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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

Best CPU Cooler Conclusion

When I first examined the Cogage TRUE Spirit, I could see that it was a slightly scaled-down version of the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme. I didn't think much of it, and actually figured that it would trail the larger TRUE in cooling performance. Perhaps that's the beauty of these article, because it's truly anybody's game. There's no denying that the Prolimatech Megahalems offered near-identical performance, and that's fine if choose to ignore price. For the rest of the cost-conscious world however, the choice is clear. Even if you add an aftermarket Thermalright LGA1366 Bolt-Thru-Kit onto the $40 product cost, the Cogage TRUE Spirit still offers a better value than the others.

Consider that the Megahalems costs $65, the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme (TRUE) costs $60, and the Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384 sells for $65, yet all three of these top-performers still require you to purchase a cooling fan. Once you factor shipping and at least one $7 fan you'll still be paying almost twice what you would for the Cogage TRUE Spirit. It seems that the aftermarket CPU cooling industry is about to have its first price correction, and it couldn't happen at a better time.

It's been very quiet around the CPU cooling industry these past three months, as evidenced by the lack of high-end products launched to market. The opposite is true for overclockers, since the longtime popular Intel Core 2 and Core i7 brands are now competing with the AMD Phenom II series. Previously an overclock was limited by the CPU, but AMDs decision to offer unlocked Black Edition (BE) processors at mainstream prices have removed this roadblock. Still, AMDs socket AM3 platform will need to work overtime in order to beat the new line of LGA1156 socket Core i5/i7 processors.

Best_CPU_Cooler_Performance_Q3-09.jpg

For enthusiasts and overclockers, there's still plenty of life left in the older socket platforms and the retail pricing proves it. The quad-core Q8200 and Core 2 Duo E8400 each sell for around $165, unchanged for almost a year now and proving that demand for the LGA775 platform still exists. LGA775 products still provide decent value and give hardware enthusiasts a reason to continue using P45 and X48 chipsets, but they don't compare to the performance of Intel's Core i7 series or even touch the value of an AMD Phenom II processor.

Dual-core processors are still strong for gamers and multitaskers, while quad-core processors work best for audio/video editing and virtual computer servers. AMD's Phenom II launch has done wonders for the enthusiast and overclocking community, with efforts further amplified by offering affordable high-end products during an economic recession. For the money, there isn't a processor around that comes close in value or performance than the AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition unlocked triple-core socket AM3 processor that sells for only $119 (and earned it the Benchmark Reviews Editor's Choice Award). If quad-core is more to your liking, the AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE removes the clock multiplier restriction at a mainstream price around $189; something Intel's Extreme Edition processor offers for more than $1000.

While not every CPU cooler tested in this article is suitable for extreme overclocking projects, practically all of these products offer excellent cooling performance for high-end systems. Benchmark Reviews offers a beginners how-to guide for enthusiasts wanting to overclocking their CPU, so join in and see how far you can stretch that dollar! I've already delivered my choices for the LGA775 platform way back in the Best of Q4 2008 Conclusion, and not much has changed. The newer Intel Core i7 platform is still maturing despite the introduction of LGA1156/Core i5, so so more great products are still expected to compete in the market space.

LGA1366 Recommendations

Obviously there's a world above and beyond the 3.8GHz @ 1.4V overclock we put on our Core i7-920, and if Intel would like to help sponsor our series we could use an Extreme Edition CPU to find out exactly where the limit is. Presuming that overclockers aren't going to limit themselves to the i7-920 for their X58 projects, I see several opportunities for high-performance cooling. Here are my suggestions for extreme LGA1366 cooling projects:

Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer AwardFor absolute performance my recommendation goes to the Prolimatech Megahalems. This product is designed by former Thermalright engineers, and takes the best aspects into consideration to produce one phenomenal product. The mounting base is unparalleled by any other I've ever tested, and delivers extraordinary contact surface pressure between the processor and polished finish on the Megahalems. As of October 2009 the ProlimaTech Megahalems was available at FrozenCPU for $65. Make sure to add two Yate Loon D12SH-12 fans in a push-pull configuration for $7 each, and you'll find that only chilled liquid cooling can outperform it.

Another option is the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme (TRUE) for $60, or the TRUE Black Ultra-120 eXtreme for $75. Add the same two Yate Loon D12SH-12 fans in a push-pull configuration for $7 each along with the $6 Thermalright Fan Bracket, and you'll be ready for some high-temperature overclocking.

Since the Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG-2000 kit is available at NewEgg for $34.99, and it comes with a strong bolt-through mounting kit and Scythe Slip-Stream fan, there's really very little additional cost to consider. The Mugen-II worked great in stock form, but overclockers will definitely want to upgrade the fan and possibly use a push/pull combination to drive air through the massive heatsink. Of all the 'large' heatsinks tests, the SCMG-2000 kit offers the best value.

The Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384 is available from NewEgg for $65, which includes the CrossBow ACK-I7363 mounting system with the CAC-SXHH7-U01 kit and allows two 120mm fans of either 25mm or 35mm depths. Thor's Hammer can handle two 120mm fans, and my pick would be the Yate Loon D12SH-12 fans in a push-pull configuration for $7 each.

Obviously the Thermalright Cogage TRUE Spirit is an excellent choice, but four heat-pipe rods limit the thermal range this cooler can handle compared to more robust coolers. You'll want a better fan (or two), and the aftermarket Thermalright LGA1366 Bolt-Thru Kit for an extra $10, but there's certainly some performance to be had from the TRUE Spirit.

Beyond these five top-performers, there's only a handful of other CPU coolers I might consider worthy of high-temperature overclocking projects on the LGA1366 socket. The Titan FINRIR TTC-NK85TZ and Thermolab BARAM are two good products, but North American availability is scarce if not impossible. More likely to stocked is the Cooler Master Hyper Z600 RR-600-NNU1-GP kit for $58 or Xigmatek HDT-S1284EE which sells for $38 at NewEgg. Each of these kits offers LGA1366 compatibility, and each comes with a capable cooling fan (although the Hyper Z600 can fit four 120mm units).

Some of the older products still deliver great performance, even against the newest top-performers. The classic Xigmatek HDT-S1283 is a product that has spawned at least a dozen clones. The grandfather of HDT still performs among the best products we test, presently sells for $40. An even better price on the exact same design can be found in the Kingwin RVT-12025, an exact clone of the HDT-S1283, but with a silent fan. The RVT-12025 presently sells for only $22, making it the most affordable top-performance product available; leaving money to upgrade the fan and mounting kit. There really are a lot of options out there, and hopefully this series has helped clarify your decision.

This concludes the Best CPU Cooler Performance LGA1366 - Q3 2009 roundup article. If you have constructive suggestions, Benchmark Reviews encourages you to leave comments and questions in our Discussion Forum.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Benchmark Reviews will publish our Q1-2010 Best CPU Cooler Performance LGA1366 article on 11 March 2010. Several new heatsinks along with some enthusiast favorites will all be tested on an overclocked six-core Intel processor. Additionally, our performance test results for the AMD AM3 socket will also be included.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Scythe Mugen-2 Revision B model SCMG-2100 heatsink is identical to the first version, model SCMG-2000. The only difference is that Mugen-2 Rev. B uses a newly developed F.M.S.B. (Flip Mount Super Back-Plate) for more convenient mounting onto the motherboard. There should not be any cooling performance between these two models, despite marketing hype.

Epilogue - Looking Forward

What comes next? The Intel P55-Express chipset has opened up mainstream hardware to various tweaking projects, but it doesn't hit the target for hardcore enthusiast overclockers. Chances are very good that the Best CPU Cooler Performance Q4-2009 article will feature more high-end LGA1366 cooling products; at least until a processor with higher TDP is made popular among overclockers.

Sometimes a well-planned project still suffers problems, and even though Benchmark Reviews works closely with manufacturers and distributors we still miss the opportunity to test new products from time to time. In our next article, we plan to include the following CPU coolers:

  • Dynatron G950 Genius
  • Xigmatek Balder SD1283
  • Xigmatek Odin's Wing

Although we made several requests for product samples, there were a few companies who declined to have their product compared against others in our Best CPU Cooler Performance series.

  • Evercool Buffalo HPFI7-10025 CPU Cooler
  • Rosewill FORT120 RCX-SHDT120X1 CPU Cooler


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Comments 

 
# 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.

Thanks!
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# 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! :)
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# 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.
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# 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
#benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=371&Itemid=62&limit=1&limitstart=6

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.

#benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=371&Itemid=62&limit=1&limitstart=6
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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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