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Ladies and gentlemen, we have been waiting for such a product for a long time, as we were since the mITX trend was on the rise. Items like the SFX high wattage PSUs, SFF cases are on high demand. For years the only true (very) low profile CPU cooler was the Noctua L9(i/a) because of its tiny footprint, at just 37mm tall and cooled with a 92mm fan.

Then another option came, Cryorig’s C7 which was a bit tall at 47mm but this number of 47 is critical since is exactly what the popular DAN A4-SFX case accepts in maximum clearance for the CPU heatsink. This is important because this Black Ridge cooler is made in collaboration with DAN CASES to offer the best performance and versatility possible for this chassis. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t use it in other builds but promises to be the best air cooling solution out there for this DAN A4 case.

First about Alpenföhn:

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Alpenföhn is a company which manufacturers cooling components for IT systems, which started its activity in 2008. The Alpenföhn line includes CPU coolers, fans and accessories which include: thermal compound, storage cooling systems and fan mounting systems.
The Alpenföhn brand was created by the company EKL AG, founded in 1995, it is a company specialized in manufacturing industrial cooling solutions.

 

Prices and Availability

 

At the moment it retails in Europe for:

* £39.95 on Overclockers.co.uk
* €42.90 on Caseking.de

 
*12/11/2019 – Check out the video review as well !

 

Presentation and Specification

 

* Courtesy of their website

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ALPENFOHN BLACK RIDGE LOW PROFILE CPU COOLER – 120MM

New from the premier fan and cooling accessories manufacturer Alpenföhn. The Black Ridge CPU cooler is the perfect complement to small form factor (SFF) cases such as the recently refreshed DAN case. In fact, the Alpenföhn Black Ridge was made in association with Daniel Hansen, the designer of the famed DAN case. The decision to mount the fan below the heat sink has freed up significant space, yet without any compromise in cooling performance.

THE FEATURES OF THE ALPENFÖHN BLACK RIDGE AT A GLANCE:

* Optimal cooling design with fan mounted to bottom of heatsink
* Exceptionally quiet 92 mm PWM fan included
* 6 x 6 mm copper heatpipes
* Slim heat sink with aluminium fins for additional cooling
* Compatible with most current AMD and Intel CPUs

A PREMIUM HEATSINK MADE FROM HIGH QUALITY MATERIALS

The Alpenföhn Black Ridge features a total of six copper heatpipes. Each are six millimeters thick and designed to transfer heat away from the copper baseplate. The heat is then dissipated across the heatsink’s aluminium fins. These fins have a large surface area which aids in the cooling of your CPU.

The other benefit of this design is that RAM modules of up to 33 mm in height will not impede the cooler. Additionally if VLP-RAM (Very Low Profile) is used a 120 mm fan can be mounted to the cooler rather than the standard 92mm fan.

The Black Ridge’s bundled 92 mm fan is capable of providing exceptionally cooling relative to its size. Spinning at up to 2800 RPM, it achieves an airflow of more than 80 m³h. This is more than enough to meet the performance needs of a 95 Watt TDP CPU and all the while generating a mere 37.6 dB(A).

The Alpenföhn Black Ridge is compatible with all current Intel and AMD sockets and it creates a lasting impression of uncompromising quality with a sleek black colour.

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Considering its size, this thing packs a lot of specs for a low profile top down heatsink. For starters not even most tower coolers can take pride in stating that they have 6 heatpipes. Then the versatility is impressive; you can mount up to two different size fans (slim 92mm and a 120mm also slim or regular depending on your case). It gets shipped with a slim 92 mm fan and thus the overall cooler is rated for up to 95W of TDP. This will go up once you install a 120mm slim fan instead of the 92mm one at the cost of having VLP ram. These pictures will tell the whole story.

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Mind you this level of compactness will also demand a little advance thinking in choosing your ITX motherboard because some will have the socket centered differently and the Black Ridge might interfere with either the motherboard’s VRM heatsinks, (or as you will see in our ASUS B450i STRIX board, the M.2 heatsink). Still, all of these have a workaround and 95% of the time you will be fine.

 

Visual Inspection

 

The front of the box makes it crystal clear what’s the model of the heatsink, in big capital letters and how it looks like.

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One of the sides informs us of the heatsink’s dimensions.

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Here we have the specs for the included fan.

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The joint collaboration of both companies is also mentioned on the box.

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Inside we are greeted with a nice display of the main parts.

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This is all of the included accessories.

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2x AMD brackets
2x INTEL brackets
1x Thermal paste syringe
4x Securing screws for the brackets
4x Heatsink bolts
2x Smaller metal clips for 120mm slim fans
2x Bigger metal clips for standard 120mm fans
1x Booklet with the installation process
1x 92mm slim fan (pre-attached to the heatsink)

Here is the Black Ridge. As the name suggests, it’s an all black heatsink, that looks gorgeous.

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It uses aluminum for the fins and copper for the base plate. From this angle you can see that the mounting bracket for the 92mm slim fans is off-centered because that remaining gap is to make sure that the heatsink clears the memory modules. The maximum limit for RAM is 33mm in height with a 92mm fan or 19mm if a slim 120mm fan is used.

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The base plate doesn’t have a mirror finish but it is nickel plated.

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The included fan caries an Alpenföhn sticker with the manufacture date and if you zoom in you will notice that the fan is made by EKL AG.

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Here is a size comparison against the Noctua L9a. Worth pointing out that the L9a has a longer heatsink than its Intel brother, the l9i, which has the heatsink flush with the 92mm fan. But both are 37mm tall and the Black Ridge is 10mm bigger.

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Next chapter please.

 

Installation

 

The whole process is very simple and quick since for both AMD and Intel it’s the same procedure. Our testing rig is based on the AM4 socket. So first step for us is the remove the stock brackets. Then, as we mentioned before, some motherboard will require extra attention. In out case, for the ASUS STRIX B450i we need to remove the M.2 heatsink since it will block the slim 92 mm fan and you can’t secure the Black Ridge.

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Not to worry since you can still use that M.2 slot.

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Our testing will be carried out with as many fan options and variation as possible for the DAN A4-SFX V4 case, so if you are wodnering why there is a Noctua fan installed.

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OK, back to the installation, the second step is to secure the side brackets and to peel off the protection sticker.

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The final step is to apply the thermal paste and screw in the securing bolts. So, here is the final look. As you will see, it fits perfectly like a glove!

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Don’t forget that this goes into the DAN A4 SFX case which uses a PCI-E riser extension card so despite the fact that the heatsink is covering the PCI-E slot and it looks like it blocks it completely, you can still use it.

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Like a glove !

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* We will update the review once the VLP memory kit arrives, so we can test the most interesting fan setup for the DAN A4 case !

Still some delays with the VLP kit but managed to find one stick so we can complete the tests. Anyway, a VLP ram stick is just ridiculously small when compared even to a low profile regular kit.

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The 92 mm fans are secured by bolts but for the 120 mm you need to use the included clips, depending on thickens of the fan.

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I can’t believe that everything fits perfectly ! There is no room for error, not even 1 mm in some angles.

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At first glance the PCI-E riser card will not fit if you plan use this setup in the DAN A4-SFX case. The trick is to not secure the 120 mm slim fan with clips and just slide it in after you mount everything inside the case and it will stay in place just from the pressure of being ‘sandwiched’ by the heatsink and the riser itself. Some fiddling is requiered but it will work.

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Finally, let’s test everything !

 

Testing methodology

 

The AMD Ryzen 7 1700 8c/16t CPU will be tested in 2 main scenarios: at stock settings and then we will overclock it for 3.7 GHz for 1.25v. For both scenarios we used the built-in system stability and stress test from AIDA64 and followed by some CPU benchmarks. Any results over 90° C in any condition are considered a fail.

Ambient room temperature was a recorded at 20 °C.

Thermal paste used is Noctua’s NT-H1.

Given the Black Ridge’s versatility when it comes to fan options, we will compare the results of the included stock 92mm fan with the Noctua L9a cooler, then swap the stock Alpenföhn fan for the Noctua 92mm and then compare everything against the Asetek 92mm AIO.

The cherry on top will be when we install a 120 mm Noctua slim fan to unlock the maximum cooling potential in a single fan configuration for the DAN A4 SFX case. In order to achieve this when we must use very low profile RAM as seen in the previous pictures.

All of the fans are set on ‘intake’ mode aka they will be orientated to draw air outside of the case and push it downwards to the motherboard. We will flip the fan as it comes pre-attached to see the difference, if any, in temperatures. Also for all scenarios there the side panel will be closed and there will be an extra case fan (Noctua 92mm slim NF-A9x14) set also as an intake.

For the noise test the fans will be set on the auto % rpm curve. Then placed at 30 cm from the setup was our Pyle PSPL01 noise meter. For the synthetic tests, a GPU with fanless mode is used and we will turn of any case fans to reduce any extra interferences.

 

Hardware used:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1700 AM4 – 8c/16t @ 65W TDP
Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX B450-i Gaming mITX
RAM: 16GB DDR4 Team Group Vulcan Z 3200 MHz
VLP RAM: 16GB Crucial DDR4 2666 MHz
Boot SSD: Samsung M.2 970 PRO 2TB TLC
Video card(s): ASUS STRIX GTX 1060 6G
PSU: Corsair SF600 SFX Gold
Case: Dan A4-SFX V4
Case fan: Noctua NF-A9x14 PWM
Extra 120 mm slim fan: Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM

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Competition Cooler(s)

Noctua L9a@ 92mm

Software:

OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 Build 1903
GPU Drivers: NVIDIA GeForce WHQL 441.08
Core Temp v1.13 R6 - To see the temperatures in real time
CPU-Z v1.88 - To verify the CPU’s statistics
AIDA64 Extreme v5.99 - Another popular total system stability test
Cinebench R15 - Popular CPU benckmark
Cinebench R20 - The new revised version optimized for the newer multi-core CPUs
MSI Afterburner v4.61 - To record the FPS and load/temperatures

Resolution for our test game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, is set at 1920×1080 with everything cranked to the maximum quality settings and the refresh rate is locked at 75 Hz.

 

Testing, Results & Analysis

 

Let’s start in order of CPU load difficulty. First up is Cinebench R15. We get mixed results from fan to fan. The stock Black Ridge fan is on par with the Noctua 92 slim one in the OC scenario since it spins faster than the Noctua but of course at a greater noise penalty as you will soon see. Apparently the ‘intake’ setup for the 120 slim is the best scenario.

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Then Cinebench R20 is a more modern up to date multi core benchmark suite. So naturally we will see a bigger load and thus a larger temperature figure than R15. Surprisingly the R20 test places the ‘exhaust’ 120 mm as the worst performing one while the ‘intake’, again, takes the crown.

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In AIDA64 we isolated the stress test just for the CPU and thus we get these a theoretical max temperature scenario. Basically we have the same pattern as seen in the previous R20 session.

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Gaming wise, there is nothing to worry about temperatures, at least in this title which can use all of the 16 threads. Again, the 120 slim as an exahust is under-performing.

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The noise tests show us the complete picture. Apparently it’s very hard to beat the noise and footprint combo from the Noctua L9a so it takes second place as the overall most quietest solution. Curiously, all of the 92mm fans set on ‘intake’ produce the most noise while the ‘exhaust ones are quieter. The stock, because it spins the fastest out of everything here, naturally makes the most noise output – basically jet engine material. The exception comes from the 120 mm slim Noctua fan, which placed as an ‘intake’, becomes a clear winner.

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So, any fan placed as an intake will produce the best cooling results wise but will make more overall noise. Vice-versa with the exhaust ones, with the exception that the 120 mm fails so dramatically. The stock 92 mm fan is good enough to get the job done but most likely you are better off if you upgrade to the 92 mm Noctua one (0.21A). To get the most out of this cooler at 47mm, you need the slim 120 mm Noctua fan (or any other alternative) which will give you the best results in an intake orientation from any point of view.

 

Conclusion

 

This is a great example when a product comes to life from the collaboration of two companies to offer a great cooler for such a niche market. Make no mistake, this is not intend just for the DAN A4-SFX case, but for almost any SFF build. Given it’s amazing versatility, I mean you can even install 2 fans at the same time (1x 120 slim underneath and 1x regular 120 above if the case accepts it) and you get yourself something that has no match in this footprint. Thus it has a great design, it is really easy to install, and it has 6 heatpipes which is amazing for something this small. You may experience some hiccups with some motherboards but as long as you do your due diligence you shouldn’t have any big incompatibility. To conclude, this is the cooler to get if you want something more powerful than the Noctua L9a!

The good:

+ Excellent build quality
+ 6 heatpipes
+ Very easy to install
+ Highly versatility given in how many variations it can be used
+ So far the best air cooling solution for the DAN A4-SFX that we have ever tested if used with the 120 mm slim fan

The bad:

– Stock fan is mediocre at best and loud
– Poses some challenges when it comes to clearing certain motherboards.
– Requires VLP ram and an aftermarket slim 120 mm fan to unlock the true potential of the cooler if used in a case like the DAN A4-SFX

Glob3trotters “Must Have!” Award – 4.5 out of 5

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Many thanks to Alpenföhn for supplying us with this amazing cooler !

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