Finding the Best CPU Cooler: 10 units reviewed and tested

By Julio Franco · 59 replies
Sep 6, 2013
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  1. Jad Chaar and cliffordcooley like this.
  2. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

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

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,869   +2,039

    Wouldn't be on the coolers that push and pull would it?
  5. Nice review, but, unfortunately there's no Phanteks TC14PE here, because I'd like to see its performance compared to silver arrow.
  6. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

    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.
  7. TitoBXNY

    TitoBXNY TS Addict Posts: 236   +50

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

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,869   +2,039

    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.
  9. GhostRyder

    GhostRyder This guy again... Posts: 2,198   +593

    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.
  10. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,738   +3,706

    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?
  11. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,869   +2,039

    The heatsinks make a massive difference. The fans certainly help but what matters is how efficiently the heat is moved away from the CPU.
  12. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 719   +236

    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"
    havok585 likes this.
  13. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

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

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,670   +1,959

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

    Dukenukemx TS Member Posts: 71   +16

    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.
    Plenty of CPU water blocks on Ebay like this $25.
    Water pump is the hardest to choose, but this looks alright for the job at $20.
    Tubing is only $3.50 a foot, so not super expensive. I know there's cheaper, but lazy and Ebay.
    Some fittings if needed.
    Finally some hose clamps.

    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.
  16. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,670   +1,959

    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.
  17. MrBlkfx1

    MrBlkfx1 TS Evangelist Posts: 863   +204

    You can't be serious.
  18. Mugsy

    Mugsy TS Guru Posts: 438   +31

    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.
    SkaBob likes this.
  19. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 719   +236

    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.
  20. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

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

    SkaBob TS Rookie

    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.
  22. PendragonUK

    PendragonUK TS Rookie

    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!
    havok585 and dexterkarthik like this.
  23. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Maybe you should send Steve some CM coolers, because by the sounds of it Cooler Master couldn't get review samples to our reviewer.
    Welcome to the world of galvanic corrosion. You pay for what you get when it comes to water cooling...and $15 buys you this:
    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.
    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.
    Steve and cliffordcooley like this.
  24. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,869   +2,039

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

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

    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.

    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.
  25. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    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.

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