OC3D 2020 CPU Cooler Roundup

Conclusion

OC3D 2020 CPU Cooler Roundup

Conclusion

If there is one thing that our new CPU test system offers, it's the ability to differentiate between high-end CPU coolers and the ultra-high-end, especially with our overclocked i9-9900K tests. 

With our high CPU loads and overclocked testing, we are clearly able to see the limits of many low-cost CPU coolers on the market today, as well as some high-end ones. Most of the air-cooled heatsinks that we tested weren't able to handle our i9-9900K at 4.8GHz, with most requiring their maximum fan speeds to stay under our pre-defined thermal limit.

On the topic of air-cooled CPU heatsinks, two designs stand tall above all others, Noctua's NH-D15 and Cryorig's R1. Both of these coolers were able to pass our torture test at 600 RPM, offering users high levels of cooling capability with ultra-quiet fans and performance levels that can compete with some liquid coolers a when their fan speeds are ramped up. Even then, the fan speeds on these units remain relatively quiet. 

Another topic that this review raises is that fan speeds matter. High RPM fans and fan speed reductions can have a huge impact on cooling performance, often being the main differentiating factor between success and failure within some of our tests. With Cryorig's R1, we noted a 10 degrees delta in thermals when we tested the CPU cooler using Prime95 with our 4.8GHz i9-9900K, which is a huge difference. 

On the topic of liquid coolers, we can also see some definite advantages to using larger radiator sizes. There are clear benefits to using 280mm and 360mm radiators over smaller 240mm radiators, but the story doesn't end there, as we also saw a clear difference between premium 360mm coolers and lower-cost 360mm offerings, such as Cooler Master's ML360R RGB, which sat under Fractal's Celcius + Prisma 240mm when both units ran their fans with the same RPMs. 

When using large 360mm radiators, we also found that they could operate using much lower fan speeds than their smaller 240mm counterparts while also offering lower thermals. This can be seen clearly with Fractal's Celcius+ series, where their 360mm version offered cooler temperatures with 1000 RPM fan speeds than their 240mm version offered with 2000 RPM fan speeds. With the 360mm version, lower load temperatures are available with lower velocity (quieter) fans, which is a huge plus point for users of large PC cases. The same concept also applies to 280mm liquid coolers. 

Corsair A500 CPU Cooler

Corsair's A500 heatsink is a mixed bag, as its £80-85 pricing pits it against the likes of Noctua's NH-D15 and Cryorig's R1. In reality, this cooler is more of a Cooler Master MA620M competitor, and even then the Cooler Master unit offers RGB support and better thermals in our testing. 

The A500 is a cooler which will be sold based on its looks, not its performance. If you want the best, buy an NH-D15 or an R1, they are both similarly priced, often cheaper, and will deliver lower load temperatures. Yes, the Corsair A500 is a smaller cooler, but if pricing and performance are your primary concerns, Noctua and Cryorig have better product offerings. 

If you like the look of the Corsair A500, go for it. The A500 isn't a bad choice, but for its asking price, you may be better off looking elsewhere. 


Corsair H100i/H115i/H150i RGB Pro XT

What Corsair offers with these coolers is a hugely re-worked design which makes their latest H1xxi series coolers better suited for the needs of today's high-power processors. 

On the high-end, Corsair's H150i also offers its customers a lot of value, as £152.99 is pretty good value when considering the pricing of many competing 360mm coolers.



Cougar Helor 240mm and 360mm

Cougar's Helor series of liquid coolers take a huge step away from the norm. These aren't your standard Asetek and CoolIT units, these are something different, and that's a big deal within the world of Closed-Loop Liquid Coolers. 

When it comes to its RGB lighting, the Helor is a breath of fresh air. It's nice to see RGB control without on-PC software. Simply use the remote, and you can avoid all those RGB control Softwares while still taking advantage of your flashy RGB lights. If you want to use RGB software, no problem, just connect the Helor's RGB controller to your motherboard's 3-pin 5V RGB connector and control it using your motherboard's software. Simple. RGB control is as simple or complex as you want it to be, and that's refreshing. 

Performance-wise, Cougar's Helor series is no slouch. Both units were able to pass our overclocked i9-9900K stress test, even with lowered fan RPMs. Pricing-wide, these units are also on the lower side of the liquid cooling spectrum, which is another plus point. While they don't offer the same performance levels as the latest units from Fractal and Gigabyte, they aren't far enough behind to not be worth considering, especially if you consider their pricing. If anything, the only problem with these units is that there isn't much stock of the 360mm model at UK retailers. 

Fractal Celcius + Prisma Series - 240mm, 280mm and 360mm

If Fractal's offering anything with its new Celcius + series of liquid coolers; it's more variety. For starters, a new 280mm model has been added to the lineup, and better still; the series features models both with and without RGB fans. 

Do you want to lower your build costs by going for non-RGB fans? Go for it. This will make the 360mm model £159.99 in the UK. Thatis a bargain, especially given the fact that these units are sitting at the top of our performance charts. That fact only becomes more impressive after we consider the relatively low RPM values of Fractal's fans. 

Fractal's new Celcius + series are also well thought out, offering users on-radiator fan hubs and daisy-chainable RGB support to minimise cable clutter and simplify the PC building process. Instead of six cables from a 360mm Celcius + Prisma, you have two, one for RGB and one for the unit's fans. It doesn't get more simplistic than that. 

As it stands, Fractals units are offering good value, a high build quality extra performance and unique features. That's a massive win in our book, making Fractal's Celcius + series an excellent addition to the world of All-in-One Liquid coolers. 

Gigabyte Aorus 240mm, 280mm and 360mm liquid coolers
 
Performance-wise, Fractal's Celcius+ series and Gigabyte's Aorus series of All-in-One liquid coolers are almost identical, but what Gigabyte adds is the addition of some extra flash in the form of a programmable OLED screen. 

With this addition, users of Gigabyte's Aorus series liquid coolers can use their coolers to monitor system temperatures CPU clock speed and other vital data. In addition to this, users of this cooler can use this screen to display custom images or custom animations. Want to place your company logo on your system, your Twitter thumbnail, the logo for your Twitch/Mixer Streams? You're free to do that with Gigabyte's latest liquid coolers, but that does add a premium to these units. 

Let's be honest here; you're not going to get a programmable OLED screen without paying for it, which makes the higher pricing of these units non-negotiable. Performance-wise, these units are chart-toppers, but their extra features come at a cost. That doesn't make these units any less compelling than Fractal's offerings from a performance standpoint. Still, you will need to question whether or not the OLED screen and the other aesthetic changes of Gigabyte's Aorus coolers are worth their increased price tags. 


You can join the discussion on OC3D's 2020 CPU Cooler Roundup on the OC3D Forums

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Most Recent Comments

08-04-2020, 14:10:30

AlienALX
Great test. Surprised to see the Noctua so low down tbh.Quote

08-04-2020, 14:14:34

WYP
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlienALX View Post
Great test. Surprised to see the Noctua so low down tbh.
Remember that we have a lot of AIOs in there, and loads of 360mm models.

It's doing very well, especially at low fan RPMs. Very impressed TBH.Quote

08-04-2020, 14:25:45

Jaxel
I use a Cooler Master ML240 in one of my PCs... I would not recommend this cooler to anyone. It cools fine. But every few minutes or so, it gurgles.

I also do not recommend most other AIO coolers either. I 3D print a lot of cases, and what I noticed is that for a lot of these coolers, the tolerances on the actual radiator are complete garbage. The holes are not always exact. If you have a case which has variable hole spaces, they should work fine. But if you have cases which expect holes to be exactly 105mm apart, and they are 103mm or 107mm apart instead, you will have problems.

The best tolerances on radiators I have seen are from Deepcool GamerStorm. I highly recommend the GamerStorm Castle 360EX.Quote

08-04-2020, 15:32:37

AngryGoldfish
I'm impressed at how comparable the 280mm Celsius+ is to the 360mm. Given the £30 price difference, if my case could fit the 280mm rad, I'd just go with that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaxel View Post
I use a Cooler Master ML240 in one of my PCs... I would not recommend this cooler to anyone. It cools fine. But every few minutes or so, it gurgles.

I also do not recommend most other AIO coolers either. I 3D print a lot of cases, and what I noticed is that for a lot of these coolers, the tolerances on the actual radiator are complete garbage. The holes are not always exact. If you have a case which has variable hole spaces, they should work fine. But if you have cases which expect holes to be exactly 105mm apart, and they are 103mm or 107mm apart instead, you will have problems.

The best tolerances on radiators I have seen are from Deepcool GamerStorm. I highly recommend the GamerStorm Castle 360EX.
In fairness, the ML240 is over two years old now. In that time pumps have improved substantially in terms of quietness. I jumped aboard AIO's a few years ago and found them to be obnoxiously noisy. I moved back to air cooling and have been very happy. But since then Asetek have released a few iterations that across the board have improved noise levels. If I were building a new system, I'd consider an AIO again.Quote

08-04-2020, 15:36:43

AlienALX
Oddly AMD recommend a 280 for Ryzen 3900x and 3950x. Maybe they have just had more R&D recently? IDK.Quote
Reply
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