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Written by Olin Coles   
Friday, 12 March 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
3R-System IceAge Prima Boss-II
Cogage Arrow CPU Cooler
Coolink Corator-DS Heatsink
CyberPowerPC XtremeGear HP-1216B
Dynatron Genius-G950 Heatsink
Intel DBX-B Advanced Thermal Solution
Noctua NH-D14 140mm Cooler
ProlimaTech Armageddon Heatsink
Thermalright Venomous-X Heatsink
Thermaltake Contac-29 CLP0568
Xigmatek Balder SD1283 Cooler
Zalman CNPS10X-Performa Cooler
Zalman CNPS10X-Quiet Cooler
CPU-Cooler Preparations
Heatsink Test Methodology
AMD X4-965: Stock Cooling Fan
AMD X4-965: High-Output Fan
Intel 980X: Stock Cooling Fan
Intel 980X: High-Output Fan
Enthusiast Fan Comparison
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best CPU Cooler Conclusion

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:

High-Performance Heatsinks

Ignoring budget and the hardware envolved, my suggestions can be based purely on cooling performance.

  1. ProlimaTech Megahalems: Using the best mounting system I've ever tested, this cooler delivers extraordinary contact surface pressure between the processor and polished finish on the heatsink base. As of March 2010 the ProlimaTech Megahalems was available at FrozenCPU for $62. AMD users will also want the AM2/AM2+/AM3 mounting kit for an extra $10. Adding two Yate Loon D12SH-12 fans in a push-pull configuration for $7 each will make Megahalems unstoppable.
  2. Thermalright Venomous-X (RT): The new 'Pressure Vault' mounting system offers incredible contact pressure, and pairs a polished contact surface to densely packed heatsink that supports two 120mm cooling fans. The kit costs $80, and the optional AMD AM2/AM2+/AM3 adds another $10, plus you'll need to purchase fans. Once installed, Venomous-X delivers on its years of past design experience.
  3. Scythe Mugen-2 SCMG-2100: Trailing right behind the two leaders is the $35 Mugen-2 cooler, which already includes AMD mounting hardware and a premium Scythe Kaze-Jyuni Slip-Stream fan... all for only half the cost of the the other two options. The SCMG-2000 model has already received honorable mention for our Editors Choice Award pertaining to value, and it consistently finishes at the very top.

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.

Best_CPU_Cooler_Performance_Review_Q1-10_Splash.jpg

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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Comments 

 
# Is your final "Best" suitable?Rod 2010-03-14 03:52
The best cooler you have chosen, is that the best for a Desktop case or tower case or is there no difference in mobo orientation (Horiz/Vert) ??
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Olin Coles 2010-03-14 08:07
All of these coolers were tested in the tower case, with the heatpipes spanning vertically from front to back and exhaust blowing towards the top of the case.

HTPC/Desktop cases which rest horizontally and position the heatsink upright will have slightly better results.
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Dr_b_ 2010-04-01 14:09
I Was wondering if you had any pictures showing the orientation. For example, you had a push fan on the lower side of the heatsink, pushing air up through the heatsink towards the top of the case ( i guess because heat rises and why fight that) but don't you lose any direct air flow blowing down on the cards/nb?
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# Fan orientationOlin Coles 2010-04-01 14:26
In our tests the fan was attached to the bottom of the heatsink, and pushes air from the bottom of the cast to the top. If two fans were ever used, it simply adds a second fan for a push and pull effect.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Stuart 2010-03-20 04:29
Delta T - Degrees C/W ?
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# Is that a question?Olin Coles 2010-03-20 10:23
I see the question mark, but what exactly are you asking?
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# too heavyBrody k 2010-03-20 15:57
I've heard reports of people claiming that these larger heatsink wil. l eventually bend your mobo resulting in your 1st dimm to lose contact. you can reseat the ram and support the cooler im sure. any comment?
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# Cogage Arrow heatsinkChris H. 2010-03-23 15:17
I looks like that the Cogage Arrow heatsink has spots for 3 fans. Is this true and do you think that 3 low noise fans will make a big impact in performance?
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-23 18:15
I can't find a difference between the Zalman Flex and Performa, aside from looks and the Performa comes with a fan, which doesn't make sense considering the Flex costs more. Can you tell me what the differences are and why the Flex is more expensive, and if you would expect them to perform equally or not?

I'm trying to decide between the Prolimatech, Scythe, and Zalmans. I like the Prolimatech for the best performance and the Scythe for almost equal performance but much cheaper. The Zalman's are nice because they're in the middle for cost, although they perform worse yet cost more than the Scythe (unless the Flex performs better than the Performa). My main concern with the Scythe is you mentioned a "giant hassle for installation." Can you elaborate on that or point me to a link where it's discussed?

For an i7-920/930 build with intent to OC to the 3.8-4.0 range, which of these four would you suggest, or do you think they would all be up to the task?
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Olin Coles 2010-03-23 20:44
The details on the Mugen installation are in the article, along with my suggestions for the best cooler between those choices. I haven't received or tested the Zalman CNSP10X-Flex, so I can't properly comment.
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# mrBrody K 2010-03-23 18:44
the Cogage Arrow heatsink will support 3x120mm fans. it will likely drop them temp a degree or two.

I would order and i did, should be here tomorrow, Prolimatech megahelms. I am waiting to see what they give me for a fan (it comes with one now) before i order Noctua NF-P12-1300 120MM fans. From what i can tell they have the best static pressure available, exactly what you need to blow through that rad.

promlimatech / noctua fans. my 2 cents
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-24 08:07
I know which one you said is the best cooler (the Prolimatech), and I'm fully aware that it's the best choice if nothing but temps matter. But then, if that were the case, I could just as well set up a water cooling system. What I'm trying to decide is if it's worth spending twice as much for a difference of a few degrees. If I were trying to push my OC to the limit and go with an extreme speed of 4.2GHz+, then I'm sure it would come down to those few degrees making a difference. However, for "only" shooting for ~3.8-4.0, it seems the Scythe would be enough, and I was just looking for your opinion on it, seeing as you have much more experience than I do in the topic.

As for the Mugen install, I've looked through the article over and over and I can't find what you're referencing. There's not even an entry in the article index for the Scythe. I guess I'll just have to check out other reviews on it elsewhere to see if anyone else mentions anything.
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# Mugen-2Olin Coles 2010-03-24 08:40
It sounds like the Scythe Mugen-2 would be your best choice; and installation means removing the socket hardware and using theirs.
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# Scythe Mugen-2 Revision B SCMG-2100Olin Coles 2010-03-24 15:17
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.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 14:23
How can you hook up 2 CPU fans if the motherboard only has 1 CPU fan connector. Should I use a case fan slot for the second one? The case fans in my Cooler Master 932 HAF all can connect to the PSU cables, so that would be possible.
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# Read the articleOlin Coles 2010-03-27 14:28
You're asking a question that's already answered in the article. All of the fans are connected directly to the PSU, not the motherboard.
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-27 14:53
I would suggest using a splitter/y-cable, such as the one at ##directron.com/y3pin.html. This way you can let the fans be controlled by the motherboard, slowing down when maximum cooling isn't required.
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# RE: RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 15:31
I didn't see this covered in the article, though I must have missed it. The article led me to buy the Megahalems. Is it safe to connect 2 fans to the same motherboard connector?

I have a P658D Premium motherboard. Could/should I just connect the second fan to one of the extra case fan connectors? As I noted, the case fans could possibly all connect to the PSU directly since they have adapters for that.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Olin Coles 2010-03-27 19:58
You can connect the fans to any power header that's on the motherboard; even if it doesn't say CPU. You can also use an adapter to connect via molex PSU plugs.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 20:31
Any suggestions on where to find more information about molex plugs? What do they add to a setup, why shouldn't I use them? I notice the connect to the MB and the PSU directly. Though I guess using a splitter with those might allow the MB to control them, but keep from pulling too much power from the MB.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Steven 2010-03-27 16:34
I would suggest you read the thread at ##silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=55996 as well as maybe doing some more searching on your own. Based on what is said there, and the fact the splitters exist in the first place, I would suggest it's more than likely perfectly fine to do it. If you have doubt and really want to set it up that way, or you are just curious, I recommend you figure out the current draw of whatever fans you plan to use and either do some searching to see if you can find out what success others have had with fans with similar draw running in parallel off a single header or contact ASUS and ask them what the CPU_Fan header is rated at. If you do find out, or if you try it and it works, try to follow up and report your findings, as while I'm fairly certain it will work, I'd like to know for sure.
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Brad 2010-03-27 20:33
I have learned that something may not be good, even if it exists. I am concerned with trying to pull too much power from the MB. I have come across a few things (though I have a hard time making a good Google search for the topic) about the possibility of damage.

I will check out the site. Contacting ASUS is in my list, but I want to build the box this weekend, not wait until Monday. :)

One of the fans makes a horrid noise, so I am only running with the push now, so the problem is gone for a while.
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# OK?Zack 2010-04-02 09:32
My previous comments were deleted, so I'll try one more time.

On the AMD X4-965 Stock Cooling Fan page the writer listed the NH-D14 with two 140mm fans. The NH-D14 comes with a 120mm and 140mm fan (NF-P12 and NF-P14), not two 140mm fans.

On the Intel 980x Stock Cooling Fan page it's also listed with "2x 140".

On the AMD X4-965 High-Output Fan page the NH-D14 is again for some strange reason listed with "stock 140mm fans" as opposed to having the Yate Loon 88 CFM fans mounted on it like every other cooler on the page.

On the Intel 980x High-Output Fan page the writer mentioned that the NH-D14 had two Xigmatek 140x140x25mm XLF-F1453 fans (63.5 CFM) mounted instead of the Yate Loon (88 CFM) fans mounted on every other cooler except the Prolimatech Armageddon, which also had the Xigmatek fans mounted.

I thought it was supposed to have the Yate Loon fans installed as per the test methodology?
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# By the wayZack 2010-04-02 14:34
You have my sincere thanks for going through the trouble of reviewing all these coolers. I should have posted my thanks first :)
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# Thuban Surface AreaKGA 2010-04-02 18:42
Excellent review, and much still for me to reflect on but have you any details on the size of the Thubans? I'm curious if the Scythe Mugen-2 would have great surface to surface contact on these upcoming processors. Also I couldn't help but notice that you are not a fan of certain high CFM fan's on the market. How about this Delta with PWM? It's 35 bucks and may cool enough for great OC'n for a Thuban/Scythe Mugen-2 combo. #search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail?name=603-1164-ND

I only ask because in the Q1 review you did not test the AMD Phenom-II X4-965 BE or Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition with the 'showdown' between the Yate Loon fan on these CPU's vs... another fan.
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# link Correction!KGA 2010-04-02 18:45
Let me try that link again:

#search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail?name=603-1164-ND

that's better.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Robert Lazarus 2010-04-07 18:46
There is a lot of info and obviously one size does not fit all. I am still trying to figure out which cooler for the heat signature of the gulftown chip on an asus P6x58D board so I can still use all of the memory and pci slots. Does not have to be the absolute coolest, but decent and easy to install.

RL
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# ProlimaTech MegahalemsOlin Coles 2010-04-07 19:13
Robert: You'll want the ProlimaTech Megahalems. It cools best, but also allows full access to all DIMM slots and is nowhere near the PCI slots.
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# Finally found the Thuban die size..KGA 2010-04-17 02:34
And it's very large. It's 346mm². I am unaware of any Air Cooler that has a contact base even close to that size -that's also AMD compatible.

##hardware-specs.net/index.php?option=com_fabrik&view=details&tableid=2&fabrik=2&rowid=2203

I'll have to use the stock cooler until I find another option.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance Intel/AMD Q1-2010Cougar75 2010-04-17 06:52
On page 10 you show the "width" of the Armageddon as 60mm (not 50mm). Is this correct?
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# Q1 roundup best coolers.horsey 2010-05-04 18:38
I read through pages and pages and pages, at the end, no charts :(
where are the #ing charts?
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# Look harder... lolOlin Coles 2010-05-04 20:53
The charts are there. I'm not even sure how you missed them.
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# artist in residenceBarry Prager 2010-05-08 10:24
Excellent. Well executed and written article on the top preforming coolers. One tip I'll take advantage of is reorienting my Noctual NH-D14 so the exhaust blows up and not toward the back. You explanation makes sense and I've got a larger fan pointing out on the top of my Coolmaster HAF 932.
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# ThanksOhSoCheesy 2010-06-06 10:46
Thanks! Great article. I'm glad you "made" me read the whole thing. I did learn a lot that wouldn't be in the conclusion.
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# what happend to noise lvl ?FInn 2010-06-14 04:12
here i thought i could find out, what my next heatcooler would look like!!!

but, but.. it seems like this test purpurce it overclockers, because, nothing about noise lvl. at least i could not find it!!!

when i am looking for coolers, i always look for, what temperature, can it hold the cpu, at lowest rpm, and the cpu working. ( with supported fan )

a lot of ppl hates noice more than been able to overclock. there for the lowest rpm combined with the cpu working, is a good indication, on what coolers can do the work and wich one, only are for high rpm cooling.

so the noice lvl, is at least as important as temperature. and it should be about 50celcius or lower, by normal use.
( still at lowest rpm. )
my zalmon copper cooler, can still do the job, at lowest rpm with my old cpu ( i almost cant hear it )

so remember: measure noice lvl every time, so we dont have to guess !!! ( with stock cooler )
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# Scythe Mugen for LGA775 core2 quadOmar 2010-12-13 19:32
Sorry if this is a silly question but you said three 8mm heatpipe rods in the base, or four 6mm rods are best for lga775, Mugen has 5 pipes, so does that mean it is even better for my processor? or does it need to be specifically either 3 or 4, again apologies if this is a silly question.
Thanks in advance.
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# RE: Scythe Mugen for LGA775 core2 quadOlin Coles 2010-12-13 19:40
That's actually a very difficult question to answer, and depends on the heat output of the processor. If the processor receives extreme amounts of heat because of overclocking or increased voltage, it's better to have larger heat pipe rods. If the temperature envelope is moderate to low, the smaller rods are better.
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# core 2 quad 2.4GhzOmar 2010-12-18 15:35
so bigger than mugen's? which are 6mm rods. I have not overclocked it yet, but that specific computer is for gaming, so i might later on overclock it. I cannot spend much, but i wouldn't buy crap either. Do you think mugen is a good choice?
Thank you very much for your reply and help. I REALLY appreciate it.
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# Coolermaster hyper n620Pallab das 2011-03-16 04:15
Helo every one .I have AMD Phenom X4 965BE processor along with Coolermaster Hyper n620 & I get CPU temp : 34 to 45 Degree Celcius.
is it normal without overclocking.
My CPU fan in rpm is 1510rpm chasis 1 :700rpm,chasis 2 is : 637rpm.

please please please please advice me my e-mail id is : pallab_deadboy@yahoo .co.in.
thanks 4 reading it
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# RE: Coolermaster hyper n620David Ramsey 2011-03-16 07:22
Your CPU temperatures are fine.
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# Coolermaster hyper n620KGA 2011-03-16 14:02
Your CPU temps are fine only in the sense that AMD Phenom CPU's are spec'd at 60.degrees or so for the 'high' limit.

However, I think your cooler should be getting lower temps. Your chassis fans look as to be set for 'quiet' performance but your CPU fan is 'cranking' on the fast side. I would think you would be getting below 30.degrees easily without any OC'n as you mentioned.

I'd try a new TIM, or completely clean and re-apply your Thermal(TIM) paste. I use Artic Silver or Tuniq. My Spire Thermax Eclipse II keeps my Thuban at 21.degrees when I had it at stock config.
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