Integrating M.2 heat spreaders into motherboard design has helped make high-end builds appear aesthetically complete, but the cooling performance of these basic covers has often been hit or miss. Yet even as heat increased with every generation of new M.2 drives, the limitations of a motherboard’s M.2 covers were usually not a serious concern until PCIe 5.0 made its way into M.2 controllers. With so much more power needed to drive a Gen5 controller and higher-speed storage ICs, everyone suddenly needed fans!
Available in five varieties representing three shapes and two colors, ASRock’s Blazing M.2 Gen5 Fan-Heatsink series is designed to fit most of the company’s Gen5 M.2-capable motherboards. Interfacing one side of an M.2 drive through a factory-applied thermal pad, its integrated 30mm (10mm-thick) cooling fan spins up to 7200 RPM to move air through deep cooling fins. At least 7200 RPM is what we assume the speed is: Our motherboard reported 14400 RPM.
Screw flanges at the end of each heat sink are cut to match an adjacent covers of some specific motherboard, but our motherboard sample didn’t have those extra covers near its Gen5 slot. In fact, basing our installations orientation primarily upon the need to reach a fan header, we found that the tip of one ear actually interfered with the use of a different fan header. Reversing the sink may have solved that issue, but not without adding a fan extension cable: Rotating the fan frame to point the fan cable in a different directly is possible, but its three-hole pattern wouldn’t have allowed proper alignment with the cable slot on the other end of the heat sink.
That also means that the Blazing M.2 cooling fan is blowing in the opposite direction of our case’s intake fans, but we don’t think that will be a performance issue. Things that we do expect to diminish the Blazing M.2’s cooling advantage is that it only makes contact with one side of our T700 bare M.2 test drive, and that the rubber button included with the board to keep the drive pressed flat against the bottom of its heat spreader…doesn’t (see photo).
|AMD Ryzen 9 7950X: 16C/32T 4.5-5.7 GHz, 64MB L3 Cache, Socket AM5
|Alphacool Core 1 Aurora, Eisbecher D5 150mm, NexXxoS UT60 X-Flow 240mm
|Patriot Viper Venom RGB DDR5-6200 2x16GB (32GB) CL40-40-40-76 1.35V
|Powercolor Red Devil Radeon 6750 XT: 2324-2623MHz GPU, 12GB GDDR6
|be quiet! Dark Power Pro 10 850W: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum
|Crucial T700 Gen5 NVMe 2TB SSD
|Integrated HD Audio
|AMD Adrenalin Edition 23.7.2
We’re not going to discuss the motherboard yet because it’s the subject of an upcoming review, but as the photos indicate it is an ASRock part. And, as the table indicates, it does support a Ryzen 9 7950X.
Mounted over the bare version of Crucial’s Gen5 SSD the Blazing M.2 Gen5 Fan-Heatsink outperforms Crucial’s optionally integrated thermal solution…which now costs as little as $15 (Amazon) over the bare version of the drive.
The above chart only applies to drives that are mounted to the front edge of the motherboard, however: Because our intake fan is only a few inches away from the front edge of the board, the T700’s optional heatsink was already enjoying a 26° relief from the stifling Gen5 slot placement of our X670E Taichi.
Thermal throttling is necessary on Gen5 drives to prevent hard crashes, so even though proximity between our system’s intake fan and the motherboard’s Gen5 slot may have diminished the thermal difference between Crucial’s fanless heat sink and ASRock’s Blazing M.2 Gen5 Fan-Heatsink, we still thought we might find some performance gain for the cooler configuration in storage-intense applications. 3DMark Storage didn’t disappoint:
Even the small thermal differences between the three configurations are reflected in 3DMark, though we’re certain that ASRock would have preferred to see more. And more might have been possible if the distance between our case’s front fans and the front of ASRock’s motherboard were greater.
|ASRock Blazing M.2 Gen5 Fan-Heatsink
|Custom fit to ASRock motherboards
Better performance than passive sinks
Easier installation than clamp-on models
|Different ASRock boards require different sizes
Far noisier than passive sinks
Only cools one side (unlike clamp-on models)
|ASRock’s Blazing M.2 Gen5 Fan-Heatsink combines the look of a motherboard-integrated solution with the cooling performance (and noise) of a high-speed fan.
We mentioned noise in our verdict, and it’s about time to put a number on that: We measured the Blazing M.2 Gen5 Fan-Heatsink at 63db from ¼ meter away. Using the standard of subtracting 6db ever time distance is doubled, that’s still over 50db of high-pitched whine at a full 1m. And while the fan is virtually silent when using the motherboard’s automatic fan controls, none of those are keyed to M.2 temperature. Once ASRock figures out thermal M.2 fan mapping, its product will be complete.