Our previous conclusion—that the best reason to use a compact liquid cooler is to make it easier to reach cable connectors that surround the CPU—is once again proven in today’s comparison. The biggest cooler wins, even though it’s an air cooler, and the second-biggest air cooler provides the same cooling performance as the slightly thinner liquid cooler when both are configured with the same high-speed fan.
Another interesting fact is that all three coolers functioned within 1° Celsius of competitors when the same fan was used. Appealing features of Rosewill’s FORT120, such as its direct-touch heat pipe design, appear to have little impact on actual performance, since its larger sink could fully account for such a small performance advantage.
A third interesting result was that turning the exhaust fan backwards provided little benefit in CPU temperature and significantly increased the air temperature at the front of the motherboard. This is our punishment for violating the thermal principles of ATX mid-tower design. Defenders of the concept could point out that many cases have significantly more ventilation through the top panel, via two 120-140mm fans or a single larger fan, but the fact that most people don’t own those cases is something to keep in mind when trying to make nearly-universal recommendations.