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Big Air: 14 LGA 2011-Compatible Coolers For Core i7-3000, Reviewed

Big Air: 14 LGA 2011-Compatible Coolers For Core i7-3000, Reviewed
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Do Intel’s Core i7-3000-series CPUs really need closed-loop liquid cooling? Today we're testing fourteen different LGA 2011-compatible air coolers on an overclocked Core i7-3960X in order to determine whose is the most effective.

Do Intel’s Core i7-3000-series CPUs really need closed-loop liquid cooling? Today we're testing fourteen different LGA 2011-compatible air coolers on an overclocked Core i7-3960X in order to determine whose is the most effective.

It seems strange to us that Intel no longer includes a cooler with its fastest retail CPUs. This is, after all, the same company that seems to insist that we include our original boxed cooler any time we send in one of our purchased processors in for a warranty exchange. Instead, it now suggests that enthusiasts spend extra money on something that resembles Antec’s Kühler H20 620, but actually costs as much as the larger Kühler H20 920: Intel's own BXRTS2011LQ sealed liquid CPU cooling system.

The rationale behind this move does make sense in that the Core i7-3960X and Core i7-3930K are multiplier-unlocked products that specifically target overclocking enthusiasts. Enthusiasts typically won’t settle for anything as underpowered as its RTS2011AC downdraft cooler, and Intel doesn’t think hanging two pounds of copper and aluminum up to six inches from the surface of a motherboard is a great idea. And while that kind of leverage tugging on your expensive motherboard is probably ill-advised under the harsh conditions of shipping a machine cross-country, systems that are handled gently and don't get moved often tolerate the weight of big, heavy coolers without a problem.

We invited every major CPU cooler manufacturer (that's right, all of them) to show off their LGA 2011-compatible heat sinks, and fourteen responded with products ranging from $30 to $99. That takes either a great deal of confidence or a great leap of faith from the budget cooler companies, since everyone participating in this piece knew that we'd be basing our evaluation on overclocking. The wide price range allows us to really test how much we need to spend on cooling, and how much we can benefit from spending more money than necessary.

Following up on our earlier picture story, here’s a brief overview of each cooler’s basic features, grouped by price first and arranged alphabetically. Please pay special attention to each cooler’s base height, which is measured with the intake fan at its highest position, along with thickness and offset. If the fan overhangs your DIMM slots, its base height (plus around 0.3" for the CPU/LGA package) represents your maximum supported DIMM height.

LGA 2011 CPU Cooler Features, Sub-$50 Models
 Arctic Cooling Freezer i30Cooler Master Hyper 212 EvoCorsair A70Enermax ETS-T40SilenX EFZ-120HA5
Height6.3"6.3"6.3"6.3"6.2"
Width5.5"4.7"4.9"5.5"4.9"
Rad. Thickness2.6"2.0"2.8"2.8"2.3"
Total Thickness3.8"3.1"5.1"3.6"3.4"
Base Height1.2"1.4"1.5"1.5"1.4"
Assy. Offset0.5" Forward1.1" ForwardCentered1.0" Forward1.1" Forward
Cooling Fans1 x 120 x 25 mm1 x 120 x 25 mm2 x 120 x 25 mm1 x 120 x 25 mm1 x 120 x 25 mm
Connectors1 x PWM1 x PWM2 x Three-Pin1 x PWM1 x Three-Pin
Weight32 Ounces22 Ounces41 Ounces23 Ounces23 Ounces
Web Price$40$35$35$30$33

LGA 2011 CPU Cooler Features, $50-79 Models
 Akasa Venom VoodooCoolink Corator DSGelid GX-7 Rev. 2Xigmatek Venus SD1266
Height6.5"6.2"6.3"6.4"
Width5.1"5.5"5.1"5.2"
Rad. Thickness2.8"2x 1.8"2.5"2.8"
Total Thickness5.1"4.7"3.5"3.9"
Base Height1.3"1.5"1.4"1.5"
Assy. OffsetCentered
Centered0.4" Forward1.1" Forward
Cooling Fans2 x 120 x 25 mm1 x 120 x 25 mm1 x 120 x 25 mm1 x 120 x 25 mm
Connectors2 x PWM1 x PWM1 x PWM1 x PWM
Weight37 Ounces35 Ounces23 Ounces33 Ounces
Web Price$55$50$65$65

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LGA 2011 CPU Cooler Features, $80-100 Models
 Deepcool AssassinNoctua NH-D14Phanteks PH-TC14PEThermalright Archon SB-EZalman CNPS12X
Height6.4"6.4"6.5"7.0"6.2"
Width5.8"5.9"5.8"6.7"6.0"
Rad. Thickness2x 2.0"2x 2.0"2x 2.1"2.1"2x 2.2"
Total Thickness6.0"6.2"6.3"3.1"5.2"
Base Height1.7"1.8"1.6"1.3"1.2"
Assy. Offset1.0" Forward1.0" Forward1.0" Forward1.0" Forward0.25" Left
Cooling Fans1 x 140 x 25 mm
 1 x 120 x 25 mm
1 x 140 x 25 mm
1 x 120 x 25 mm
2 x 140 x 25 mm1 x 150 x 25 mm3 x 140 x 25 mm
Connectors1 x PWM
1 x Three-Pin
2 x PWM2 x Three-Pin1 x PWM1 x Three-Pin
Weight37 Ounces45 Ounces47 Ounces36 Ounces36 Ounces
Web Price$80$85$90$85$99


Since higher fan speeds typically increase cooling capacity at low cost, some of the more expensive models attempt to provide the best balance of cooling and noise. Today’s tests includes both heat and noise measurements, and we’ll even compare heat to noise, heat to price, and heat/noise to price!

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    Crashman , February 16, 2012 12:30 PM
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBallsSeems like a very biased review all around.
    You mean like, biased in the sense that every manufacturer got one shot to prove itself? Biased as in, everyone gets the same single opportunity? Is this the perspective gained from modern schools of progressive thought?
  • 10 Hide
    builder4 , February 16, 2012 9:10 AM
    bunnywannyI been using a Prolimatech Megahalems since its introduction back in 2009. I remembered that in a few months later Noctua took the crown as top performing air cooled heatsink. It is nice that new cpu heatsinks are becoming better in performance, but i don't like the fact that they are becoming bigger and heavier than previous cpu heatsink kings by only earning a degree or two above the rest. Could you guys do a heatsink Weight/cooling efficiency chart? This is to make readers see which manufacture did its engineering mission to make a much more effective unit than its competition. Not just slab more metal to defeat the other guy. To heatsink manufactures: Do something innovating if a wall seems to be in the way! Just look at PSU manufactures, they are reaching 92% Platinum rating, from 82% rating four years ago.Example: Noctua NH-D14 weighs 900g without fans and it did 45c at full load. 900g/45c= 20.00 efficiency ratio. Panteck PH-TC14PE weighs 970g without fans, performing at 46c.970g/46c= 21.09 efficiency ratio.CM Hyper 212 EVO Weighs 580g with fan, performing at 51c.580g/51c= 11.37 efficiency ratio.Ideally, the lower the ratio, the more efficient a cpu cooler is. Other charts count as well when making a final decision.


    By that logic, having no cooler at all is the most efficient... 0g/200c= 0 efficiency ratio. And a dead CPU.

    Also, the higher the temperature (Bad), the lower the ratio, which doesn't make sense.

    You would also need to use the ambient temperature delta rather than the absolute temperature in any sort of ratio for the results to be meaningful.

    I think that the majority of people don't care how heavy their cooler is, only about the price.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    phamhlam , February 16, 2012 3:49 AM
    I saw the Corsair A70 with rebate for $25. I am glad these coolers are proven to be the best value. I don't need to spend more than $50 for a cooler when a $30 cooler can give me almost the same performance.
  • 3 Hide
    CaedenV , February 16, 2012 4:48 AM
    I was disappointed by the Evo's noise level in my own system, and found some very silent (rated at 8dB) Enermax fans, and threw 2 of them on and that did the trick very well. Even though they don't move a lot of air, the push-pull effect still gets me a lower overall temp on my CPU. So remember that with a lot of these coolers you are not stuck with the fans that they come with as they are very easy (stoopid easy) to replace.
  • 0 Hide
    giovanni86 , February 16, 2012 5:18 AM
    Troublesome with the height especially concerning with the 8 DIMM slots so close by. I don't like the appearance of the NH-D14 but it does do the job and give you the clearance. Hopefully cooler manufactures will approach these new found boundaries and release ones that will clear all DIMM slots otherwise CPU water cooling looks to be in my near future.
    On a side note i wish the "ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-R" was reviewed as well considering on newegg it is compatible with LGA 2011, and I've been eye balling that one since it came out for my next build.
  • 6 Hide
    bison88 , February 16, 2012 5:20 AM
    BigMack70Meh... I still see no reason to even consider the Noctua over the $35 Hyper 212 Evo.If I were to consider a cooler in the ~$90 range, I'd be going water cooling anyways.



    I've heard nothing but great things from CM's Hyper 212+ and Evo variants. Might I add the other powerhouse in affordable cooling, Thermalright's TRUE Spirit 120 for just about the same price. It seems the Hyper 212+ and TRUE Spirit have fallen off in Heatsink/Fan comparison charts despite kicking some serious ass against there competition price rise, and can even hang very well against high-end coolers costing 2-3 times as much.

    I realize you have to compare modern products to modern products for the sake of it, but just a FYI for those not familiar with the cooling scene. Don't ever count out a product that first debut 2-3 years ago, they can still hang, the good ones at least.
  • 3 Hide
    molo9000 , February 16, 2012 5:22 AM
    BigMack70Meh... I still see no reason to even consider the Noctua over the $35 Hyper 212 Evo.If I were to consider a cooler in the ~$90 range, I'd be going water cooling anyways.


    Water cooling is a lot more expensive and a lot more complicated. Water cooling systems are not maintenance free and always add the risk of a leaking pipe.

    $80-$90 is a small price to pay for getting a quieter PC without resorting to water cooling.
  • 3 Hide
    theuniquegamer , February 16, 2012 6:13 AM
    Yeah my evo still rocks even on LGA 2011 platform
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 16, 2012 6:22 AM
    I been using a Prolimatech Megahalems since its introduction back in 2009. I remembered that in a few months later Noctua took the crown as top performing air cooled heatsink. It is nice that new cpu heatsinks are becoming better in performance, but i don't like the fact that they are becoming bigger and heavier than previous cpu heatsink kings by only earning a degree or two above the rest. Could you guys do a heatsink Weight/cooling efficiency chart? This is to make readers see which manufacture did its engineering mission to make a much more effective unit than its competition. Not just slab more metal to defeat the other guy. To heatsink manufactures: Do something innovating if a wall seems to be in the way! Just look at PSU manufactures, they are reaching 92% Platinum rating, from 82% rating four years ago.

    Example:
    Noctua NH-D14 weighs 900g without fans and it did 45c at full load.
    900g/45c= 20.00 efficiency ratio.

    Panteck PH-TC14PE weighs 970g without fans, performing at 46c.
    970g/46c= 21.09 efficiency ratio.

    CM Hyper 212 EVO Weighs 580g with fan, performing at 51c.
    580g/51c= 11.37 efficiency ratio.

    Ideally, the lower the ratio, the more efficient a cpu cooler is. Other charts count as well when making a final decision.
  • 0 Hide
    razor512 , February 16, 2012 7:54 AM
    anyone know where I can buy the Xigmatek Venus SD1266 in the US?

    I checked newegg and amazon

    seems like a good replacement for my sunbeam core contact heatsing
  • 10 Hide
    builder4 , February 16, 2012 9:10 AM
    bunnywannyI been using a Prolimatech Megahalems since its introduction back in 2009. I remembered that in a few months later Noctua took the crown as top performing air cooled heatsink. It is nice that new cpu heatsinks are becoming better in performance, but i don't like the fact that they are becoming bigger and heavier than previous cpu heatsink kings by only earning a degree or two above the rest. Could you guys do a heatsink Weight/cooling efficiency chart? This is to make readers see which manufacture did its engineering mission to make a much more effective unit than its competition. Not just slab more metal to defeat the other guy. To heatsink manufactures: Do something innovating if a wall seems to be in the way! Just look at PSU manufactures, they are reaching 92% Platinum rating, from 82% rating four years ago.Example: Noctua NH-D14 weighs 900g without fans and it did 45c at full load. 900g/45c= 20.00 efficiency ratio. Panteck PH-TC14PE weighs 970g without fans, performing at 46c.970g/46c= 21.09 efficiency ratio.CM Hyper 212 EVO Weighs 580g with fan, performing at 51c.580g/51c= 11.37 efficiency ratio.Ideally, the lower the ratio, the more efficient a cpu cooler is. Other charts count as well when making a final decision.


    By that logic, having no cooler at all is the most efficient... 0g/200c= 0 efficiency ratio. And a dead CPU.

    Also, the higher the temperature (Bad), the lower the ratio, which doesn't make sense.

    You would also need to use the ambient temperature delta rather than the absolute temperature in any sort of ratio for the results to be meaningful.

    I think that the majority of people don't care how heavy their cooler is, only about the price.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 16, 2012 9:20 AM
    lostmyclanwhy =) you need mass for your decision ? i think its about surface and not mass...


    I am not saying that i need mass to make my decision. And i agree that surface is important. All i am saying is that i want to see cpu heatsinks to be more efficient or equal at cooling with less metal.
  • 1 Hide
    ztr , February 16, 2012 9:29 AM
    Good to see the Hyper 212 Evo battling it out with the Big boys and putting them to shame lol

    Great cooler and I am happy for the fact I choose it over others in the same price range
  • -2 Hide
    sublime2k , February 16, 2012 11:28 AM
    Too bad A70 doesn't fit above most DIMMs.
  • 7 Hide
    Crashman , February 16, 2012 12:10 PM
    sublime2kToo bad A70 doesn't fit above most DIMMs.
    If your DIMMs are taller than 1.8 inches, they certainly do not fall within the "most DIMMs" description.
  • 3 Hide
    BattleshipLorenzen , February 16, 2012 12:12 PM
    The A70 can often be had for $25 or $20 after MIR, and although their rebate company isn't great, Corsair IS great about fixing their rebate company's messes if you ask them. I have an A70 on my i5-2500k asrock z68 Extreme3 Gen3 in a Zalman z9 plus and the "push" fan fits over my G.Skill Ripjaws X RAM just by clipping it on a little higher (you can do that, easily, and it's fine). Sorry to bore with system details - I just put those in there for the sake of people googling to see if the A70 would work in their system :) .
    Also, controlling fan speeds with A70 is simple with the Asrock MOBO. Just don't plug it into a CPU header--plug it into a 3-in Chassis header and let Speedfan set the speed (with voltage regulation) based on CPU temp. With the inline resisters, I can get RPMs down to 1000-1100, which seems pretty quiet. Seems to have little effect on cooling - weird thing about the A70 is that higher CFMs don't change much unless you hit the 130+ levels. Maybe it doesn't conduct well enough?
  • -6 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , February 16, 2012 12:15 PM
    Care to explain why you didn't bother to test the Corsair A70 using its included resistor, which reduces fan speed to 1600RPM?

    Seems like a very biased review all around. If you're gonna give a prize to the Noctua NH-D14 despite its price and size on the basis that it's one of the top performers and it's quiet, you should have also tested the A70 at the lower fan speed and accordingly given it OR the Hyper 212 Evo a prize for being the best bang-for-buck for cooling performance or noise-to-performance-to-value ratio.

    People that are gonna buy the i7-3820 probably care a little about value, too, and the money saved from getting a cheaper cooler could go somewhere else--like a faster/higher capacity SSD, more RAM, a more feature-rich motherboard, etc.
  • 13 Hide
    Crashman , February 16, 2012 12:30 PM
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBallsSeems like a very biased review all around.
    You mean like, biased in the sense that every manufacturer got one shot to prove itself? Biased as in, everyone gets the same single opportunity? Is this the perspective gained from modern schools of progressive thought?
  • 3 Hide
    fegefeuer , February 16, 2012 12:34 PM
    Did you use the supplied L.N.A. (Low-Noise-Adapter) with the Noctua's NH-D14? It would be very interesting to see how the low-noise-adapters change the noise/temperature rating of the NH-D14 in case you didn't use them.

    Any chance of re-testing this?

    Many thanks for the article, very helpful.
  • 1 Hide
    cknobman , February 16, 2012 12:35 PM
    Just wondering why no Xigmatek?

    I remember them at one time having some of the best coolers around.
  • -6 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , February 16, 2012 12:43 PM
    CrashmanYou mean like, biased in the sense that every manufacturer got one shot to prove itself? Biased as in, everyone gets the same single opportunity? Is this the perspective gained from modern schools of progressive thought?


    No, biased as in "you used a crappy testing methodology (by not using the included inline resistor for the A70 which would in turn lower fan noise)" and gave the top-performer the only award because, according to you, people buying i7s have completely disposable incomes. According to you, the people buying into this platform don't give two craps about performance for the money, and it doesn't matter that they could use the money saved from going with a less expensive cooler for something else like a better SSD or a more feature-rich motherboard.

    Again, if you're gonna give the Noctua NH-D14 an award, you need to give one either to the Hyper 212 Evo or the Corsair A70, too, on the basis that they deliver the best bang-for-buck. With the A70 we don't even see an accurate comparison regarding fan noise, so it's impossible to know if it would've been the jack of all trades.
  • 1 Hide
    wiyosaya , February 16, 2012 12:54 PM
    On any of the more noisy coolers, it is certainly possible to replace the stock fan with a much less noisy fan from a manufacturer like Scythe. However, lower noise may mean less fan speed and CFM of cooling air through the cooler. Fortunately, temps will be driven in part by the surrounding air in the case. With a case that is airy and supports several additional fans, I see it as entirely possible to build a quiet, yet sufficiently cooled PC.

    I've been using Thermalright coolers in my builds recently, however on one build, I combined a Thermalright CPU cooler with a quiet Scythe fan, and several quiet Scythe case fans in an NZXT Gamma chasis. The result is much quieter than I expected, however, the system is well cooled.
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