We want to find out, whether a low profile CPU cooler can handle the heat of an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X CPU. Newer and more powerful processors generate a lot of heat and need correspondingly large CPU coolers. However, if you want to use a small case design (mATX), it is a challenge to cool the CPU with coolers with a low profile, such as the Noctua NH-L12S.

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Specs

Ryzen (/ˈraɪzən/RY-zən) is a brand of x86-64microprocessors designed and marketed by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) for desktop, mobile, server, and embedded platforms based on the Zenmicroarchitecture. It consists of central processing units (CPUs) marketed for mainstream, enthusiast, server, and workstation segments and accelerated processing units (APUs) marketed for mainstream and entry-level segments and embedded systems applications.

The CPU has the following specifications, where the values for base clock and TDP (Thermal Design Power) are first important for selecting the right low profile cooler.

# of CPU Cores8
Max Boost ClockUp to 4.4GHz
Total L3 Cache32MB
of Threads16
Base Clock3.6GHz
Default TDP65W
Max Temps95°C
Launch Date7/7/2019

Thermal Design Power TDP – The attempt to classify the power consumption

The TDP was introduced to be able to plan the thermal dimensioning of a system in advance. To determine the TDP, load cases are used that occur at typical maximum load in real use, for x86 processors, for example, when encoding videos or operating at maximum core voltage with maximum permissible core temperature.

Manufacturers define the TDP differently. It often corresponds to the maximum possible power loss, so the cooling has to be designed for the corresponding waste heat. The manufacturers do not use standardized methods to calculate it, which can also change at the manufacturer.

Although the TDP is an important property of a component, it only indicates the maximum expected heat to be emitted and is therefore not suitable for determining the typical power consumption of a processor, or even of an entire system at idle or under a certain load.

In new processors that support the automatic self overclocking functions AMD Turbo Core or Intel Turbo Boost, individual, unused cores can be downclocked and switched off so that their share of the TDP is available to another core and it can thus achieve a higher clock frequency, which offers a decisive advantage in single-threaded applications. If the processor’s internal regulation still detects reserves in the current power consumption and thermal budget, the processor can also dynamically overclock all cores and thus get closer to the TDP. This possible overclocking of all cores is sometimes specified as the maximum Turbo frequency in data sheets.

The dynamic duo: Chieftec FN-03B mATX and Noctua NH-L12S low profile CPU cooler

The Chieftec FN-03B* is a case with a very compact design. Therefore, only CPU coolers that do not exceed a height of 70mm can be installed. We decided to buy the NH-L12S from Noctua*. What we liked very much was the compatibility list that Noctua provides. There you can find out whether the respective cooler is suitable for the CPU, motherboard and case.

Noctua compatibility database

According to Noctua’s recommendations, we also installed a case cooler in the Chieftec case, which brings the waste heat to the outside.

The heatsink dominates the view.

The stress test

We fully loaded the system with the Cinebench benchmark program to be able to assess the cooling performance.

Using Cinebench to fully load the CPU for 10 minutes

Conclusion for a low-profile system with AMD Ryzen 7 3700X

The Noctua manages to keep the temperature of the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X* in the mid 70 degree Celsius range even after 10 minutes of full load at around 3.9 GHz. The power consumption is almost 88 watts during this time.
Noise remains acceptable on systems running in idle mode or moderate CPU usage (such as office applications etc), although it cannot keep up with AMD’s stock cooler (which does have a much taller profile). Here, the Noctua NH-L12S low-profile cooler reaches its physical limits due to the smaller heatsink. So, if you want to have a very quiet system with such a powerful Ryzen 7 CPU, you will probably have to say goodbye to the low-profile design altogether.

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