Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Thinking about MSI, the first thing to come to mind is a solid motherboard and video card manufacturer. Of course, they also offer complete systems, VR backpacks, laptops, and even peripherals, but we would not have guessed that they were looking into CPU coolers as a way of expanding their brand. An AIO; sure, we completely get that. Everyone else in the game seems to have their name on an AIO of some shape today, but that is not what MSI did. They have decided to venture into air cooling and made a CPU cooler that any MSI motherboard or video card user is going to want to have in their system.
This newer cooler is a single tower design, with a dense fin array, it is cooled with a single fan, though it is capable of holding two, and brings styling that many MSI fans will wholeheartedly appreciate. By no means do we think others may not want a cooler such as what MSI has made, quite the contrary, but once you see the top of the tower, you will completely understand why current MSI customers would love to add this to their build. On top of everything else, even though it is not cheap to make a CPU cooler, MSI has come out swinging with a delightful looking cooler which does not gouge you when it comes time to buy it.
The cooler of the day is the Core Frozr L from MSI. As we mentioned above, this tower has what is needed to take on the processors of today, and we can assure you that you have never seen a tower cooler blend in with the rest of the product lineup like this before. MSI took styling to new heights, and not only delivers a large branded badge on top of this cooler, but it is also backlit, and comes with the option to use a black top cover or a silver one.
In the long run, you can blend this tower cooler into many series of motherboards and the various Frozr video cards. Even though we do not run an MSI motherboard, and our experience with their video cards is limited, we like the design and aesthetic of the Core Frozr L. As long as it is capable of doing work, we could see ourselves using this in any silver and red or black and red themed system.
In the chart taken directly from the MSI product page, we find the Core Frozr L to be beefy, weighing in at 960 grams including the fan. Dimensionally, the cooler is 140mm wide, it stands 155mm tall, and is 55mm thick without the fan, and 84mm with the accompanying fan installed. Compatibility is high on both sides of the fence, as it will fit anything since and including LGA775 from Intel, and anything after or since the AM2 socket from AMD. What they do not say here is that there are 51 aluminum fins press fit over four 8mm diameter heat pipes. The base and the heat pipes are all made of copper, but both are also nickel plated to dress it up a touch and help fight corrosion of the copper. On top of the tower is a thick plastic cap. This cap is highly stylized on the top of it, it includes a large MSI logo in the center of it, and there are LEDs which illuminate with red lighting.
The 120mm Torx fan that is included in the box is explained in great detail. It spins on a hydro-dynamic bearing in a range of speed between 500 and 1800 RPM, with a slightly higher percentage of error than most fans. At low speeds, the fan will bottom out with 19.79 CFM and only 0.16 mmH2O of pressure behind it. With the fan at maximum speed, expect 71.27 CFM and 2.09 mmH2O of pressure. The noise level is shown to be audible, maxing out at 33.6 dB(A), but that number likely won't be hit much if utilizing the PWM circuit to power the 4-pin connector. In an average temperature environment, the fan is shown to last 150,000 hours, and the last thing to note is that they also supply a small tube of a premium thermal compound.
Anyone who reads our cooler reviews know we have an affinity for coolers that do not cross the $50 mark, and this happens to be one of them. The Core Frozr L has been on the market for some time by now, and as such, the availability of this cooler is quite high at present. Looking at both Newegg and Amazon, the price is the same at just $49.99. Both Premier and Prime members will get free shipping too, so grab this cooler from whichever place is easiest for you.
In what you are about to see, you would expect with a premium brand and this being new, pricing could have easily been much higher. The best thing about it is, not only do MSI keep the bar lowered, but with what they have been able to pack into the MSI Core Frozr L at this price, even without any previous MSI products in your arsenal, this may just be your entry to their family anyways.
MSI put an image of the Core Frozr L over a splash of red lighting on top of a black panel. MSI and the logo are found at the top, along with the Intel and AMD compatibility. At the bottom, we see the product name, and three features MSI hopes will sway your decision toward buying this.
The black theme is continued, and there is even a small twinkle of red lighting. The company name is at the top, a side view of the cooler with a height measurement eats up most of the space, and the name of the cooler is found at the bottom.
Following the logo and the name of this tower, we see features like the 120mm Torx fan, the easy to use hardware, and the customizable top. The right side mentions the nickel plated copper base, the airflow control technology, and the offset base design before running into dimensional renderings of the Core Frozr L.
We continue to the last panel with more black. The logo and MSI name flank the top again, but this time the panel is used to delivers the specifications and show us that this is a CPU cooler in ten languages.
The cooler and fan are shipped attached and are cradled inside of the two-piece plastic shell. The corners of it snap together to lock the cooler inside and have allowed it to arrive in fantastic condition. At the top of the box is where the black box is located and need to be removed first but is full of hardware packed cleverly in dense foam.
MSI CORE FROZR L CPU Cooler
Staring the Core Frozr L right in the face, it is hard to miss the black fan with red trim, and the MSI dragon printed onto a brushed metal plate. The corners of the fan use red rubber isolators, the frame is black, and so are the 14 blades in it. The Torx fan does cover the majority of the fins and can sit low to help cool the motherboard.
For now, let us just cover the top bit of the cooler. There is a thick plastic cap atop the 51 fins. Things to note with the fins is that they are all angled lower in the front and higher in the back, and each has the side enclosed to redirect airflow, while also keeping the spacing between the fins correct.
Looking now at the back of the Core Frozr L, we can see the fins are all interlocked in the center of the span, and we can also see the heat pipes running through the fins in four locations across them. This is also a good time to point out the offset design of this cooler, and the curves the pipes had to take to make that possible.
Since we covered the top half when we looked at the other side, we will move below the fins now. There may only be four heat pipes in the base of this cooler, but these copper pipes are 8mm in diameter. We also noticed that they are plated with nickel and then fitted into the base, and have the fins pressed onto them.
The top pf the cooler raises the bar when it comes to looks. Only Cooler Master is known for trying things like this, and we feel that MSI does a terrific job in the aesthetics department. The combination of silver and black and that huge MSI logo, it is aggressive, but not enough to cross into gaudy. Keep in mind too, everything you see in the main center section in silver, it can be changed to black.
We removed the fan from the tower for two reasons. The first is to show the shape of the fins, or in this case, the lack of it, as these fins are flat from side to side. The other thing we want to point out is that not only does the fan have rubber bits to isolate it, but there are also four pads on the tower to allow the use of any fan without vibrations.
At the bottom of the fin stack, we see that two of the pipes took bends so tight that the fins had to be opened to allow passage of them so that the curve can continue higher than the fin stack. While we do not see signs of solder where the fins are pressed onto the pipes, we do see evidence of crimping, which can only tighten the bond and hopefully boost performance.
The base of the cooler is made of two pieces of copper that are left with a brushed finish, and then they are nickel plated. The top section of the base is where the hardware connects to the tower, as it used the holes on either side to lock the cross bar in place.
The lower section of copper has a finer texture than on the top of the base, but not by much. The bulk of this area is slightly convex, and near the edges, we do see more deflection, but that is outside of the contact area. The paste will fill the grooves, and a rough base does not directly mean reduced heat transfer.
Accessories and Documentation
We had to dig into the bottom of the hardware box to find these parts, but this is the major components for mounting the Core Frozr L. The kit comes with a universal backplate, which has an isolation membrane and an LGA775 preload spacer set in place. To the right of it is the top brace which the cooler is locked down to, and at the bottom is the thick cross bar which attaches the cooler to that top brace.
When the box is first opened, this is what you see. There is a tube of thermal paste on the left, but more important at this time is the rows of hardware at the front. In the row nearest, there are top brace screws, LGA2011 standoffs, and the universal standoffs to the right. The row behind it gives us the backplate screws, and two types of crossbar screws. The row behind all of them is where you can find the smaller Intel nylon washers, and to the right of them are the AMD nylon washers.
In the large compartment on that dense foam interior, these parts can all be found. At the bottom is a set of four rubber fan isolation pads to use with a second fan, and MSI also includes the wire fan clips to use with it. The larger bonus with this design is that MSI also sends a black section for the top of the tower, which then mixes additional black into the design, as it loses much of the silver it started with.
The manual which accompanies the Core Frozr L is as good as it gets. It starts with a parts list and descriptions, moves into AMD, Intel and LGA2011 step-by-step guides, and leaves nothing to discuss when it comes to securing this tower cooler onto your motherboard. Whether you are a novice or an expert, this manual will have you up and running in a few short minutes.
Installation and Finished Product
The screws that go into the backplate have a flat side to lock against the plate and keep them from twisting. Once the screws, membrane, and the Intel nylon washers are in place, you can position the backplate on the motherboard. Orientation matters none for Intel mounting as all sides will clear the socket screws.
Moving then to the installation of the standoffs, running them down as tight as we could with our fingers, we then set the top brace on them. At this point, all you need to do is screw it in place, and we can move on to TIM application and mounting the cooler.
To mount the cooler, you slide in the cross bar, making sure the dimples fit into the drilled holes on the top of the base of the cooler. Then just grab the right pair of screws, and drive them in until there is no thread left. To access the screw on the other side of this crossbar, the fan does need to be removed.
The fitment of the cooler was all right, but when it came to fitting the fan, we ran into an issue with the RAM, and have the fan sitting much higher than the top of the cooler. The offset design works well too, as the cooler is moved away from that first PCI-e slot.
Close but no cigar. While just a few millimeters less fan, likely removing the red rubber pads, would have allowed the fan to ride at the appropriate height. We were not even going to attempt trying to slide it down and potentially screw up the RAM or the slot from the pressure.
Looking at the Core Frozr L after it is mounted, from the top of the motherboard shows the angle of the fins off well. The tower seems to lean as well, but we think it is an optical illusion, as our eyes assume the fins to be straight across. An additional fan will fit without question, but as it did at the front, for LGA2011 users, you can run into the same issue with RAM behind the CPU.
This is what you will see of the Core Frozr L most of the time. Since our MSI card is black and white, we opted to keep the silver plate on the cooler as it not only brightens up the view, but it breaks up a sea of black as well.
But wait, there is more. Once the fan lead is plugged into the motherboard, a secondary two-pin wire sends power to the cap on top of the Core Frozr L. This allows for the red LED backlighting to kick in and highlight the shapes cut into the cooler, as well as surrounding and matching the Gaming G Series logo.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests, and Noise Results
Chad's CPU Cooler Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus VIII HERO (Intel Z170) - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- CPU: Intel Core i7 6700K - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Memory: Patriot Viper 4 3000MHz 4X4GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Graphics Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB OC - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage: Corsair Neutron XTi 480GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: INWIN D-Frame - Read our review
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower DPS 1050W - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Software: RealTemp 3.70, AIDA64 Engineer 5.75.3900, and CPU-z 1.77.0 x64
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 (October 2016) for more information.
As testing began, we were not quite sure we had everything mounted correctly, so we did seat the cooler again. We found that in both runs, 59.75-degrees was the best this cooler would do with PWM controlling the fans. Not a horrible result by any means, but we would have liked to see it closer to the True Spirit 140 Direct.
Still using PWM signals to drive the fan speeds, when the overclock is applied, we find the same level of efficiency. In this test, the 75.75-degree result has this MSI cooler dropping another spot, and again, while not horrible, it is not that great either.
To take the spot it lost back when the fan is running full speed, the Core Frozr L dropped three degrees. With these settings, it does mix things up better with the competition, but the True beats it by four degrees.
Noise Level Results
In the initial testing, we allow the PWM functionality to do its thing, and we found that the stock run maxed the fan out at 909 RPM. Noise levels at this time are calm, with just 28 dB heard from the Torx fan at this stage.
Moving into the noticeable range of sound, with the overclock applied the fan did ramp up to try and compensate. At this point in testing, the fan topped out at 1178 RPM but was audible at 35 dB.
To get that extra efficiency that the last thermal chart showed, there is a ton of noise coming from the Core Frozr L. We feel that MSI set the PWM arc right, and tried to keep the noise down and deliver the most possible, without having to deal with the 56 dB we had screaming in our ears for this test.
The MSI Core Frozr L is a tad hit and miss. There are a lot of the positive checkboxes marked, but on the flip side, we did find a select couple of things to discuss.
On the lighter side of it, the installation is easy as we are lead to believe, and it takes very little time to go from out of the box to in use. MSI took a lot of time in dressing up this tower cooler for your CPU, and with bold branding front and center, within a matrix of shapes, lines, and a mix of silver black and red, makes this cooler appropriate in many rigs. For those of you out there who already use MSI products, if it were our build, we would not be able to pass on a cooler that fits the theme so well. The fact that you can change the aesthetic to a more sinister look with the black top panel, that just widens the audience of potential customers, and hopefully works out better for MSI in the end.
With the PWM signals in effect, we like the limited noise coming from the Torx fan, and we feel they tuned this profile well. The fat pipes, the solid feel of this cooler, attention to fin spacing, fin angles, and redirecting airflow makes the most out of this fans abilities. All of what we said here are great reasons to want this cooler in your rig.
On the darker side of that same fence, we did run into a couple of things. We like the touches of red on the fan corners, but having them in play makes the fan too thick to fit in behind the memory. Having to adjust a fan upwards to fit the cooler is bad in two ways. First of all, you can increase height as to not fit in the case any longer. The second reason and the one with the most impact is that the fan is not covering the fins as intended, and will lower efficiency.
That leads us into our second thing. Thermals were not horrible, but not what we expected to see after seeing what the True Spirit 140 Direct was capable of. Yes, there are more pipes in that design, and the fan fits properly to effectively cool the tower without a doubt, but priced nearly identical, we expect other coolers in the same price range to be close in comparison, not as much as four degrees between them. MSI makes sure that even with an overclock applied, you will not get close to throttling, but we feel they could have done better with a design as well thought out as the Core Frozr L is.
Even if it isn't the best performing $50 cooler on the market, it is slick, and many will overlook the slight lack of performance and potential fan clearance issues known. The top of the Core Frozr L is either going to leave you loving it or hating it, and we already know where the MSI users lean. Older systems on up through current stock, motherboards and video cards will match the cooler, and for one, we like it a lot when everything matches in a build. There is no reason other than appearance to do so, but we completely understand the want to brand match an entire build. It could be worse, as we expected the price point to be closer to $80, but MSI can deliver the Core Frozr L, at just $49.99, shocking us, and making a lot of people with a bit of disposable income want to buy this cooler.
Even knowing what we know, we still think we would change fans just to have this tower cooler sitting in with the rest of our MSI gear. Many have tried this, and many did not work out so well, but this is one motherboard maker that has broken through the subtle looking options, and delivered a cooler capable of cooling a CPU with average results, but looks stunning while it does it.
|Quality including Design and Build||92%|
|Bundle and Packaging||98%|
|Value for Money||92%|
The Bottom Line: Not the greatest at controlling temperatures, but MSI broke the barrier with their design and aesthetics. The cooler is relatively quiet, stunning to look at, and has color options. An affordable solution to theme match any MSI build.
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