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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 09 October 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance - Q3 2008
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
Cooler Master Geminii S
Cooler Master V8
Coolink Silentator
Evercool Transformer 6
OCZ Gladiator Max
Thermaltake V14 Pro
Vantec AeroFlow FX 120
Xigmatek Apache EP-CD901
Xigmatek HDT-S1284
Zalman CNPS9300 AT
Zaward Gyre ZCJ010
TIM Application and Surface
Testing Methodology
Test Results: Stock Cooling Fan
Test Results: High-Output Fan
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best of Q3 2008 Conclusion

Test Results: High-Output Fan

This section uses the high-output Yate Loon D12SH-12 cooling fan on each product we test, so while this section is labeled high-output it shouldn't be mistaken for highest-output. I am aware that there are much more impressive fans available, such as the 120 CFM screamers that require a bolt-on kit to retain them. But in my experience, the Yate Loon D12SH-12 is one of the best 120mm cooling fans available in regards to the noise to performance ratio. The D12SH-12 cooling fan forces an impressive 88 CFM of air at a moderately noisy 40 dbA. Personally, I can't suffer anything that produces higher sound levels than this, since gaming would then require headphones and casual computing is almost impossible. Overclockers are already willing to take their hardware to the breaking point, so it stands to reason that reduced fan noise is not a top priority. Not very long ago Benchmark Reviews compared the top-performing coolers in our Vendetta 2 vs TRUE vs HDT-S1283 article. In that article, we tested with the high-output D12SH-12 fan and liked the results so much that each cooler tested here has received the same treatment.

In our stock results section, the Thermaltake V14 Pro really had run of the field with it's integrated 140mm x 30mm fan. However impressive the performance was in the stock results, the truth is that 25.0°C places it in tenth place compared to our high-output results. In the big picture a stock unit placing in the top ten overall is very good, but either way I have a gut feeling that overclockers might reject it for lack of tweakability. Conversely, the Noctua NH-U12P that scored tenth in our stock results now performed at the very top of our high-output results with 23.4°C. That's a strange coincidence, and it prompted retesting just to be sure.

In a very tight second place finish, the OCZ Vendetta 2 proved itself worthy of high-temperature overclocked systems recording a performance of 23.6°C over ambient room temperatures. Almost identical in cooling performance but much higher in cost is the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, which when paired to the Yate Loon D12SH-12 (Thermalright doesn't include a fan) the TRUE performed at an impressive 23.6°C. Not far behind was the Cooler Master Hyper Z600 which reported 24.3°C, which could be improved with up to three additional fans. Next was the new Xigmatek HDT-S1284 that posted 24.4°C, a subtle improvement over the Xigmatek Achilles S1284 it replaces. Tied for fifth place with the HDT-S1284 was Cooler Master's new V8, which is as big as the Hyper Z600 but accomodates only one fan, and Vantec's AeroFlow FX 120 which is a shiny version of the HDT-S1283 which placed sixth with the cloned Kingwin RVT-12025. The Thermaltake V14 Pro would have finished out this group with 25.0°C.

All of the top performing CPU coolers have a few things in common: Noctua's NH-U12P uses a bolt-through system for mounting the cooler, similar to the Xigmatek Crossbow kit we use for other coolers. The Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme also uses a bolt-through kit, as does the Cooler Master Hyper Z600 and V8... so contact pressure is extremely high for all of them. The NH-U12P, Hyper Z600, and V8 all have very flat mirror finishes for the contact surface, whereas the OCZTVEND2, HDT-S1284, VAF-1225, RVT-12025, and TRUE have a textured and equally imperfect surfaces (although the TRUE features a convex surface). All of the top coolers have either large-gauge heat-pipes, or several pairs of heat-pipe rods integrated into the base.


Considering that the bulk of our top coolers collected for high-output testing performed in a range between 23.4°-26.1°C, it's a fair bet that these three small degrees of separation are an indication of how well-designed products have become. Much like the Thermal Interface Material testing we have done for our upcoming follow-up article, high-performance products are all beginning to perform at nearly the same levels. Eventually, I forsee this to be very much like NASCAR: everyone will have the same technology and the difference will remain in the application. This is where experience comes in handy, and we've shared some of this with you in our Best Thermal Paste Application Methods article. Remember, less is more when it comes to thermal paste, and soon CPU coolers may offer the same pardigm.

Unlike it's Noctua cousin, the Coolink Silentator did't top our best-of list. Placing seventh isn't bad at all however, and the 25.5°C performance falls dead-center of our best coolers. Similarly, OCZ's new Gladiator Max performed well with 25.6°C over ambient, but is still two degree Celsius over the Vendetta 2 even with a high-flow Yate Loon fan attached. The SilenX IXC-120HA2 is a HDT cooler with three exposed heat-pipes, and performed directly behind the Gladiator Max with a 25.7°C recorded difference. Evercool has high hopes for their Transformer 6 CPU cooler, and while 25.8°C doesn't keep it in the top ten, being the 13th best cooler we've tested with a high-volume fan isn't bad at all. The Sunbeam Core Contact Freezer CR-CCTF also performed well-enough to land in our best-of list, but 25.8°C is at the edge of our high-end readings.

The final two coolers are pure disappointments. Cooler Master's Geminii S and Zaward's Gyre are both past the over-30°C mark, and should not be considered viable cooling solutions for the serious overclocker. At 30.2°C over ambient, the Geminii S actually performed better than I had expected despite a statistically poor performance. Likewise, Zaward has to re-think their design as the Gyre produced a tepid 30.3°C over ambient. I suspect that the obstruction caused by wing-shaped finsinks was the primary culprit.

Please continue on to the final thoughts and conclusion section to read my remarks on the test outcome.


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