Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 Review

By: Preston Yuen
December 3, 2010

Over the past decades, technology has rapidly evolved. From legacy typewriters and paper to modern day keyboards and Microsoft's Office suite, the way we work has changed dramatically. This goes without saying that human attitudes towards technology have also evolved. From the typical 1990's "Can I use your old-school desktop, dad?" to the modern day setting of having one or more computers for everyone in the family, an increasing amount of people are becoming more obsessed with possessing their own personal electronic devices. Let's put it this way: Can you name the last high school kid who doesn't even know what half the parts in their computers do, and yet is now attempting to build their own system? Yeah, I can name quite a few. In general, everyone wants the latest and greatest, especially when it comes to computers. What I have specifically noticed in this area is the competition between people when it comes to processors. Some swear by Core i5s, which becomes surprisingly competitive against LGA 1156 Intel Core i7 processors once overclocked. But when it comes to CPUs, many other factors also come into play. This includes one of the biggest elements -- heat. Overclocking with increased voltage would introduce a large amount of heat, and your stock heatsink isn't necessarily designed to handle all the extra thermal energy. This is why many computer enthusiasts invest in aftermarket CPU cooling. These can range from a small price tag on value oriented units, to more bank-account-demanding high performance units like the Noctua NH-D14. Following up on Arctic Cooling, they claim to have produced a heatsink that is able to cool mid-range to higher end processors at a mere $35 price tag at press time. Compatible with Intel sockets 1366, 1156, and 775, as well as AMD sockets AM3, AM2+, AM2, 939, and 754, what we have here in our labs is the company's latest creation -- the Freezer 13. Being a proud owner of an LGA 1366 Intel Core i7 processor, I feel most excited to get my hands on one of these today for the review. Read on to see if this heatsink is worth your while!

Our Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 came in a fairly small corrugated cardboard box via FedEx International Economy all the way from Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, to our Calgary, Alberta, Canada location in pristine condition. Arctic Cooling has packed in some Styrofoam and lots of plastic bubble wrapping for extra protection. To be honest, I had gotten some amusement out of the bubble wrapping like a little kid before I actually got down to work, haha.

The Freezer 13's retail packaging was simple. A clear plastic box shaped in the form of the CPU cooler surrounds the Freezer 13 itself -- nothing more, nothing less. I would have preferred if Arctic Cooling had given it slightly more protection. After all, it is going inside my computer, and having a broken part would not suffice. Only a very thin piece of cardboard is slipped under and around the back of the Freezer 13, which gives you a brief overview of its performance, specifications, and features, and compatibilities on the left bottom side and the back. Speaking of which, let's take a look at them before moving on:

Intel Socket: 1366, 1156, 775
AMD Socket: AM3, AM2+, 939, 754

Heatsink Dimension (LxWxH): 123x96x130mm
Heatsink Material: 45x Aluminum Fins, 0.5mm thick
Heatpipe: 4x U-shaped Ø 6mm
Fan: 92mm, 600 – 2000 RPM (controlled by PWM)
Air flow: 36.4CFM / 61.8 m3/h
Maximum Cooling Capacity: 200 Watts
Bearing: Fluid dynamic bearing
Weight: 695g
Manufacturer Code: UCACO-FZ130-BL
EAN Code: 872767003781

- Unmatched cooling performance -- 200 Watts
- 4 U-shaped heatpipes and 45 aluminum fins for efficient heat dissipation
- Ultra quiet 92mm PWW fan with low noise impeller
- Easy installation with push pins
- Fluid dynamic bearing extends service life
- Pre-applied Arctic MX-4

At first, I wasn't so sure how to open the box, but after a couple minutes of close examination, I realized that the back had three different bumps which were used to clip the front half and the back half of the package together. You will be greeted with an Ikea-like instruction poster, four push pins and two M3 screws for Intel CPUs, as well as two lugs, two M3 screws, and a mounting plate for AMD CPUs. The image above shows that I have placed the Freezer 13 with pre-applied thermal paste on its base against the surface of my desk. But not to worry, I had placed the mounting plate in between it, so it provides enough space between the bottom of my Freezer 13 and my desk so none of the paste actually touches my desk.

The Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 is one of the more typical looking coolers I have seen around with a rather raw finish -- even though the fins are physically shaped quite uniquely compared to everything else I have used in the past. I have to admit, though, that the little plastic jagged flap from the fan does give it an extra kick in terms of aesthetics (It actually serves a purpose in optimizing airflow from the fan into the gaps between the fins). The Freezer 13 leans more towards function over form design; it is mainly decorated with different shades of black and white. Unlike the Thermaltake Frio reviewed by our Editor-in-Chief back in April this year, the Freezer 13 is equipped with only one 4-pin PWM 92mm fan that runs between 600 to 2000 RPM as controlled by the motherboard, which pushes out the heat from the fins. How did I jump to this conclusion so quickly? The airflow arrows on the top fin indicate the direction of airflow; in our case in this image, to the left. Having the fan on the right side could only mean that it is pushing air through the fins. This is a standard design for tower heatsinks with fans installed perpendicular to the motherboard, and is an efficient design in adhering to standard chassis airflow patterns.

The Freezer 13 measures to 123 (L) x 96 (W) x 130 (H) mm according to Arctic Cooling, and although this heatsink is quite a bit smaller than the Thermaltake Frio, I find that it is still quite large for the amount of heat that it is able to dissipate. This is especially true when compared to the tiny Intel stock heatsink. Taking a closer look, The Freezer 13 incorporates 45 aluminum fins, each at 0.5mm thick. These fins are designed in a very unique symmetrical geometric shape than the usual rectangle or similar trapezoid. I did not actually calculate the exact total surface area of the fins since due to the way it is designed, and doing all the number crunching would mean dividing the fin into smaller shapes without effectively eliminating all other factor of errors. If you are really picky, this would also mean drawing lines all over the fin plus the calculation of the difference in area when comparing a sharp corner versus a rounded off corner. That said, I can give you an estimation of the surface area to be approximately 1.1 square meters according to my calculations. This surface area is much less than, say, the more expensive Thermaltake Frio, but Arctic Cooling rates it at 200W cooling capacity. It is quite interesting to note the Freezer 13 is merely 695g in weight, which is quite light in comparison to most mid-ranged to higher-end coolers due to its aluminum construction. Aluminum has a specific heat capacity of 0.897J/g°c, which is not as optimal for heat transfer as it retains more thermal energy than copper, except the downside to copper is that it is significantly heavier than aluminum.

The Freezer 13 has a relatively flat base, so a good amount of surface area should come into contact with your processor. Four 6mm U-shaped wide diameter heatpipes lead away from the contact base, as shown in the image above. The Freezer 13 incorporates copper heatpipes and a copper base for best transfer of heat, as copper has a specific heat capacity of 0.385J/g°c. The heatsink fins are purely made of aluminum to lighten the overall weight, allowing the construction of larger heatsinks without placing too much stress on the motherboard. The heatpipes are not soldered inside the base, but are rather held in place with some sort of thermal glue, as characterized by the dark gray material around the base-heatpipe interface. The fins themselves are pressed onto the heatpipes for a secure fit. Unfortunately, this type of design means after a number of heating and cooling cycles, due to minute differences in magnitude of expansion and contraption of different parts of the heatsink, your Freezer 13 will inevitably degrade in performance over time.

Although Arctic Cooling claims that installation of the cooler is relatively simple, I personally found it to be quite a hassle. Since I plugged my Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 over an Intel Core i7 processor, I went ahead to stick the four push pins onto the mounting plate that goes into my motherboard. However, there is a catch to this -- you have to use quite a bit of force to get the pins locked in place. Otherwise, when you mount the mounting plate onto the motherboard, the pins would not clip properly. Anyone who has dealt with an Intel stock cooler would understand what I am on about, haha. The next step involves mounting the cooler itself onto the mounting plate you have installed earlier. However, if you want to do that, you must first take the fan off the Freezer 13, because it interferes with one of the screws required to attach the heatsink to the mounting plate. Taking off the fan itself took me a considerable amount of time, since it was so tightly clipped on. On top of that, there were two clips on each side of the fan, thus adding salt to the wound. Once the cooler itself is mounted on the mounting plate (Which is now on your motherboard, as aforementioned), you must clip the fan back on. Once that is done, you are good to go. So let us move onto the testing results.

The Tests

Our test setup is as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i7-930 (Stock settings)
Motherboard: Asus P6T
Graphics: HIS Radeon HD 6870 1GB
Memory: Elpida PC3-8500F 4x2GB
Chassis: Cooler Master HAF 932 (3x Cooler Master 230mm fans)
Power: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1000W
Sound: Integrated (Motherboard)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST 24x DVD-RW
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64

All tests were run on a custom built test platform. The computer remained in the same location for all of the tests, with a room temperature at approximately 21c. Stock thermal paste respective to both coolers were used to rate their individual performances and were given sufficient time to fully settle. Arctic Cooling's Arctic MX-4 was pre-applied to the Freezer 13, and Intel's pre-applied paste was used on the original Intel stock cooler. The fans on all heatsinks were directly connected to the motherboard's 4-pin connector. Our computer was turned on and idling for a minimum of one hour before the idling tests. High CPU load results were obtained using the Prime95 in-place large FFTs test with four worker threads running for a minimum of ten minutes until the temperatures were deemed stable.

I have decided to not compare the Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 against other heatsinks, as I believe that important factors such as its engineering, noise, and performance in relation to idle/load is different for each heatsink, and it is difficult to simulate the exact two scenarios in any given situation. However, we have spent a lot of time, to our fullest ability, to simulate a very similar comparison to ensure accurate temperature measurement when comparing the Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 and Intel's stock cooler.

The readings posted in our graph above were taken from Core Temp to obtain a temperature reading of the processor using data provided by the CPU's Digital Thermal Sensor. The temperature of the highest core was recorded. I have also cross-checked the results with Real Temp to ensure correct temperature readings throughout.

Idle temperatures were pretty decent, with a rise of 18c over ambient configured in my high airflow Cooler Master case configured with triple 230mm fans. That's still a commendable 14c lower than the stock Intel cooler used as our base reference, but the real deal comes down when we put it through the load tests coming up next.

Funny that they brought it up, but Arctic Cooling's website advertises the Freezer 13 as 18.5c lower than the Intel stock cooler on an Intel Core i7-920. Once loaded up, our Intel stock cooler was not entirely capable in keeping the temperatures in check, stabilizing at an unacceptable 81c. The difference recorded in my tests coincided with Arctic Cooling's results with a difference of 18c, with the Freezer 13 keeping it at a relatively safe level of 63c under full load. Not bad at all!

The topic of noise is quite interesting in my opinion. Obviously, having the processor running at idle would mean fan speeds would be on the lower scale, since the fan is PWM controlled. On the flip side, running the processor at load would increase fan speeds drastically. I am quite a picky person when it comes to noise emission from my computer, so on average, on a scale from 0-10, where 0 is silent and 10 is loud, I would rate the Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 fan to be approximately 2.5 during idle and 5/10 under load. I would say that the noise level from the fan is pretty decent, but if Arctic Cooling were to make minor tweaks to the fins in terms of geometry, this would decrease airflow impedance, and thus, reduce noise emissions from the fan, leading to an improvement in overall cooling performance.


All in all, I must say that the Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 is well engineered for the intended market niche. Retailing for around $35 USD at press time, the Freezer 13 is priced competitively for the performance you get. Although it is not really a looker with its rather raw finish, it is definitely not an eyesore -- I found that it is just fine the way it is. After all, you won't be staring at your heatsink all day anyway, haha. Its cooling capability is definitely up to the standard for the price you pay according to our test results. Our graphs shown above gives a good impression on overall performance of the Freezer 13, which is, pretty darn good for $35 MSRP. Unfortunately, it is definitely our concern that, due to the way this heatsink is constructed, it will lose some performance over time when its components lose contact after many heating/cooling cycles. Other things to point out root down to the process of installation. Installing the heatsink onto the mounting plate was quite a hassle, as I found the fan was difficult to unlatch in order to screw the base to the plate -- hopefully you will have better luck than me, haha. Additionally, for Intel users, the push pins must also be tightly secured onto the mounting plate, which I find quite a pain to do, especially when it comes to installing it onto the motherboard. It would have been better if the installation bracket was designed with a more user friendliness in mind (As in, not Intel style); I wouldn't mind having aftermarket backplates. Generally speaking, the Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 is a quite a commendable product for the price, but we would like the company to brush it up on the quality for the long run, as well as optimize the installation process a bit more.

Special thanks to Eason over at Arctic Cooling for making this review possible.

APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
6/10 means A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 6.8/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.

The Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 is a heatsink that delivers commendable performance for the price.

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