Three Down-Draft Heat Sinks: The Last Of A Dying Breed?

A Down-Draft Cooler For Everyone

Although all of the coolers in today's round-up are designed for down-draft airflow, the three contenders are intended for very different jobs. About the only thing they have in common, in fact, is that their fans sit on top.

Enermax's ETD-T60-VD is the flashiest heat sink in our story. Sporting configurable lighting effects, it'd likely work well in a modded case with side panel windows. The heat sink's cooler performance is ample for just about any application, and there is plenty of headroom for aggressive overclocks and environments with higher ambient temperatures, so long as you run the fan at its maximum speed.

The unfortunate side-effect is that Enermax's ETD-T60-VD also becomes the loudest cooler in our round-up when you spin its fan up that fast. There's definitely a balance to be struck, and you can certainly achieve more moderate noise levels by dropping the fan speed to 1000 RPM or so.

We only wish we knew how Enermax's other version of this cooler (ETD-T60-TB) performed. It doesn't have the showy lights, but its fan is rated for better performance.

Noctua's NH-L12 was designed for HTPCs and compact cases. It is, by far, the smallest and shortest cooler in our round-up. The two-fan setup is a smart way to approach low-clearance enclosures, and the cooler can be made even shorter by taking off the top fan.

Granted, cooling performance is limited by surface area. The NH-L12 has trouble keeping an overclocked 125 W Phenom II X6 from running hotter than we'd like, no matter the fan speed we used. And it's not even very quiet; you need to drop the fan speed to really make this heat sink work in a home theater. However, in the environments for which it's intended, we don't imagine Noctua's little cooler will be tasked with keeping many 100+ W processors cool. That's simply not a practical addition to a small form factor enclosure. On top of a 65 or 77 W chip, this thing should fare much better.

Scythe's SCKC-2100 is a powerful heat sink and fan combination that doesn't make compromises. It doesn’t just look its part, but can back it up with the solid cooling performance seen in our benchmarks. A large 140 mm fan works well at low rotational speeds, making this the quietest model in today's story. Its noise level is even acceptable at the highest available RPM.

The SCKC-2100 is the best-performing model we're testing, but it’s the largest and tallest, making it a good choice for performance-oriented gaming PCs, but not some of the other environments where down-draft designs work well, such as HTPCs.

  • boulbox
    My h100 is horrible compared to this :(
  • JohnnyLucky
    WOW! Sound levels are way above advertised levels.
  • killerclick
    Scythe coolers are the best overall, but 1000+ RPM is just too high.
  • Darkerson
    I used to have a Thermaltake Dualorb, and it was really nice because both fans would also blow over the ram and and chipset heatsink. I am currently using a 2500k running at 5GHz with a CM Hyper 212+, and my ambient on the cores is around 28-30, and peak is on average about 67-68c. At any rate, interesting article.
  • luciferano
    JohnnyLuckyWOW! Sound levels are way above advertised levels.
    Don't forget to account for ambient noise, which is already often higher than the rated loudness of many coolers.
  • with the enermax and noctua both @ $68 the scythe is a steal @ $40 on amazon.
  • antemon
    coolermaster didn't send in their vortex (which is what i have)
  • merikafyeah
    It has been my life-long dream to pair a Cooler Master GeminII S524:
    with the greatest 140mm desktop PC fan in existence, the Sanyo Denki 9LB1412M501:
    Specs: 140x140 51mm 138CFM 2000rpm 39dBA 12V 0.5A
    Essentially the most perfect balance of airflow to noise I have ever seen.

    I can only imagine how well this fan can cool not only the CPU but virtually the entire upper half of the motherboard as well. Alas, my dream will remain a dream since although I know where to buy the fan, the min. order quantity is 10, pushing the total price to at least $500; way out of my reach.

    But speaking of which, Tom's, why not compare motherboard voltage regulator and RAM module temps with these top-down coolers vs tower coolers? Myself and many overclockers will be extremely interested in these temps.
  • doive1231
    You could just get an Ivy Bridge CPU and sleep tight.
  • rantoc
    Top->Down coolers are my favourite choice for building normal non-oc rigs since they cool so much more than just the cpu, as for overclocking "real water" cooling with extra spot on fan for the voltage regulators + ram is my favourite. Seem some forget that with water/air tower designs the MB don't get much often needed airflow around the upper part of the MB.