Roundup: 10 high-end CPU coolers - BeHardware
>> Miscellaneous >> Refroidissement
Written by Marc Prieur
Published on August 18, 2011
Earlier in the year we published a roundup of entry level coolers. Although these solutions were an improvement on the cooling system supplied by Intel with the Core i7-2600K, they nevertheless proved limited when it came to overclocking. What about the higher end solutions?
To get a clearer vision of what the available solutions can do, we chose to compare several different models. As we had to draw a line somewhere, we selected seven models with a weight over or equal to 1 Kg with the fan or fans supplied (we didnít include heatsinks sold on their own):
- BeQuiet Dark Rock Pro C1
- Noctua NH-C14
- Noctua NH-D14
- NZXT HAVIK 140
- Scythe Mine 2
- Scythe Susanoo
- Thermalright Silver Arrow
To give us a vision of the mid-range, before we get round to a mid-range roundup, we also included the model down in the range from three of the high end solutions:
- BeQuiet Dark Rock Advanced
- Noctua NH-U12P SE2
- Thermalright Silver Archon
In total, then, we compared ten processor cooling systems!
PWM fan or not?Over the last few years PWM or Pulse Width Modulation style control has become more and more common for fans. This type of fan is easy to recognise as they donít use a 3-wire standard connector but a 4-wire one.
A standard DC fan with three wires is supplied with 12V and you simply reduce this to reduce its rotation speed. The PWM is quite different because you stay at 12V but a series of very rapid stop/start signals are sent to the fan via the fourth wire. The frequency of these signals regulates the fan speed, generally resulting in more precise and immediate control.
These advantages are nevertheless pretty limited in practice and PWM mainly just simplifies motherboard handling of fans Ė simpler integration of circuits than for standard DC regulation. As most motherboards have abandonned regulation by DC fans in favour of PWM, fan manufacturers have generally followed the market. In this report, only Noctua, NZXT and Scythe (for its Susanoo) still use a standard DC power supply.
Simple installation or not?
The coolers in this comparison are generally easy to install. You do however need a little more patience than with the entry-level models as you are systematically required to mount a support plate at the back of the motherboard, which is logical considering how heavy these beasts are.
If there isn't enough space at the back of the motherboard in your casing, you'll need to dismount it to get the cooler in there. With such a case, you sometimes have to dismount the whole system as it can be easier to mount the cooler outside the case, especially when you have to screw the cooler to the back plate as you have to do with the Scythe and be quiet! solutions.
Optimal orientationOn Intel platforms, you can mount all the fans in whatever direction you desire, as long as your cooling system isnít too big of course, or too close to the graphics card.
Youíre generally advised to direct the flow of air towards the back of the casing rather than towards the top because most of the time the power supply is placed at the top and generally there's an extraction fan at the back. This isnít a hard and fast rule however and on the highest end cases, the power supply is underneath and sometimes the extraction fan is automatically placed at the top of the casing, in which case directing the flow of air upwards isnít a problem.
On AMD platforms, things are less flexible, with no choice in installation orientation, except with the NZXT. Thankfully, with the exception of the NH-U12P SE2, the flow of air is directed towards the back of the casing. Noctua supplies a free mounting kit on request to change the direction of the flow.
As the Noctua NH-C14 and the Scythe Susanoo arenít tower coolers, their flow of air is oriented directly towards the motherboard. The advantage of this is that the processor power stage, the memory and, for the Susanoo, even the graphics card are cooled at the same time. However, this isn't essential as both the processor power stage and the memory have in any case been designed to function without a fan.
Cooler orientation and memoryItís important to note that the orientation of the cooler can have an impact on whether or not you can use memory modules accompanied by large radiators. The fan may fit above standard memory, which we measured at between 30 to 35 mm from the socket depending on the model, while with some radiators the memory can extend to as much as 50 mm.
Looking at the distance that separates the centre of the cooler from the extremity of the fan, on our Intel DP67BG test motherboard, when this distance is beyond around 51 mm the fan extends above the first DIMM and when beyond 60 mm it extends above the first two DIMMs. On an AM3 motherboard such as the M4A889GTD PRO/USB3, you gain an extra 1mm which can sometimes make all the difference
The most problematic example is the Silver Arrow, as with two fans it's above the first four DIMMs at the same time as only leaving 30 mm in vertical space, which means your only choice is to use memory bars with fairly simple heatsinks. The G.Skill Ripjaws for example, require around 40 mm of space and the Corsair Vengeance 50 mm.
Test protocolWe took two separate readings to evaluate the various cooling systems covered in this report.
First of all we took temperature readings to measure cooling capacity. For this we used a Core i7-2600K CPU loaded with Prime95. The temperatures at idle werenít taken as they arenít particularly representative given the low consumption levels of such a processor at idle: pretty much any cooler can dissipate ten or so watts silently. This CPU was used in three configurations:
- At the base clock with energy consumption measured at 77 watts by the ATX12V
- Overclocked to 4.5 GHz and 1.35V, with energy consumption of 134 watts
- Overclocked to 4.8 GHz and 1.45V, with energy consumption of 175 watts
All the fans were tested with DC at four different voltages: 5V, 7V, 9V and 12V. Four gradings are given:
- N/A: The fan isnít working at this voltage
- Failure: Cooling insufficient, the CPU throttles power
- Temperature in red: Above 75℃ (temperature obtained in load on an i7-2600K with a box cooler)
- Temperature in black: Temperature reading given
A few explanations follow: During a failure, the cooler doesnít manage to maintain the temperature of at least one of the cores under 95įC. The CPU then lowers its clock in an attempt to maintain temperatures at a level that wonít be damaging.
The temperature reading given corresponds to the average temperature of the four cores as reported by HWMonitor. The tests were not carried out in a casing. The room temperature was 22.5įC. For a temperature reading to be considered as acceptable, we leave ourselves a leeway of around 20įC, which corresponds to the temperature obtained using the Intel box cooler at 12V on a 2600K at its base clock: 75℃.
Noise levels were measured with a Cirrus Optimus CR152A Class 2 sonometer, which can measure levels as low as 21 dBA, the lowest level permitted by the room used for testing. This is the second time weíve used this high end sonometer (the first being during our roundup of entry level coolers). Up until now we were using more standard sonometers that allowed us to measure down to levels of between 30 and 35 dBA. Weíre planning to roll out usage of this type of sonometer in our other tests so as to be able to publish results that are comparable from one domain tested to another.
The cooler was placed on the ground with the sonometer 50 cm away and raised up 25 cm to take the reading. The solutions measured at between 21 and 22 dBA can be considered as quiet. Up to 25 dBA and the cooling is very discreet. Between 25 and 30 dBA can be considered to be discreet. Between 30 and 35 dBA can be considered standard and between 35 and 40 dBA is starting to get noisy. Beyond 40 dBA can be considered as difficult to put up with for a computer, though this is of course subjective and depends on several factors such as the regularity of the noise or the environment.
be quiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1 review
be quiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1
The Advanced C1 from be quiet! was the first cooler going through the protocol. With a stunning appearance, it has six heatpipes and uses a 120 mm PWM type fan. The multilingual installation manual is quite clear and it comes with a tube of thermal paste as well as the necessary for installing a second fan that has to be bought separately.
InstallationThis is the major disadvantage of this cooler. As with the other coolers in this roundup, you have to put a plate at the back of the motherboard to install it, but you screw the cooler on the back of the board, right on the plate.
This isnít too difficult when the motherboard is outside the casing but when itís inside you have to hold the cooler in place while screwing, which is quite an exercise! Another problem is that the thermal paste thatís supplied is very dry and rather difficult to spread out and our test motherboard (the Intel DP67BG) wouldnít start when we squeezed the back plate as tightly as it would go.
This cooler extends over the first two DIMMs on both AMD and Intel platforms, with the available space under the cooler being around 40 mm. This means youíll have to settle for memory bars with small radiators.
Quiet even at 7V, the Dark Rock Advanced cools the Core i7-2600K effectively, which is the least to be expected. Once the processor was overclocked, things got a bit more problematic and we had to move up to 9V for the lowest overclocking corresponding to CPU energy consumption of 134 Watts. At this voltage the Dark Rock Advanced is very discreet though not quiet. At the highest overclocking setting, 177 Watts need to be disippated and this cooler canít cope.
AssessmentWith a stunning design, the be quiet! Dark Rock Advanced suffers from the fact that it is rather difficult to mount. Once installed, it offers a good level of performance but one which doesnít stand out from the competition.
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro C1 review
be quiet! Dark Rock Pro C1
A larger version of the Advanced tested on the previous page, the Dark Rock Pro C1 has a seventh heatpipe and two 120 mm PWM fans, one sandwiched between two groups of fins. It comes with a multilingual installation manual and a tube of thermal paste.
InstallationThe same issues as we experienced with the Advanced come up again here, namely the need to screw the fan onto the back of the motherboard, which, as we said, is impractical when the motherboard is already in the casing, even if you access it from behind the socket. Once again, the thermal paste that comes with the fan is dry and difficult to spread out and we had the same problem with the plate at the back of the motherboard when we tried to squeeze it as tightly as we could to our test motherboard (Intel DP67GG).
The Dark Rock Pro is bigger than the Advanced and it extends over two DIMMs when fitted with one fan and above four when fitted with two. There is 40 mm of space under the cooler all the same, which means you can use bars with medium-sized radiators, such as the G.Skill Ripjaws.
The Dark Rock Pro fans rotate faster than the Advanced's fan (1700 rpm against 1500 rpm) and the difference in terms of noise levels is noticeable. While it remains silent at 5V and 7V, at 9V it's as loud as the Advanced is at 12V and at 12V it starts to get noisy.
What is interesting is that having two fans has hardly any impact on noise levels. When it comes to cooling, the second fan reduces temperatures by a few įC, especially at 5V, but doesnít revolutionise the situation. Given that thereís hardly any additional noise, you may as well use it! While the Advanced couldnít handle the demands of the highest overclocking setting, here the Pro can dissipate the 177 Watts required of it.
AssessmentAs with the Advanced, it's a shame that the mounting system isnít easier to deal with. The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro C1 really is a handsome cooler but like the Advanced, doesnít manage to outshine other models in the same category.
Noctua NH-C14 review
The first of the three Noctuas in this roundup, the NH-C14 is, along with the Scythe Susanoo, the only one in the report not to be a tower type cooler. This makes it a very different size and shape to the other available solutions, which means it will suit configurations that canít house too high a cooler.
With six heatpipes, the NH-C14 comes with two 140 mm DC fans. In the absence of PWM fans, youíll have to make sure that your motherboard can regulate a DC fan or use a rheobus. Noctua do however provide adapters so as to limit maximum fan speed, the LNA (black) corresponding to around 8.5 V and the ULNA (blue) around 6.6 V. The cooler comes with a tube of thermal paste as well as the necessary to fix one of the two fans onto the casing if required. Noctua supply a very clear manual for each of the platforms.
InstallationThe SecuFirm 2 mounting system is quite simple to use. First of all you fix the SecuFirm 2 to a plate at the back of the motherboard, then you screw the NH-C14 to it. Childís play! What's more Noctua supplies the screwdriver!
In terms of orientation, for performance reasons Noctua advises you not to have the curved part of the heatpipes at the top. Depending on the choice you make, the NH-C14 will cover either 2 or 4 DIMMs. With just 35 mm of space available with two fans or with one fan underneath, youíll have to settle for standard memory bars. If you put the fan on top, you'll have 65 mm to play with, which gives you space for bars with big coolers which also benefit from a flow of air directed towards the motherboard.
When using just one fan, performance is pretty comparable irrespective of whether the fan is placed above or under the NH-C14. Overall however, itís slightly better to have it above the cooler both in terms of temperatures and noise levels. Here, the fan underneath was used with a flow of air towards the motherboard but it can also be used in the other direction. Raw cooling performance is then slightly less optimised, but this configuration is worth considering depending on the flow of air in your casing.
The addition of a second fan obviously increases noise levels and the gain in terms of temperatures isnít all that impressive. You will then have a bit more of a margin when it comes to the highest overclocking setting however. Note that while all the NF-P14s should work at 5V, some models do sometimes require a higher start-up voltage.
AssessmentWithin the Noctua range, the NH-C14 struggles to hold its own beside the NH-U12P SE2 as it's more or less equivalent in terms of performance but costs more. It is however more flexible when it comes to size and can therefore be used in smaller casings.
Noctua NH-U12P SE2 review
Noctua NH-U12P SE2
A veritable best seller, the Noctua NH-U12P is included in this roundup as a reference. The one we have tested here is the Special Edition 2, which comes with two 120 mm DC fans. As usual from Noctua, a tube of thermal paste, LNA and ULNA adapters, a screwdriver and a very clear user guide are bundled with the cooler.
InstallationAgain, you attach the cooler to the SecuFirm 2 mounting system, which is attached to a plate at the back of the motherboard. Itís quite simple to mount, but note on AMD platforms the orientation of the cooler sends the flow of air towards the top of the casing, which isnít necessarily for the best. Noctua supplies a free mounting kit on request to change the direction of the flow.
The NH-U12P covers one or two DIMMs depending on which direction you install it in, with 40 mm of space underneath, leaving the door open for average sized memory radiators.
The NH-U12P SE is just as efficient as the NH-C14. With two fans running, it's even a little better overall. While superfluous for the 2600K at base clock, this configuration will give a better noise/cooling ratio when cooling requirements increase.
AssessmentThe NH-U12P SE was included in this roundup as a very popular model to serve as a reference for the other coolers tested. It didn't disappoint. Striking an excellent balance between performance levels and noise, with one or two fans, it also comes with a high quality bundle, as is often the case with Noctua.
Noctua NH-D14 review
Weighing 1240g with its two fans, the NH-D14 is the biggest Noctua cooler. Itís equipped with six heatpipes and comes with a 140 mm fan sandwiched between two blocks of fins with another 120 mm fan on the outside. Noctua supplies an LNA adapter for the 140 mm fan and a ULNA for the 120 mm, so as to reduce maximum running speed Ė regulation of this must be handled by a system that suppors DC adapters. The bundle includes a tube of thermal paste, a very well illustrated user guide, a screwdriver and the mounting required to fix the 120 mm to your casing.
InstallationOnce again youíll be using the usual SecuFirm 2 kit, which you can mount without too much difficulty. Although the NH-D14 comes with its fans pre-mounted, you have to remove the 140 mm fan to be able to screw the cooler to the SecuFirm 2.
With the 140 mm fan on its own, the system extends over two DIMMs with 45 mm of available space for the memory bars. If you also use the 120 mm fan, the cooler extends over 4 DIMMs.
The NH-D14 is disappointing with the two fans running as even at 5V it isnít completely silent. Cooling is however very effective when both fans are mounted and, along with the Silver Arrow, is one of just two coolers that bring temperatures below 70įC with our Core i7-2600K overclocked to 4.8 GHz at 1.45V. This is however to the detriment of noise levels, which are high at 12V.
With just one fan mounted, the processor gets a bit hot, but itís a lot quieter at 5V and 7V. Beyond that, noise levels go up and in fact having two fans running is actually slightly quieter!
AssessmentThe NH-D14 didnít convince us. Thereís only a small gain over the NH-U12P SE2 and when using both fans it isnít silent even at 5V. Size isnít everything after all!
NZXT HAVIK 140 review
NZXT HAVIK 140
Famous for its casings, NZXT made a splash in the world of coolers a few months back with the release of the HAVIK 140. As you might have guessed from its name, this model uses 140 mm fans. They're DC fans and therefore require compatible regulation, with no adapter or controller supplied. The bundle includes a tube of thermal paste as well as a very well illustrated multilingual installation guide.
InstallationAs with all the high-end coolers, a plate is fixed to the back of the motherboard. Once this mounting system is attached to the motherboard, the HAVIK 140 is screwed onto it. This takes a little longer on AMD platforms as you have to assemble 4 parts, two of which are from the Intel kit. This system does however allow you to mount the cooler in both directions (fan towards the top of the case or towards the back), which is great. The fans are fixed to the HAVIK 140 using an original system of four rubber straps.
In terms of memory space, the HAVIK 140 is rather restrictive. If you direct the fan towards the top of the case, two DIMMs will be under the cooler, though with 40 mm of available space. If you direct it towards the back, the fan is then above one of the DIMMs, with just 25 mm of available space underneath! This isnít enough for a memory bar and if you need all your DIMMs, youíll have to raise the fan a bit, which means that it wonít then be centred with respect to the radiator.
With one fan at 5V, the NZXT HAVIK 140 is almost silent and will manage to cool the Core i7-2600K no problem. When using just one fan, you will however have to increase rotation speed during overclocking and then the best noise/cooling ratio is achieved with two fans. You can get decent cooling performance without uping noise levels at the first overclocking setting, but at the highest overclocking the cooling system gets noisy.
AssessmentConsidering NZXT is only on its first cooler here, it has done very well, with an almost perfect design on paper. You can feel the HAVIK 140ís quality and our only regret is that the fans donít have PWM control and donít come with either an adapter or a fan speed controller. Unfortunately, in spite of being more expensive, in practice its cooling to noise ratio is down on what you get with the NH-U12P SE2.
Scythe Mine 2 review
Scythe Mine 2
Weighing 1140g in spite of using just one fan and priced under Ä60, the Mine 2 offers high-end quality for your money on paper, something weíre used to with Scythe. It has no fewer than eight heatpipes cooled by a 140 mm PWM fan, which also comes with an angle bracket that allows you to regulate it manually if you have the courage to regulate a fan at the back of the case. In the bundle thereís a sachet of thermal paste as well as an installation guide, which would have been improved by a few more images to illustrate the different steps.
InstallationAs with be quiet!, the bracket Scythe have gone for requires the plate to be screwed to the back of the cooler from the back of the motherboard. This isnít very practical, especially if youíre mounting it in a case that gives access to the back of the motherboard. Itís easier to take everything out the case and mount the cooler there.
Looking at the memory, when you mount the cooler in the standard way, namely with the flow of air towards the back of the casing, you'll have two DIMMs under the fan with 40 mm of available space underneath, which is enough for memory bars equipped with radiators as long as they aren't too big. On Intel platforms, you can orient it so that the fan sends the air towards the top of the case. Then you'll have three DIMMs under the cooler and you won't be able to use bars measuring over 30 mm.
At 5V the Mine 2 fan isnít slent. Note however that it functions under this voltage when the regulator is at a minimum with noise at 22 dBA. When cooling the 2600K, there's no need to increase fan speed as, even at 5V, it does the job fine while remaining quiet. With the CPU clocked at 4.5 GHz it can still cope which is good but at 4.8 GHz youíll have to move up to 12V and temperatures then go up to 75įC with very high noise levels.
AssessmentAffordable for a cooler weighing over 1 Kg with a 140 mm fan, the Mine 2 is let down by its mounting system. Unfortunately neither the weight nor the size of this model guarantees a high level of performance - it is for example down on what you get with the NH-U12P SE2.
Scythe Susanoo review
Watch out, this oneís a monster! The Susanoo from Scythe clearly stands out, both by its design and its weight (1580g). With no fewer than 12 heatpipes, the Susanoo has a large fin surface area cooled by four 100 mm fans. All DC, theyíre connected to a flat angle PCI bracket that allows you to regulate rotation speed Ė direct regulation is impossible as the power is supplied by a Molex socket. The Susanoo comes with a packet of thermal paste and a multilingual manual, which, again, lacks illustrations.
InstallationAs with the Mine 2 and the be quiet!, you screw the cooler onto a plate fixed onto the back of the motherboard. This isnít very practical and makes it impossible to mount the system inside the case, even if you have access to the back of the card.
In terms of size, it's hard to do worse, or better, depending on your point of view. Worse still, the Susanoo, measuring 20x20 cm, even partly extends over the graphics card. There is however enough space underneath not to prevent you installing your memory bars and a flow of air serves to cool them nicely.
Like the Mine 2, the Susanoo isnít silent at 5V and, again, you can go lower, taking noise levels down to 22 dBA using the bracket supplied. The Susanoo cools better than the Mine 2: it would have been disappointing if it didnít considering how big it is!
Overall the Susanoo is one of the best, just behind the Silver Arrow, with noise levels around the 25 dBA mark. When fan speed is upped however, noise levels also go up fast but without a concomitant reduction in heat, which makes increasing fan speed of limited interest.
AssessmentAn unusual model, the Susanoo is more of a technical demonstration than anything else. In spite of all that metal, we still prefer the Silver Arrow though some will like the Susanoo for its overall cooling performance.
Thermalright Archon review
The Archon is Thermalrightís high end compact cooler. With six heatpipes, it weighs 900g with a single 140 mm PWM fan. In the bundle thereís a tube of thermal paste, the necessary for mounting a second fan and an installation guide for AMD platforms with another for Intel. They're nicely illustrated.
InstallationInstalling the Archon on an Intel platform is very simple. First you mount the plate at the back of the motherboard. Then the mounting bracket goes on followed by the heatsink with metal rods fixed on beforehand for attaching the fan and anti-vibration pads to. Everything is then mounted with a retention plate which is fixed onto the back plate. It has a screw in the centre which allows you to regulate the pressure exerted on the CPU. Finally you mount the fan. On AMD platforms you screw the back plate directly onto a retention plate which makes things a little bit more arduous if youíre not carrying out the operation outside the casing.
The Archon is compact and the fan only extends above one DIMM. There is however only a space of 30 mm underneath and if you want to use all the memory slots youíll have to avoid using overly large radiators.
5V is too low for the TY-140 and it won't start at this speed, though it will turn over if you've already started it at a higher speed. Even though itís silent, the Archon doesnít cool the heatsink enough when in load and itís best to up voltage to 7V, at which it's still very quiet. This model can therefore cool the Core i7-2600K at its base clock or when overclocked to 4.5 GHz, but at 4.8 GHz youíll need to go up to 9V. Even at 12V noise levels are contained.
AssessmentThe Archon Thermalright offers very decent performance, not far off the Silver Arrow, which has an equivalent fan. The Archon is a good deal smaller however. The only thing is that it's sometimes priced very close to the Silver Arrow, which isnít really justified and tips the scales in the Silver Arrowís favour.
Thermalright Silver Arrow test
Thermalright Silver Arrow
The Silver Arrow has two blocks of fins sandwiching a 140 mm fan. There are only four heatpipes but each is 8 mm in diametre compared to the 6 mm ones used on the Archon! It weighs 1090g with one fan and 1190g with two. The bundle includes a tube of thermal paste as well as very well illustrated AMD and Intel user guides.
InstallationThe same mounting system is used as with the Archon. With access to the back of the motherboard, it is therefore fairly easy to install on an Intel platform but less so on AMD as you then have to screw the back plate directly onto the heatsink's retention system. On Intel platforms, first you mount the back plate and a bracket on the motherboard, then you screw everything to the cooler retention plate.
With its two fans, the Silver Arrow extends over all four DIMMs leaving just 30 mm of available space, which limits your choice when it comes to memory bars. With a single fan, just two DIMMs are obstructed.
With a single fan the Silver Arrow does better than the Archon but not by much, varying by between 3.3įC (at 5V) and an amount we couldnít measure (on the non-overclocked CPU with the fan at 12V). Overall the difference is 1.3įC. Note however that at 9V and 12V, the Silver Arrow is a good deal noisier than the Archon because of the fact that the fan is sandwiched between two groups of fins.
With two fans, the gains are variable, 3.5 to 2.3įC with the 2600K without overclocking, 5.3 to 2.3įC at 4.5 GHz and 6 to 3įC at 4.8 GHz. The lower the rotation speed, the more the second fan helps matters and in this mode the Archon gives the best overall performance of any solution in this report! Above all it stands out at the highest overclocking setting, which it is alone in being able to cool without going above a noise reading of 25 dBA at the same time as being the only solution that gives a temperature reading as low as 66.5įC at 12V. The NH-D14 manages 69įC but is then louder.
AssessmentWith the best level of performance in this roundup, the only drawback with the Silver Arrow is its size. Firstly, it extends over either two or four DIMMs and secondly, it leaves only 30 mm of space for the memory bars, which is the minimum and prevents you from using bars with averagely sized radiators such as the G.Skill Ripjaws.
Overall resultsWhile weíve detailed the performance of each individual cooler, itís now time to give you a performance overview. It is however difficult to do this simply because we need to give a combined assessment of temperatures obtained and noise levels generated. A simple graph with Tį along one side and dB(A) readings along the other would seem the most appropriate.
What weíve done is represent the statistics in the form of a graph with noise as measured by our sonometer along the X axis and processor temperatures on the Y axis.
[ Core i7-2600K ][ 4.5 GHz / 1.35v ][ 4.8 GHz / 1.45v ]
Weíve started with the results obtained with a single fan (with the exception of the Susanoo). At the i7-2600Kís base clock, you can cool in silence. With only 77W to be dissipated, all the solutions in the roundup give fairly similar performance, making the graph rather illegible. If we had to go for one solution over the rest, it would be the Noctua NH-U12P, which cools very well at 5V and in silence. The NH-C14 and D14 are also good here, but are more expensive. The be quiet! Dark Rock Advanced and Pro can cool the processor in silence but temperature levels are up, as with the Thermalright Archon and Silver Arrow.
At 4.5 GHz the task is more of a challenge but several of the coolers do a good job at low noise levels (under 25 dBA): the be quiet! Dark Rock Advanced, Noctua NH-U12P, NH-C14, NH-D14, Scythe Mine 2, Susanoo, Thermalright Archon and Silver Arrow.
At 4.8 GHz and 1.45v, 177W need to be dissipated. Of course you need to up your noise level tolerance levels here but two solutions still manage to keep the temperature under 75įC without getting noisy, the Thermalright Archon and Silver Arrow (27 and 28 dBA respectively). With the other solutions, the noise levels go up: 32 dB(A) with the Susanoo, 33 with the Noctua NH-U12P, 38 with the Dark Rock Pro, 41 with the Noctua NH-C14 and 47 with the Mine 2.
[ Core i7-2600K ][ 4.5 GHz / 1.35v ][ 4.8 GHz / 1.45v ]
Most of the coolers come with a second fan which allows you to increase their cooling capacity without having too much of an impact on noise levels, as with the be quiet! Dark Rock Advanced Pro C1 for example. At the 2600Kís base clock, the NH-U12P performs best, with the NH-C14 very close behind.
At 4.5 GHz only two of the solutions can cool the processor in silence, the Noctua NH-U12P and NH-C14. If you still find the temperatures obtained here too high, you can get better with coolers that, though not silent, are very discreet. With noise levels of around 25 dBA, the most efficient solutions are the Scythe Susanoo and the Silver Arrow.
When the task is up to 177 Watts, only one solution will cool the processor sufficiently at just 25 dBA, the Thermalright Silver Arrow. When you increase rotation speed, it confirms its position in top spot, with the other coolers unable to compete.
ConclusionAt the end of this roundup, two models stand out:
- The Thermalright Silver Arrow
- The Noctua NH-U12P SE2
Letís start with the Silver Arrow, the highest performance solution among those weíve looked at here. Though this cooler does cool very effectively, itís also very large making it impossible to use it in combination with certain memory bars, something that you have to admit is rather illogical given how the cooler is positioned. The Archon doesnít have this problem, but considering that there isnít much of a price difference between the two, the Silver Arrow is the one we prefer. If you find the Archon at a decent price however, donít hold back!
The Noctua NH-U12P SE2 is the surprise of the roundup. We only included it as a reference as itís positioned a notch down on most of the other coolers tested here. Nevertheless it did very well. As usual with Noctua products, the bundle is extensive, including adapters making up to some extent for the fact that it does not have a PWM fan for those users who canít regulate the DC fan (via a rheobus or the motherboard). Note that Noctua is likely to supply an LGA 2011 kit free as it has done in the past, something we congratulate the company on. Still looking at the Noctua range, the NH-D14 is disappointing and we prefer the NH-U12P SE2. The NH-C14 will be useful in casings which canít house a 16 cm tall cooler or which have four big memory bars.
The style award goes to be quiet! for its Dark Rock Advanced and Pro C1 and the exuberance award to Scythe and its Susanoo. With the HAVIK 140, NZXT, the new arrival on the market, has brought out a solid solution. It is however currently overly priced for the performance to noise ratio achieved, especially when using two fans.
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