CPU Air Cooler Roundup: Six Coolers from Noctua, SilverStone, be quiet!, and Cooler Masterby Dustin Sklavos on March 14, 2013 2:40 AM EST
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- Cooler Master
Ease of Installation
After reviewing the Deepcool coolers, the ones I have on hand for this roundup feel like a night and day difference. Deepcool's products seem clearly designed to undercut more expensive propositions like most of the ones found here, but everything about the packages surrounding all the coolers here but but the bargain Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO scream quality.
Noctua's mounting system for the NH-D14 and NH-L12 is pretty similar to what Deepcool was doing, and in fact I've found most of the mounts I've tested so far have hewed to the same general designs. There's a backplate with four screws that goes through the holes in the motherboard, and then spacers and mounting brackets are secured on top of them. The mount for the Heligon HE01 is virtually identical. There are two studs on the brackets that another bracket (mounted between the cooler's heatpipes) affixes on to. It's a good system and allows the user to adjust orientation of the cooler pretty easily.
For the Noctua NH-L9i and be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2, four screws essentially come up through the motherboard's mounting holes and directly into sockets affixed directly to the coolers themselves. The Dark Rock Pro 2 uses a backplate while the L9i does not due to essentially operating within Intel's own cooler spec.
Of all the coolers, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO's mounting may be the most aggravating for newer users. I've used a couple of 212 Plus units on builds for myself and other people, and I've had to move the 212 EVO a few times, so the quirks of the mechanism Cooler Master employs are old hat at this point. There's a backplate that goes behind the motherboard, and from there you insert four mounting standoffs and secure them to the backplate with bolts. The problem is that it can often be difficult to jam the screw parts of the standoffs through the backplate in the first place. The size of the backplate also means that if there are any electronics on the back of the motherboard, the plate is going to be butting up against them.
From there you move a mounting bracket between the heatpipes and push the screws into the standoffs. The problem with the design here is that even with the bracket securely fastened, you can still rotate the cooler slightly. It's not really a huge deal; if you applied thermal paste properly, the paste prevents anything from scratching, and obviously it doesn't bother me enough to stop using the Hyper 212 EVO in the case testbed.
I will say that where the 212 EVO shines is in the mounts it uses for the fans. There are plastic brackets with rubber pads that screw into the fan, and then the brackets snap on to the heatsink. These brackets are far, far easier to use than the cheap wire brackets used the majority of the time. Noctua avoids the pitfall of the wire brackets by having them affixed to the fans themselves, but SilverStone's Heligon HE01 requires a bit of dexterity to mount the fan.
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cjs150 - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - linkPersonally I would also prefer water cooling for the simple reason that a good (thick) 240/280 Radiator can cool both CPU and GPU and there is no need to worry about whether the RAM heatspreaders are too tall for the air cooler.
What the result show is just how good the closed loop water coolers have become.
However, there is no denying air cooling is simpler, less prone to messy accidents (I know!) and perfect for those who like to keep the computer on all the time. Nice review and keep up the good work
James086 - Friday, March 15, 2013 - linkA minor caveat: be sure to point a fan at the ram and motherboard heatsinks. I didn't and because there was no airflow around my motherboard, it popped a VRM.
StevoLincolnite - Monday, March 18, 2013 - linkRam cooling isn't important, they don't even need heatsinks, it's all for looks.
However, motherboard cooling is important, spend a little extra and get a motherboard with decent heatsinks or even active cooling like the Sabertooth x79.
Plus, case airflow is important too.
maximumGPU - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - linkNice review! wish there was a thermalright silver arrow on there to get a more comprehensive look at the high end coolers. When i bought mine it was widely considered superior to closed loops, looking at the review's results i'm not so sure about that now.
wiyosaya - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - linkI've been a fan, pun intended, of Thermalright paired with Scythe fans for a long time. I currently have a TRUE Spirit 120M paired with a very low noise 120mm Scythe fan cooling an i7-3820. The absence of noise was a prime factor for me, and I don't overclock because stability is also of prime concern for me. IMHO, this combination works very well.
I, too, would have loved to have seen any of the Thermalright heat sinks in this review.
iTzSnypah - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - linkI don't believe that the case has adequate airflow.
iTzSnypah - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - linkAlso there is a fault in your testing methodology. When you tested the CLC's you effectively increased the number of case fans, which would increase airflow and decrease load temps.
I suggest you retest, with the case always having 3 fans, 1 intake and 2 exhaust.
FragKrag - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - linkI don't think the point here is to get a completely unbiased performance test, but rather test the coolers in a realistic environment
dragosmp - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - linkThe thing is there's not more realistic not to have case fans than to have them. One may argue that it's more likely to encounter systems that have one/two exhaust fans than to have only one intake.
I'm suspicious of these results as most sites put aircoolers in a much better light and my own experience show it's a bad bad thing to remove rear fans.
In this setup aircloolers spit warm air that is hardly being channeled out by anything; the positive pressure generated by the front intake can be dissipated in many ways that don't move the warm air around the CPU zone. I've worked recently with a 600T, if the up/rear fans were slowed to 400RPM (so still working) with a CM 212+ @1200RPM and a 2700K@4.2GHz the CPU got toasted in games 80°C+ - running the fans @800RPM decreased the temp by some 20°C.
"I removed every case fan but the front intake, which I ran at 5V to prevent it from affecting acoustics while still providing adequate airflow." - how much airflow was there thru the fan-less rear exhausts?
lever_age - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - linkRight, look at how restrictive the back panel looks. Some people with intake-heavy setups (and that would be a whole lot more than a single fan at 5V in a large case that's very far away from the CPU cooler) cut out the spot and use a wire grille instead, and remove slot covers.
If it weren't for some of the top venting, the air coolers would have been really suffocated. In that setup, there is a bias towards the CLCs because their fans are actually working close to the actual vents on the case, due to how everything is mounted and positioned.
If you're only testing down to 30 dB, you can easily run a few more decent-quality fans at some ~800 rpm and get some more reasonable airflow without really increasing the noise level measured.