Finding the Best CPU Cooler: 10 units reviewed and tested

By on September 6, 2013, 1:35 AM

Recently I found myself facing a CPU cooler problem while building a Sandy Bridge-E rig with a friend. Having bought all the parts, we discovered that the Core i7-3820 processor didn't come with a cooler. Instead, Intel sells its heatsink/fan separately for $30. Although I knew we'd need a cooler, I wasn't prepared to answer my buddy's question when he asked which model to purchase.

It had been years since our last CPU cooler roundup so my knowledge was a little dated.

With the recent arrival of Ivy Bridge-E (see our Core i7-4960X review), I felt it was a good time to check out the latest aftermarket coolers. The new chip is fully compatible with Sandy Bridge-E/EP's LGA2011 socket. We contacted all the major players and received 10 heatsinks to test including units from Noctua, Thermalright, Xigmatek, Silverstone and Thermaltake.

Read the complete review.




User Comments: 59

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

For price/performance I'd have liked to see the Thermalright Truespirit 120/140.

Also for pure performance the U14s is a pretty good contender but I'd also have liked to see the Thermalright silver arrow extreme edition with 2xTY-143 fans.

Guest said:

You seem to have the fans backwards in some of those pictures.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

You seem to have the fans backwards in some of those pictures.

Wouldn't be on the coolers that push and pull would it?

Guest said:

Nice review, but, unfortunately there's no Phanteks TC14PE here, because I'd like to see its performance compared to silver arrow.

JC713 JC713 said:

Fantastic work Steve. The Dark Knight definitely looks nice, but after reading this, I think I would rather go for a Noctua.

I think you guys should have included a $30 CPU cooler like a Hyper 212 Evo just for comparison.

TitoBXNY TitoBXNY said:

Yeah, I agree. The Hyper 212 Evo is the best bargain cooler around. Curious to see how it compares.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Of course there are almost countless coolers that could have been included. As an LGA2011 round-up we went with high-end air-coolers. Cooler Master are pretty disorganized to be honest which is why their gear was left out. Thermalright only wanted to send what they did which is why the Silver Arrow was not included.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

You know, all I ever hear are that those noctua CPU coolers are great. Those thermaltake frio coolers are not amazing, I had one on my previous air cooled system and it tanked in allowing any overclocking and cooling. Plus it sounded like a jet turbine and I got to the point I could not stand it.

I do like those coolermaster ones though if for nothing more than the looks and I hear good things about them.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I sometimes wonder if the differences are in the cooler or if it is the fan used. Could making a round of test using the same fan be an option?

Staff
Steve Steve said:

I sometimes wonder if the differences are in the cooler or if it is the fan used. Could making a round of test using the same fan be an option?

The heatsinks make a massive difference. The fans certainly help but what matters is how efficiently the heat is moved away from the CPU.

1 person liked this | lipe123 said:

Of course there are almost countless coolers that could have been included. As an LGA2011 round-up we went with high-end air-coolers. Cooler Master are pretty disorganized to be honest which is why their gear was left out. Thermalright only wanted to send what they did which is why the Silver Arrow was not included.

What do you mean Coolermaster is disorganized? We use and sell the hyper 212 all the time on new builds and with its price/performance I really don't understand why it was not included.

Or should the article be named "the best cooler among the ones companies felt like sending us for PR and not really the ones you would be looking at in your local store"

JC713 JC713 said:

Yeah the CM coolers are pretty much for looks. The only one that is worth it IMO is the Hyper 212 Evo.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

I bought Noctua NH-D14 about 2 month ago, and it is the best cooler of them all.

Dukenukemx Dukenukemx said:

For $70 to $80 I would go custom water cooling. I have a HTPC and a main PC, and both are water cooled. If you know how to shop, you can get a pretty cheap custom made water cooling setup. If you know where to shop.

This 120mm radiator is only $15.

[link]

Plenty of CPU water blocks on Ebay like this $25.

[link]

Water pump is the hardest to choose, but this looks alright for the job at $20.

[link]

Tubing is only $3.50 a foot, so not super expensive. I know there's cheaper, but lazy and Ebay.

[link]

Some fittings if needed.

[link]

Finally some hose clamps.

[link]

Just use some 50/50 cheap car coolant and you're good to go. BTW this is me doing 5 minutes worth of Ebay searching and picking out the first thing I see. You can do better if you look harder.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

Water coolers are a very dodgy business. It is almost impossible to find a decent one, because 90% of reviewers would lie about the product, or be simply mistaken.

A good water cooler is only good if after 2 years it hasn't accumulated any corrosion or produced any leaking. And most reviews are from people who haven't owned the product long enough to know if it is any good. Most coolers fall victims to corrosion and produce leaking that may easily kill the system. And even if it takes 3 years for one to corrode to that point, I wouldn't want it in my system.

And why bother, Noctua NH-D14 is just as quiet as any water cooler, it makes zero noise.

5 people like this | Blkfx1 Blkfx1 said:

For $70 to $80 I would go custom water cooling.

You can't be serious.

1 person liked this | Mugsy said:

I think even the most basic water cooler would out-perform some of the top air coolers for the same money (even less with current rebates & discounts. I picked up a Seidon 120M for $29) with the added benefit of venting the heat OUT of your case keeping other components (like your air-cooled video card) cooler.

It's a shame one or two economy water coolers weren't tossed into the mix as a basis of comparison.

Follow-up (11/22/13): I built my new 4770k rig (stock) using the $29 Seidon 120M in push/pull configuration and idle @ 40'C. My old air-cooled overclocked Phenom II x4 idled at 45'C. I plan on attempting an overclock of about 20% in the near future and expect no problems.

lipe123 said:

Water coolers are a very dodgy business. It is almost impossible to find a decent one, because 90% of reviewers would lie about the product, or be simply mistaken.

A good water cooler is only good if after 2 years it hasn't accumulated any corrosion or produced any leaking. And most reviews are from people who haven't owned the product long enough to know if it is any good. Most coolers fall victims to corrosion and produce leaking that may easily kill the system. And even if it takes 3 years for one to corrode to that point, I wouldn't want it in my system.

And why bother, Noctua NH-D14 is just as quiet as any water cooler, it makes zero noise.

Simply not true there is no corrosion unless you use tap water like an *****.

Not only that but closed loop coolers like the corsair H60 that probably uses mineral oil or something similar never needs refilling or maintenance.

I purchased a similar product from coolit 3 years ago and it still works perfectly.

JC713 JC713 said:

For $70 to $80 I would go custom water cooling. I have a HTPC and a main PC, and both are water cooled. If you know how to shop, you can get a pretty cheap custom made water cooling setup. If you know where to shop.

This 120mm radiator is only $15.

[link]

Plenty of CPU water blocks on Ebay like this $25.

[link]

Water pump is the hardest to choose, but this looks alright for the job at $20.

[link]

Tubing is only $3.50 a foot, so not super expensive. I know there's cheaper, but lazy and Ebay.

[link]

Some fittings if needed.

[link]

Finally some hose clamps.

[link]

Just use some 50/50 cheap car coolant and you're good to go. BTW this is me doing 5 minutes worth of Ebay searching and picking out the first thing I see. You can do better if you look harder.

You want quality water cooling components IMO. Plus, WCing a HTPC just isnt necessary.

SkaBob said:

For the price of these cooler I would have also like to see a few water coolers. These are huge and take up alot of room. The water(or liquid) coolers take up very little space inside and transfer all the heat outside the case.

I dont think they should last 1-2 years then corrode as some have said. Car radiators last about 10 years or longer running at 200+ degrees with 15lbs pressure, they are just made of aluminum and plastic. Fuel line are made of plastic tubing and last a lifetime at high temperatures and 30-60psi. A small brushless motor (like that in a fishtank filter) can run for decades. If using the right components I dont see why a liquid cooler would fail in a short period of time.

2 people like this | PendragonUK PendragonUK said:

Why wasn't the Noctua NH-D14 tested??? One of the top three best air coolers there is? you tested one of the lesser Noctua coolers but not the top of the line model. Should change the title of the review to not the best CPU coolers just the best of a bunch we could be bothered to test. The Silver Arrow wasn't in the test WTF! This review is like saying the best car in the world is a Ford because we didn't test any of the Ferrari's or Lamborghinis... Bollox!

2 people like this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

What do you mean Coolermaster is disorganized? We use and sell the hyper 212 all the time

Maybe you should send Steve some CM coolers, because by the sounds of it Cooler Master couldn't get review samples to our reviewer.

For $70 to $80 I would go custom water cooling. This 120mm radiator is only $15....

Welcome to the world of galvanic corrosion. You pay for what you get when it comes to water cooling...and $15 buys you this:

Simply not true there is no corrosion unless you use tap water like an *****.

Rubbish.

I sometimes wonder if the differences are in the cooler or if it is the fan used. Could making a round of test using the same fan be an option?

Usually all things being equal it comes down to cooling area of the fins. Larger being better of course. Most of the better coolers are pushing 10000-11000cm^2. Generally these things aren't equal though. Heatpipes can be soldered or pressed to the block and fins, direct heatpipe touch or pressed/soldered to a base block, and the biggest differentiator- what type of wick the heatpipe uses ( metal mesh, grooved, or sintered metal powder) to transport heat away from the block.

I dont think they should last 1-2 years then corrode as some have said. Car radiators last about 10 years or longer running at 200+ degrees with 15lbs pressure, they are just made of aluminum and plastic.

You never flush a radiator and change water+ antifreeze/antiboil ? Have you ever looked into the water galleys of an engine block during a tear down ( head gasket replacement for instance)? Bear in mind that the walls of an engine block are somewhat thicker than your average computer water cooling system and a few components in the automotive cooling system act as sacrificial anodes.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

What do you mean Coolermaster is disorganized? We use and sell the hyper 212 all the time on new builds and with its price/performance I really don't understand why it was not included.

Or should the article be named "the best cooler among the ones companies felt like sending us for PR and not really the ones you would be looking at in your local store"

Yes sorry you are right that is what we will rename it too :S

Why wasn't the Noctua NH-D14 tested??? One of the top three best air coolers there is? you tested one of the lesser Noctua coolers but not the top of the line model. Should change the title of the review to not the best CPU coolers just the best of a bunch we could be bothered to test. The Silver Arrow wasn't in the test WTF! This review is like saying the best car in the world is a Ford because we didn't test any of the Ferrari's or Lamborghinis... Bollox!

The Internet can be a disappointing place sometimes, your refund is in the mail.

For the price of these cooler I would have also like to see a few water coolers. These are huge and take up alot of room. The water(or liquid) coolers take up very little space inside and transfer all the heat outside the case.

I dont think they should last 1-2 years then corrode as some have said. Car radiators last about 10 years or longer running at 200+ degrees with 15lbs pressure, they are just made of aluminum and plastic. Fuel line are made of plastic tubing and last a lifetime at high temperatures and 30-60psi. A small brushless motor (like that in a fishtank filter) can run for decades. If using the right components I dont see why a liquid cooler would fail in a short period of time.

Air-cooling and water-cooling are so radically different that we didn't want to mix the two. We might do a closed loop roundup soon but we won't be mixing air-coolers and water-coolers. That said a top performing air-cooler would obviously be used for comparison.

Maybe you should send Steve some CM coolers, because by the sounds of it Cooler Master couldn't get review samples to our reviewer.

Despite the name we can always trust dividebyzero to use his brain. Yes they told us they would be providing samples including the new V8 GTS, we waited after they told us a few times samples were on the way and then they finally said the turnaround time will be a few months. Obviously we moved on.

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

Solid review nonetheless.

In the future it might help to make it look more professional if you'd include a specific section with a few more details about the testing methodology such as case/other hardware, thermal paste, where/how you measured the sound...

Most people won't read it but it's good documentation.

Guest said:

Haha, nice to see the Noctua NH-U14S win that, as it did another heatsink round-up at Tom's Hardware recently. This is cooler I had elected for my latest build and I'll keep heartily recommending it.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Solid review nonetheless.

In the future it might help to make it look more professional if you'd include a specific section with a few more details about the testing methodology such as case/other hardware, thermal paste, where/how you measured the sound...

Most people won't read it but it's good documentation.

Thanks. Ironically 'most people' might include yourself

Do you mean something like on page six (titled Testing Notes) which specifies how we tested, hardware, programs and ambient room temperature. The case was also mentioned, Cooler Master HAF XB and how the heatsinks were orientated.

Each cooler was tested with the supplied thermal paste and fan. The only thing we didn't go into great detail about was the sound testing.

Guest said:

"For $70 to $80 I would go custom water cooling"

--> unlike you, for $100 to $130 I would go for closed watercooling system

"I dont think they should last 1-2 years then corrode as some have said. Car radiators last about 10 years or longer running at 200+ degrees with 15lbs pressure, they are just made of aluminum and plastic."

--> you can't be serious comparing car radiators (car cooling system) with PC watercooling system.

2 people like this | JC713 JC713 said:

Yes, the Noctua NH-D14 and Hyper 212 Evo are good coolers, but werent tested. You guys gotta appreciate the work Steve and the TS team did nonetheless!!!

Dukenukemx Dukenukemx said:

You want quality water cooling components IMO. Plus, WCing a HTPC just isnt necessary.

My main PC has had water cooling for two years, while my HTPC has had it for 1 year. The reason for the water cooling was quiet it down and to add more room. A decent air cooler is super larger, and takes a lot of space. Also any decent air cooler will usually have a large loud fan. With water cooling I was able to gain improved cooling, without the need to take up large amounts of space, and the HTPC is much quieter.

Dukenukemx Dukenukemx said:

A good water cooler is only good if after 2 years it hasn't accumulated any corrosion or produced any leaking. And most reviews are from people who haven't owned the product long enough to know if it is any good. Most coolers fall victims to corrosion and produce leaking that may easily kill the system. And even if it takes 3 years for one to corrode to that point, I wouldn't want it in my system.

Never seen a water cooling setup leak so far. I've had water cooling setups for nearly 10 years, and they never leak. Water pump failure yes. Pinched tubing yes. Clogged tubing yes. The only place it could leak from is the radiator, and I've yet to see it happen. If you're really anal, you could keep a decent amount of the components outside of the case, like the radiator and pump.

There's also some water blocks that have rubber seals, that allow you to take it apart to clean them. Haven't seen them leak yet either. The only real problem with water cooling is that every so often you want to empty out the coolant, clean the system, and refill with new coolant. Every 6-7 months this needs to be done.

And why bother, Noctua NH-D14 is just as quiet as any water cooler, it makes zero noise.

The Noctua NH-D14 is also very very large, and dumps all the heat in it's surroundings. Where as a water cooling setup will remove the heat directly outside the case. It's also listed as $95 on Newegg, which is very expensive for an air cooler.

With a water cooling setup I can and do cool the GPU as well, at least in my main PC. For additional cooling, I can either add another radiator without taking up a boat load of room, or just buy a water pump with higher flow.

4 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Also any decent air cooler will usually have a large loud fan.
I think you have that backward, as the larger the fan the less RPM's needed to move air. It is the smaller fans that are the noisiest. Besides those large fans you speak of are also needed on water cooling setups.

Dukenukemx Dukenukemx said:

I think you have that backward, as the larger the fan the less RPM's needed to move air. It is the smaller fans that are the noisiest. Besides those large fans you speak of are also needed on water cooling setups.

At 120mm, it's all in the fan. At low speed a 120mm fan is nearly silent, but crank them to max speed and they get noisy. To reach the efficiency of a water cooler, those air coolers need the fans at max.

Also take into account that since air coolers dump air inside the case, you need a lot more case fans to remove that hot air. Technically speaking my case fan is my water cooling fan, cause the radiator is placed where a 120mm fan would be. The fan just sits on top of it. So generally a water cooling setup uses less fans then air cooling, and uses them at lower speed. Since my main PC uses a water block on the GPU, that's also one less fan.

dexterkarthik dexterkarthik said:

Could you please recheck FRIO OCK?

I am running Intel Core2Quad Q6600 at stock 2.4GHz in an avg ambient room temp of 30-33 with idle temps between 31-33C and Max temp while playing Crysis 2 and 3 is 54C with fan at stock speed of around 1200-1400 rpm

Dukenukemx Dukenukemx said:

Could you please recheck FRIO OCK?

I am running Intel Core2Quad Q6600 at stock 2.4GHz in an avg ambient room temp of 30-33 with idle temps between 31-33C and Max temp while playing Crysis 2 and 3 is 54C with fan at stock speed of around 1200-1400 rpm

If you really wanna know what max temp your PC can handle, then get Prime95 and run the "In-Place Large FFT's" test, which creates a boat load of heat. Nothing will get your CPU hotter then that test, but it's also a very dangerous test. Crysis 3 is pretty good CPU test, but not as good as Prime 95. BTW, Prime95 on my HTPC with AMD Phenom II X4 820 2.8Ghz gets 42C with 10 minutes of Prime95 on that setting, while typing this. Which is pretty good for a cheap water cooling setup.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

I had a Frio CPU fan cooler for one of my previous processors and it was pitiful to be honest. I really like the Noctuas a lot better because they actually feel like decent improvements. The only advantage I can say the Frio has, is its price.

dexterkarthik dexterkarthik said:

If you really wanna know what max temp your PC can handle, then get Prime95 and run the "In-Place Large FFT's" test, which creates a boat load of heat. Nothing will get your CPU hotter then that test, but it's also a very dangerous test. Crysis 3 is pretty good CPU test, but not as good as Prime 95. BTW, Prime95 on my HTPC with AMD Phenom II X4 820 2.8Ghz gets 42C with 10 minutes of Prime95 on that setting, while typing this. Which is pretty good for a cheap water cooling setup.

Yes, I am aware of that and also furmark for GPU's, just don't want to strain my hardware - want to extract the maximum life out of it, so only I have not even OC'ed my CPU yet. Being serving well so far for my needs. The next upgrade will only be a SSD.

1 person liked this |
Staff
Steve Steve said:

Could you please recheck FRIO OCK?

I am running Intel Core2Quad Q6600 at stock 2.4GHz in an avg ambient room temp of 30-33 with idle temps between 31-33C and Max temp while playing Crysis 2 and 3 is 54C with fan at stock speed of around 1200-1400 rpm

Are you suggesting that because you have a 95 watt processor that's not overclocked our results are wrong? As the testing notes pointed out each cooler was tested 3 times anyway which included being re-seated each time. I would question your own results as there is no way these air-coolers work at ambient room temperature, the computer would have to be turned off :S

You say your system runs at 54 degrees under load, that's 10% cooler than the results we got. Yet our processor has a 37% higher thermal design power rating.

4 people like this | St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

Comments are hilarious as always. Steve must emit an aura of "hate on me, everyone!!".

I have NH-U12P SE2, and I purchased it based on the fact that an $80 air cooler out-performed $120+ closed-loop systems and was quieter.

My HTPC has another Noctua in it with a 140mm fan. I'd like to know how a water cooling setup with fan + pump can be quieter than me, with ULNA.

1 person liked this |
Staff
Steve Steve said:

Comments are hilarious as always. Steve must emit an aura of "hate on me, everyone!!".

I have NH-U12P SE2, and I purchased it based on the fact that an $80 air cooler out-performed $120+ closed-loop systems and was quieter.

My HTPC has another Noctua in it with a 140mm fan. I'd like to know how a water cooling setup with fan + pump can be quieter than me, with ULNA.

So you see it too

dexterkarthik dexterkarthik said:

Are you suggesting that because you have a 95 watt processor that's not overclocked our results are wrong? As the testing notes pointed out each cooler was tested 3 times anyway which included being re-seated each time. I would question your own results as there is no way these air-coolers work at ambient room temperature, the computer would have to be turned off :S

You say your system runs at 54 degrees under load, that's 10% cooler than the results we got. Yet our processor has a 37% higher thermal design power rating.

I never implied that your results are wrong....just felt bad that the cooler I bought (first one [and probably the only one] in India) performed bad in the test while it is performing to my satisfaction in my workstation and hoping some to see it better { [link] ...

I was running on stock heat sink for a few days before going for the OCK and the idle temps in Indian [Bangalore] Summer (atmospheric temp >35C) were about 42-44 and max went to 70-73.....the same results with OCK were 39 and 55 respectively.....in Winter when outside temps fell to 9-10 the idle temps were about 20-21, this may be because of the poor air circulation in my room with the doors closed most of the time which I would say increases the ambient temp by at least 3-5 deg....hence I calculated the room temp around 30 as the outside temp is about 24 now

my ATI Radeon HD 5870 (stock) idle temp is around 35 as well and max 64 while CRYSIS'ing at 1440*900 High Settings [with custom fan profile in MSI Afterburner]

PS - Core 2 Quad Q6600 TDP is 105W I guess.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Okay so you were just telling us to recheck the FrioOCK results on the basis that you like it. We never said the FrioOCK wasn't a drastic improvement over the Intel box cooler, especially the LGA775 box cooler.

The Q6600 was improved with a newer stepping which reduced the TDP to 95 watt, either way even at 105w my original point still stands. That being you are comparing a 95 or 105w processor to a 130w processor, that and you are comparing the FrioOCK to a stock Intel box cooler and not something like the Noctua NH-U14S :S

Also that link that you provided didn't show the difference between the Thermaltake FrioOCK and the Noctua D14 in terms of noise. The FrioOCK is extremely loud which is why we limited it to 1300 RPM, even then it was noisy. I assume our results are comparable to their medium. In no way is the FrioOCK as good as the Noctua D14, other than it's a lot cheaper of course.

Direct quote from the review you linked...

"Thermaltake have been highlighting an apparent 7c benefit over the class leading Noctua NH D14. We can categorically state that this is utter nonsense."

dexterkarthik dexterkarthik said:

I was just astonished in the difference between OCK and NH-U14S considering NH-D14 performs better than U14S...hence the doubt

best way to clear the air would be to include a NH-D14 in the results (also Hyper 212 Evo, the budget performer super-king) if possible

2 people like this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I never implied that your results are wrong....just felt bad that the cooler I bought (first one [and probably the only one] in India) performed bad in the test while it is performing to my satisfaction in my workstation and hoping some to see it better

There are too many variables to take into account to compare a single cooler in isolation against a completely different system. Heatspreader size and underlying die layout are going to give variances in results*. Assuming that ambient conditions are equal (which they wont be - temp, humidity, chassis cooling, general airflow, heat map of the socket area) you would still need other heatsinks to test in order to gauge their effectiveness on the same system, since the LGA 775 (784mm) and LGA 2011 (1440mm) are fundamentally different in too many ways

* As an example, Frosty Tech tests with both an AMD (125W) system and an Intel (150W) system. If their case the lower wattage AMD system produces a higher temperature delta over ambient than the Intel system. In part, this instance AMD and Intel measure TDP quite differently. A direct comparison taking into account the turbo feature of the IB-E might be this one from Hardware France which shows the disparity between the Q6600 and the 3960X in actual power usage

Guest said:

Yes but only on the Archon SB-E X2. Maybe it's just an optical illusion but those pictures appear to show the fans pulling from the back and pushing towards the front of the mobo.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Yes but only on the Archon SB-E X2. Maybe it's just an optical illusion but those pictures appear to show the fans pulling from the back and pushing towards the front of the mobo.

None of those coolers were tested on that board, it was used purely for demonstration purposes I.e. photos. The motherboard used for testing was the Asrock X79 Extreme11 and that stayed installed in the Cooler Master HAF XB, it would have been a real chore removing it each time for the photos so we streamlined the process with the Gigabyte X79S-UP5 WiFi.

Guest said:

Each cooler was tested with the supplied thermal paste and fan. The only thing we didn't go into great detail about was the sound testing.

So no consistent 1 paste was used? A variety of pastes were used? I could see this skew the data a little bit. Is there a review available on the different pastes?

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So no consistent 1 paste was used? A variety of pastes were used? I could see this skew the data a little bit. Is there a review available on the different pastes?

I agree, the best cooler is still unknown. I still don't know which cooler is best, when different fans and thermal compound is used. Sure we have a good idea which is best using the supplied fan and compound. But to be honest that doesn't tell the whole story.

1 person liked this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

So no consistent 1 paste was used? A variety of pastes were used? I could see this skew the data a little bit. Is there a review available on the different pastes?

Using a variety of pastes would also skew the data. The review is a "run what you brung" comparison. If a particular cooler is shipped with some generic goop (*cough*Xigmatek*cough) in a sachet in order to keep the price low, then adding an aftermarket TIM syringe to the cost inflates the price....a price that is part of the scoring system of the article. If the object of the exercise was to test the best heatsink design rather than the retail cooler package, then I could see the validity in using an aftermarket TIM like IC7 (as well as a couple of Sanyo SanAce 150 cfm fans).

For the record, most quality thermal pastes are within a couple of C of each other when used as a CPU TIM ( high-end GPUs tend to show a larger delta). As an example, the Noctua coolers use NT-H1 and the Thermalright coolers use Chill Factor III. You can see from Skinneelabs testing that the TIMs exhibit similar performance

I agree, the best cooler is still unknown. I still don't know which cooler is best, when different fans and thermal compound is used. Sure we have a good idea which is best using the supplied fan and compound. But to be honest that doesn't tell the whole story.

That becomes a complex testing criteria, especially if you factor in absolute cooling ability versus produced noise since both have an impact of the end usage profile.

Xbit labs test with a single TIM (MX-4), using a variety of aftermarket fans at different rotational speeds (bear in mind that the two Corsair AF140's are an additional $38)

Staff
Steve Steve said:

I agree, the best cooler is still unknown. I still don't know which cooler is best, when different fans and thermal compound is used. Sure we have a good idea which is best using the supplied fan and compound. But to be honest that doesn't tell the whole story.

You are using the term "cooler" not heatsink. The cooler includes the heatsink, fan(s) and thermal paste, its a kit and that's what we tested, the kit! Why would you buy an expensive cooler, then remove the fans and throw away the thermal paste? If you were going to do that you would just buy a heatsink like the Prolimatech Megahalems and add your own gear.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I for one have not built up the nerve to go water-cooling, not even closed-loop. And if I did decide to get the best air-cooler, I'd like to know if changing the fan would make it more efficient. I understand testing what comes in the box, I feel that is more important to most.

Why would you buy an expensive cooler, then remove the fans and throw away the thermal paste?
Whether we would or not is our decision to make. And yes, I have thrown away the thermal paste that comes with the cooler, because I already have a specific thermal paste I use. If I were to pull the heat-sink and reapply, I'd use it anyway so might as well start with the same paste.

As for the fans, if you tell me that changing fans will not make a difference in thermals, I will leave it at that. But if the fans do make a difference your review leaves it open to speculation as to whether the weakness is heat-sink or fan. I was only suggesting, I'd like to know which.

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