- Review Price: £16.00
Your PC’s fan and heatsink may not be the most exciting components in the system but they are, and pun fully intended, the coolest. Without them your CPU would melt in a matter of minutes. While standard coolers do their job adequately, they tend to be very noisy and don’t provide any headroom for those interested in overclocking.
Cooler Master is a familiar name for the overclocking faithful, producing a range of fans, heatsinks and cases that cater for PC enthusiasts. The Aero 7 Lite is a heatsink and fan combination designed specifically for use with AMD Athlon processors, right up to the top-of-the-line 3200+. A variant called the Aero 4 is available for Intel CPUs and there’s also a slightly more expensive version that uses a copper heatsink, which is supposed to dissipate heat even more effectively than the aluminium one used by the Aero 7 Lite.
The Aero fan is unique both in looks and construction. Most fans have a radial design, which actually prevents air from getting to the spot directly under the centre – which is in fact, the hottest part of the heatsink. Conversely, the Aero is designed to counter this ‘blind-spot’ effect by blowing air directly into this area.
The heatsink measures 80mm along its width and length. Its generous proportions assist cooling as a larger surface area improves heat dissipation. With the fan on top, the cooler totals 80mm in height, so you’ll need a decent sized case to make use of it.
The Aero can spin at a variable rate from 1,900 to 3,500 rpm and is manually adjustable by means of a fan controller dial. Thoughtfully, Cooler Master has included mounting brackets so that this can be fitted into a front mounted 3.5in slot or into a PCI slot bracket. However, my 3-year old Evesham tower didn’t have the clips in the spare 3.5in bay to attach the mount. I improvised and effectively wedged it in front of a second hard disk. While this was a bit unorthodox I preferred it to having to reach round the back of my PC every time I wanted to adjust the fan speed.
Installation of the cooler itself proved fairly tricky and there are no instructions in the box. There are some on the Cooler Master website, but they aren’t very clear. To fix the fan to the motherboard requires attaching the side clips to the CPU housing with a flatbed screwdriver. You must be careful when doing this as if your screwdriver slips and digs into your motherboard you could cause serious damage. The Aero 7’s size means that you’ll very likely have little room to manoeuvre unless you have a very large case. In my system, the cooler was close up against the power supply and some capacitors and I feared I wouldn’t be able to fit, but I got there in the end. If you are able to attach the cooler before you place the motherboard in your case, you’ll make things much easier for yourself. You should also get hold of some good thermal paste to marry the heatsink to the CPU, such as Arctic Silver 3.
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While the Cooler Master web page for the Aero 7 Lite sports logos for ‘silent’ and ‘speed’, this is slightly misleading. At the lowest speed, which I recorded as 1,815 rpm, the fan is virtually silent. However, at the full speed of 3,668rpm, its sounds like a Hoover, and not surprisingly is overbearingly intrusive.
To see how the cooler performed, I aggressively overclocked my AMD Athlon XP 2500+ from a default of 1.833GHz to 2.279GHz, a faster clock than a Athlon XP 3200+. To test I played the game Splinter Cell, with the fan running on the lowest speed setting. Unfortunately, after around an hour the PC locked up and a look in the BIOS revealed that the CPU had reached 50 degrees. Trying again, I increased the fan speed to just over 3000rpm, providing a good balance between speed and noise. After another hours’ gameplay, the temperature remained hovering at a safe 45 degrees and there were no further lock ups. Gaming session over, I turned the fan up to full speed, which lowered the CPU to down to a chilly 33 degrees in around 10 minutes.
Despite its installation difficulties and the noise at top speed I was impressed by the Aero 7 Lite overall. Its good looks are only relevant if you have a transparent side panel on your PC, but that aside it’s an innovatively designed and effective cooler. I would have preferred having the top speed available without generating so much of a racket but that said you can find a happy medium and effectively overclock your system for a reasonable price tag.
An eye catching Athlon XP cooler with a front mountable speed controller. It’s tricky to fit and far too noisy at top speed but it will enable you to keep your CPU cool and quiet.