Duel of SSD coolers: Alphacool HDX M.2 vs. EKWB EK-M.2

Details

With increasing IOPS, SSD cooling demands also increase. This applies even to powerful models (NVMe) for common customers. In most cases, controllers can take a lot, but high temperatures do not add to their performance nor lifespan and they can cause problems even in very quiet computers or in a room with higher air temperature. An additional heatsink can do wonders.

Details

The Alphacool HDX M.2 cooler consists of two almost identical aluminum plates with a smooth surface. The only difference is the length (0.5 mm) of one of them. Rather than a technological intent, it is probably a manufacturing inaccuracy. The shorter part corresponds to the specifications (68.3 mm), the longer one is a bit above the limit.

The weight of these plates is 12 g and the thickness is 1.4 – 2 mm. At the edges of the longer sides, the material is rounded and thicker. This provides a lug for better attachment of clasps. In addition, the contact surface is slightly curved, but the radius is quite small. The sides are two hundredths of a millimeter (at most) higher than the center.

The medium for the heat dissipation are the proven Eisschicht pads. Part of the accessories are three pieces – 2× 0.5 mm + 1× 1 mm. You should use a thicker pad (according to the manual) if you own a SSD that has memory only on one side. This optimizes the pressure.

The pads are precisely adjusted, you do not have to cut anything. You can see how they fit in the image. However, do not use it as a guide for installation, they should be applied to the heatsink first. You should smooth the surface on it, otherwise it may curl.

   

The heatsink is designed to transfer the same amount of heat from both sides. Because of this, you can expect limited compatibility. On some boards, a solid threaded column for a shorter SSD can hinder during assembly. The heatsink is simply too thick. There can be problems with PCI Express adapters too because their slots are also close to the board. As a result, the PCB significantly bends after the screwing.


EKWB has a different opinion, and one of the few things that are similar is that their cooler also consists of two parts. The front side (the one that absorbs the heat from the controller) is rugged. The total thickness of the heatsink is 0.5 cm, the ribs (with 2 mm spacing) have a height of 3 mm, the rest is a substrate.

Compared to Alphacolol, the cooler is almost a centimetre longer. However, some SMDs are poorly covered due to the larger radiator. Those that are below the level of controller and memory and are not in contact with the pad will cumulate the heat, which may not be very positive in the long run. But this is, of course, a solvable problem.

The thermal pads are really long, enough for two fully-fledged applications. Again, a combination of 0.5 + 1mm. Unlike Alphacolol, the manufacturer recommends using the thicker one on a warmer side with the controller. This choice is supported by our tests of thermal pads. At least a wider coverage of the back side of PCB will be possible due to their extra length, but in practice it has almost negligible impact. Perhaps they could be shorter and a bit wider so they would touch the chips with the entire surface (there is a millimeter margin). But this is also a detail that probably would not improve cooling efficiency that much.

     

The other part of the heatsink is relatively thin (1.1 mm), which is good because there are no collisions. Basically, it is a backplate whose main function is to hold the ribbed heatsink with clasps. Here we have to praise a particularly comfortable assembly. On one side you pin down a clasp to a rib, set it to fit into the cut of the rear plate, and then pin it down again on the other side of the heatsink. Just notice the small difference in hooks before the assembly, the one for tightening the grip has a different shape. To do it the other way around is very challenging.

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