CPU Cooler Charts 2008, Part 3 - Are Box Coolers any Good?

Conclusion - Box Coolers Are Not A Good Choice For Overclockers

Thermal power loss increases nearly proportionally with a CPU's clock frequency: the higher the clock speed, the greater the CPU's heat output. This is not exactly breaking news. However, the reverse is also true, in that processors with lower core clock speeds also require less elaborate cooling. For this reason, CPU makers also ship their slower models with less powerful coolers. The third part of the Cooler Charts allows you to compare the coolers we have tested so far to the box coolers that come with the CPUs.

It is obvious that buying an aftermarket cooler upgrade is very much worthwhile. Although all of the box coolers fulfill their purpose of keeping the CPU sufficiently cool, the user usually has to put up with a higher level of operating noise compared to other offerings. Besides, most box coolers don't offer much in the way of reserves where cooling performance is concerned, making them a poor choice for overclocking experiments.

It is also important to note that the different processor models are also bundled with different coolers, depending on their performance category. Although all of the models look very similar, there are very pronounced differences when it comes to cooling performance and noise level. (Compare Prices on CPU Coolers)

A positive trait that all of Intel's box coolers share is their easy installation. Every model since the early engineering samples uses the straightforward pushpin mounting method, allowing for quick and simple installation. This also explains why these coolers are so popular among OEMs.

Our little retrospective showed that while the basic cooler design may not have changed all that much over the past few years, Intel continually changed, tweaked and improved its models, adapting them to the requirements of the processors they were paired with. Taking the Pentium DualCore cooler as an example, we can see that a newer cooler does not necessarily keep a processor cooler than its predecessors, but it may offer other benefits - such as being quieter, lighter or cheaper.

Intel is producing new box coolers for its Penryn processors of the 8000 and 9000 line, which are much smaller than the previous models. We will be testing these versions in an upcoming installment of the Cooler Charts.

Join our discussion on this article!

  • Hugger
    I have read the 3 part article on cpu coolers a few times.
    In each part, the author shows the names of all the coolers that are included in the tests.
    Xigmatech is one of those names.
    However, I can't find test results for that cooler.
    I'm ordering parts and have read good things about the Xigmatech but wanted to read the review here too.
    Am I missing it or has it been left out?
  • bbies1973
    In other forums I have seen the dispute about the best air cooler being between three models that were not tested in here. Dissapointing because two of the manufacturer's submitted coolers for this test. The three are:
    Zalman 9700 (8700 was tested here)
    ThermalTake CL-P0401 V1 (Thermaltake was listed but I didn't see any of their products in the article)
    Third, Tuniq Tower 120. (Tuniq is a subsidiary of Sunbeam, and neither are listed as represented companies for the test.

    I would love to see a part 4 coming with these three pieces represented.
  • Sigh. I looked at this list and then looked at the lists on frostytech, and none of the products coincide... how convenient.
  • ripusheet01
    how a fanless cpu cooler be noisy? how can be sound of a fanless heatsink be measured?
  • dragunover
    This article is Bull,it doesn't list the common coolers,and he obviously used crap thermal grease.Arctic Silver 5 and a Xigmatek/Scythe/Tuniq anyone?
  • gto127
    It's strange that thermalright isn't mentioned here. They've been consistantly at the top of the cooling game for years and are included in most site cool off tests and come up on top quite frequently. Please include in future tests.
  • Twist86
    Seems like none of the best coolers are mentioned here. Just ones that are over priced/out performed by cheaper coolers.

    Zalman 9700
    Xigmatek S1283
    Tuniq Tower 120

    This review fails.