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Five Premium CPU Coolers In Tests

From ASUS, Noctua, Scythe, Thermalright and Thermaltake.

June 26, 2009



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The coolers were installed as recommended by their manufacturers -- horizontal heatsinks were mounted from west to east relative to the motherboard, while tower-format heatsinks were rotated south-north. Thermalright IFX-14 was installed with the HR-10 unit, which was put in a special 'pocket' with a Scythe Slip Stream fan (Kaze Jyuni) rotating at 300rpm.

The test method is described here.

First of all, let's see how our contenders perform in the silence mode (conditionally noiseless domain, reference noise - 23 dBA).

Diagram 1. Temperature readings (CPU core temperature, conditionally noiseless domain)


Diagram 2. Thermal resistance (conditionally noiseless domain)


ASUS Royal Knight. Very attractive results. This cooler performs practically on a par with the old low-noise champion Noctua NH-U12P -- as we can see, the sweeping fin-stack accompanied by a slow fan can provide effective heat exchange even with weak airflows typical of 'open' fan propellers.

Noctua NH-C12P. Just as remarkable. Even though the cooler is outperformed by the NH-U12P, general situation with competition is favorable for this cooler -- it sticks to the leading group competing with Thermalright IFX-14 and Scythe Mugen 2 in minimal noise. Note the small spread of results between 600rpm and 700rpm modes (only 5°C, even smaller than with the NH-U12P), which means that the NH-C12P is designed for low-noise operation.

Scythe Mugen 2. That's the best result for 23 dBA among these coolers. There is no need in any comments here.

Thermalright IFX-14. It's another champion of air cooling, now for the absolute minimum noise in our testbeds (20 dBA). As we can see, IFX-14 assemblies with the Scythe Slip Stream fan demonstrate optimal efficiency -- at 500rpm this cooler shows a record-breaking balance between efficiency and noise, and at the speed of 700rpm it performs almost on a par with the leading Scythe Mugen 2.

Thermaltake BigTyp 14Pro. Alas, results of this new cooler are disappointing rather than inspiring -- it's only slightly better than the BigTyp progenitor, demonstrating very low efficiency. Unfortunately, BigTyp 14Pro failed to get rid of the chronic problem -- extremely dense finning, which is aggravated by the fan with a weakened propeller. The large decorative housing on the heatsink does not look like the best solution either (as it deteriorates temperature conditions in circumstances where ventilation of the heatsink is limited). Of course, it all lowers efficiency of the cooler and renders it practically impractical for quiet cooling.

Now let's have a look at the situation in the low-noise domain, where we selected not only High-End products, but also several Mid-End products -- Cooler Master Hyper TX2, GlacialTech Igloo 5750 PWM, and Scythe Mine Rev. B.

Diagram 3. Temperature readings (CPU core temperature, low-noise domain)


Diagram 4. Thermal resistance (low-noise domain)


ASUS Royal Knight. The cooler merits approval again -- it successfully competes with Thermalright IFX-14 and Scythe Mugen 2. The optimized fin-stack proves its efficiency once again -- the Royal Knight heatsink is maximum efficient with a faster fan, using the entire heat exchange surface area. Fortunately, ASUS engineers were not distracted into extensive megalithic assemblies, and paid all their attention to the intensive aspect -- to harmonize the heatsink and fan for low-noise operation. Excellent job.

Noctua NH-C12P. The NH-C12P preserves its decent results demonstrated in the noiseless mode -- it fails to catch up with Thermalright IFX-14, but it still keeps in the leading group. It's a good achievement, especially considering its compact design.

Scythe Mugen 2. This cooler loses the first place to Thermalright IFX-14 in the low-noise mode. But the second place is also a very good result. It requires almost just as much efforts as the first place. As we can see, Mugen 2 successfully copes with this task.

Thermalright IFX-14. An absolute champion. And it's just the beginning.

Thermaltake BigTyp 14Pro. The situation gets much better -- BigTyp 14Pro makes up for its thermal lag from the other contenders, and demonstrates hi-end results. This surge in results (14°C) for such a small increase in fan speed indicates heatsink-fan design deficiencies. But it's better this way than to be an outsider.

Now let's have a look at the results demonstrated in the ergonomic domain (noise reference mark -- 31-32 dBA).


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