|Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 12 March 2010|
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Best CPU-Cooler Performance
Overclocking is a lot like skydiving and break dancing: not everyone does it, but it's really fun for those of us who do. There's a level of overclocking for every enthusiasts, from simple speed bumps to the record-breaking liquid nitrogen extreme projects. Overclocking is addictive, and before you know it the bug has you looking at hardware that might cost as much as a low-end computer system. Allow me to stand and tell you my name is Olin Coles, and I'm an overclocker. I'm not ashamed; at least not for being a PC-hardware enthusiast... but my occasional leap from an airplane or casual windmill-to-poplock is another story.
Overclockers demand only the best performance from their computer hardware, which is why the aftermarket heatsink industry is thriving with competition. Using both the overclocked 140W AMD Phenom-II X4-965 BE and six-core Gulftown Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition processors, Benchmark Reviews tests several new thermal solutions for our Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010 article. Notable entries include the ProlimaTech Armageddon, Cogage Arrow, Noctua NH-D14, Thermalright Venomous-X, and Zalman CNPS10X-Performa.
Two desktop processors stand at the forefront of enthusiast wish-lists: AMD's Phenom-II X4-965 CPU and Intel's Core i7-980X Extreme Edition "Gulftown" 6-core processor. In response to requests from our community, Benchmark Reviews decided it was time to give AMD their time in our Best CPU Cooler Performance series. So in this Best CPU Cooler Performance Q1-2010 article, an overclocked AMD Phenom II X4 965 "Black Edition" processor was used (original 140W version), and given a heart-warming 1.55 volts to the vCore so it could reach 4000MHz (4GHz) stable. Likewise, our hexa-core Intel Core i7-980X Gulftown received 1.375V for a stable-but-warm 4.0GHz overclock on the capable ASUS P6X58D-Premium motherboard.
This article is huge, and lets face it, you're probably going to skip directly to the results. Fight the urge! Please take the time to read this entire article to best absorb all of the information contained. I've put a lot of time into this work, and not everything is revealed in the charts.
Computer hardware is an ever-evolving industry, and since Moore's law only applies to an exponentially growing transistor count then there should probably be another law for cooling. In the very recent past there have been two major trends which have accelerated the performance potential of CPU cooler. That first development was the use of heat-pipes to directly contact with the CPU surface; which resulted in the Heat-pipe Direct Touch technology. The second development is by no mean a new concept, just new to our industry in specific. For many years now heatsinks have been full of right angles, but very recently companies have begun to recognize the need to disrupt smooth airflow and reduce the laminar skin effect which allows air to travel just above the solid surface. Some manufacturers have used at least one of these new concepts in their product design, and only a few are beginning to incorporate both. Benchmark Reviews will see how much this affects the overall performance as we test a large segment of enthusiast cooling products.
Benchmark Reviews strives to offer the overclocker and PC-hardware enthusiast community solid evidence reflecting the true performance of computer products through rigorous testing and evaluation. I personally understand that many of the readers who visit Benchmark Reviews have been involved with other community websites for several years, and therefore take our test results personally. So now that our test process has been reworked, we have collected the most complete source of benchmark results possible and gathered in a controlled environment. The purpose of this article from our quarterly series is to document performance and declare the best CPU coolers available for the Intel LGA1366 and AMD AM2/AM3 sockets as of Q1-2010.
Before the Intel Core i7/X58 platform arrived, the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors did their part to separate the cream of the crop from our large collection of LGA775 coolers. In a previous Best CPU Cooler Performance article, Benchmark Reviews retired the LGA775 platform from its testing duties and made room for the up-and-coming LGA1366 socket. It didn't take long to collect several CPU coolers designed for the Intel Core i7 CPU & X58 platform. It's a mistake to think that any LGA775 cooler can do just as well with the new LGA1366/Core i7 platform; primarily because the size and location of processor cores has changed.
Before we inspect each member of our new CPU cooler collection, let's establish that our tests consist of methods we have determined to be the best for our one singular purpose. Our methodology isn't written in stone, and could very likely be changed or modified as we receive justification (and feedback from the community). Our scope is limited to stand-alone products only, meaning those products which can be installed and operated without additional critical components needed or kit construction. This generally excludes most commercial liquid cooling systems, which may potentially offer better performance than the products we test for this article but require components to be assembled from various options and equipment. Suffice it to say, the vast majority of gamers and enthusiasts are using air-cooled solutions and therefore we target this review series towards them. We encourage hardware enthusiasts to utilize the equipment available to them, and select the cooling fan that best suits their needs. Just keep in mind that exceptional cooling performance must begin with the CPU cooler, and end with the cooling fan. It's the foundation of the unit that makes a difference, which is exactly what we're after in this article.