In 2022, Intel redesigned their stock CPU coolers to make them beefier, more performant, but primarily better looking. Still, it was a necessary upgrade, as their previous line was not adequate at cooling 12th gen CPUs.
Looking at the images, I noticed a difference between their i5 cooler (on the left) and their i9 cooler (right): the i9 cooler had a blue plastic cowl around the fan, while the i5 had some weird open-air plastic fin design.
I created a cowl out of a piece of paper, taping the ends together to form a cylinder. It took finesse, but I managed to get the paper fitting snugly inside the cooler without the fan hitting it. No glue needed!
In fact, I did more than just that. I actually tested a few cowls of different heights, from under an inch, to over three inches in height. Below are the results of testing using Blender as my benchmark.
|Cowl Height||Max CPU temp||Relative Noise|
|No cowl||80 C||+8 Db|
|1 inch||85 C||+0 Db|
|1.4 inches||82 C||+1 Db|
|1.7 inches||80 C||+2 Db|
|2 inches||80 C||+4 Db|
|3+ inches||80 C||+8 Db|
I was amazed at how quiet short cowls made the cooler. To give you an idea of how each sound, here is the stock noise, sounding like a dental drill:
And here is the 1 inch cowl noise, sounding like a windy day:
The difference could be heard at both full-load and idle.
Unfortunately, the shortest cowl came with noticeably worse performance; presumably it was recirculating too much hot air. Still, there is a happy medium: 1.7 inch cowls cool as well as Intel's design, while being quieter, though your results may vary depending on your case.
If you want a great cooler, just buy one. Intel's offerings will never stack up to aftermarket models (even the cheap $20 ones). But if you're like me and are building a budget PC, you may hear an improvement using this paper mod. The process is quick, free, and low-risk, albeit higher risk than not doing so (and I'm sure Intel wouldn't approve). For that reason, I'll leave it up to you to decide.
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