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Best CPU Cooler Performance - Q3 2008 E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 09 October 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance - Q3 2008
Thermally Conductive Element Reference
Cooler Master Geminii S
Cooler Master V8
Coolink Silentator
Evercool Transformer 6
OCZ Gladiator Max
Thermaltake V14 Pro
Vantec AeroFlow FX 120
Xigmatek Apache EP-CD901
Xigmatek HDT-S1284
Zalman CNPS9300 AT
Zaward Gyre ZCJ010
TIM Application and Surface
Testing Methodology
Test Results: Stock Cooling Fan
Test Results: High-Output Fan
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best of Q3 2008 Conclusion

Test Results: Stock Cooling Fan

When it comes to personal computers, you could probably divide users into two separate groups for almost any one topic. This article is no different, and those two groups include both enthusiasts and overclockers. In regards to fan noise, there are those of us who want it quiet while other will tolerate an eardrum-ringing whine. Since noise is a problem and not a solution, I believe that most enthusiasts want as much performance as they can get without additional tweaking and time-intensive modifications. That's what this test section is all about: how the cooler performs out of the box. For the "Stock Cooling Fan" results, Benchmark Reviews tests our Q3-2008 collection of CPU coolers for this article using the following criteria: Each cooler is tested with the manufacturer-included fan, so that performance will be relevant to consumers using the product in stock form.

While you can easily look for yourself and see the results illustrated in the chart below, there's a certain amount of explaination necessary to fully understand how they were achieved. For example our best "stock" performer for Q3-2008 was the Thermaltake V14 Pro (CL-P0471) at 25.0°C, but it helps to know that this cooler has an integrated high-output 140mm x 30mm fan that cannot be replaced. All on its own the V14 Pro stands out as an over-achiever, and in some respects it truly is. While the retaining system may use the standard Intel push-pin clips, the contact surface is a perfectly flat and very-well polished copper block. You must also keep in mind that the CL-P0471 measures 171mm (6.73 in) tall by 161mm (6.34 in) wide, placing it among the very largest coolers we've seen (such as the Scythe Mugen Infinity SCINF-1000).

Many of the more familiar products kept their positions at the top, with the OCZ Vendetta 2 (OCZVEND2) performing extremely well at 27.0°C while operating with a medium-noise/medium-volume fan, trailed closely by the infamous Xigmatek HDT-S1283 with similar PWM fan at 27.5°C. Xigmatek's new HDT-S1284 performed nearly as well with a stock temperature of 27.5°C over ambient, matched by the Vantec AeroFlow FX (VAF-1225) and Kingwin RVT-12025. Now obviously these results are extremely close, which means that ultimately they will all perform roughly the same in most environments. That being said, it comes down to price, and perhaps application compatibility. The Kingwin RVT-12025 is a poor-mans HDT-S1283 since it costs as little as $19.99 compared to $36.99, and they are identical in construction (but Kingwin includes a lower-volume silent fan).

Sometimes a unique design will translate into good performance, and sometimes it doesn't. Evercool should be proud of their Transformer 6 design, although I think a cooler this large should have done better than 28.3°C. Cooler Master's new V8 (RR-UV8-XBU1-GP) performed at 28.5°C using the stock fan, which was trailed by the Coolink Silentator. The OCZ Gladiator Max (OCZTGLADM) did well enough, and considering it's so similar to the Xigmatek HDT-S1284 the 28.7°C performance proves how close they are in design. In tenth place was the Zalman CNPS9300 AT cooler, which performed well at 28.9°C considering its diminutive size and integrated 92mm fan. Of course, the downside to integrated fans is that they cannot perform better than they come out of the box, which is why the Thermaltake V14 Pro and Zalman CNPS9300 end their appearance here.


Our former top-performer (with high-performance fan) does fair enough at 30.2°C despite a silent-running medium-output NF-P12 fan attached to the Noctua NH-U12P. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the products featured here are the best available at the time of publication, so coming if it's on the upward portion of this chart than the product is certainly a top-contender.

My opinion wanes for other products though, and the Cooler Master Geminii S (31.6°C) and Zaward Gyre (32.4°C) leave me with mixed feelings since they are large coolers with lower performance. Of course, Xigmatek earned the place of shame with their Apache EP-CD901 cooler that I was told "performed extremely well". Performing two degrees better than the stock Intel cooler that comes free with the Core 2 Duo processor is far from well, and 41.2°C is an abismal excuse for $20 worth of cooling performance when the free alternative performs at 43.5°C.

Please keep in mind that the entire basis of this article revolves around the title: Best Performing CPU Coolers. So while some of the coolers did not perform well in comparison to others it doesn't particularly mean that they are poor products. They're just not the best. In summary, if you're building a system that places an emphasis on low sound levels and affordable cost, you'll want to pick your cooler carefully. The OCZVEND2 and HDT-S1283 are both excellent choices for either HTPC or tower builds, but if you're able to fit the part it appears Thermaltake offers tremendous performance from their V14 Pro.

For under $50 USD, you can either keep with the stock fans and see performance results similar to ours, or you can dig a little deeper and force-feed the cool air with a nice Yate Loon fan (like we used for our next section). Because the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme and Cooler Master Hyper Z600 coolers do not come with an included cooling fan, they were not part of this test group. In our next section, every cooler that could be fitted with our high-output fan (including the aforementioned) is represented in full glory. Overclockers should be pleased by the outcome...


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