CPU Air Cooler Mega Test
Published: 10th August 2016 | Source: Various | Price: do not click here |
Well guys, it's been an epic and certainly the largest written review we've ever done, and with a total of 35 coolers tested we feel it qualifies for the title "Mega Test". So what have we learned along the way. Well as suspected, the Noctuas largely dominated the performance charts with the Mighty NH-D15 taking top spot overall, but only by the tiniest of margins from the Cryorig R1 Ultimate.
We also learned that those coolers that are difficult to fit or have a poor method of clamping down onto the CPU lid tend not to perform as well as might be expected for a cooler of their size, examples of this can be found in the bequiet range, especially when you consider that the only bequiet that has a decent clamping method, and one which is different to every other cooler in the bequiet range, is the entry point Pure Rock, and it performs better than all but one of the rest of the bequiets and is only 2 degrees off the pace of the massive Dark Rock Pro3. To further illustrate this point let's compare the bequiet Shadow Rock2 with the Scythe Ninja4, The two coolers have very similar proportions and specs, but the Shadow Rock2 came bottom of the charts with an average max temp of 79.5 while the Ninja4 came 9th overall with an average max of 69.75 degrees. If you think our comparison in any way unfair then do feel free to select any other cooler on the test and compare the Shadow Rock to it. We love the looks of the bequiet coolers, we really do, and as a brand we rate them as pretty much the best looking coolers around. If only they could come up with an effective mounting solution and clearer instructions, we're convinced their performance would improve hand over fist.
Along with the expected results, there were also a few surprises to be had, with a few coolers really standing out from the crowd. The Arctic Freezer i32 for example is, we think, one of the stars of the show and something of a giant killer. Granted it may not have been the best performing 120mm fan based cooler and certainly not the best looking but at just £23.97 it was certainly the best value for money, shaming as it did many more expensive and bigger coolers which, should by rights have ground it into the dust.
Although we feel as a brand, the bequiet coolers are the most aesthetically pleasing, we couldn't help but drool over the all Matte Black look of the Alpenfohn Matterhorn, and in particular the monochromatic fan with it's white interior cowling. Ok, so the performance wasn't chart topping, but it wasn't bad either and sometimes you can trade a little performance (and we mean a little) for a greater aesthetic impact.
In conducting the testing, which involved mounting and un-mounting all 35 coolers (some of them twice) it also became evident that the Noctuas are hands down the easiest coolers to fit. They are also the highest quality coolers you can buy, with the best packaging and largest array of accessories. Unsurprisingly they are also the most expensive coolers out there so we guess you get what you pay for. Unfortunately for the Noctuas we think they are also the ugliest coolers out there. Even some of the more bland OEM coolers with their black OEM fans at least stand a chance of blending in to a case's internals, but not so the Noctuas with the diarrhea brown and prosthetic limb beige fans they stick out like the proverbial turn in a punch bowl. And yes, we know that this colour combination is Noctua's "Trademark" and that it does have a certain kudos to it, but in this modern day, with nearly all cases having window panels, do we really want to be staring at beige and brown amongst our otherwise perfectly colour coordinated interiors. We think not.
So what we're basically looking for then is a brand of cooler that has the performance, quality and ease of fit of the Noctuas combined with the looks of the bequiet range. Oh wait, we do, It's Cryorig. Yes that's right, Cryorig. We've not looked at their kit before, so to us they represented something of an unknown quantity. We appreciate they're not the best performing coolers, but they're not far off the pace, we also appreciate they're not as aesthetically pleasing as the bequiets, but they're not exactly ugly and you certainly wouldn't chuck one out of bed for farting. What they are though is an almost perfect compromise. Let's put it this way. The Noctua NH-D15 might come top of the charts, but the cooler we'd buy with our own money would be the Cryorig R1 Universal. Why not the Ultimate? Well because the Universal is only just off the pace of the Ultimate but does not present any RAM clearance issues. Likewise when we look at the 140mm single stack coolers, the NH-U14S comes top followed by the Mugen Max and the H5 ultimate, but the one we'd go for is the H5 Universal.
In the 120mm fan category though things are a little tougher to call as both the good looking Matterhorn and the Dark Rock Pro3 actually outperform the Cryorig H7, although not by much. Bring into the equation ease of fitting and overall quality though and H7 claws back a bit of ground from the other two.
Let's not forget the low profile top flow coolers though. In total we had four in the test, from four different manufacturers. For a change though it wasn't the Noctua that came top of the charts, with the SilverStone NT06 Pro ousting it by a minuscule 0.25 of a degree, which might not seem much but the SilverStone is nearly £10 cheaper.
Then we come to the babies of the test, the 92mm fan based coolers. Again the Noctuas perform well here, but lets not forget the cheapest cooler in the mega test, the Cryorig M9. This cheeky little chappy costs only £16.98, which is less than half the price of the Noctuas and it's still able to hold a 4.7GHz overclock under torture test conditions, which we think speaks volumes.
So then, whatever you're looking for, and whether you want to spend a lot, or a little we think there's a cooler out there that will suit your needs, and hopefully this review will be of use to you in making your decision. Now, where are the AIOs???