|Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 17 November 2010|
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Best CPU Cooler Conclusion
IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.
This article offered a few surprises for me, yet none of them came from the new products we tested. Previous articles in this series used an early-production 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-920 processor, which was replaced with a new 2.8GHz Core i7-930 CPU for this project. Using the same testing methodology with higher speeds and temperatures, we witnessed a small change in our overall results. These weren't major changes mind you, especially since the same three cooler dominate the top rankings, but it was the order that these products finished that had changed. In previous tests with the i7-920 at 3.8GHz, the Megahalems consistently out-cooled the Venomous-X while the Mugen 2 trailed them both. This time we used an i7-930 at 4.0GHz, and the Venomous-X beats the Mugen 2 which is trailed by Megahalems. It's madness!
I'm actually disappointed by the limited number of new products received for testing in this article, and particularly frustrated with Thermalright for shipping us the Silver Arrow cooler three months after it was repeatedly requested only to arrive the day before an already long-delayed publication of this article. No, this quarters' Best CPU Cooler Performance project wasn't nearly as large and exciting as previous editions in our series, and the upcoming uncertainty surrounding Intel's Sandy Bridge socket didn't help. Fortunately the upcoming Intel Sandy Bridge LGA1155 (socket H2) on P67/H67 motherboards will use the same mounting holes as LGA1156 (socket H) for P55/H55/H57/Q57 motherboards, so no new mounting clip systems will need to be designed.
I've also learned that processor architecture can have a huge impact on heatsink performance. I'm not referring to speed or voltages 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 LGA1156 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 these test results and my past experience.
High-Performance Overclocker Heatsinks
These heatsinks are suggested based on quality, value, and cooling potential:
Enthusiast Heatsink Considerations
If you're not planning to increase vCore voltage to your processor, here are some additional recommendations that could fit your build:
A Word About ALC Water Coolers
In this article we tested the CoolIt Vantage ALC, a liquid cooling product available at NewEgg for $106. Much like the CoolIt Domino and ECO coolers we've previously tested, the CoolIt Vantage ALC performed considerably well with nearly no audible noise under full load. Beyond cooling performance, they also added several features not found on other All-In-One Liquid Coolers such as temperature alarms, real-time status information, and color LCD screens. What I find surprising is that most consumers are still fully unaware of the CoolIt product line, and instead opt for re-packaged Asetek clones.
I've recommended a lot of air cooling products over the past few years, but I think it's finally time to suggest a few liquid cooling solutions. I like the Corsair Hydro H50 we previously tested, but for $80 this re-branded cooling solution offers none of the monitoring features or functionality that a $65 Domino ALC system does. Although the ECO R-120 is essentially the same as a Hydro H50, but for $72 you get the same performance for less money. It's so frustrating to see consumers purchase their products based on name recognition instead of performance. This appears to be the case with Corsair's Hydro H70 ALC for $105, which is just an H50 with larger radiator and lacks any of the monitoring and feedback display you get with the $106 Vantage. This isn't a company endorsement, it's just common sense.
So what do you think we should test in the next CPU cooler article? Leave comments below, or ask questions in our Forum.
There are so many cooling products on the market that deserve our attention, so don't think for a minute we've intentionally left someone out. In order for this series to hit the target audience with the most relevant product coverage, Benchmark Reviews needs your feedback. Let us know what you want to see tested, and tell us where to find it!