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Review index:
Roundup: 15 affordable coolers
by Marc Prieur
Published on July 11, 2011

Overall results
While we’ve detailed the performance of each individual cooler, it’s 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. Separate temperature and noise level graphs won’t do the trick.

What we’ve 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.

Of course, with so much data to represent, the graph isn’t necessarily all that legible, especially because of the size restrictions imposed by our website. They are fully visible in actual size if you click on the smaller size graph.

Let’s start with the results obtained with the Core i7-2600K in load. The best solutions cool the CPU to under 75°C with noise levels under 25 dB (A). The quietest solution is then the Noctua NH-U9B which cools the CPU to 70.8°C at 21 dBA, while the Gelid Tranquillo is the most efficient in comparison to noise with the CPU temperature at 55.5°C for a noise reading of 23 dBA. Just behind are the Thermaltake Contac 29, the Corsair A50 with fan-slowing resistor and the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus. Other solutions offer something in between the silence achieved by the Noctua and the effective cooling afforded by these others: these are the CoolerMaster Hyper TX3, Scythe Katana III, Xigmatek Gaia SD1283 and Arctic Cooling Freezer 13.

When the processor is overclocked at 4.5 GHz with a voltage of 1.35V, the energy consumption of the processor increases by 74% according to our readings on the ATX12V. In load it is then impossible to cool such a CPU in silence and only the most effective models can maintain it at under 75°C without getting any louder than 30 dB(A): this is the case with the Corsair A50 with or without the fan-slowing resistor (27.9 – 28 dBA and 72.8 – 73.3 °C), Gelid Tranquillo (29.2 dBA and 70.5°C), CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Plus (29.5 dBA and 70°C) and Thermaltake Contac 29 (29.5 dBA and 71.8°C).

When you overclock the CPU to 4.8 GHz and 1.45V, energy consumption increases by another 30%, with a total increase of 127% on the initial clock and voltage. Even if you put noise level constraints to one side, the temperature readings we took were too high. Only the Corsair A50 can take the CPU under 80°C - 79.5°C with a noise reading of 38.7 dBA and 78.3°C for 45.7 dBA, which is still too high given that the tests were carried out outside the casing at a room temperature of 22.5°C. For this sort of overclocking, a very high end cooler is required, perhaps even with watercooling to increase the dissipation area.

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