Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
ARCTIC is a company that needs little introduction, as many of you have likely used something of theirs in your time with computers. Whether in the form of thermal paste, coolers going as far back as Socket 939, and Core2Duo for us, and it is even quite possible that a GPU you have owned used one of their cooling solutions, from the factory, or buying it through aftermarket channels. In all the time with fiddling about on a PC, ARCTIC was around when we started, and they are just as relevant today as they were way back then!
The Freezer Series of air coolers started long ago, with we think, the Freezer 64 LP and Freezer 64 PRO, where both were very affordable, and both were suitable stock cooler replacements that delivered less noise at similar temperatures. Over the years, the market widened, and ARCTIC adapted to the times, but ARCTIC stayed true to its roots. While we did just see a fantastic AIO from them not that long ago, it is compact, affordable, air coolers that keep the wheels turning! As the offerings from Intel and AMD have changed, ARCTIC repositioned themselves once again, delivering us a few new models to be released recently.
In this launch, you can get the Freezer A13 X we have in hand, but this cooler is AMD specific. To offer the same thing for Intel users, there is the Freezer I13 X, which is the same tower and fan, with Intel appropriate hardware. Beyond that, there is another pair with the designation of CO for Continuous Operation. The difference between them is that the CO uses a double ball bearing on the P-fan, where ours is supported with a fluid dynamic bearing. All other aspects are the same, from what we can tell. So, in essence, what you will see and read here in this review covers four coolers, and all you need to do is select the one that best suits your needs.
The Freezer A13 X is designed to work solely with AM4 systems, boasting unlimited RAM clearance and a five-year warranty! The cooler's body is made of aluminum fins stacked on a trio of 6mm diameter copper heat pipes. There are forty-four fins in total, spaced 0.4mm apart, and on the exposed heat pipe base, a layer of MX-2 has been pre-applied. Weights and measures are as follows. Altogether, the Freezer A13 X weighs in at only 443 grams, stands 137mm tall, is 109mm wide, and is 86mm thick, mostly due to the fan and shroud.
Speaking of the fan, we are sent a 92mm P-fan from the ARCTIC line, which spins in a range of 300 to 2000 RPM upon a fluid dynamic bearing. The noise level is shown to be 0.3 Sone, which is roughly 23 dB(A). Power is supplied via a 4-pin PWM connector, where the fan sips just 0.09 A off the 12V rail. As shipped, the fan is already mounted inside of a plastic fan shroud, and as a one-piece unit, can be removed for installation or cleaning, without the need for wire fan clips or hassles.
With four versions that we are aware of, pricing can vary slightly, but we will try to sort it all out. The Freezer A13 X and Freezer I13 X do not share the same MSRP. AMD users see a €22.99 price, while Intel users see a €23.99 MSRP. However, both are under $30 when we convert the cost. We understand the same with the CO versions, where the price increased, but only slightly at €24.99 for the A13 X CO and €25.99 for the I13 X CO. As it stands, we cannot complain about the cost and keeping in mind that ARCTIC is billing these as stock cooler replacements with benefits we feel they are on the right path thus far.
ARCTIC puts its name and logo at the top of the front of the box, followed by a half life-size image of the cooler, with an X-pattern behind it. We also find the mention of a six-year warranty above a QR-code to take you to the product page of this Freezer A13 X compact AMD CPU cooler.
Spinning the packaging to see the right-side panel of the box, we see that ARCTIC mentions the 92mm fan and AM4 compatibility, before a list of features. The list contains things such as the pre-applied MX-2, extended lifespan, lower power consumption, offset design, and focused airstream. Once that is all repeated in other languages, at the bottom, we find another QR-code for the manual.
The back of the packaging starts with four pictures. The first shows the pressure optimized fan, with the direct touch heat pipes to the right. The next row explains the small footprint with optimal compatibility, and the last shows us a rendering of the fluid dynamic bearing. At the bottom is a graph showing the A13 X versus the older Freezer 13 and AMD Wraith Spire to compare what to expect thermally.
The left side of the box starts with an exploded diagram of how the Freezer A13 X comes together for installation. The middle is used to display a specifications chart, where the bottom offers the contents found inside, with yet another mention of MX-2.
The external packaging is used to protect the cooler in transit, but since it will ship inside another box, the fact that it is light helps keep damage at bay. We do find the hardware box sent behind the tower, the base ships with a plastic cover, and the fan wire is tended to in a cardboard bit that slides over the rear cooler mounting screw.
ARCTIC Freezer A13 X CPU Cooler
Staring the Freezer A13 X dead in the face, we see a bulky "frame" around the five white, scythe-shaped, blades sporting the ARCTIC name and logo on the hub sticker. We understand that the 92mm fan covers most of the tower, with the fan riding just above the mounting screw.
The fan "frame" we mentioned is a plastic shroud made with many angles and a mix of textured, matte, and shiny bits as accents to the aggressive styling. The shroud latches near the front of the tower, in a groove, where the rest of the forty-four fins in the stack have bent edges to enclose the airflow. The three copper pipes run right through the center of the tower, with very little room between them side to side, but bends help offset the pipes to obtain airflow without it being blocked.
We left the cooler angled to look at the back, as it helps to show what a straight-on shot cannot. At the sides, the edges angle towards the back, to the high points of the fins. In the center, there is a valley with bits of the fins removed from the tower, and we can also see the offset nature of the heat pipes with it angled as it is now.
The left side of the tower is a mirror image of what we saw on the right side of it, but there is one odd detail to cover. Most fans install with the wire emanating from it near the top of the motherboard, near the fan header for the CPU. However, ARCTIC opted to exit from this side, which helps to hide the extra wire under the fan.
The top of the tower is an expanse of black plastic, as the shroud is made to cover it entirely. We like the little ARCTIC badge in the center of the shapes, angles, and mixed surface treatments. Under this is a natural aluminum fin, with six exposed copper heat pipe tips poking out through the top fin.
The front edges of the fins do not mimic the back design in the slightest. What we find behind the fan is a saw-tooth pattern to the edges, where it is used to break up and disturb the airflow to aid efficiency.
Due to the proximity to the leading edges of the fins, where we would typically see the model of fan used and its power requirements, we find a thick pad of fam taped to the frame, to ensure the fan never vibrates against the fins, and also adds the depth top lock the side clips in place.
Only one of the three heat pipes runs through all of the forty-four fins, but the second heat pipe does run through and make contact with forty-three of them. The third heat pipe is bent too tight to make it through the bottom of the fin array, so it is pressed into thirty-nine. We can also see that the fins are dimpled, which is another trick for adding efficiency to an air cooler.
Removing the plastic cover from the base of the Freezer A13 X exposed the pre-applied MX-2. We see an even application of paste, free of debris, eliminating a step for users to make installation that much smoother.
With the paste removed, we can see fitment of pipes to the aluminum mounting plate, and we are certainly pleased with the tight-fitting nature of this base. All of it is machined at one time, leaving semi-circular marks in both the aluminum and the copper, but the surface is nearly level.
Accessories and Documentation
Since the Freezer A13 X is designed to be used with AMD systems, and more specifically with AM4 motherboards, the hardware is limited to what gets that job done. For instance, you are to use the stock backplate that comes with the motherboard, and by using the standoffs, top brackets, and the nuts, you secure it into place and attach the cooler to this hardware.
Literature comes next, and paper is as scarce as the hardware. On the left is an insert thanking you for the purchase. Inside, it asks if you are unhappy, and if so, you are offered avenues to fix that situation. The other page asks if you are happy, and if so, show your love on social media. The manual is obtained from the code on the card to the right. Take out your phone, turn on the camera, and click the link that shows on screen. You will see a digital form of the instructions, which are well done and will get this cooler installed on any AM4 motherboard with little left to the imagination.
Installation and Finished Product
As we explained when we saw the included hardware, installing the ARCTIC A13 X, you will need the backplate that came with the motherboard.
Above the motherboard, you will need to remove the stock plastic bits and screws, and then move into the ARCTIC hardware. Install the standoffs, using the larger threads, into the backplate, set the brackets in place as seen here, and secure it all into place with the four knurled nuts. At this time, the hardware is loose, but once the cooler gets mounted, it all locks into place.
You will not need to apply thermal paste, as it comes on the base of the cooler, so you just need to align the screws to the holes in the brackets, and set the cooler on the CPU. At that point, alternate sides every couple of turns, as you send the mounting screws down, where the threads run out, and they stop spinning.
Once mounted, even with all of the DIMM slots filled, the shroud and fan clips easily on the tower. Against the RAM, we get a much more accurate sense of the Freezer A13 X compact size, and with all of the little tricks added together, this smaller tower cooler has a real chance of doing a halfway decent job of cooling our 3600X.
Since more of the tower is behind the pipes than in front of them, it offers an offset for RAM clearance. It is easy to see that we are clear of our sticks, and they could be as tall as they want, and the fan will still not touch them!
From this view, we can gauge the depth, or lack of any, to the tower. The entire aluminum fin array stays inside the mounting screws, leaving plenty of access around the cooler for access to PCI-e slots, motherboard screws, or PSU cable connectivity.
Even though the Freezer A13 X is a smaller, more compact design, cooled with just a 92mm fan, it has the styling that mimics some of the other, much larger air coolers we have seen. While in no shortage of visual appeal, ease of installation, and clearance everywhere, all we have left to do is see how well the Freezer A13 X stacks up in our charts.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests, and Noise Results
Chad's CPU Cooler Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII HERO [Wi-Fi] (AMD X570) - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 4000MHz 4X8GB
- Graphics Card: ASUS GeForce RTX 2060 6GB OC - Buy from Amazon
- Storage: Galax HOF Pro M.2 1TB SSD
- Case: Hydra Bench Standard
- Power Supply: ASUS ROG Thor 850W - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Software: AMD Ryzen Master, AIDA64 Engineer 6.25.5400, and CPU-z 1.92.0 x64
To see our testing methodology and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our 2020 CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for more information.
The 68-degree result may not seem reasonable at first, but it is slightly better than our Wraith Prism results with the fan switch in the low position on the AMD stock cooler. We did see spikes to 71-degrees, during testing, which is comparable to the average thermals for the Wraith Spire.
With the overclock applied, and we were shocked we passed, we see that the results come in at 74.6-degrees. Not spectacular by itself, but again, it falls between both fan modes of the Wraith Prism, beats out the Justice II this time, and oh, that's right, the Wraith Spire couldn't even pass this test. Peak thermals were a touch higher at 83-degrees, but still within AMD thermal specifications.
For those worried about every last bit of efficiency, we find that the ARCTIC Freezer A13 X left quite a bit on the table with the 69.9-degree result. However, to obtain that near five-degree difference, you dive right back into AMD stock cooler noise levels to do so!
Noise Level Results
In our testing, we never saw the fan dip below 750 RPM, but as it pertains to that 26 dB result shown in the chart above, the fans were turning at 1400 RPM on average. Compared to the ear numbing AMD solutions in the near 50 dB range, one can appreciate what ARCTIC was trying to do with this compact solution.
With the overclock applied, we see that the AMD solutions are now near the 60 dB range, where the ARCTIC solution is much better for the ears! At just 29 dB, cooling, and stock solutions, the fans are only turning at 1500 RPM to deliver these results.
With nearly 600 RPM left in the fan, we supplied full power, to find it spinning at 2057 RPM at max! At this speed, the noise increases exponentially to the 53 dB result we show. Comparatively, you are right back to what the Spire delivered, and not far ahead of the Prism like it was in the previous pair of charts.
When the cooler first hit the desk, we did not have high hopes for it, and even with the in-house testing numbers shown on the side of the box, without a voltage offered, it was hard to take it at face value blindly. In short, color us judgmental if you will, but our opinion has been swayed! ARCTIC has delivered a niche product, but have done it in such a way as to create a need for it. By that, we mean that anyone still using a stock cooler is likely happy with what they have when it comes to chatting with friends, replying to emails, and trolling the internet.
Nevertheless, once a real workload is applied, the stock solutions make themselves known with a lot of noise coming from them! This is where the ARCTIC Freezer A13 X steps in. It offers better styling, although there is no RGB where our Prism does, it is simple to install, and even though performance is similar, the lack of noise with such little invested to benefit from it makes the ARCTIC Freezer A13 X a no-brainer as a better than stock replacement option!
At face value, many will look at a 92mm fan cooler tower and pass based on that alone. However, when you consider fin shape, closed sides, a fan shroud, dimpled fins, and a direct touch base design, ARCTIC dug into the bag of tricks and threw them all at this design, delivering the most possible out of a tower that stands only 137mm.
You still have all of the clearance the stock cooler offered to RAM, screws, connections, and graphics cards, but with a much more stylish aesthetic to see cooling the CPU. This is a perfect option for a combo obtained online where the processor is already installed, but the cooler is not shipped, or for builders looking to take the AMD cooling solutions and replace them with something that will rarely be heard.
As it stands, we feel that ARTIC has proved its purpose, and has done so in a way that is easy on the user, while not attacking the bank account to obtain a quieter PC on the cheap! Any of the four versions come with an MSRP of less than $30, but currently, the price is a tad higher in the US. When we checked on Amazon, we found the amount to be $38.46 with ARCTIC listed as the seller.
While not a deal-breaker for those with specific needs on a budget, it would be nice to see the price closer to the $30 mark it should have been. While it doesn't change things much overall, even with the slight price hike, we feel that the ARCTIC Freezer A13 X has proven to be as good as stock solutions with much less noise, and none of the hassle that comes along with many larger solutions.
The Bottom Line
While not a stellar performer compared to $150 coolers, the ARCTIC Freezer A13 X has shown to be much better than stock coolers, audibly, while maintaining similar thermals and clearances. All while adding style at an affordable cost, doing exactly what the box said it should!