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Answer to "Whats the best CPU cooler?"

post #1 of 71
Thread Starter 
Most of us here at Overclock.net have purchased an after market CPU cooler. Many of us buying them have posted asking what the best cooler is. Here I will be discussion what the best cooling is.


When you overclock your CPU, it puts out more energy. The stock HSF's cannot handle this increase and the CPU will get hotter. This will shorten the CPU's life as well as limit your overclock. To handle this increase in energy, we get increased cooling. Most people can't afford a $200+ water cooling setup so we go with air cooling. There are hundreds of different air coolers available and if you don't know what is the best you could end up with something just as bad as stock (or worse).

What CPU cooler should I get is a very repeated question. Here is a list of some of the top CPU coolers available. I will not rank them as people will just argue.



Big Typhoon



The Thermaltake Big Typhoon is one of the best CPU coolers on the market. It is big and heavy but cools well. A graph by X-Bit Labs shows that the Big Typhoon is one of the most effective coolers when on its high setting (the Scythe Infinity with 2 1200RPM fans beat it). It cooled an E6300 at 3450MHz to 52.4C (with case open) under 100% load. It was just 2C less effective with the case closed (it couldn't draw cool air from outside the case unless you have it ducted or have a side vent right next to it). It is only 2C less effective on the low setting than the high setting also.

X-bit labs also ran a test on a Pentium D 920 processor overclocked from 2800MHz to 3900MHz. Here the Big Typhoon runs at 73C on low speed in a closed case. With the case opened, the temperature was the same with low speed. On high speed, the temperatures were lowered to 70.5C (closed case) and 69.8C (open case).

It is widely available from a place like Newegg.



Scythe Infinity



In the same test, the Infinity performed the best with two fans at a low speed. The E6300 was cooled to 50.3C with the case opened. This cooler is very large and heavy. This cooler is nice because you can have two fans on it at once. With a single fan in a closed case at 1200RPM the Infinity did not perform nearly as well. The CPU under load was at 62C. Adding a second fan lowered this to 57.9C. It is a nice cooler with a single fan, but with two fans it really performs.

In the Pentium D test, the Infinity had trouble with only one fan on low speed, running at 78.8C (closed case). On high, the single fan cooled the CPU to 69.9C. With the case open, the temperature with the fan on low was 69.4. When the fan was on high, the temperature was 68.0C. Two fans on low in a closed case were better than even one fan on high in an open case. They cooled the CPU to 67.5C. With the case open, they cooled the CPU to 64.9.

In another test here, the Infinity was the best idling at 42C and running at 50C under heavy load.

It is available at Newegg.



Scythe Ninja



This is another Scythe cooler that has recieved very good reviews. This cooler comes with 6 heatpipes to transfer heat from the CPU up to the fins. Looking at the cooler from the top or bottom, the heatpipes make a plus sign. This fins are farther away from each other than in coolers like the Tuniq Tower. This will improve airflow, but will also decrease the amount of space the heat will cover and be removed from, possibly decreasing performance. Like some other coolers, this comes as just a heatsink, no fan. You must purchase a fan separately.

Tested on a 4GHz Prescott processor, the Ninja idled at 46C-47C and is temperatures at load were 59.5C-60.5C. When a second fan was added, the temperatures remained the same. The CPU just exceeded 60C a little less. On a P4 1500 with a Adda fan added, the temps were very close until the fan was run at 518RPMs. At 2439RPM the P4 was at 26C, at 1774RPM it ran at 27C, at 1222RPM it was 28C, and at 938RPM it was 29C. When the RPMs were decreased to 518, the temps increased to 33C. With no fan, the temp was 45C. The ambient for the P4 1500 test was 23.1C-23.8C.

This cooler is availible at Newegg and includes a fan.



Zalman 9700



The Zalman coolers are good looking coolers. They work well and can keep your temps low. They are more dependent on case airflow than the other coolers, however. The fan is also dependent on the speed of the fan. As seen in the X-bit labs E6300 test, the lower fan setting gives 61.7C temps at 1850RPM in a closed case. When the fan speed is increased, the temperature is lowered to 57.8C. The fan runs up to 2800RPM instead of 2000RPM the other fans go to. With the case open, the temperature with the fan on low is 56.2 C and on high is 54.7C.

The Zalman improved with the Pentium D in an open case. In a closed case, the temperatures were 76.9C (on low) and 73.8C (on high). In an open case, the temperatures were improved to 69.7C on low and 66.1C on high. If you had very good airflow you could probably achieve near the open temps inside a case.

This cooler is available on Newegg.

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro and Zalman 9500





Arctic Cooling's Freezer 7 Pro is Arctic Cooling's LGA775 cooler. They have some new ideas present in this cooler, such as the lower fins being bent downward. This will help cool the motherboard at the same time as you cool the CPU. The fan is also attached with rubber, lowering the noise considerably.

The Zalman 9500 is a strong cooler. On a Pentium 4 clocked at 4.06Ghz The temperatures reached 60C under load. The ambient was kept at 30C. More tests on the 9500 below.

X-Bit labs tested this cooler on a Pentium 4 516 overclocked from 2.93GHz to 4.02 GHz. They compared it with the Big Typhoon and Zalman 9500. The Freezer 7 did not perform well at all in a case. Under heavy load, the CPU ran at 70C. In a game it ran at 60C. In the same test, the Big Typhoon ran at 62C (heavy load) and 54C (game). The Zalman with the fan on high was the best (on low speed it was also the coolest), running at 53C under heavy load and 48C in a game. In an open case, the Freezer 7 performed much better in an open case, running at 58C under heavy load and 50C in a game. The Big Typhoon ran at 55C under heavy load and 47C in a game. The Zalman again came out on top on both the high and low settings.

Both the Zalman 9500 and the Freezer 7 Pro are available on Newegg.

Tuniq Tower



The Tuniq Tower is often agreed upon as the best cooler. When someone asks what cooler they should get, most people automatically say, "Get the Tuniq!" It is definately a great cooler, but it is big and sometimes hard to install.

X-bit labs did a comparison between the Tuniq, , Zalman 9500, and Big Typhoon here. The Tuniq Tower came out on top idling at 43C (Zalman 9500 idled at 47 and Big Typhoon idled at 46.5). Under load, the Tuniq showed its power. It ran at 53C under load. All the other coolers in the test ran at 60C+. The Zalman 9500 ran at 60.5C and the Big Typhoon ran at 62.5C. Clearly the Tuniq Tower was the leader.

The Tuniq Tower is very hard to find and you will find links to it on the forums from time to time.

Thermalright Ultra-120



The Thermalright Ultra-120 is a high performing heatsink (once you add the fan. It doesn't come with one) based, like most super-coolers, on the bigger is better idea. Thermalright includes "bent winglets" (look on this review for more info) which are supposed to improve airflow between the fins. This cooler does not come with a fan so you'll need to buy one. The heatsink does include a fan clip though. The heatsink is ready for two fans but it only includes one fan clip.

Now some numbers. On an Intel 520 processor (not overclocked) under heavy load the processor ran at 39C (16C over ambient). On the lowest fan setting, the temperature was 52C (29C over ambient). The fan was a low airflow fan designed to be quiet. A higher CFM fan would be more impressive.

It is availible at Newegg.

Thermalright XP-90C



This cooler is all copper, which is a good sign. It has 4 heatpipes to bring the heat to the top of the heatsink. The heatsink is wider at the top than the bottom so air will be able to cool the rest of the mobo also. Thats always good. The XP-90 is smaller than other high performing heatsinks which will be good for systems with less room. Just because it is smaller (not small, just smaller) doesn't mean it will be lightweight. It weighs 690g because it is all copper. The fan fits on the top of the heatsink, blowing air into it and onto the mobo.

The tests for this cooler were run on an AMD Athlon64 3200+ Venice. It was run at 2.0GHz and at 2.4GHz. When the CPU was not overclocked the computer ran at 36C under load (with a Tornado fan on it, thats 119CFM). The overclocked processor (voltage at 1.41) ran at 37C under load. The difference between the Nidec fan (56CFM) and the tornado was 1C no matter if the CPU was overclocked or not. A 3.4E Prescott @ 3.7GHz ran at 30C idle and 47 load. The ambient for the second test was 29C.

This cooler is availible at Newegg.

Titan Vanessa L-Type



This is one of the most distinctive heatsinks I have ever seen. It has a butterfly shape and a nice looking design on the top. The blue fan looks great. The heatink fits over the CPU in a single, large heatpipe. This heatpipe goes right through the middle of the cooler. One of the things I noticed when I first saw a picture of the cooler was the shape of the fins. They look cool, but will the back (where the fins get wider) stay cool?

This cooler is not bad. On one test the Vanessa L-Type had lower temperatures than the Big Typhoon (the BT also had higher temperatures than the beetle so I don't know how accurate that is). The temperatures are impressive. With the CPU at 170Watts (anyone know the conversion from watts to volts?), the L-Type held the CPU slightly below 28C under load. Another test put it on the Athlon64 3200+ Venice @ 2.7GHz. Here the load temperatures were 49C with the fan on high.

This cooler is availible at Newegg.

Noctua NH-U 12



The NH-U 12 is a massive cooler. It is 155 tall and 124mm wide. It has an all copper base with 4 heatpipes (8 heatpipe risers). The heatpipes are soldered to the copper base and to the fins. It weighs in at 700g. It looks great and with a good fan (not included) it should be great. Unfortunately this cooler does not include a fan so you will have to buy one (or preferably two) separately.

On a Pentium D 840 (3.2GHz stock voltage 24.5C ambient) the NH-U 12 (with two fans) ran at 61C on low speed and 58C on high speed. The stock Intel cooler ran at 81C in that test. On an Opteron 144 @ 2.7GHz, the NH-U 12 kept the temperatures at 44C. It is a good cooler.

Its little brother, the NH-U 9 is also a good cooler (49C on the Opteron test mentioned above).

They are both availible at FrozenCPU (includes a fan there).



Conclusion
Many of the coolers performed very well, and different coolers will perform better than others depending on the circumstances. This should give you a good idea of the differences between the coolers and I hope it will help you make a better choice.

Note: If I have missed an important cooler (and I'm sure I did), please post and I will add it as soon as I can. This would be in the FAQ section, but it is currently down so it is here for now.

Waupli
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post #2 of 71
Great FAQ. Missed the TT Ultra 120, supposed to be one of the best
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post #3 of 71
Amazing. I love the format and the pictures. Everything is easy to find and the format is the same, throughout:

Title:

Picture

Description

Links

Conclusion

Rep+
[OCN] Ninja_Boy
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post #4 of 71
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys! I'll add the TT Ultra 120 soon.
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post #5 of 71
straight to the point, goodjob +rep
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post #6 of 71
You forgot this baby (link):



I'll hopefully receive this monster this week.
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post #7 of 71
Thread Starter 
I'll add that soon. I'm doing the Ultra-120 right now and if I have time, I'll do that also. If not, I'll do it tomorrow.
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post #8 of 71
Thread Starter 
I added the Ultra-120. Its too late for me to do the Noctua right now. I'll do it tomorrow.

Oops double post. lol
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post #9 of 71
I actually read a review saying that, at least on AMD, the Titan Vanessa L-Type got better temps than the Tuniq Tower. It was only a few degrees, but you can actually find this cooler, unlike the Tuniq. Yes, it looks rediculous, and yes, it's huge, btu hey, if it performs, that's good enough, right?

Check the cooler out here: http://www.performance-pcs.com/catal...oducts_id=4104
post #10 of 71
Thread Starter 
I'd be surprised if it works better than the tuniq or some other monster. It has so much cut out for the designs. After the air has left the fins, it won't go back in as much so I bet the back won't cool that well. I'll look it up and if its good, I'll add it.
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