Raspberry Pi 3 Cheap Heatsink Tests

The Pi 3 generates way more heat than its predecessors. There are tons of dirt cheap heatsinks available for less than $1 from AliExpress and sometimes they come for free with cases.

I wanted to see if these were worth using or if I should splurge on some better ones.

My Lazy, Non-Scientific Test Environment

  • Clean install of Raspbian Jessie
  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B v1.2, made in the U.K.
  • Removed the sticky pads on the heatsinks and used Artic Silver
  • Ambient Temperature: 24C
  • Test program: sysbench --num-threads=4 --test=cpu --cpu-max-prime=20000 run

All heatsinks cost $1 or less (~35 cents in the case of the aluminum ones) and are small.

Aluminum vs Copper vs Ceramic Heat Sinks

Test #1 – No Heatsink

Pi reached it’s throttling temperature of 85C fairly quickly. It took 135 seconds to complete the benchmark.

Test #2 – Ceramic Heatsink

Max temp of 78C. Did not throttle. 119 seconds.

Test #3 – Aluminum Heatsink

This was the really cheap one that came free with a case. It worked, but barely. I’d still say it’s better than nothing.

Max temp 85C – reached near the end of the test. 126 seconds.

Test #4 – Copper Heatsink

Max temp 79C. No throttling. 119 seconds.

Conclusion: Heatsinks are Worth It for the Pi 3

But spend a couple dollars more and get a better (larger) one. These ones were all too small to dissipate much heat.

In most normal usage you probably won’t hit 85C much, but I sometimes hit 77 to 80C when rendering certain live HDTV streams on my Pi 3 OSMC (Kodi) box working as a TvHeadend client. It makes a little thermometer icon show up in the top right corner.

Looks useless. Is it?

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