Everyone and their CPU-cooler-manufacturing mother are jumping aboard the skyscraper-formfactor bandwagon, hoping to match the performance of Thermalright’s Ultra-120 eXtreme and Noctua’s NH-U12P air coolers. Last month we tested Zalman’s attempt, and this month we have Thermaltake’s answer, the ISGC-300, one of a series of four ISGC-branded air coolers recently released into the wild. Thermaltake’s creative relationship with the English language is responsible for the ISGC moniker, which stands for “Inspiration of Silent Gaming Cooling.”
The ISGC-300 consists of a copper heat exchanger with four heat pipes running into a tower of 33 saw-toothed fins. At 6.24 inches high by five inches wide by 2.8 inches deep, it’s slightly shorter and narrower than Thermalright’s Ultra-120, but about a quarter-inch deeper. A 12cm white Thermaltake hydrodynamic-bearing fan is held onto the front using metal clips in a manner reminiscent of the Noctua NH-U12P. The nine-bladed fan is quiet and includes a variable-speed switch in lieu of a four-pin PVM connector. At its quietest, it’s nearly silent; at its loudest, it’s still damned quiet.
The now-familiar formfactor of Thermaltake's ISGC-300 brings the cooling prowess we've come to expect.
Unlike most of the coolers we’ve reviewed recently, with their backplates, finicky spring screws, and wobbly mounting brackets, the ISGC is pretty painless to install. You screw the mounting brackets onto the bottom of the cooler, then secure them to the motherboard with nuts and washers—no backplate or long-handled screwdriver required, although if your motherboard tray doesn’t have a cutout for the CPU, you’ll have to remove your motherboard for the install. The lack of a backplate, which provides stability, could be an issue if you plan to ship the box a long distance. But frankly, we’ve had no problems with far larger heatsinks that lack backplates. Like most coolers of this style and size, you may have to mount the heatsink so it’s parallel with your RAM, as mounting the other way may bump into RAM cooling fins.
At its highest fan speed, the ISGC cool to within a few degrees of our champion air cooler, Thermalright’s U120-eXtreme. The ISGC-300 cooled an idling CPU to within a half-degree Celsius of the Thermalright, and at full burn the ISGC’s temps were less than two degrees Celsius higher than the Thermalright’s. Thermaltake has taken a step in the right direction with the ISGC-300, with its relatively easy install, competitive price, near-silent operation, and performance that comes close to the category leader.
Easy to install; quiet, variable-speed fan; good performance; competitively priced.
Bulky; can interfere with RAM cooling if installed facing upward.
100% Burn (C)
Best scores are bolded. Idle temperatures were measured after an hour of inactivity; load temperatures were measured after an hour's worth of CPU Burn-in (four instances). Test system consists of a stock-clock Q6700 processor on an EVGA 680i motherboard inside a Cooler Master ATCS 840 case with stock fans.