Raspberry Pi 4 Cooling: Seeed Studio ICE Tower Review

ice tower review

I already wrote several times about the cooling “issue” on Raspberry Pi 4
It’s not really an issue, but a logic evolution, with a more powerful CPU, you need a fan to cool it
This change made a big noise in the Raspberry Pi community, as we were used to having fan-less devices
Today, I will give more data to analyze this situation, and introduce a solution: the ICE Tower from Seeed Studio

What is the Seeed Studio ICE tower?
We all know that the Raspberry Pi 4 can overheat in heavy charge without cooling
You probably know that you can add heat sinks or use the fan included with your case to cool it a little
But the ICE Tower is a giant fan, similar to what you can find in a gaming PC

I’ll start with a detailed introduction about this solution
Then my goal is to show you data about the exact issue you can have with your Raspberry Pi, and finally compare the results in 4 situations:
– no cooling
– heat sinks only
– a case with a small fan
– the ICE Tower

Let’s go!

Seeed Studio ICE Tower presentation

Seeed Studio presentation

Seeed is a worldwide company, an electronics retailer
They exist since 2008 and provides many smart solutions for companies over the world
You can find more information on their corporate website here (the portfolio is worth a look)
Their solutions are more for B2B

But for us, they are two main interesting things in their works:

  • They have an e-commerce website where you can order Raspberry Pi and many accessories for your projects: SeeedStudio.com
  • They have a hub where you can find many projects ideas, the website is here

ICE Tower pictures and assembly

The ICE Tower is shipped in kit
Here is what you’ll get inside the box:

You’ll have anything you need to install it on your Raspberry Pi, including the instructions manual and a screwdriver

First, you have to assemble the fan support with the provided parts, like this:

The second step is to prepare the Raspberry Pi
You need to place the thermal conductive on the CPU (several pieces included in the pack)

Then, you can fix the fan by placing the support on the Raspberry Pi holes
Like this:

You can then screw it, and finally there is a plate to put under the Raspberry Pi to fix everything correctly

And here is the “blink blink” effect in action 🙂

ICE Tower specifications

I will quote here the specifications given on the official website, nothing else:

  • Support Raspberry Pi 4 Model B/ Raspberry Pi 3 Model B /Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
  • DC 5V Power in (Can be powered by the Raspberry Pi)
  • Ice Tower Structure
  • 5 mm copper tube
  • Super heat dissipation
  • Rated power 0.4W @5V, 0.08A

And here are the dimensions of the Ice Tower:

  • Height: 58 mm
  • Width: 41 mm
  • Depth: 35 mm

There is a picture on the website if this is not clear enough (link in the next paragraph)

Where to find the ICE Tower?

If you are interested, you can find this product on the SeeedStudio website
There are two versions available:

The price is the same for both versions ($19.90 during writing)

Note: Products are shipped from China, expect a delivery in about 3 weeks for most of the countries with standard delivery, but it depends on the country and the shipping options you select in your cart
You can check all the updated conditions here

What can we expect?

Before going into the benchmarks part, we can already read what the official site is saying about the performances of this product

The promise we have on the website when buying the product, is that it can “reduce the temperature of the Raspberry Pi from 80 °C to 40 °C” (with overclocking)

I will not try the following benchmark with overclocking, but at least we can expect to stay under 40 °C
And it’s already a big challenge as it’s approximately the temperature of my Raspberry Pi 4 processor when idle 🙂

Benchmarks and data

My approach today is not only to make a review of one product, but to have a clear overview of the situation for the Raspberry Pi 4
As always, I will try to give you the more useful information I can on this topic

Test protocol

Even in I’m not a worldwide company with an experiment lab, I will try to give you the bests results I can
So I have followed the same protocol for each test:

  1. Keeping the Raspberry Pi off for 15min
  2. Booting the Raspberry Pi with Raspbian Desktop (full version)
    Nothing running
  3. Starting a script for the experiment, as soon as possible after the boot
    The test is running during 3 minutes with all CPU at 100%
  4. Taking note of the results (temperature) and share them with you

I’m not an expert in benchmark, and you may have better options to do this test, but I chose to use the “stress” package to increase the CPU load and the temperature
It’s really a basic test, I’m stressing the processor and I see how the cooling system works to keep it cool during this time
It should be enough to evaluate the cooling system efficiency

Case 1 : Raspberry Pi 4 without cooling

Scenario

For this first case, I’m using a fresh new Raspberry Pi 4 4GB, without a case, fan or even heat sinks
Just the single board, at room temperature (around 22 °C)

Results

Here are the results I got during the 3-min test
I give you them in a graphic form to make it more readable

Evolution of the processor temperature during the test without any cooling system

So the temperature is around 45 °C when idle, and increase slowly and regularly then
As a reminder, note that the Raspberry Pi will start to reduce the performances around 85 °C
No doubt that you’ll reach this point quickly if you use it with a high load without any cooling system

Analysis

The graphic is explicit
It’s probably a bad idea to keep your Raspberry Pi 4 like this if you are regularly running high consuming tasks
It may be OK for a device with no charge most of the time, but even for a basic setup I would not take the risk

Case 2 : Raspberry Pi 4 with heat sinks

Scenario

In this second case, I’m adding a small change to the first one, I just stick heat sinks on the Raspberry Pi hot parts (CPU, RAM, Network card) and check the changes in the results

Results

Same SD card, same script, same protocol
And as in the previous case, here is the graphic corresponding to a 3-min test with heat sinks

Evolution of the processor temperature during the test with heat sinks only

Analysis

Heat sinks are a passive solution, often recommended, to keep the main parts of your device cooler
It looks like this:

raspberry pi heat sink

The specific form of these pieces can help to evacuate the heat
But in this case, with a high load during 3min, it doesn’t seem to help so much

The idle temperature is lower (40°), and the maximum temperature is also slightly lower, but the graph is almost the same
It may take a little more time, but the processor will probably hit the 85 °C

I think that heat sinks are good solution if the heat has enough time to evacuate during idle time, but with a continuous high load, it doesn’t help

Case 3 : Raspberry Pi 4 with a fan on the case

Scenario

The title is explicit here, but just a small precision
I only have one case for Raspberry Pi (it’s this one on Amazon)
As you can see on the picture, it’s not a close case, so the heat can go outside easily

And I add a second precision: this test was made without heat sinks
The results will probably be slightly different with them (wind created by the fan can help the heat to escape from the heat sinks)

Results

As usual, here is the graph form for the results I got in this test:

Once again, note that the temperature at the start point is lower than previously.
The fan makes a good work to keep the processor at a lower temperature when idle
And same thing during the load period, the maximum temperature is lower from 10 °C comparing to the two first tests, and the increase is slower

Analysis

A case with a fan seems to be the first good solution to protect your system from overheat
I have also noted that the temperature will decrease faster after the load period, so it’s an excellent solution if you don’t keep your CPU at 100% all the time

Case 4 : Raspberry Pi 4 with ICE Tower

Scenario

And for this last case, we’ll see how the ICE Tower from Seeed Studio manage to compete with the other alternatives

I have followed the instructions to assemble the Ice Tower to my Raspberry Pi (as you have seen with the pictures)
The box includes a little guide, easy to follow, I had no problem to assemble this in a few minutes

Results

And for this last case, same thing, here is the graph with the results:

The temperature in idle is near 25 °C, and doesn’t go over 40 °C (as expected)

Analysis

As you can see on the graphic, the results here are self explicit
ICE Tower delivers on its promises, and seems to be much better to all the other solutions we generally use to keep your Raspberry Pi cold

You can note that the graph is starting at 25 °C whereas the other are more around 40 °C when idle. So the idle temperature is really low with this system.
And I can also tell you that the temperature will quickly decrease to something around 30 °C after the heavy load period

I could not test many other competing systems before that, but I am still very satisfied with the results obtained with the ICE Tower
That’s why I strongly recommend it

I also want to add a quick note about the noise
I was a little afraid that this giant system would be very noisy, when in fact it makes less noise than the previous scenario with a fan in the case
So the noise is really not an issue with the ICE Tower

All cases comparative

Results

For a better understanding at a glance, here is the graphic with all the results on the same chart
So you can compare all the solutions easily

Analysis

Finally, we have seen that with or without heat sinks doesn’t make a big change in a continuous high load period
The fan gets better results, but it’s mainly useful if you have regular short idle time to cool everything quickly
And finally the ICE Tower is much better than the other solutions, with a maximal temperature under 40 °C (close to the idle temperature with other systems)

Budget

Before to conclude, let’s take a look at the budget
It’s easy to get better systems with more money, so we need to compare the price of the four solutions to have a better analysis:

  • No cooling system: $0
  • Heat sinks: $4.99 (Amazon)
  • Case with a fan: $8.99 (Amazon)
  • SeeedStudio ICE Tower: $19.90 (SeeedStudio)

Yes the ICE Tower is a bit more expensive than the other solutions
But none of the other can give you the same results
So, you have to make a choice knowing that

I think it highly depends on the usage of your Raspberry Pi
If your plan is to use your Raspberry Pi for crypto-mining or desktop usage, the ICE Tower is probably a good solution to consider 🙂

Conclusion

And that’s it, here is the end of this review
I hope you like it and that it’s useful for you
Even if you don’t plan to buy this product soon, you have here a complete comparison of basic cooling systems than you can consider for your Raspberry Pi

If you like it, please share to let me know that you want more of this kind of post 🙂

3 comments

  1. Gordon Reply

    Great article. I have been thinking about the cooler but one problem comes up and that is how to connect “Hats.” I have two hats on the pi right now. One can come off as it would be replace by the cooler. The other is to control servos. I also have the “Tee Cobbler” connected. One idea is to figure out the pins on the cobbler and match it to the servo drive hat or get a set of 40 pin right angle connectors and have the GPIO pins come off at a right angle. So far just toying with different ideas and maybe someone has come up with a solution.
    Thanks for listening and keep the articles coming.
    Gordon

  2. Sebastian Reply

    Good article and an interessting solution by seedStudio! I have my rasp 3B+ running 24/7 with scripts which sometimes need approx. 10 hours to finish. Especially in Summer you reach 80 degree celcius very fast. What i am worried about is the noise but as you wrote it is even lower than a small Fan in the housing – most certainly because the big fan can run slower and get the same airflow.

    All in all an interessting product – thank you for pointing this out!

    • Patrick Fromaget Post authorReply

      Hi Sebastian,

      Thanks for your feedback
      Let me know if you try it on your Raspberry Pi 3B+

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