UK price (as reviewed):£32.79 (inc VAT) US price (as reviewed):$69.90 (ex Tax)
Owning a powerful and quiet HTPC or mini-ITX system has become more plausible and desirable in recent years as the ability to squeeze more performance and efficiency from smaller components has also grown. The CPU cooler is an especially important consideration in such a build, as typically the best of these are either giant multi-fan monsters or obnoxiously loud (or both). Thus, when it comes to low-profile models, there's a delicate balance to be struck between size, noise output and the ability to deal with heat.
We're used to strapping huge chunks of metal to our motherboards where Thermalright is concerned: both the Macho and Archon SB-E X2 are recent examples of this. The AXP-100 is quite different to these beasts, however, measuring just 58mm tall with its fan attached, around 100mm shorter than most coolers. It's also shorter (and cheaper) than Noctua's NH-L12 in its single fan mode, but still bigger than budget low-profile coolers like the Phanteks PH-TC90LS and Arctic Freezer 11 LP.
Click to enlarge - The AXP-100 and its design diagram with dimensions
Despite its small dimensions, the C-shaped AXP-100 sports six 6mm copper heat pipes evenly spread through the copper baseplate but not making direct contact with the CPU. This is two more than Noctua's NH-L12, and indeed more than a number of larger coolers, so Thermalright hasn't slacked on the amount of metal you get for your money. The heat pipes pass through a set of thirty-nine relatively thick aluminium fins that aren't too densely packed together. All the materials have been treated to a full nickel plating, giving the AXP-100 a consistent colour and shine (because we're worth it), and as expected from a Thermalright product, the whole cooler feels incredibly well built and solid.
Like the heatsink, the 100mm fan Thermalright supplies with the AXP-100 is tiny, measuring just 14mm tall and weighing 40g, and is consequently a little more flexible than we're used to. The fan sports nine blades and is styled using Thermalright's classic (but odd) green and yellow colour scheme. It is designed to be installed in a downdraft configuration, and will thus provide secondary airflow and cooling to the components around your CPU. The cable is nicely braided and ends in a four-pin fan header, making it compatible with PWM fan controllers.
Click to enlarge - The baseplate, heat pipes and fins are all fully nickel plated
As well as being compatible with all the usual sockets, the AXP-100 claims 'almost full compatibility' with all the mini-ITX and HTPC cases currently on the market, and a list of supported cases can be found on the product's support page. As it's designed for mini-ITX motherboards, it should also clear RAM, motherboard heatsinks and graphics cards (as it does on our ATX test systems), but full compatibility isn't guaranteed. An enhanced fan mount is also supplied with the AXP-100, enabling users to install 120mm and 140mm fans for increased airflow. This fan mount has adjustable mounting holes so that these larger fans can be moved along the x or y axis for increased component compatibility.
All of the mounting plates are constructed from solid metal; only the washers are made from plastic. For most sockets, you pass screws through the backplate and the rear of your motherboard, and fasten everything up with some nuts. You then screw the anchoring mount into position, and it's to this mount that the cooler itself is attached via a pair of screws, that can be tightened through the heatsink thanks to some holes in the fins. A small tube of Chill Factor III thermal paste is also provided.
Click to enlarge - The AXP-100's uses screws rather than clips, and the cooler has no trouble fitting onto our LGA1155 motherboard
The final step is to install the fan, which screws directly onto the cooler rather than relying on fan clips, which at best are fiddly and at worst make us want to break things. All in all, it's an easy cooler to install, and an extra positive is that it can be installed in any orientation, which is helpful when trying to avoid impeding on your other components. You'll most likely want to mount it outside of your chassis, however, especially with a cramped mini-ITX build.