Roundup: Six Sub-$40 Performance CPU Coolers Compared

Value Conclusion

No high-value cooler comparison would be complete without a chart that compares cooling to price, and this is where budget candidate Rosewill was hoping to take its crown.

A Web price of only $20 puts the RCX-ZAIO-92 on top, but not by the 100% difference we’d expect to see had it actually cooled as well as its pricier competitors. Though it was somewhat hot and noisy on our Core i7 test system, we could recommend the Rosewill unit specifically to Core i3 overclockers with extremely tight budgets. Unfortunately, its installation method doesn’t allow cross flow orientation on most Socket AM3 motherboards.

Xigmatek’s modest $30 Web price allows the Gaia to take second place in value, without the big sacrifice in cooling performance and noise seen in the low-cost Rosewill product. A look back at our cooling charts also shows that it was the cheapest cooler to provide adequate performance for our overclocked Core i7-870 processor. That might not mean much to owners of lower-heat dual-core chips, but pairing a second-place value score with a second-quietest noise measurement makes it a winner in our books. It’s also the cheapest cooler in this roundup to support a proper cross flow installation on most AMD motherboards.

We can’t quite justify presenting our value award to the product that took second place in our value charts, but Xigmatek certainly deserves some credit for a cooler that fits more boards correctly, supports hotter processors thermally, and does its job quietly. And so the Xigmatek Gaia gets that honor… annotatively.

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    Top Comments
  • Wolygon
    "Its incomprehensible that the Hyper 212 was left out of this kind of review. That decision makes this article worthless."


    Read the article before posting please.
    22
  • Crashman
    amk09i wished you included a cooler such as the coolermaster hyper 212, that seems to be a highly recommended cooler and it would have been nice to see how it squared up against these ones.
    We did:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/lga-1156-heatsink,2535-4.html
    That's why the same system was used for both tests. It's all mentioned in the article, too.
    18
  • amk09
    i wished you included a cooler such as the coolermaster hyper 212, that seems to be a highly recommended cooler and it would have been nice to see how it squared up against these ones.
    13
  • Other Comments
  • amk09
    i wished you included a cooler such as the coolermaster hyper 212, that seems to be a highly recommended cooler and it would have been nice to see how it squared up against these ones.
    13
  • Crashman
    amk09i wished you included a cooler such as the coolermaster hyper 212, that seems to be a highly recommended cooler and it would have been nice to see how it squared up against these ones.
    We did:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/lga-1156-heatsink,2535-4.html
    That's why the same system was used for both tests. It's all mentioned in the article, too.
    18
  • Twoboxer
    Its incomprehensible that the Hyper 212 was left out of this kind of review. That decision makes this article worthless.
    -23
  • Wolygon
    "Its incomprehensible that the Hyper 212 was left out of this kind of review. That decision makes this article worthless."


    Read the article before posting please.
    22
  • Twoboxer
    Sorry, I read your Opening page, the thermal results page, and the conclusion page. Did I miss how these products compare to the Hyper 212?
    -20
  • dogman_1234
    ^ Or water cooling. It was a great article but, How about comparing to Hydro cooling and add an AMD system too. Intel is great at generating heat, AMD is better thought!
    -4
  • duk3
    How did the Zalman CNPS10X Performa get into this review at $35?
    -10
  • sudeshc
    was waiting for this kind of article for some time now, thanks toms. Loved the article, thinking about to go with Zalman's Cooler.
    1
  • Crashman
    duk3How did the Zalman CNPS10X Performa get into this review at $35?
    It was $35. It went up at Newegg about a week ago, but if you look around enough you might find the launch price elsewhere.
    3
  • Anonymous
    Just wanted to say thanks for the article. And I think it's extra awesome that you actually respond to the comments/questions (I just read through the other roundup from earlier this year).
    3
  • DavC
    good article. it would be nice to see the standard cooler on the charts just for comparison though.
    6
  • SpadeM
    Great article tackling the budget builder but with an overclocker's heart :P. There are a few things I would like to mention/request:
    - Heatpipe orientation .. I know all about capillary action but since I don't know of any manufacturer that advertises/places the type of wick they use on the box of the cooler, believing that all coolers are the same and therefor heatpipe orientation does not matter, is a bit idiotic. I know that on a open test bed with the motherboard sitting flat/horizontally the heatpipe orientation isn't relevant but inside a PC case it might be .. and here is my dilemma. Did some research about this, but other then forums and "i believe so" arguments I haven't found anything relevant on this subject. The thing is I was looking these past few weeks at reviews for arctic cooling's 13 on different websites and even though the test method (and room temp)is slightly different from one reviewer to the other, the temp values differ quite a bit which is normal but the biggest difference seams to stem from it's orientation in a pc case.

    Main point of my rambling ... since this is probably one of the oldest tech websites out there, could you bust/prove this myth? Get a bunch of coolers from all price ranges (i have a feeling that cheaper coolers would turn up a bigger difference in values that the expensive ones) and place them est-west and north-south inside a closed pc case. Run a couple of tests and gives us the results.

    PS: i know that case fans matter but since most pc cases now have a psu mounted at the bottom and there is a exhaust fan/grill at the top, you could use that as the "standard case" for this test.
    8
  • djmik21
    Thanks tom.
    Great article.
    I wanted a comparison between the CM 212+ and Xigmatek Gaia.
    I think i'm going for the Gaia for its easier installation and to use it in a 2-fan setup with a fan that i allready have and don't know where to use it.
    It would be even better if you added the performance of the coolers that support 2-fan setups.
    0
  • Crashman
    djmik21Thanks tom.Great article.I wanted a comparison between the CM 212+ and Xigmatek Gaia.I think i'm going for the Gaia for its easier installation and to use it in a 2-fan setup with a fan that i allready have and don't know where to use it.It would be even better if you added the performance of the coolers that support 2-fan setups.

    Sorry, but the Hyper 212+ is too old to be part of a "new for 2010" cooler roundup, but that's why the link was provided in the article and the response thread:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/lga-1156-heatsink,2535-4.html
    0
  • djmik21
    I knew that and so i went and compared the test results and that's how i decided on the gaia.
    thnx again
    0
  • Anonymous
    does every page HAVE to have a popup ad/page?
    1
  • Crashman
    tarawadoes every page HAVE to have a popup ad/page?
    Nah, I have mine disabled.
    3
  • tsnor
    CrashmanNah, I have mine disabled.


    funny
    0
  • Reynod
    Crashman nice article ... seriously.

    I can see this time you took your time editing it and the end result is excellent.

    On an unrelated note ... any news on whether your "grumpiness" is improving or can I expect a "slap" for my cheeky comment ... heh heh.

    Seriously, If this is the new standard required for the other reviewers then the rest (Bar Chris and Don) have some work to do mate.

    Well done ... very well done.
    1
  • Yuka
    Thanks Crashman for the review.

    Are you guys adding a "Coolers P/P rank" anytime soon? That would be so helpful 8)

    Cheers!
    0