|Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Saturday, 13 March 2010|
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There's no good way to describe how much work goes into these article, although this particular project has a table of contents nearly a mile long. Just look at it! →
My point is this: when an article grows to twenty-four pages long, our beloved Best CPU Cooler Performance series must be reduced to cover only the most significant products on the market. It's difficult accept this, especially since there are so many products that deserve attention even if they don't top our results. In order to hit the target audience with the most relevant product coverage, we'll need your feedback. So please use the comment system at the bottom of our articles to offers some friendly feedback.
Best CPU Cooler Conclusion
Between this Best CPU Cooler Performance project and the previous Q3-2009 Best CPU Cooler Performance article, I've learned that processor architecture can have a major impact on heatsink performance. I'm not referring to speed or voltage here, because those factors are a given when it comes to cooling. What I'm referring to is how the 45nm Intel Bloomfield Core-i7 is going to have a 'heat signature' area that differs slightly from 32nm Gulftown. In fact, Gulftown's 248mm2 die package is closer to a Lynnfield Core-i7 CPU. Those heatsinks with a larger contact surface (and heatpipe base) will best serve 45nm AMD Phenom-II processors with a 258mm2 die or 45nm Intel Core-i7 quad-core 263mm2 Bloomfield CPU's. Essentially, it's important to research the cooler's physical information in addition to performance results when you're shopping for a CPU cooler. It's not a one-size-fits-all heatsink market, and the biggest cooler doesn't always provide the best performance. With these consideration in mind, I will offer several different product suggestions based on my experience:
Ignoring budget and the hardware envolved, my suggestions can be based purely on cooling performance.
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. The SCMG-2000 thermal paste has been replaced by SCYTE-1000. There should not be any cooling performance between the two Mugen-2 models.
AMD AM2/AM3 Considerations
Let's face it: AMD users get cheated when it comes to high-performance CPU-coolers. It's not fair, and it's not right, but this is how big business works. Considering that the ProlimaTech Armageddon, Megahalems, Thermalright Venomous-X, Ultra-120 eXtreme, Cogage Arrow, and TRUE-Spirit all neglect AMD owners, I'm not going to suggest that you give these companies your business... even if they do offer optional mounting kits for additional cost. There are plenty of excellent heatsinks out there besides these, and since AM2/AM3 Athon-I/II and Phonom-I/II processors have a larger Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS), you'll want to focus on coolers that have a larger base.
This means HDT coolers using four heatpipes is better than three, and even five-piped heatsinks are a good choice. New products such as the Zalman CNPS10X-Performa are cross-platform compatible, allow for two 120mm fans, and have performed very well in our tests. Of course, the $63 Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384 has plenty of performance with the right fan(s) attached, but the $35 Scythe Mugen-2 is really just as good and also costs much less. If you're an entry-level hardware enthusiast has doesn't have a lot of experience building computer systems, then a few of the coolers we've tested might be more trouble than they're worth for you to install... such as the Mugen-2, XtremeGear HP-1216B, or IceAge Prima Boss-II... all of which perform well but also require more effort than normal to complete installation.
Some of the older products still deliver great performance, even against the newest top-performers. The classic Xigmatek HDT-S1283 is a product that presently sells for $40. An even better price on the exact same design can be found in the Kingwin RVT-12025, a clone of the HDT-S1283, but with a silent low-volume cooling fan. The RVT-12025 presently sells for only $25, 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.
Intel LGA1366 Considerations
Users of Intel processors need to pay careful attention to their processor size and the number of core it contains. When choosing a HDT-based cooler, the older LGA775 and even the newer LGA1156 CPUs all work best with three 8mm heatpipe rods in the base, or four 6mm rods. Larger Nehalem-based LGA1366 Core-i7 processors with the 263mm2 die are large enough to use four 8mm heatpipe rods in the base, and five 8mm rods (such as those in the IceAge Prima Boss-II or Tuniq Tower-120 Extreme) just barely make full contact. They key here is to choose a cooler with enough heatpipes to saturate the base, but not too few that they are overloaded. On the other hand, Westmere-based 32nm processors won't have as much die space to cool, and so some of the LGA775 and LGA1156 heatsinks may work perfectly well on them.
If you're looking to cool your overclocked CPU on a budget, and the $35 Scythe Mugen-2 is too large for your application, then consider the Cogage TRUE-Spirit, but four heat-pipe rods may 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. Once inventory is available, the Zalman CNPS10X-Performa is a cooler worth considerating. Beyond these, there are only a handful of other CPU coolers I might consider worthy of high-temperature overclocking projects on the LGA1366 socket. Xigmatek's HDT-S1284EE offers four 8mm heatpipe rods in the base, and sells for $40, and the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus isn't a bad deal for $29.
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