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Best CPU Cooler Performance LGA1366 Q3-2009 E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Friday, 09 October 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance LGA1366 Q3-2009
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
Cogage TRUE Spirit
CoolAge CA-X120TF Wind Tunnel
Corsair H50 CWCH50
Scythe Kabuto SCKBT-1000
Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG-2000
Tuniq Tower-120 Extreme
ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 PWM Premium
Cooler Surface Preparations
Cooler Test Methodology
Test Results: Stock Cooling Fan
Test Results: High-Output Fan
Enthusiast Fan Comparison
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best CPU Cooler Conclusion

Overclocked Cooling Results

Overclockers are known for being particular to their equipment, which is why Benchmark Reviews changes our format with each new project. Although it's impossible to nail-down which fan is the overwhelming choice for overclocker project, most enthusiasts would agree that the higher the airflow the more appropriate the fan. Because of size and design constraints in most of these products, a 120x120x25mm fan is as large as we can go with our collection of CPU coolers. This section uses the high-output Yate Loon D12SH-12 cooling fan on each product tested. The D12SH-12 cooling fan forces an impressive 88 CFM of air at a moderately noisy 40 dBA, and performs better than several 120x120x38mm fans we've tested (more on that later). 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. Overclocked to 3.80Hz, Benchmark Reviews uses a lapped and polished Intel Core i7-920 CPU with 1.40V applied to the processor's vCore for this section.

While our stock performance tests use a standard Intel Core i7-920 Processor BX80601920 retail part, this section makes use of another Core i7-920 2.66GHz processor lapped flat with super-fine 1200 grid wet-sanding paper on a thick piece of glass. Once the Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) exposed the copper finish, we switched to ultra-fine 2000 grit wet-sanding paper. To add a final buffing finish, the surface was wet-sanded with ultra-fine 2500 grit and then polished with liquid finishers. When the lapped Core i7-920 was reinstalled into the X58 test platform, the voltage was raised to 1.40V and pushed to a modest 3.80 GHz overclock. While some enthusiasts have dared to trespass beyond this voltage, Benchmark Reviews needed our test system to remain functional long enough to complete testing on nearly twenty various products under several different conditions. Our readers must remember that every product must pass testing on the same motherboard and processor, or the testing must be redone completely (which happened anyway, thanks to a failed motherboard).

All of the top performing CPU coolers have a few things in common: bolt-through mounting clip systems that create impressive contact pressure. Although some mounting systems are better designed than others, it's without a doubt that the Intel push-pin style of mounting clip is designed to provide adequate compression while offering the best installation convenience. The mounting system on the Prolimatech Megahalems uses an excellent bolt-through system with slotted alloy plates to ensure a perfectly centered cooler, which was a good bit better than the Xigmatek Crossbow kits we use on compatible coolers. The Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme and Cogage TRUE Spirit also use a similar bolt-through kit... so contact pressure is extremely high for all of these coolers. At least half of our CPU cooler collection have very flat mirror-finished contact surfaces, whereas the other half use Heat-pipe Direct Touch (HDT) technology. Every single one of these coolers have either large-gauge heat-pipes, or several pairs of heat-pipe rods integrated into the base. In my opinion nearly every single product on this chart is an outstanding aftermarket cooler, but only a select few can be considered the very best. Charted below, Benchmark Reviews reveals the the results of our LGA1366 CPU cooler performance tests:


The overclocked Intel Core i7-920 processor really helped to separate the performance between products, especially at 1.40V vCore. Our large sixteen-unit collection of LGA1366 cooler varied by more than 18°C between them. Benchmark Reviews is confident that these results match those by enthusiasts with identical system hardware and configuration, however because our tests utilize a water-cooled video card and X58-Express Northbridge to avoid nearby heat transfer into our results, your own results will be slightly higher.

The added voltage and overclock immediately increased the core temperatures by 20°C, and is not recommended for coolers with stock fans, Even with the high-output Yate Loon D12SH-12 the temperatures climbed. All kits tested here used either an included or aftermarket bolt-through kit for mounting the cooler and creating optimal contact pressure. After each test run was completed (one hour), the cooler was removed and the thermal paste contact spread was inspected before being cleaned and re-installed for another test. Doing this revealed an peculiar trend, which make the distinction between LGA775 and LGA1366 performance more understandable.

Because of the slightly spread-out core placement on a Core 2 Quad or Duo processor, most 6mm triple heat-piped HDT cooler would make directly-aligned contact with the cores through the IHS. However, when it comes to the Core i7 series the processor cores line-up better with four-piped HDT coolers (or at the outer edge of the center heat-pipe in the three-piped HDT cooler). Conversely, coolers with a solid base are not effected by either platform, so long as they're big enough to saturate the contact surface. Making matters a little more complicated is the orientation of the Core i7 processor series, which is restricted to comply with the Intel-designed horizontally-aligned rectangle shape (not square like LGA775 processors). The 32mm tall by 35mm wide Core i7 processor is more sensitive to how a cooler is mounted to it, and care must be take to ensure the IHS is fully covered by the heatsink.

Listed in their order of overclocked cooling performance, these are the Best CPU Coolers for the overclocked LGA1366 Core i7 platform for Q3 2009. Please note that the thermal difference (CPU core temps subtracted from the ambient room temp) is listed beside each CPU cooler:

CPU Cooler

Thermal Difference
Cogage TRUE Spirit 36.0°C over ambient
Prolimatech Megahalems 36.3°C over ambient
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 37.2°C over ambient
Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG-2000 38.6°C over ambient
Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384 39.1°C over ambient
Corsair H50 CWCH50 41.5°C over ambient
Titan FENRIR TTC-NK85TZ 42.5°C over ambient
CoolAge FO-X120TF Wind Tunnel 42.6°C over ambient
Thermolab BARAM 42.8°C over ambient
Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme 43.9°C over ambient
Xigmatek HDT-S1283 45.0°C over ambient
OCZ Gladiator Max 45.1°C over ambient
Kingwin XT-1264 45.2°C over ambient
OCZ Vendetta 2 OCZTVEND2

45.7°C over ambient

Scythe Kabuto SCKBT-1000 46.0°C over ambient
ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 Premium 54.0°C over ambient

For the first time in many months, the Prolimatech Megahalems has been out-performed. Cogage, the Thermalright spin-off company, offers excellent value in their TRUE Spirit cooler for only $39.95. The Cogage TRUE Spirit performance at an average of 36.0°C over ambient after five tests, and although the aftermarket bolt-through kit and Yate Loon fan come at an extra expense, the final product outperforms the bunch. Like clockwork, the Prolimatech Megahalems followed closely behind with an average temperature of 36.3°C over ambient, while the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme trailed behind even further at 37.2°C over ambient. The giant-sized Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG-2000 performed at 38.6°C over, while the Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384 cooled down to 39.1°C over ambient. These five coolers are the Best CPU Coolers for overclocked LGA1366 processors as of Q3-2009.

Trailing less than six degrees behind the top leader and also paired with a Yate Loon high-output fan, the Corsair H50 CWCH50 offered standout performance with a total adjusted temperature of 41.5°C over ambient. Titan's FENRIR TTC-NK85TZ CPU cooler offered a impressive 42.5°C over, followed by the CoolAge FO-X120TF Wind Tunnel and Thermolab BARAM. If you're planning to overclock your computer beyond a reasonable threshold, then you'll want to make sure one of these coolers is on your parts list.

At 43.9°C over ambient the massive Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme offered respectable performance, but the $64.99 price tag is a little too far off from fair market value. The more affordable and equally effective Xigmatek HDT-S1283, OCZ Gladiator Max, or Kingwin XT-1264 each performed nearly as well, at half the size and cost. The OCZ Vendetta 2 OCZTVEND2, an old LGA775 favorite, performed at 45.7°C over ambient, while the Scythe Kabuto SCKBT-1000 trailed a full ten degrees behind the group leader and offered 46.0°C over.

All of these coolers will work extremely well in overclocked systems, and given the right circumstances some of the more tame coolers could perform just as well as the top products. Some of these coolers will accept a second fan, further improving results, while other are limited to only one. Taking cost into consideration, the field can been reduced to only a few real contenders. The ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 Premium is an exception; the proprietary integrated fan cannot be exchanged for another high-output fan, such as the Yate Loon unit we've tested with. Because of this restriction, the NV120 PWM performed a marginal distance behind the others and wouldn't help an enthusiast achieve that top-speed overclock.

But wait, that's not all. In the next section, Benchmark Reviews compares our favored Yate Loon D12SH-12 against the Scythe Ultra Kaze 120x120x38mm fan, model DFS123812H-3000. Once you see the results, you'll reconsider using outrageously large 38mm thick cooling fans when excellent 25mm standard units exist.



# March 11th cooler article?Hugo Martinez 2010-03-11 22:26
Where I am, it's March 12th. I've been looking forward to your March 11th "Q1-2010 Best CPU Cooler Performance LGA1366" article that was scheduled for March 11th. Is it already up but I'm too blind to find it? Or are you running late?

I need to buy a cooler but I promised myself to wait until I read the report.

Report Comment
# Worth the waitOlin Coles 2010-03-12 07:39
Hello Mr. Martinez:

This article has grown much larger than first planned, and is expected to be published later this afternoon (3/12). It's worth the wait! :)
Report Comment
# Hope it is worth the waitRaul Tano 2010-03-12 15:40
I'm in the same boat as Mr. Martinez. I eagerly await the article.
Report Comment
# DiamondsJava_Az 2010-05-24 10:43
although Diamond is a polymorph of the element carbon.Diamond conducts heat better than anything - five times better than the second best element, Silver! I wonder what a diamond heatsink would set you back
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# MikeMichael 2010-09-26 09:34
Diamond only conducts heat in such a manner when it's aligned properly - therefore, you must grow a diamond, or fashion a diamond into a heatsink - you cannot combine diamonds as they would not match in alignment on the molecular level. This means you would need to start with a massive diamond.
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# wrong specificationjason 2010-08-10 13:19
Editors, can you correct the weight in the above specifications?
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# RE: wrong specificationOlin Coles 2010-08-10 13:20
Be more specific, and list your source.
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# RE: wrong specificationsjason 2010-08-12 01:41

SCMG-2000 Specifications
Weight: 870 g
30.7 lb

It should be 30.7oz.
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# RE: wrong specificationsjason 2010-08-11 11:08
Sorry I was talking about the specifications of SCMG-2000.
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# Can Mugen 2 fit in ThermaltakeV3 BE or Cooler Master 430 elite?Deen 2011-02-26 12:52
Can Mugen 2 fit in ThermaltakeV3 BE or Cooler Master 430 elite?
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