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Best CPU Cooler Performance - Q3 2008 E-mail
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

Best of Q3 2008 Conclusion

As much as I enjoy discovering the performance potential for coolers, I absolutely hate the testing. I wouldn't punish my worst enemy with this kind or misery, because for nearly one full month I would wake up very early in the morning and begin testing as soon as the ambient room temperature was within range. The entire process is not at all enjoyable, since I had to maintain a strict regimen of re-installing the cooler before each test with a new application of thermal paste and make sure each test was uniform to the last. Making matters worse, the motherboard in our test system began to exhibit failure halfway through our benchmarks. Starting over with a new motherboard caused many weeks of delay, which is why this article wasn't published on time.

So while testing CPU coolers is a very long and stressful job; once the data has been transferred and results calculated it makes it all worth it. Three degrees of separation is not very much at all for nearly fifteen different coolers, however. This concerns me, primarily because the closer these products perform in testing the more difficult they are to rank. Consider that a disclaimer, because with a 1°C margin of error the top pick could be one in a dozen. Despite the challenges, I plan to refine the testing process and continue tuning the proceedure for each Best CPU Cooler article.

There were several surprises in this article, but not everyones story had a happy ending. Thermaltake should be absolutely proud of their V14 Pro (CL-P0471), which performed well beyond any other stock cooler and settled in at the middle of our high-volume coolers without a Yate Loon D12SH-12 attached. This cooler hasn't made it to retailers yet, but I expect the copper mostrocity will fetch a pretty penny. Xigmatek has a potential sucessor on its hands with the HDT-S1284, but only time will tell of the Intel Core i7 will need something this heavy-weight for cooling. My sources tell me that high-temperature processors are going to be put to extinction before long, and overclocking the CPU will become more challenging.


But for those enthusiasts clinging to their LGA775 setup and overclocking their Core 2 processors, adding a high-volume fan (and Crossbow bolt-through kit) can get you to the next level. Add the 88 CFM Yate Loon to a Noctua NH-U12P and you've got yourself a phenomenal cooler, but a little pricy. For the money, OCZ's Vendetta 2 is still my top choice when given a powerful fan. The Xigmatek HDT-S1283 is still right behind it, in both performance and price. Since the NH-U12P is almost impossible to locate and is only at select few online retailers for $64.99, the OCZTVEND2 sold at NewEgg for $49.99 (with additional $10 rebate) comes across as the better deal. Noctua does include its own backbrace bolt-through system, but the nearly-identical Xigmatek CrossBow kit ACK-I7751 we used to replace the LGA775 push-pin clip retaining system on the Vendetta 2 and HDT-S1283 will only cost an extra $6.99 plus shipping.

If you're not opposed to spending (a lot) more money, and you have a considerable amount of spare time on your hands, there are two other suggestions I make. The Cooler Master Hyper Z600 offered top-five level performance when we added one Yate Loon D12SH-12 high-volume fan, but the Z600 can fit four of these on it's large frame. CM includes a bolt-through kit with the RR-600-NNU1-GP package so the weight is not so much an issue, and the contact surface is polished to a mirror finish so no additional effort is necessary. The Hyper Z600 has been spotted online for as low as $48.83, but that price climbs when you add three additional fans. My other suggestion is the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, and although the "TRUE" has been on the market for almost two years prices are still hovering around $60. Please keep in mind that the TRUE does not include a fan, and one (or two, if desired) must be purchased separately. It is also advisable to lap and polish the rough convex mounting surface, which is really the biggest flaw of this cooler.

This concludes the Q3 2008 review of the Best Performing CPU Coolers. Overall, I believe Benchmark Reviews has done a very good job of searching out the best of the best, and proving what works on a real-world system. There's a concern growing about the future of overclocking as the Intel Core i7 launch draws near, but Benchmark Reviews will have a nice article ready for launch day to help answer the questions for you. It's anyones guess what kind of coolers we'll find for our Q4 2008 article due to be published in three more months; it might be Zalman's CNPS9900, the Arctic Cooling Freezer XTREME, or Xigmatek's upcoming Dark Knight S1283. Only one thing is for certain: the best very best CPU cooler for 2008 will be exposed. Please make your suggestions, or leave comments and questions in our Discussion Forum.

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