Give a little, take a little
WE don’t know how it started, but heat spreaders on today’s RAM sticks have gotten kinda out of control. So, gearheads these days have to get pretty creative (or potentially destructive) to fit most large aftermarket CPU coolers on the motherboard. Thermaltake had the bright idea to just make a more compact cooler, with not one but two 120mm fans on it. NiC stands for “Non-Interference Cooling,» and its C5 model sits at the top of the vendor’s lineup. With five heat pipes and 230 watts of heat dissipation, it’s ready for serious cooling, and it won’t get in the way of your RAM slots.
Now, Thermaltake had to make an adjustment to accommodate fancy RAM sticks. It reduced the thickness of the heatsink by about 10mm below average at its narrowest point. The heatsink of the popular Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo, for example, ends up about a quarter-inch thicker. In other design tweaks, Thermaltake also went with a 3-pin fan connector; you adjust the fan speed with a knob on the cable itself, rather than through the BIOS or Windows-based software. Since the C5 runs relatively quiet and cool around 1,200rpm, it’s not actually something you need to fiddle with very much.
On paper, the C5’s dual fans should overcome the reduced surface area of its heatsink. And for the most part, they do. But we did have an issue with the sheer noise level. It was difficult to pinpoint the source; sometimes the fan-blade design introduces a lot of turbulence, and the shroud around the cooler leaves a small gap between the fans and the heatsink. The C5’s fans ramp up in 200rpm increments, starting at 1,000rpm and becoming noticeably louder with each increase. We set the fans to 1,400rpm to keep the C5 on a level playing field with the 212 Evo, which leveled off at that speed when set to “quiet mode» during our thermal tests. The C5’s noise was less than tolerable, and the cooling was about the same as the Evo, which costs about half as much.
Sound is a subjective thing in the end, but we can think of several entry-level closed-loop liquid coolers that provide similar cooling at lower noise levels, so it’s difficult to visualize a niche for the C5. The Corsair H60 or even Thermal- take’s own Water 2.0 Performer would be a better choice for the money. Granted, the C5 won’t leak fluids inside your PC anytime soon, and it won’t occupy a case fan mount.
You could simply replace the fans with something quieter, but since Thermaltake is already asking $55 for the C5, good 120mm fans push the price tag into the area of much stronger performers, such as the Phanteks TC14PE or even a Corsair H80i.
Installation is pretty straightforward, with a universal metal backplate and a conventional set of screws and brackets. No black magic required. You could even connect the fans directly to the power supply, since they’re controlled with the knob. But the high noise level keeps the C5 out of serious contention. At press time, its North American availability was also pretty low, despite being announced in March—the only store selling it was Xoxide.com.
Thermaltake NiC C5
+ POCKET ROCKET Great RAM clearance; easy installation.
— HOT POCKETY A bit noisy; 3-pin fan; underwhelming price.
Nic c5 Quiet / Performance Mode
Quiet / Performance Mode
Phanteks TC14PE Quiet / Performance Mode
21.3 / 21.5
20.5 / 20.0
20.0 / 19.9
33.0 / 30.3
35.5 / 30.5
32.0 / 28.5
71.8 / 68.2
70.0 / 67.3
70.3 / 68.6
Load — Ambient
50.5 / 46.7
49.5 / 47.3
50.3 / 48.7
All temperatures in degrees Celsius. Best scores bolded. All tests performed with an Intel Core i7-3960X at 4.1GHz, on an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, in a Corsair 900D with stock fans set to Standard.
Heatsink Dimensions (H x D x W)
6.3 x 1.97 x 5.51 inches
2x 12cm 3-pin
LGA1 150/1 155/1 156/1366/201 1;
AM2/ AM2+/AM3/AM3+/FM1/ FM2
Additional Fan Support