 in the U.S., we feel that there will be quite a few users out there chomping at the bit to get their hands-on this cooler. If you take the Macho 90 for what it is, a compact cooler that will take on basic tasks with ease while staying silent, the $36 pricing is worth it just for that.
Considering that even with very low air flow to the cooler, it was still able to take everything we threw at it, it is hard to deny that Thermalright has definitely hit the nail on the head, even when that nail happens to be smaller than most others we test on a normal basis.
|Quality including Design and Build||95%|
|Bundle and Packaging||89%|
|Value for Money||97%|
The Bottom Line: While not a chart topper in thermal performance, it is in noise levels produced, it costs just a pittance, and is able to handle its own, even in the most cramped environments.
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What's in Chad's PC?
- CPU: Intel Core i7 13700K
- MOTHERBOARD: ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero Eva
- RAM: TEAM DDR5-7200 32GB
- GPU: ASUS GeForce RTX 3090 Eva
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