AMD’s Wraith Cooler: A Review

UPDATED: Bigger, cooler, and with LEDs…

AMD Wraith Cooler2 (1 of 7)

Today we’re testing out AMD’s new Wraith cooler. This sample came bundled with a retail version of AMD’s FX-8370 CPU that AMD sent to us. At first glance the Wraith looks like a chunkier version of AMD’s old 125 Watt cooler. To a degree that’s true, eagle-eyed readers will note that all of AMD’s recently upgraded stock coolers have the same basic heatsink design as the models they replace, but they have significantly quieter and often larger fans.

This is the long way of saying that there wasn’t anything show-stoppingly wrong with AMD’s older stock cooling solutions. Rather they were just paired with the cheapest fans some ODM could manufacture. But as custom PC cases and fans have worked towards offering silent or near silent cooling the last few years AMD didn’t real seem to be paying attention. Even the fan on Intel’s fist-size stock cooler managed to be less annoying than AMD’s 95 and 125 Watt stock coolers.

AMD Wraith Cooler2 (5 of 7)

But with AMD’s new Wraith cooler and its derivatives the company is turning a new page similar to the one it turned when it began offering its chips with a bundled closed loop water-cooling solution. Wraith is a step towards demonstrating that AMD understands what desktop PC builders want. The don’t want stock cooling solutions that they have to immediately replace. They want a cooling solution that can keep their system stable under load conditions with a fan that isn’t intrusive.

AMD’s Wraith meets both of those criteria.

AMD Wraith Cooler2 (3 of 7)

That said there’s still plenty of room for AMD to improve on its Wraith. The fan could be quieter. In a silent room like the office of a hardware reviewer with an open air or in my case milk crate test bench the Wraith is audible. Up close it emits a soft low-frequency rattle which I believe is coming from the fan’s bearing. Additionally, AMD’s heatsink is still using a solid copper base plate for connecting with the top of the CPU’s heat spreader rather than a direct heat pipe contact solution like most aftermarket coolers have implemented.

AMD Wraith Cooler2 (4 of 7)

On the other hand, a car driving by outside my window or some light music or the sound of a GPU spinning up for another benchmark run will immediately overwhelm the noise output of the Wraith rendering it essentially invisible to my ear. It is significantly quieter than AMD’s prior stock cooler which was audible at idle and borderline annoying under load.

AMD’s Wraith cooler also looks nicer than the old stock cooler. Inside of a windowed PC case it looks like a big black fan in the middle of a motherboard. It’s understated and unobtrusive in that way. It doesn’t look like a gaudy aftermarket tower cooler because it isn’t one. One of Charlie’s concerns was that the white LED lit AMD logo on the side of the Wraith would be annoying in dark rooms like power supply’s or case fans that implement the same feature.

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But the AMD logo is back-lit by the LEDs and formed from a pattern of tightly gridded one by one plastic cells. The effect of which is that unless you look at the AMD logo head on it appears rather poorly illuminated. This is good because it keeps the Wraith’s LEDs from spilling light everywhere and keeps the lighting from being meaningfully annoying. Thus Charlie and everyone else can rest easy know that the Wraith’s LEDs won’t keep them up at night.

Our direct testing of the Wraith cooler under load and idle condition revealed some interesting characteristics of its performance. Especially when you compare it to a midrange aftermarket cooler like the Arctic A30 that we reviewed earlier this week.

AMD Wraith Performance Table

UPDATE 2/20/2016 @ 8:49 PM PST: An eagle eyed reader who moonlights as a chemical engineer and who’s day job is finding ways to pay for a subscription to S|A has pointed out that comparing temperatures in degrees Celsius is misleading because of the zero point of that scale and considered bad practice by people who genuinely understand thermodynamics.

We’ve updated this table to remove that comparison and substituted the approach temperature of each of these coolers at load as our method of comparison. For those that are unaware approach temperature is the difference between the ambient temperature and the maximum temperature that the object that a given heat exchanger is cooling reaches during the test. The lower the approach temperature of a cooling solution the better it is at cooling. END UPDATE.

At idle temperatures are a dead heat but a performance gap appears when looking at load conditions. The Wraith appears to be just about tapped out in terms of cooling performance given that it’s sitting at about 59 Degrees Celsius under load. This is observation is supported looking up AMD’s maximum operating temperature rating which is 61 Degrees Celsius for the FX-8370. The A30 on the other still has about ten degrees of head room left. Practically this means that while overclocking would be a worthwhile effort with A30 it wouldn’t make sense with a Wraith installed because the FX-8370 nearly saturates the Wraith’s cooling capabilities at stock clock speeds and more importantly stock voltages.

The Wraith also lost out to our A30 on noise. We found the A30 to be quieter both at idle and under load conditions. That said the Wraith was still plenty quiet in these scenarios, just not as quiet as the A30.

AMD Wraith Cooler2 (6 of 7)

On a more important note the Wraith managed to keep our FX-8370 based test system stable while running Prime95’s Blend stress test for over 22 hours at a temperature of about 60 degrees Celsius with only momentary periods of clock speed throttling. The test ended when I decided that I needed to stop milling about and actually finish writing this article and not because of any hardware or software fault.

So in the end AMD’s Wraith addresses the biggest pain point of traditional stock cooling solutions: they’re noisy. AMD’s Wraith is not noisy. That said the Wraith, while good, is still a few steps behind modern aftermarket cooling solutions. Is the Wraith better than AMD’s old stock cooler? Certainly. Is it better than Intel’s stock cooler? Yup, that too. Will it keep you from buying a midrange aftermarket cooler? No, but it might delay the purchase a bit and at the very least the time you spend waiting for your new tower cooler to show up won’t be spent listening to the sound of a shrill fan whining away. And I think we can all agree that’s a step in the right direction.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.