Battle of the CPU Coolers: 4-Way Comparison

By on December 12, 2011, 10:47 PM

Without question one of the most affordable and thus commonly upgraded components by PC builders and enthusiasts alike is the CPU cooler. While things have definitely improved in the past few years, upgrading the stock cooler that comes with AMD or Intel processors still grant you a number of improvements. Generally the main goal is to lower operating temperatures, but aftermarket coolers can also reduce operating volumes and provide a greater overclocking headroom.

Included in the comparison are the Thermalright True Spirit 140, Prolimatech Panther, Thermaltake Frio Advanced and Noctua NH-C14. All four are designed to support multiple platforms on both AMD and Intel camps. They range in price from just $40 all the way to $85, so it will be interesting to see how they compare and more importantly what they offer over stock cooling units.

Read the complete article.




User Comments: 19

Got something to say? Post a comment
dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Nice review Steve.

Just a point of clarification:

The heatsinks that feature heatpipes are positioned so they span horizontally

...would imply that the coolers exhaust to the top of the chassis -which from my experience tend to put more of the direct touch heatpipes in contact with the four cores. The HAF-X setup pic shows a vertical heatpipe span (front-to-back airflow) arrangement -albeit not using any of the four featured coolers (looks like a C-M Hyper 212 Plus). Stock picture or actually representative of testing?

With that in mind did you do any testing regarding vertical .v. horizontal orientation and cooling effectiveness minus the large side fan (i.e. rely solely on front-to-back cooling)

hellokitty[hk] hellokitty[hk], I'm a TechSpot Evangelist, said:

Nice! Good pictures too.

Testing methodology seems rigorous, assuming ambient temperatures were the same.

I'd have liked to see the price mentioned on each product information page just because the first two had their prices mentioned, but the second two didn't

darkzelda said:

A really nice review... I recently got a Cooler Master Hyper 212 plus and I'm amazed by the temperature change plus how quiet my rig performs. Although these one seem better, the CM is still doing a great job!

tomkaten tomkaten said:

What's a Meglahanems ?

DanUK DanUK said:

I don't think that test system has enough GPUs..

:'D

Stupido Stupido said:

Nice review...

But my personal favorite is Thermalright Archon and it is a bit pity that I didn't saw it here. I beleive that it is the better Thermalright cooler than True Spirit....

I even saw it dripping in price from 70 euros to 46 euros and I think I'm going to buy it... It is time for my Thermalright IFX-14 to be retired...

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

All copies of the Megahalem, with push/pull fans already in place.

Better still to just buy Promlitech's version and your choice of 120MM fans.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Very nice review - like the pictures of the broken down components that come with each cooler. You don't always see that.

As note, Noctua sells some great (and very quiet) fans along with their coolers. I've swapped out all of my case fans with Noctua models and if it weren't for the SLI GPU fans, you wouldn't be able to hear a thing when I turn on the power. Plus the internal temps are remarkably cool.

Eddo22 said:

I've been using a Noctua NH-C14 and have been very pleased with it. Although pricey and large it's very quiet and obviously does an excellent job at keeping your cpu cool (for an air cooler). I have the exact same results as TS received in their testing. Difference is I'm running a Phenom 2 965 @4ghz.

Would have been nice to see noise testing data. Clarification on this phrase would be good too "Noctua NH-C14 was unquestionably loud under load." Mine is unquestionably quiet to me.

bandit8623 said:

when you get up to the 80$ range for an air cooler it seems rediculous. you can get a all inclosed water cooling system for under 100$. this is doesnt need maintenance. also less stress on the mobo. corsair h80 example

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

when you get up to the 80$ range for an air cooler it seems rediculous. you can get a all inclosed water cooling system for under 100$. this is doesnt need maintenance. also less stress on the mobo. corsair h80 example

The problem with that theory is that $80.00 of enclosed loop will not get you the same performance as a top air cooler.(Phanteks PH-TC14PE,Thermalright Silver Arrow,Noctua D-14) The H-80 as you exampled,($93.00 @ Newegg) needs the same amount of maintenance (dusting), is a few degrees off the pace of the top air coolers, and much higher noise levels to compete temperature wise.

As far as the weight concern, the top air coolers are between 825-950g without fans, and up to 1350g with fans. properly mounted these coolers don't cause problems for the motherboard with the possible exception of carting the thing around for Lan parties, then yes, all that cantilevered weight can be dangerous to the motherboard.

bandit8623 said:

red1776 said:

when you get up to the 80$ range for an air cooler it seems rediculous. you can get a all inclosed water cooling system for under 100$. this is doesnt need maintenance. also less stress on the mobo. corsair h80 example

The problem with that theory is that $80.00 of enclosed loop will not get you the same performance as a top air cooler.(Phanteks PH-TC14PE,Thermalright Silver Arrow,Noctua D-14) The H-80 as you exampled,($93.00 @ Newegg) needs the same amount of maintenance (dusting), is a few degrees off the pace of the top air coolers, and much higher noise levels to compete temperature wise.

As far as the weight concern, the top air coolers are between 825-950g without fans, and up to 1350g with fans. properly mounted these coolers don't cause problems for the motherboard with the possible exception of carting the thing around for Lan parties, then yes, all that cantilevered weight can be dangerous to the motherboard.

it also depends on your case, the h80 blows the hot air directly out the rear of the case. air coolers throw the heat right back into the case. as for noise i would agree with you, but my h80's fan is running so low its hardly noticable. i would have to say my hd6950 is louder than anything else.

just saying after making the switch to the h80 ill never go back to air cooling solutions.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

it also depends on your case, the h80 blows the hot air directly out the rear of the case. air coolers throw the heat right back into the case. as for noise i would agree with you, but my h80's fan is running so low its hardly noticable. i would have to say my hd6950 is louder than anything else.

just saying after making the switch to the h80 ill never go back to air cooling solutions.

and I would not try to talk you out of it.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I Kinda agree with Bandit, I went from one of Zalmans more expensive air coolers (£45 i think it was) and don't get me wrong, it worked a treat and even under high load wasn't much louder although noticable, I'm now using the H60 and I have to say, idle is 8 degrees lower and it never needs to speed up, only after playing something cpu intensive for over an hour does it need to speed up enough to become noticable that your CPU is being cooled at all... and it only cost me an extra fiver!

The Thermaltake Frio Advanced is a good example of a £50 cooler that doesn't perfom as well as the H60 in every single aspect, Although I have a H60 I do always have this worry in the back of my mind that one day something is going to make a pop noise inside my case and spill water everywhere :S

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Sorry for the double post but also thought i'd like to add if techspot are doing, maybe, a CPU air cooler round up any time soon maybe the Zalman CNPS12X is worth a look? its huge, direct CPU contact system and has 3 120mm fans! Plus i'm even sure if it has been released yet? I saw it at a show at the begining of this year when it was un-released but not sure if it is for sale yet?

Guest said:

With high-end air coolers such as Silver Arrow, Phanteks, NH-D14, Thermalright Archon, there were already a lot of options that either provided superior cooling at the same noise levels OR similar performance at far lower noise levels than all of the enclosed pre-assembled water cooling systems from Corsair H50 to H100.

[link]

and

[link]

and

[link]

But the problem is, not everyone wanted to pay $60-90 for an air cooler or an enclosed water cooling system.

By Thermalright introducing the less "pretty" Archon as True Spirit 140 and cutting the price of the excellent HR-02 into a less "pretty" Thermalright Macho HR-02, we now have 2 super air coolers for $39.99 that offer the performance of Corsair H80 with half the noise levels.

After all these years, the air coolers still offer the best price, performance vs. noise levels available. It's really unbelievable that we can now get such a high level of performance and noise levels for just $40.

To my eyes, that leaves all the closed pre-assembled water coolers as novelty/cool items for someone who wants to run a water cooled rig, or for people who are running tall memory heatspreaders on platforms with limited socket clearance such as all X79 motherboards. In those instances, I can still see the value of enclosed watercooled systems.

Guest said:

The problem is the TS-120/140 is only available at ONE site online, and they charge an exorbitant $13 for shipping. So suddenly your cheap $40 cooler becomes $53.

You can however get a Hyper 212+ for $20 with free shipping, if you look around.

Lionvibez said:

bandit8623 said:

red1776 said:

when you get up to the 80$ range for an air cooler it seems rediculous. you can get a all inclosed water cooling system for under 100$. this is doesnt need maintenance. also less stress on the mobo. corsair h80 example

The problem with that theory is that $80.00 of enclosed loop will not get you the same performance as a top air cooler.(Phanteks PH-TC14PE,Thermalright Silver Arrow,Noctua D-14) The H-80 as you exampled,($93.00 @ Newegg) needs the same amount of maintenance (dusting), is a few degrees off the pace of the top air coolers, and much higher noise levels to compete temperature wise.

As far as the weight concern, the top air coolers are between 825-950g without fans, and up to 1350g with fans. properly mounted these coolers don't cause problems for the motherboard with the possible exception of carting the thing around for Lan parties, then yes, all that cantilevered weight can be dangerous to the motherboard.

it also depends on your case, the h80 blows the hot air directly out the rear of the case. air coolers throw the heat right back into the case. as for noise i would agree with you, but my h80's fan is running so low its hardly noticable. i would have to say my hd6950 is louder than anything else.

just saying after making the switch to the h80 ill never go back to air cooling solutions.

I'm using a TRUE in a DUAL Fan config. So pushing from the front of the HSF pulling at the back and then a case fan pulling at the back of my case. When setup properly there is no dumping hot air into the case.

And I agree with the other poster close loop under $100 watercooler system do not equal the same performance as high end air.

I'm one of those people that believe if you are gonna do water you go all out and do it properly those closed loop systems are for noobs :P

Guest said:

Ya, also the comment made that air coolers exhaust the heat into the case isn't true. That's true for downward facing air coolers such as the Noctua tested here. However, for the tower style air coolers, the heat is either exhausted into the rear of the case with the help of a rear 120 mm exhaust case fan, OR the heat is expelled vertically (as hot air rises) through a 120/140 or often a large 230 mm top-side case fan(s).

Also, even $53 is still cheap imho. Here is why, you take a $220 2500k and add a $53 air cooler to it and suddenly you are trading blows with a 980/990X processor that used to cost almost $1,000 from Intel.

2500k overclocked is faster than 990X @ max overclock (unless a program takes advantage of more than 4 threads):

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core-i7-2600k-9
0x_9.html#sect2

Of course with coolers such as Corsair A70, CM212+ / CM212 Evo, Titan Fenrir, Zalman Performa hovering at $23-36, there are plenty of coolers that are sufficient to overclock 95W TDP CPUs.

http://www.directron.com/lga1156cooler.html

Still, even $53 for an air cooler isn't that bad since we are now getting performance that's superior to these more expensive closed water-loops and/or we get lower noise levels too. I do think it's going to be harder and harder to justify spending that much $ for high-end air coolers especially once the quad core Ivy Bridge goes down to 77 W TDP.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.