raspberry

Do heatsinks and fans make a difference for the Raspberry Pi 4?

If you have been looking at cases for your shiny new Raspberry Pi 4, I am positive you have come across ones that either include heatsinks, a fan, or both. The question is, is that just a needless extra cost, or does it really help?

Well I ended up buying a case that came with both, and decided to test if it was worth running the fan or just keeping it off.

Methodology

Now as this was my own hardware, I wasn’t about to undo stress onto it. I decided to arbitrarily run the stress tests for two minutes each, which actually turned out to be pretty good to allow the core to heat up and even out.

I would then wait for the temperature to return to idle before attempting another run. This was all run in a 26.5*C room. I followed this guide to run the programs stress and cpuburn.

No Fan, No Heatsinks

Open airEnclosed
idle 5254
stress7882 FAIL
cpuburn81 FAIL

So by itself, as long as the raspberry pi is in the open air, it seemed to just hang in there for the stress test before hitting the 80*C thermal limit. Which, when hit, the raspberry pi will automatically start throttling the speed of the processor to cool it.

No Fan, Heatsinks

Open air Enclosed
idle 5254
stress 75 81 FAIL
cpuburn 81 FAIL

We can see that the heatsink helped out minimally when in the open air, but it couldn’t keep up in an enclosed case without moving air.

Fan, No Heatsinks

Enclosed
idle 48
stress 64
cpuburn 70

Now that’s a difference! That tiny little fan really does do more than I expected it too.

Fan and Heatsinks

Enclosed
idle44
stress60
cpuburn66

Well-well-well, looky there. Putting everything together really does make a difference.

Conclusion and Chart

Lets make this a little more digestible with a chart.

It’s pretty obvious that yes, both fans and heatsinks help. However, if you have to chose just one, pick the fan any day.