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Can't Touch This! A Comparison of 46 CPU Coolers

Conclusion - Just Say "No" To Cheap Generics

Tom's Hardware pulled out all the stops - no fewer than 46 coolers underwent a comprehensive testing procedure in our Munich laboratory. The progress made in the area of coolers is absolutely mind-boggling. Hardly any manufacturer can afford to limit itself to offering simple, two-bit coolers if he wants to survive in the market these days. Having said that, it's still utterly incomprehensible to see that among the slew of coolers we tested, there are so few innovative ideas that engender well-engineered products. In particular, the South Korean manufacturer Zalman, despite its offering of fan coolers with unusual and interesting designs in all kinds of materials, the doesn't exactly emerge in glory here. When combined with a large case fan, these designer items still only provide below-average cooling performance.

One of the real highlights in the group remains Noise Control's Silverado, which combines two encapsulated rotors (arranged like turbines) with a CPU contact surface made of pure silver. It's the best of both worlds - a very low noise level and a high cooling performance. Of the newcomers, the Blizzard Thunderbird doesn't cut that bad a figure - while its cooling performance is very good, its noise level is a whisker away from unacceptable. Real hard-core overclockers, who really don't care about the noise level, ought to take the cooler that produces the lowest temperature - the Swiftech MC462. The CPU core is kept at a remarkably cool 30 degrees, creating a lot of leeway for overclocking. On the downside, this 800 gram heavyweight can easily turn into a projectile if isn't screwed down on the motherboard. Having said that, in cooling performance, the Swiftech MC462, the Blizzard Thunderbird and the Silverado from Noise Control beat anything this side of water coolers, as our highly comprehensive tests have shown once again.

Preview - Liquid Cooling

For this reason, we'll soon be taking a look at water cooling systems, which produce even more arctic temperatures.