The Intel Core i7-2600K makes a perfect case scenario of a processor that can really benefit from an upgraded cooler. Despite being a more expensive unlocked processor, Intel bundles the Core i7-2600K with the same low profile heatsink that comes with the cheaper Core i5/i3 processors.
When we first reviewed the Sandy Bridge architecture Intel provided their BXXTS100H cooler, which is a 130mm tall tower style cooler featuring a 95mm fan capable of spinning at 2600 RPM. Although this cooler offers considerably better performance, it is an optional extra worth over $40.
For that kind of money the Thermalright True Spirit 140 is a much better option. The large True Spirit 140 cooler provides near silent operation, even when fully stressed and overclocked. Given the price and performance of the True Spirit 140 it is without question the best value cooler featured in our roundup and is very likely the best value product on the market today.
The next most affordable cooler in our roundup was the Prolimatech Panther. Had it not been for the amazing performance of the True Spirit 140 we would certainly be a lot more impressed with what Prolimatech brought to the table. At $55 however, the Panther is not only more expensive than the Thermalright, but we found it to be 2-3 degrees warmer. There is just one area where the Panther was able to best the True Spirit and that was in the installation process - the Prolimatech approach is far simpler.
Higher up the food chain we have the Thermaltake Frio Advanced, a brand new product that we have been keen to check out. Sadly this cooler failed to prove its weight in gold, delivering subpar performance at a premium price.
On the bright side the Noctua NH-C14 delivered. Though it was only marginally cooler than the cheaper Thermalright True Spirit 140, and became much louder when stressed.
Therefore when it comes to getting the best bang for your buck, we recommend going with the Thermalright True Spirit 140. It is dirt cheap at $40, provides high-end performance and is compatible with all modern AMD and Intel platforms right out of the box. The Noctua NH-C14 provided our best results, making it a top pick for overclockers, though should you configure heatsinks such as the Megahalems with similar fans you will likely get similar results.