Raspberry Pi 4 ICE Tower CPU Cooling Fan Tested

Orange Pi Development Boards

Most of us know the Raspberry Pi 4 can get pretty hot, and a heatsink is required if you intend to get the maximum performance out of your board under heavy loads and/or high ambient room temperature.

Some even designed a large fansink for Raspberry Pi 4 to prevent the board from throttling. It’s actually a bit over the top, but Seeed Studio sent me a sample of their “ICE Tower CPU cooling fan”, so I’ve had the chance to test it.

ICE Tower Cooling Fan Unboxing & Assembly with Raspberry Pi 4

The package tells us it’s made by 52Pi and design specifically for Raspberry Pi 4B/3B+/3B SBC’s. It’s probably not that useful for the last two.

S2PI ICE Tower CPU Cooling FanThe package contains the heatsink with fan attached, screw sets, a screwdrivers, mounting brackets for Raspberry Pi 3/3B+ and  RPi 4, as well as a useful user manual.

Raspberry Pi 4 ICE Tower-Cooling Fan Content
Click to Enlarge

Raspberry Pi 3 and 4 are almost the same mechanically, so I wonder what may be the differences between the two backets.

Raspberry Pi 4 vs Pi 3 Brackets

There are just some small differences in terms of thickness due to different positions of headers on the new board.

.Raspberry Pi 4 CPU Heatsink
We’ll have plenty of photos of the sides and top of the heatsink latter on, but here’s a shot that shows the side that will be in contact with the processor through a thermal pad.

Click to Enlarge

Let’s start the assembly. We’ll be asked to place the thermal pad on top of the processor (after having peel the protective films), and install the first bracket with an M2 screw as shown above.

ICE Tower Assembly Spacers
Click to Enlarge

We can then install the second bracket, as well as the four spacers secured with nuts.

Raspberry Pi 4 Fansink Assembly
Click to Enlarge

The next step is to place the ICE tower CPU cooling fan on the board with the fan facing the micro HDMI ports, and tighten everything with M2.5 screws.  Note that you may have two M2 screws left over, so if if somehow you find out you can’t tighten the heatsink… have a second look in the zip bag looking for M2.5 screws.

Raspberry Pi Fan WiringThe final step is to connect the fan to the 5V and GND pins on Raspberry Pi header, and we’re good to go.

Temperature Tests

Time to connect the power, and oh…. pretty blue LEDs are included in the fan 🙂

Raspberry Pi 4 ICE Tower CPU Cooling Fan Review
Click to Enlarge

You may remember I installed a new VLI firmware (PCIe USB controller firmware) that lowers temperature of the board, but sadly messes up with USB performance and stability, so I revert to the old firmware before the tests. I also enabled ZRAM on the board to avoid using swap.

Heatsink and Fan

I’ve run SBC Bench benchmark as I did previously.


Raspberry Pi 4 ICE Tower-Cooling Fan Temperature
Click to Enlarge

7-zip ran out of memory during testing, but we still get our data. With the heatsink the Raspberry Pi 4 will idle at around 37°C, and tops at 46.2°C when all four cores are used (7-zip multi-threaded compression/decompression). Note: room temperature was 27-28°C

Compare this to running the same benchmark without any heatsink at all, although at 28°C room temperature.

Raspberry Pi 4 SBC Bench Temperature
Click to Enlarge

The board would idle at around 65°C going up to well above 80°C, and frequently throttling, as Broadcom BCM2711 processor will throttle if the temperature reaches 85°C.

So the fansink clearly does the job, but I hear some say they did not buy a Raspberry Pi 4 to install a noisy fan on top, and it also increases power consumption (by 0.4W).

Heatsink only

No problem.. We can disconnect the wires, and even completely remove the fan since it’s simply fastened with four screws.. We’ll lose the pretty LED light, but gain silence.

Raspberry Pi 4 Huge Heatsink
Click to Enlarge

Let’s repeat the test… [Update: This section has been updated, as the first time I did not wait long enough for the idle temperature to stabilize]


Raspberry Pi 4 ICE Tower Heatsink-Temperature Chart
Click to Enlarge

Temperature is higher, but still fairly cool with idle at ~42°C 52°C and the maximum being 61.2 around 63°C.

Conclusion

That means the heatsink itself is more than sufficient, and for most people use cases it’s even too big as a much smaller heatsink should be enough. The fansink can still have its use if you’re going to run the board in very high ambient temperature (60°C and up), but I don’t have an oven to test that part… Laughs and giggles is another proper use case for the ICE tower…

Seeed Studio sells the ICE Tower CPU cooling fan kit reviewed above for $20 plus shipping.

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CosminJean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft)willym][skodgp Recent comment authors
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Xtract
Guest
Xtract

Well, that heatsink design is not meant for passive cooling (see the latest odroids for that). In order to test it properly, you should leave it running at TDP until the temperature of the heatsink/SoC stabilizes.

BTW, what an awkward thing to have on your desktop.

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

> Temperature is higher, but still idle at ~42°C with the maximum being 61.2°C

According to detailed sbc-bench output you started the benchmark at around 10:41:25 and here the thermal graph was already at above 48°C so I would assume idle temperatures without fan will be more in the +50°C range given that the board’s ground plane acts as a huge heatsink itself and it takes a few minutes for the whole board heating up to ‘idle level’.

BTW: How thick is the thermal pad that came with the set?

Gavin
Guest
Gavin

Can fan be run at +3.3V, how is noise.

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

According to ‘jamesh’ from RPi Trading Ltd. setting ‘hdmi_enable_4k=0’ might also reduce temperatures a bit.

blu
Guest
blu

While in a different (Foundation unsanctioned) universe an odroid does 4K @ 60fps GLES without exceeding 55C with passive cooling and ambs of 26C. Oh well.

Antonym
Guest
Antonym

‘jamesh’ the bouncer on the User Forums is the only person on this planet who doesn’t have overheating problems with a Pi4B as he runs headless with mini load in an AC room: quite a “typical user”.

dgp
Guest
dgp

>‘jamesh’ the bouncer on the User Forums

Not just there. He seems to spend all of his day on various sites looking for any bad press about the pi so he can shut it down. He threatened to sue me once when I questioned the quality of his opinions considering who’s paying his bills.

zoobab
Guest

Fuck Raspberry Pi. The first thing you boot is a Microsoft binary blob, which controls the CPU throttling/temperature. Welcome to the wonderful world of binary blobs.

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

> The first thing you boot is a Microsoft binary blob

There’s a lot to be concerned of wrt the proprietary nature of every RPi but this is simply not true. Microsoft just recently aquired Express Logic, the company behind ThreadX. But those Raspberries still run a very old and outdated ThreadX version BroadCom licensed ages ago.

dgp
Guest
dgp

Early 2000s microsoft hate is alive and well. Better not use Linux anymore because they are up there on the list of contributors recently.

Antonym
Guest
Antonym

Lipstick on a pig?
The RPi company has to come out with a much Cooler Pi4C and stop acting as if all is well. They shouldn’t even sell the present model without a heat sink on it: as they make good money it can come from the profits to keep their $35 magic.

m][sko
Guest
m][sko

this looks nice I think
http://raspberrypiwiki.com/index.php/Armor_Case
there is version for Pi 4 already on ebay
And maybe Pi4 don’t need bottom play as here isn’t ram on that side

Cosmin
Guest
Cosmin

I have this case and it really lowers the temperature, I always about 50*C while in usage and 40something in idle. I use it as a pi-hole WIFI hotspot.
But the fans are really noisy so I separated the 2 pin connector and connected them differently.
Another downside is that is covering the WIFI chip and I’m not having enough coverage in the house.

dgp
Guest
dgp

/me is waiting for Jerry to come and blow all your nasty comments away with a sick burn

megous
Guest
megous

Also worth a try is just using a fan alone without a heatsink. (12cm one placed along the side of the board)

Just to compare how much the expensive heatsink with heatpipes even matters. The chip is already thermally connected to the board, and you should be able to cool it significantly just by moving the air. And undervolted 12V/12cm fan will have the same awkwardness factor and be more silent than that small fan.

willy
Guest
willy

a fan without exchange points is almost useless. Even the varnish on the board does a good thermal insulation, so in practice the air flow will mostly act on solder joints and components. Better add a very small 4cm*4cm heatsink for $0.50 and have a much slower and quieter fan.

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

> a fan without exchange points is almost useless

While I agree in general I tried weeks ago exactly what @megi suggested and it worked pretty well since the RPi 4 efficiently uses the PCB’s ground plane to dissipate the heat away from the SoC. A laterally blowing 90mm fan with the PCB on some spacers worked pretty well. I might repeat the test and post a thermal graph as above once I find my RPi 4 again.

megous
Guest
megous

I asked, because I had a similar experience with Orange Pi 3. Under full load, the board would throttle at 75°C without a heatsink. With 12cm fan undervolted to 7V, it would not throttle even if CPU is slightly overvolted and clocked to the max (1.8GHz) and it would keep the temp around 65°C max. And on that board, the SoC is not even using a heatspreader.

Btw, I also have spacers on the bottom, so that air can blow above and below.

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

A regular poster on YouTube had the Pi 4 in official red and white case, no heatsink, reach 90°c under testing. Also there several cooling solutions with case on Aliexpress already. If of help.

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk
xtract
Guest
xtract

Sellers went pretty fast to manufacture some heatsinks, this one looks better design than the rp4 itself:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/33060867969.html

I guess they must have seen a market for them?

blu
Guest
blu

I saw them earlier and my exact thoughts were how thoughtful the design was.

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

Videos on YouTube have shown designs with less heatsink and fan are better

xtract
Guest
xtract

Yes, of course, no doubt about it, if we are talking cooling performance. If we are talking noise or reliability, a passive heatsink is better (as loong as it keeps junction temperature below limits, it is).

Peter
Guest
Peter

There is no way I’m going to buy this rpi in its current format.

zoobab
Guest

If you wanted a slim package, that’s a miss.

willy
Guest
willy

I did, for a test. Never even tried to boot it, as I only discovered later that they still don’t have a 64-bit kernel ready, all they ship is a recycled pitiful 32-bit image… For an A72! They entirely rely on the community to do all their job. It’s not even laughable anymore at this point. This board in its current form and with current software makes strictly no sense.

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

The great sakaki is maybe the best source for 64-bit efforts around RPi 4: https://github.com/sakaki-/bcm2711-kernel-bis — IIRC she also provides a complete Gentoo 64-bit image for RPi 4.

blu
Guest
blu

Alas, the 1GB limit rears its ugly head /crosses fingers for sakaki’s victory over the monster

m][sko
Guest
m][sko

btw anybody did try to remove that broadcom metal soc cover?
As it should be much better to get heat directly from silicon.

video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LtL9e7JqxE
but no benchmarks 🙁

willy
Guest
willy

This happened to me by accident when removing a heatsink from a MiQi board (RK3288). There the chip was 100% flat plastic under the metal lid, it would allow to better place a heatsink. But I couldn’t run tests though as during the accident two RAM chips died.

zoobab
Guest

In the early days of WiFi, guys in spain were putting the PC motherboards in olive oil to cool it down.

Mineral oil cooling here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2FPcB_uryc

ben
Guest
ben

I’ve got an FPGA sitting right next to its JTAG programming header that makes using a large heatsink impossible! Anyone know of some kind solid aluminium/copper block that can mount to the chip (20mm x 20mm) that can provide just enough height spacing (10mm) to then attach a heatsink/fan?

willy
Guest
willy

No but you can emulate that using two 2cm heat sinks fitted into each other with thermal silicon glue between the two. The contact surface will still be very high between them and you’ll have your centimeter-high 2cm-wide aluminum block on top of which you can install a larger heat sink and fan. Yeah I know, that’s totally ugly 🙂

Member

The next thing we’re going to see is liquid cooling setups. (Seriously…someone did it with a Pi 2 of all things… X-D)

David Willmore
Guest
David Willmore

As an American, I almost feel obligated to say “Hold my beer.”

Theguyuk
Guest
Theguyuk

Look on YouTube liquid cooling of pi 4 already done.

Member

I ordered one a couple weeks ago…mostly for the “laughs and giggles”.
Also ordered a Pimoroni fan SHIM, which looks more sensible.

m][sko
Guest
m][sko

btw raspberry pi 4 is overclockable to 2GHz without problem
like this (force_trubo=0 is important)
force_turbo=0
arm_freq=2000
over_voltage=6

2GHz is firmware limit(with latest firmware ) use rpi-update to get latest
1,75GHz is limit on firmware from raspbian

I did benchmarks with x264 encoding

willy
Guest
willy

provided enough cooling, 4xA72 at 2GHz would be really great. That’s what I have in the mcbin and it really rocks.