Finding the Best CPU Cooler: 10 units reviewed and tested

Recently I found myself facing a CPU cooler problem while building a Sandy Bridge-E rig with a friend. Having bought all the parts, we discovered that the Core i7-3820 processor didn't come with a cooler. Instead, Intel sells its heatsink/fan separately for $30. Although I knew we'd need a cooler, I wasn't prepared to answer my buddy's question when he asked which model to purchase.

It had been years since our last CPU cooler roundup so my knowledge was a little dated.

With the recent arrival of Ivy Bridge-E (see our Core i7-4960X review), I felt it was a good time to check out the latest aftermarket coolers. The new chip is fully compatible with Sandy Bridge-E/EP's LGA2011 socket. We contacted all the major players and received 10 heatsinks to test including units from Noctua, Thermalright, Xigmatek, Silverstone and Thermaltake.

Read: The Best CPU Cooler: 10-Way Roundup

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2 problem in this review:

When doing cooler review, you must do a room to cpu delta comparison, not a idle vs load. This can make a huge difference in the cooling power. So in the graph, you would have, for each unit, room temp, idle temp delta and load temp delta.

The other problem is inconsistent fan. I mean, yes, some of them come bundle with there own fan, other doesn't. Using different fan doing different air pressure and air flow does change a lot the result. If you want to compare only the heatsink, you must compare with the same fan installed (unless the fan isn't easily replaced, but normally, tower heatsink like these doesn't come with fan preassemble on them).

Also, is it the same thermal paste used across all of them or it's the bundled thermal paste? Since we can have 1 to 5 degree of difference with different thermal paste and different application, this can also change a lot the outcome.

So, yes it is a roundup, but the outcome could be different with these taken account.

edit: ok, I missed the "Maintaining an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius" line, which does make a better graph then.

Right, the 212 is essentially the same as the Noctua, but you can regularly pick it up for ~$20. And if you want it quieter... you can just buy some Noctua fans for it.

Depending how short of a cooler you need consider the Noctua NH-L12 or the Noctua NH-L9i. If you are on a budget then consider the COOLER MASTER GeminII M4.

Haha, nice to see the Noctua NH-U14S win that, as it did another heatsink round-up at Tom's Hardware recently. This is cooler I had elected for my latest build and I'll keep heartily recommending it.

That leaves the NH-U14S standing as the best cooler of our shootout, assuming price isn't an issue. It may cost $75, but the NH-U14S is worth every penny if you want the best performance, operating volume and great compatibility.

Hahaiah said,
Noctua. End of Story.

Not if you have 32GB of high profile RAM. AIO coolers all the way
edit: I take that back.. looks like the 12s can do it!!
time to cancel my h60 order

Edited by ZipZapRap, Sep 7 2013, 4:16am :