RPi Ice Tower Cooling Fan – Review

While the Raspberry Pi 4 is an impressive upgrade from its previous generations, most users have come across one flaw in particular: it gets a little bit hot. Don’t worry though, there’s a solution available to help cool down that overworked Pi.

Seeed Studio is a Chinese IoT hardware specialist that offers a wealth of products for the maker community, and open source hardware enthusiast. Among its countless single chip boards and accessories, the company deals with a number of Raspberry Pi related content, in particular, this cooling solution for the Pi 4.

Design

Manufactured by 52Pi, the Ice Tower Cooling Fan is modelled after a desktop, single-stack cooling tower solution. It fits over the Raspberry Pi’s CPU, mounted to the board, and is powered by the Pi’s 5v GPIO pin (pin to ground, too).

The Ice Tower is a formidable looking setup. The 26-fin aluminium heatsink, complete with copper piping, rises 58mm above the Pi’s CPU, while its 41mm width and 35mm depth fits neatly over the middle of the board without intruding on any of the Pi’s IO ports.

The transparent, seven-blade, 40mm fan sits just back from the Pi’s micro-HDMI ports, and features a 7-LED colour setup that gradually fade from one colour to the next over time. And the connecting power cables are laced under the heatsink, to the rear, and into the GPIO pins.

Overall, it’s a good setup. It may seem a little extreme for the tiny Pi, but providing you’re not planning on using any HATs on your Pi 4 then there’ nothing wrong with going one-step further with your Pi.

In the box

The Ice Tower from Seeed arrives in a well-packaged cardboard box. Inside there’s more foam packaging, complete with the following:

  • 1 x Ice Tower radiator and Fan
  • 2 x Steel Mounting brackets
  • 8 x M2.5×6 Copper posts
  • 4 x M2.5 Nuts
  • 6 x M2.5×4 screws
  • 3 x Thermal Pads
  • 1 x Small Phillips Screwdriver
  • 1 x Protective Acrylic Panel
  • Instruction Booklet

The quality of the components in the package are excellent. The Ice Tower itself is well designed, solid, while still light, and its fittings are cut well and, thankfully, the screw holes line up – unlike some other heatsink fittings for the Pi that we’ve used in the past.

Installation

The provided instruction book is laid out nicely, with full colour images and clear text. Fitting the Ice Tower to the Pi takes mere minutes, and you’re left with a few spares when done. The only issue we could think was that the power wires from the fan to the Pi’s GPIO could do with being a little longer – this way we could feed them under the raised brace of the Ice Tower, or even out from the side of the Pi. It’s not a huge problem though, as the wires aren’t in the way, but if you’re looking to make everything a little neater, a few more millimetres of wire wouldn’t go amiss.

The addition of the acrylic panel is a neat feature, and one that we certainly appreciated. The panel fits to the copper board-posts that protrude from underneath the Pi, to protect the underside of the Pi and potentially stop any damage to surfaces made by the copper posts. However, these are then screwed in from the other side of the panel, leaving the tops of the M2.5 exposed. Again, it’s another minor bugbear, but the exposed steel of the screws could damage a worksurface. What we’d like to see in this instance is a set of rubber feet to fit over the screw heads, protecting the surface of the table (or whatever) the Pi will sit on.

Operation

The most important factor in all of this is how well the Ice Tower performed. We tested our Pi prior to fitting the Ice Tower, running a command line temperature monitor while also running a command line benchmark to calculate primes. The result was a toasty 57.0°C, but we have seen some Pi 4’s hitting nearly 80°C in this benchmark.

After fitting the Ice Tower, however, we were pleasantly surprised to see the Pi’s CPU temperature drop to a rather remarkable 27.0°C; a whole 30°C cooler. Other tests also revealed that while the Ice Tower was installed and running the Pi rarely went beyond the 30°C mark.

It’s also worth mentioning that while in operation the LEDs are slowly shifting colours, and while that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, we certainly liked it. It added a next level of modding to the Pi that we’d only really enjoyed in a desktop PC.

Conclusion

So, is the Ice Tower worth buying for the Raspberry Pi 4? In short, yes it is. Obviously if you’ve got a case already sourced for your Pi, and you’re running one of the many HATs available for it, then you’re going to face problems with fitting the Ice Tower. This is a cooling solution that’s designed for ‘naked’ Pi’s, those that are running without added extras.

But the Ice Tower does allow us to introduce one more element to the mix: overclocking. With the Ice Tower in place we were able to overclock our Raspberry Pi 4 to 2GHz over all four cores, and clock the GPU to 610MHz – an improvement from the base CPU clock of 1.5GHz and GPU clock of 400MHz. This is something that we would never have tried prior to having a good cooling solution on the Pi, and to note, it was perfectly stable at those speeds. The ambient CPU temperature when overclocked to 2 GHz was 31°C, and when running the primes benchmark it hit 38°C, which is excellent; and yes, overclocking the Pi does make a significant impact on the overall performance, and it’s something that we will cover in future posts.

The Ice Tower Cooling from Seeed Studios is a fantastic cooling solution for the Raspberry Pi. It performs excellently, it can be fitted to both Pi 4 and 3B+ models, and it costs just $19.90 (around £15.50). It looks great, it’s easy to fit, and opens the doors to overclocking the Pi and further modding by the Pi community. We highly recommend it for those who want to push their Pi to the limits.

RPi Ice Tower Cooling Fan
  • Overall
5

Summary

Excellent build quality, fantastic performance. A must have for all Pi 4 users and modders.

– Advanced Pi cooling
– Supports Pi 4, Pi 3B+
– Rated power 0.4W @5V, 0.08A
– 7-colour LED

David Hayward

David has spent most of his life tinkering with technology, from the ZX Spectrum, getting his hands on a Fujitsu VPP5000/100 supercomputer, and coding on an overheating Raspberry Pi. He's written for the likes of Micro Mart, Den of Geek, and countless retro sites and publications, covering reviews, creating code and bench testing the latest tech. He also has a huge collection of cables.

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