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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance LGA1366 - Q1 2009
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme
Cooler Master V10 RR-B2P-UV10-GP
CoolIT Domino ALC
Prolimatech Megalems
Spire TherMax II SP679S1-PCI
Thermolab BARAM
Titan FENRIR TTC-NK85TZ
Xigmatek Dark Knight S1283V
Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384
Zalman CNPS9900 LED
TIM Application and Surface
Testing Methodology
Test Results: Stock Cooling Fan
Test Results: High-Output Fan
Overclocked Test Results
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best CPU Cooler Conclusion

Stock Cooling Fan Results

Benchmark Reviews tries to cover every angle, but sometimes it's just not possible given our time constraints. Our past 'Best CPU Cooler Performance' series have largely focused on the Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad LGA775 socket, and while the results are relevant to users of those processors, the new Core i7 platform is completely different. To the inexperienced enthusiast, a top-performing LGA775 cooler might be (mistakenly) considered worthy for cooling a new LGA1366 Core i7 project. This would be a grave error, because not only are the two processors different in overall size, they also contain the processor cores in different locations. Simply stated: what worked well on a Core 2 platform may not work very good with Core i7.

When it comes to personal computers, you could probably divide users into two separate groups for almost any one topic. This article is no different, and those two groups include both enthusiasts and overclockers. Hardcore overclockers and serious hardware enthusiasts may not consider the stock cooling results very interesting, but they're welcome to skip ahead into the next section where we add a high-performance fan and then add overclocked values. Believe it or not though, some people are on a budget and don't want or have the extra money to spend on aftermarket cooling fans or an additional bolt-through kit; sometimes they just want good cooling right out of the box. This section is for them.

In regards to fan noise, there are those of us who want it quiet while other will tolerate an eardrum-ringing whine. Since noise is a problem and not a solution, I believe that most enthusiasts want as much performance as they can get without additional tweaking and time-intensive modifications. That's what this test section is all about: how the cooler performs out of the box. For the "Stock Cooling Fan" results, Benchmark Reviews tests our Q1-2009 collection of LGA1366 CPU coolers for this article using the following criteria: Each cooler is tested with the manufacturer-included fan, so that performance will be relevant to consumers using the product in stock form.

Please keep in mind that a product that finishes at the top of the stock fan list isn't going to be relative if you plan on overclocking your processor or invest in a different cooling fan. Manufacturer-supplied stock cooling fans usually offer either extremely high airflow or incredibly low noise, so there's a lot riding on what's packaged with the kit. Sure, there's added importance on the cooler's design and construction, but at the stock level these factors really don't carry tremendous weight.

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The best CPU coolers Benchmark Reviews has tested in stock form for the LGA1366 socket is very different from the results we've seen in past LGA775 tests. Some Core 2 favorites fall down a few places, while others remain relative. The performance results position the coolers in the following order, with the temperature difference beside them:

CPU Cooler

Thermal Difference
Titan FINRIR TTC-NK85TZ 26.0°C over ambient
Prolimatech Megahalems (2x 120mm fans) 26.43°C over ambient
Zalman CNPS9900 LED 27.1°C over ambient
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 27.15°C over ambient
Cooler Master V10 TEC 27.45°C over ambient
Cooler Master Hyper Z600 27.95°C over ambient
Xigmatek Dark Knight S1283V 28.08°C over ambient
Xigmatek HDT-S1284 29.45°C over ambient
Spire TherMax II SP679S1-PCI 29.7°C over ambient
Noctua NH-U12P (2x 120mm fans) 30.78°C over ambient
Cooler Master V8 31.0°C over ambient
OCZ Gladiator Max 31.1°C over ambient
OCZ Vendetta 2 OCZTVEND2 31.4°C over ambient
CoolIt Domino ALC (low fan setting) 37.78°C over ambient
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme 42.9°C over ambient
Intel LGA1366 Stock Cooling Solution 53.07°C over ambient

While the Titan FINRIR occupies the top position on our stock-fan chart, it's largely in-part because of the cooling fan offering extremely high-volume output, although the cooler offers extremely good design otherwise. Similarly, the Prolimatech Megahalems enjoys a similar advantage because it includes* two low-noise 120mm cooling fans and at the same time features an effective product design. The Zalman CNPS9900 LED gets its performance from the high-output high-noise integrated fan, along with a dense array of copper fins. The Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme is an old crowd favorite, and matched with a (finally) included 120mm fan it does very well. For the size, the Cooler Master V10 TEC is pulling its own weight, but hopefully we see better results in the next sections. Equally impressive and half as large is the Cooler Master Hyper Z600, followed closely by the Xigmatek Dark Knight S1283V which features a bolt-through kit and decent cooling fan. The Xigmatek HDT-S1284 continues to offer very good performance out of the box, with the Spire TherMax II SP679S1-PCI right behind it.

EDITORS NOTE 29 March 2009: The ProlimaTech Megahalems retail kit does not include two cooling fans, although the kit we received did.

The next group of coolers doesn't quite make it into the top positions, but still offer great performance. The Noctua NH-U12P sacrifices cooling performance for a pair of completely-silent 120mm fans, but still manages to make our top-ten. The Cooler Master V8 performs well enough, but the stock fan is meant for low-noise and not high-output airflow. The low-volume low-noise fans included with the OCZ Gladiator Max and OCZ Vendetta 2 push them to the end of our top-performance LGA1366 coolers. From this point on, the performance gets ugly.

Because the CoolIt Domino ALC offers three fan settings, we felt it was appropriate to use the low fan setting for the stock comparison. Although the Domino ALC was completely silent, almost scary silent, it barely kept up with the other high-end coolers when applied to a stock Intel Core i7-920 processor operating at 2.66 GHz. There were only two products which did worse... a lot worse. The Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme performed miserably, primarily because the cooling fan is meant for low-noise and not high-output airflow, but also because the contact base was nearly half the size of the processors IHS surface. The test results actually began to scare me, as the core temperatures occasionally reached 60°C. For comparison purposes, the stock Intel LGA1366 thermal cooling solution that comes included with retail processors was tested. What little nerve I had left after watching the Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme was now gone, as the Intel LGA1366 cooler often found itself of the wrong side of 70°C core temperatures. Thankfully, I only had to test it once.

There were a few products excluded from our stock fan results, simply because they don't include a fan with the kit. The Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384 is one example, and so is the Thermolab BARAM. If you want to see how these coolers do when they have a high-volume cooling fan attached, please continue into the next section.



 

Comments 

 
# Fans die quickKameal Celestee 2012-04-04 06:48
Had one of these and whilst they work well the fans didn't last more than a year, first one went down and then the other a few weeks later.
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