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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 06 January 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance AMD Socket AM3 Preview
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
Scythe Kabuto SCKBT-1000
Scythe Mugen-2 SCMG-2000
Spire TherMax II
Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme
Xigmatek Thor's Hammer
ZEROtherm Nirvana NV120 PWM Premium
Cooler Surface Preparations
Cooler Test Methodology
Test Results: Stock Cooling Fan
Test Results: High-Output Fan

Test Results: High-Output Fan

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.

While our stock-fan performance tests utilize aftermarket CPU coolers in stock form, this section makes use of Yate Loon D12SH-12 cooling fan to tame the 4.0 GHz overclock at 1.55V on the AMD Phenom II X4 965. 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. This is why we backed down from 1.6V after a few tests, since three of the top coolers we tested could barely keep the temperatures under control.

All of the top performing CPU coolers have a few things in common: bolt-through mounting clip systems that create impressive contact pressure. Adding a high-volume fan ensure that the cooler performs at it's very best. Listed in their order of overclocked cooling performance, these are the Best CPU Coolers for an overclocked AMD AM2/AM3 socket, with the temperature difference noted beside each cooler (CPU core temp minus 20-20.7°C ambient room temp):

CPU Cooler

Thermal Difference
Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG-2000 26.2°C over ambient
Xigmatek Thor's Hammer S126384 27.6°C over ambient
Zalman CNPS10X-Performa 29.8°C over ambient
Tuniq Tower 120-Extreme 32.3°C over ambient
Zalman CNPS10X-Quiet 32.6°C over ambient
Noctua NH-D14 (stock 140mm fans) 32.7°C over ambient
CyberPowerPC XtremeGear HP-1216B 33.2°C over ambient
Xigmatek Balder SD1283 34.0°C over ambient
3R System IceAge Prima Boss-II 35.8°C over ambient
Thermaltake Contac-29 36.1°C over ambient
Titan FENRIR TTC-NK85TZ 36.5°C over ambient
Coolink Corator-DS 37.2°C over ambient
Spire TherMax II SP679S1-PCI 38.6°C over ambient
Scythe Kabuto SCKBT-1000 44.8°C over ambient

Without a doubt, the Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG-2000 is making a solid name for itself by leading the results with 26.2°C over ambient. This reinforces my Honorable Mention in the Benchmark Reviews Editors Choice Awards 2009. Xigmatek's S126384 does well enough to tame our overclocked processor down to 27.6°C over ambient. The new Zalman CNPS10X-Performa impressed us with an overclocked temperature of 29.8°C over ambient.

Of course, we can't forget that several high-end coolers didn't get tested on the AMD platform for lack of mounting hardware. Popular top-performers like the Prolimatech Megahalems, Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, and Cogage TRUE Spirit will have to live in an Intel-dominated world... at least until the mounting kits arrive.

This concludes our preview AMD AM2/AM3 roundup article... once the 2010 CES trade show is finished and I return, a new article will be published with both AMD and Intel results with other new products also included.

If you have constructive suggestions, Benchmark Reviews encourages you to leave comments and questions in our Discussion Forum.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Benchmark Reviews has published our Q1-2010 Best CPU Cooler Performance article for Intel heatsinks. Several new coolers along with some enthusiast favorites have been tested on the overclocked Intel 980X six-core processor. Additionally, our performance test results for the AMD AM3 socket have been included.

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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance AMD Socket AM3 PreviewTFT 2010-02-17 17:11
Elements Thermal Conductance Research has not completed yet.
It lack the elements release rate into the air when heat stop provided to the element.
Nor has the chill factor when contacted with a reference element/cooper.
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# PaulyPaul Letteri 2010-03-12 05:29
Hello It would be most helpfull of listing what motherboards would work with these based on experience and feedback. also the dimentions espially from the mount to under the 1st fin for many of us with denominator type memory have problems with clearance .
I would also like to mention I have a 770usb3 Gigabyte board and it is very disturbing that their engineers did not give a least 65mm from center of the cpu for the % is very high for coolers with 120mm fans
especially for over clockers such as myself. thank you and good work on your testing reports , Paul.
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