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Fan Speed, Noise, And Value

Overclocking On Air: 10 LGA 1156-Compatible Performance Coolers
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Fan speed is the biggest factor in both noise levels and airflow, two things that manufacturers must carefully consider before launching any new cooling product. One might thus expect the noisiest cooler to be the most powerful, although sink design is often more important.

Thermalright’s moderate cooling performance is achieved with a surprisingly low-speed fan, while Thermaltake’s Frio spins over twice as fast at maximum speed. Potentiometers on the Frio’s fans allow these to be slowed, but it would have been impossible test the infinite number of available settings.

Running at slightly less than its rated speed, our Thermalright MUX-120 sample also produced slightly less noise than its rated maximum. Scythe’s second-place quietness is impressive in light of its second-place cooling performance.

The easiest way to figure out which cooler provides the best cooling-to-noise ratio is to convert each observation to a percentage, relative to other coolers in the test. We divided the average temperature produced by all coolers by the actual temperature produced by each cooler to create a temperature-percent scale. A separate noise-percent scale divides each cooler’s SPL by the average noise of all coolers. Dividing each cooler’s temperature ranking by its noise ranking allows a number to be assigned to its acoustic efficiency, aka "cooling-to-noise ratio.”

Thermalright’s supremely quiet fan and mid-pack cooling performance team up to give the MUX-120 a first place cooling-to-noise finish. Scythe’s mid-speed fan and huge sink allow its Mugen-2 Rev. B to retain second place.

Applying the same calculation method used above to temperature and price allows value to be assessed numerically.

The above chart comes with a big caveat: while Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Plus provided enough cooling for our 4 GHz CPU, the Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 did not. Thus, while Cooler Master’s low $30 price makes it a great deal for ambitious overclockers, the Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 is better suited for less enthusiastic tweakers.

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  • 19 Hide
    arkadi , January 27, 2010 6:24 AM
    I just love to read toms old school articles like this one :) 
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    mrgrey , January 27, 2010 5:21 AM
    Argh - unbelievable! I literally just purchased my build on newegg, and they just posted this article. I bought the Arctic Cooling 7 over the Hyper 212+, not having seen the article yet.

    Hey Tom's - what temps are you getting at 3.2 GHz with the Arctic Cooling 7? Did you use arctic silver 5?
  • 3 Hide
    barmaley , January 27, 2010 5:57 AM
    Test settings page reads: CPU Intel Core i7-860, but CPU-Z screen shot under it reads Intel Core i7-870. Which one is it that you tested Tom?
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , January 27, 2010 5:59 AM
    Is there an article testing thermal compounds?
  • 0 Hide
    nzprogamer , January 27, 2010 6:07 AM
    mrgreyArgh - unbelievable! I literally just purchased my build on newegg, and they just posted this article. I bought the Arctic Cooling 7 over the Hyper 212+, not having seen the article yet. Hey Tom's - what temps are you getting at 3.2 GHz with the Arctic Cooling 7? Did you use arctic silver 5?


    no worries there you will be fine
  • 0 Hide
    nzprogamer , January 27, 2010 6:10 AM
    i had the 212 and sunbermtech both were running really good and cool. but i would buy the sunbeamtech with the easy exchange fan kit.
  • 19 Hide
    arkadi , January 27, 2010 6:24 AM
    I just love to read toms old school articles like this one :) 
  • -5 Hide
    falchard , January 27, 2010 6:36 AM
    What no Coolermaster V10 or Thermaltake SpinQ Vertical?
  • 8 Hide
    Crashman , January 27, 2010 6:55 AM
    kumaitiNot a single top down cooler?? That is disappointing, though I can already see the excuse: "they don't have as much performance as the tower coolers".
    falchardWhat no Coolermaster V10 or Thermaltake SpinQ Vertical?
    You would have to ask the manufacturers, since they picked the coolers.
  • -3 Hide
    micky_lund , January 27, 2010 7:09 AM
    prolimatech megahalems
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , January 27, 2010 7:54 AM
    If NH-D14 is in this, where's Prolimatech's Megahalems and Thermalright's Venomous X?
  • 2 Hide
    mayor_mccheese , January 27, 2010 8:45 AM
    just bought a freezer pro too :( 
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , January 27, 2010 9:29 AM
    BobalinaIf NH-D14 is in this, where's Prolimatech's Megahalems and Thermalright's Venomous X?

    Thermalright sent the MUX-120.
  • 1 Hide
    Spanky Deluxe , January 27, 2010 9:53 AM
    Why no Megahalems? They're widely considered the best air coolers out there right now.
  • 1 Hide
    pbrigido , January 27, 2010 10:10 AM
    Even though the Zalman CNPS10X didn't win any of the tests, I still prefer its design because of the all copper contact between the CPU and the heatsink. Nice to see some of these tests again...can you also do one to compare the effectiveness of different thermal compounds?
  • 4 Hide
    Crashman , January 27, 2010 10:28 AM
    Spanky DeluxeWhy no Megahalems? They're widely considered the best air coolers out there right now.


    Some companies didn't respond to the invitation. Sorry, I didn't keep a list.
  • 5 Hide
    fred2421 , January 27, 2010 10:48 AM
    Quick question..these temps you are showing they are all with an ambient temperature of 11C? So when you say 82C over ambient the temps are actually 82+11=93C?
  • -1 Hide
    ubernoobie , January 27, 2010 10:56 AM
    the best cpu cooler is now the thermalright vemonous I believe
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , January 27, 2010 11:04 AM
    Interesting article. I knew results would vary from other reviews. That's normal.

    I was surprised the new Thermalright Venoumous X was not included. It's an updated version of the Ultra 120 Extreme specifically designed for the new Intel Core i5/i7 cpu's.

    Didn't THG mention in an older article that those extra tall heatspreaders that sort of look like a comb did not provide any additional cooling over stock heatspreaders?
  • 0 Hide
    Silmarunya , January 27, 2010 11:16 AM
    It's clear the AC Freezer 7 is a poor choice for higher end overclocking, but how does it fare as a medium end OC cooler? Could it bring, say, an i5-750 to 3.5GHz without giving in?
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