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Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010
CoolIt Vantage ALC VAN-R120
Deep Cool Gamer Storm Heatsink
Prolimatech Megahalems Heatsink
Scythe Mugen 2 SCMG-2100
Thermalright Venomous-X RT Cooler
Xigmatek Aegir SD128264
Zalman CNPS10X-Performa Cooler
CPU-Cooler Preparations
Heatsink Test Methodology
Heatsink Performance: Stock Cooling Fan
Heatsink Performance: Dual Noctua Cooling Fans
Heatsink Performance: High-Output Fan
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Best CPU Cooler Conclusion

Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Heatsinks Q3-2010

Motherboard sockets come and go, but processors can always be depended on to create heat. For a short while longer, Intel's LGA1366 socket on the X58-Express remains the platform of choice for hardware enthusiasts and performance overclockers. Heatsink manufacturers haven't made much noise recently, holding back CPU cooler announcements until after Intel's Sandy Bridge LGA1155 socket is launched. In this article, Benchmark Reviews tests a few newcomer heatsinks against a collection of solid past performers in this Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Heatsinks Q3-2010 article.

Enthusiast overclockers demand only the best performance from their computer hardware, which is why the aftermarket heatsink industry is thriving with fierce competition. Using an overclocked Intel Core i7 processor on the X58-Express platform, only the very best CPU coolers will endure. This article introduces the CoolIt Vantage ALC, Deep Cool Gamer Storm, TITAN EVO TTC-NK85TZ/CS2, and Xigmatek Aegir SD128264 to the collection. We overclock our Intel Core i7-930 processor to 4.0 GHz using 1.40 volts to see which CPU cooler can make it into the top with the ProlimaTech Megahalems, Thermalright Venomous-X, and Scythe Mugen 2 heatsinks.

With so many dual, quad, and hexa-core processors sold on the open market, it seems unnecessary to overclock for the sake of productivity anymore. Overclocking has transformed itself from a tool to help people work faster, into a hobby for hardware enthusiasts. There's a level of overclocking for every enthusiasts, from simple speed bumps to the record-breaking liquid nitrogen extreme projects. Overclocking is addictive, and before you know it the OC bug has you looking at hardware that might cost as much as a low-end computer system.


Computer hardware is an ever-evolving industry, and since Moore's law only applies to an exponentially growing transistor count then there should probably be another law for cooling products. In the very recent past there have been two major trends which have accelerated the performance potential of CPU cooler. That first development was the use of heat-pipes to directly contact with the CPU surface; which resulted in the Heat-pipe Direct Touch technology. The second development is by no mean a new concept, just new to our industry in specific. For many years now heatsinks have been full of right angles, but very recently companies have begun to recognize the need to disrupt smooth airflow and reduce the laminar skin effect which allows air to travel just above the solid surface. Some manufacturers have used at least one of these new concepts in their product design, and only a few are beginning to incorporate both. Benchmark Reviews will see how much this affects the overall performance as we test a large segment of enthusiast cooling products.

Before the Intel Core i7/X58 platform arrived, the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors did their part to separate the cream of the crop from our large collection of LGA775 coolers. In a previous Best CPU Cooler Performance article, Benchmark Reviews retired the LGA775 platform from its testing duties and made room for the up-and-coming LGA1366 socket. It didn't take long to collect several CPU coolers designed for the Intel Core i7 CPU & X58 platform. It's a mistake to think that any LGA775 cooler can do just as well with the new LGA1366/Core i7 platform; primarily because the size and location of processor cores has changed.

New Intel Test Products

Top Performers

  • CoolIt Vantage ALC VAN-R120
  • Deep Cool Gamer Storm
  • Xigmatek Aegir SD128264

Highly Recommended

Past Honors

Before we inspect each member of our new CPU cooler collection, let's establish that our tests consist of methods we have determined to be the best for our one singular purpose. Our methodology isn't written in stone, and could very likely be changed or modified as we receive justification (and feedback from the community). Our scope is limited to stand-alone products only, meaning those products which can be installed and operated without additional critical components needed or kit construction. This generally excludes most commercial liquid cooling systems, which may potentially offer better performance than the products we test for this article but require components to be assembled from various options and equipment. Suffice it to say, the vast majority of gamers and enthusiasts are using air-cooled solutions and therefore we target this review series towards them. We encourage hardware enthusiasts to utilize the equipment available to them, and select the cooling fan that best suits their needs. Just keep in mind that exceptional cooling performance must begin with the CPU cooler, and end with the cooling fan. It's the foundation of the unit that makes a difference, which is exactly what we're after in this article.



# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010mihai 2010-11-17 05:12
good review as usual, a+ from me.
Guys where is V6GT? from precedent review was a very good performer,
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Olin Coles 2010-11-17 08:06
One of our other writers has the V6GT, which is why I didn't test it in this comparison (although I probably should have asked for it, since so many other manufacturers failed to ship samples). The Cooler Master V6GT review offers a pretty good comparison to the top heatsinks, and should give you an idea where it places.
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# Excellent!RealNeil 2010-11-17 06:36
This is a good one guys. Something that I can link to and refer people to that have questions about CPU cooling solutions. While there is always gonna be someone who brings up questions about why wasn't my 'Blah-Blah Cooler' included, you have a good assortment here and tested them all fairly.

Thank You
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# RE: Excellent!mihai 2010-11-17 15:18
calm down...blah blah .....
in this review was used different the results could be different.....anyway ...
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Holy_COW 2010-11-17 10:06
No Corsair A70?

Other reviews show it as a good HSF, but will be great to see it included on a comprehensive comparison as this one

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# CoolIt is better than Corsair HydroOlin Coles 2010-11-17 10:46
Obviously you didn't read the last two paragraphs in the conclusion.
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# Not a Corsair HydroCPT. Obvious 2010-11-17 16:46
Obviously you didn't read his post because he asked about the A70 which is an air cooler.
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# RE: Not a Corsair HydroOlin Coles 2010-11-17 16:59
You're right! But if that's the case, the A70 is a direct clone of countless outher HDT coolers. Take your pick of HDT coolers with four heatpipes that can fit two fans. We didn't receive this item for review, which is why it wasn't included.
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# Corsair A70Phil 2010-11-19 19:35
I would also like to see it paired against other intel heatsinks, but I would also like to see one in the Amd review as the Corsair A70 is only $48 now and currently on newegg for $33 with rebate. I haven't seen any good reviews with an amd processor.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010PSM 2010-11-17 16:39
Congrats on this fine comparison review. This would be enough for decision making for new buyers, at least till SandyBridge based chips come out in 1stQ of next year. But Thermaltake Frio, which is one worthy cooler, should have been included. It also comes with possibly the best pair of default fans. Keep up the works.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Athlonite 2010-11-17 21:24
hows about group test of a range of prebuilt water cooling solutions
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Olin Coles 2010-11-17 21:31
We're already working on that, and should publish about a week after Thanksgiving.
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# Noise readings?Shane 2010-11-18 16:46
First off, thanks for the awesome guide. It's this and it's predecessors that got you guys in to my Bookmark Bar.

Are there any plans to record noise levels? Obviously (based on your review) using two Noctua fans is a silent or near silent solution, and strapping on that Yate Loon is a recipe for distracting the neighbors, but what about the stock fans? I'm willing to spend money on a decent solution (namely the SCMG-2100) but may not have the budget for two super fancy fans at ~$15 a pop. Plus, if spending $30 is only going to get me 2db less than the included Slipstream, it's just not worth it.
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# RE: Noise readings?Olin Coles 2010-11-18 17:15
Thank you for your feedback! The 'Special Purpose' version of the Yate Loon fan that I use could break down kidney stones with its ear-piercing noise. In comparison to the Slipstream fan that comes with a Mugen 2, they're night and day. The Scythe Slipstream fans are slightly more audible than the Noctua fans, but not by much. As such, they don't push nearly as much air as the Yate Loon, and are much closer to the Noctua fans.
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# Great articleCraig 2010-12-05 23:22
Thanks for a great article. I appreciated the time you took explaining how thermal paste works in relation to the transfer of heat from the cpu to the cooler. I have to sheepishly admit to not thinking much about after market coolers, as I do not overclock my systems, but after reading this article I may have to rethink things. If you could, can you tell me in general how much of an improvement would I realize in using one of the top three coolers vs. stock Intel or AMD solutions?
Have Fun!
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# RE: Great articleOlin Coles 2010-12-06 11:33
Hello Craig:

It's been a while since we tested an overclocked i7 CPU with the stock cooling solution... generally because it's too dangerous. Here's an example from the last time we did:
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# RE: RE: Great articleCraig 2010-12-06 15:22
Thanks for responding so quickly Olin. I read the article you recommended and it looks as if I would see a difference of 15 - 20 degrees vs. a stock heat sink and fan, pretty significant.
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# RE: RE: RE: Great articleOlin Coles 2010-12-06 15:36
Yes, it's a very significant difference in cooling performance. Also consider that those were at the stock voltage and clocks, and the difference would be considerably more on an overclocked system.
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# My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursJohan Niemi 2010-12-22 12:25
Hey Olin, how do you think these results compares to yours?

Scythe Mugen 2, default fan at maximum speed
i7 950, 4GHZ, 1.4Vcore
Artic Silver 5
Everest 5.5
Ambient room temp: 23c

Stress CPU and FPU selected and run for 30 min. All temps are from the statistics panel, from the average column and with an ambient room temp of 23.

CPU: 57,6
Core1: 79,9
Core2: 77,3
Core3: 76,4
Core4: 73,1

I don't know how you get your temp 41.39, but I assume you add all core temps, divide by four and subtract ambient room temp? In my case that's 53,7c. That's 12.3c more than your reading. Can that simply be explained by different motherboards?
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# RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursOlin Coles 2010-12-22 13:05
Hello Johan:

You've got the right idea: Core1-4 are averaged and then subtracted from the ambient temperature. I don't take the maximum Core readings, however, I allow Everest/Aida64 to average them for the final ten minutes of the test run.

Motherboard sensors and BIOS calibration are different between all motherboards; even those of the same model. Another big difference is voltage regulation, where some motherboards are analog while others (such as MSI) are digital and more precise. This makes it difficult to match results between systems. What's important is scaling between heatsinks tested on the same system.
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# RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursJohan Niemi 2010-12-22 13:37
Thanks. I should correct my above post, the Vcore was set to 1.34375 which makes my temps seem even higher.

Scaling between heatsinks then, this might be interesting.

Prime95 blending for 1h (1.33125Vcore, 4GHz) causes a max temp of 94c with my Xigmatek HDT-S1283. With the Scythe Mugen 2 it's 88c. The readings are the max temp for the hottest core. The max temp of the coolest core was 84 with my S1283 and 81 with the Scythe Mugen 2.

6c gained on the hottest core. 3c gained on the coolest core.

That's not really a whole lot gained when you take into account that HDT coolers should be really bad with i7, and Scythe Mugen 2 is the runner up in "Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010".

Am I expecting too much?
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# RE: RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursOlin Coles 2010-12-22 13:47
If you're trying to compare against my results, you'll need to use the same software and methodology. I use Everest to load all cores to 100%, and use the built-in averaging system to report the temperatures.

Installation and TIM application play a big role, and if you're using too much paste then your temperatures would be higher than mine. You also need to take into account the heatsink orientation (vertical/horizontal), which makes a considerable difference.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursJohan Niemi 2010-12-22 14:07
I was trying to compare against you're results in the first post. What exactly do you mean by letting Everest "average them for the final ten minutes of the test run"? In my first post I used Everest's stress test, ran it for 30 min, then I took the the "Average" numbers and manually added them, divided by four and subtracted the ambient temp. Is there a hidden function somewhere in Everest that averages the average temps?

In my second post however I wasn't trying to compare against your results but my own. I used Prime blending to generate the heat, and then noticed the max temps with Real Temp.

The Xigmatek S1283 generated these max temps: 94, 92, 90, 84

The Scythe Mugen 2 generated these: 88, 86, 84, 81

Is that what your would expect?
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursOlin Coles 2010-12-22 14:19
Yes- that appears approximately correct. Please keep in mind that heatsink orientation still plays a big role in performance. See notes in the 'CPU-Cooler Preparations' section.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursJohan Niemi 2010-12-22 14:49
Alright, I was hoping for a bigger improvement since I'm getting very close to TJmax (100c). I have only mounted the Mugen 2 with the fan pushing (not pulling) air towards the back of chassis.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the fact that my Rampage III Extreme reports temps so much higher than your motherboard, wouldn't that hold my OC back? I mean, you can push your Vcore so much more before reaching TJmax than I, because your temps are reported lower.

Right now with a Vcore at 1.35625 my max core temp is 91, only 9 degrees from max. I'm doubting that I'll be able to reach 1.4v. Now if my reported temps were some 12c lower, that would leave me with some headroom.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursOlin Coles 2010-12-22 14:53
I cannot estimate what your OC could be on that motherboard or the safe limits, although temperatures could be further reduced. See notes in the 'CPU-Cooler Preparations' section for the details.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursJohan Niemi 2010-12-22 15:22
I know, perfect pressure and perfectly applied TIM, etc. can reduce temps a bit. I have read that section several times during the last years. :)

But changing motherboard can too.

So my question is: Shouldn't lower reported temperatures result in possible higher OC's? If yes, and you can have lower reported temps by changing motherboard, then it should be possible to reach higher OC's just by changing motherboard.

So manufactures could use the fact that a given product is known for low readings as a sales argument. Seems a little silly.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: My Scythe Mugen 2 results versus yoursOlin Coles 2010-12-22 15:51
I'm specifically referring to the 'Heatpipe Directional Orientation' section that's rather new. Turning the heatsink 90-degrees dropped my temps by almost 4C on some coolers.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Johan Niemi 2010-12-22 16:00
That is something! I'll give it a try and blow air up towards the top of chassis. If only the screwing didn't have to be done from the back of the board, it's rather cumbersome.
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Olin Coles 2010-12-22 16:10
You should try doing it three times apiece per heatsink.

At any rate, make sure that the heatpipe rods travel as horizontal as possible. You might already have them that way... on the Scythe Mugen 2 the heatpipes should be on the left and right, as should the fans. On HDT coolers it's usually opposite.
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# RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Dietmar Habeck 2011-06-14 21:31
Your test results ever appreciated
Given your findings that different CPU's have different heat signatures
I am not finding any comparative test past the last Q3 2010 and it is June 2011.Did you stop them?
I am looking for a good cooler for the Intel LGA 1055 platform i5 2500K CPU
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# RE: RE: Best CPU Cooler Performance: Intel Q3-2010Olin Coles 2011-06-14 21:41
Hello Dietmar:

While Benchmark Reviews has published several CPU cooler articles, we have not produced another comparitive roundup like the 'Best CPU Cooler Performance' series. This is for two reasons: 1) the latest Intel CPUs (Sandy Bridge) run significantly cooler, and do not require the same high-end heatsink as before, and 2) there haven't been that many new heatsinks introduced.
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# Ven X pressurePapant 2011-07-26 22:59
How much pressure did you apply on the ven x? Did you screw it tightly?
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# RE: Ven X pressureOlin Coles 2011-07-27 07:43
The 'Pressure Vault' was secured as tightly as it could be.
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# RE: RE: Ven X pressurePapant 2011-07-27 07:46
did it wiggle a lot? Mine wiggles a lot and there has been a lot of buzz about socket damage caused by applying max pressure.
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# RE: RE: RE: Ven X pressureOlin Coles 2011-07-27 07:48
No, this unit was very secure and locked into place. It is possible to cause socket damage if you're not careful, but we did not experience this.
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