Overclocking On Air: 10 LGA 1156-Compatible Performance Coolers

Test Settings

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Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-870 (2.93 GHz, 8MB Cache), O/C to 4 GHz (20 x 200 MHz), 1.388V
MotherboardEVGA P55 SLI E655, P55 Express PCH, BIOS A39 (10/23/2009)
RAMCrucial CT2KIT25664BA1339 (4GB), DDR3-1333 at DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24
GraphicsDiamond Radeon HD 5870 1GB, 850 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4800
Hard DriveWestern Digital Velociraptor WD3000HLFS, 300GB, 10,000 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair CMPSU-850HX 850W Modular, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80-Plus Gold
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 9.11
ChipsetIntel INF

Still warm from our most recent PCI Express Scaling comparison, EVGA’s P55 SLI was retained for the “just right” overclock settings that were already programmed into it. We wanted to approach (but never reach) the processor’s thermal limit and these settings worked perfectly for nine of the 10 coolers.

Several coolers hung over the memory slots of our motherboard, preventing the use of memory with tall heat spreaders. We skipped the heat spreader issue entirely by using Crucial DDR3-1333 modules, yet were still able to use DDR3-1600 settings.

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Benchmark Configuration
Prime95 v25.864-bit executable, small FFTs, 8 threads
RealTemp 3.00Highest core reading at full CPU load (60 minutes) Highest core reading at 30 minutes idle
Acu-Rite thermal probeVRM  temperature Ambient temperature at 6" from the motherboard's front edge

Priced at around $150, Galaxy’s CM-140 has gotten a great deal of attention on the Web as one of the broadest-range, most accurate SPL meters available for under $400. We love a great deal!

Taking a cue from the audio world, we wanted to gauge all of today’s performance coolers at a distance of one meter. The problem for us is that the bottom of our SPL scale is 30db, and the meter is only accuracy rated for decibel levels of 32db or higher. In order to get a “higher” reading from quieter parts, we measured each cooler at 0.25m and then used one of several SPL conversion applications to convert our readings to one meter.

However, the method isn’t perfect--testing several items of known SPL values revealed a consistent 1db (lower) difference that might be attributable to improper meter calibration. To compensate, we added 1db to all of our measurements.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.