Readers used to building PCs back in the 90's and 2000's would remember the days of some rather extreme northbridge coolers. Companies like Thermalright were leaders in that aftermarket cooling category. These days M.2 drives sit in the same place that the northbridge chipset used to, but rather than keeping the memory controller hub cool, these modern day heatsinks are designed to keep your M.2 NVMe SSD cool.
Thermalright new HR-09 2280 and HR-09 2280 Pro M.2 coolers (via Tom's Hardware) are designed to cool standard form factor M.2 NVMe SSDs. Their heatpipe design and large surface area promise to keep your hot M.2 drive running cooler, with less throttling than you might get from a motherboard's integrated cooling or low profile (or aluminium strip) M.2 coolers.
The HR-09 2280 Pro really does remind us of those old school northbridge coolers. It's 86mm in height, which is taller than a lot of CPU coolers. It's got enough surface area to ensure that even a small amount of airflow should be sufficient to keep a drive cool, particularly if its receiving air from an adjacent CPU cooler fan.
The lower profile HR-09 has a bit more of a subtle look, though it should still deliver cooling that's superior to stock solutions. Well, we'd hope so, otherwise there's little point to it!
The fact that these coolers exist at all points towards a hot M.2 future. PCIe 4.0 drives surprised us when we saw how hot they could get, and how easily many could throttle. PCIe 5.0 drives are set to run even hotter. It's easy to see how M.2 drives will require more extravagant cooling solutions in order to keep them running at their best.
In fact, from what we hear from a motherboard manufacturer, high performance PCIe 5.0 drives are presenting a challenge to keep cool passively. It's possible that we'll see a return to active motherboard cooling and any user running two or three PCIe 5.0 M.2 drives in the future might be in for an unwelcome hot surprise.
M.2 cooling is set to become a growth market. Teamgroup recently unveiled its combination CPU and M.2 AIO cooler design. We’re sure that other companies are busy preparing their own designs.
Thermalright’s HR-09 M.2 coolers don’t yet have a price but we'll make sure to keep you updated once they do. PCIe 5.0 M.2 SSDs are in development, and are due to release later in 2022, perhaps alongside Intel’s 13th Gen and AMD’s Zen 4 platforms.