Overclocking On Air: 10 LGA 1156-Compatible Performance Coolers

Thermal Testing Results

We tested each cooler with it stock fan(s), and then retested with our own choice of a 2,500 RPM fan to find out how well each heat sink worked at similar noise levels and airflow. The chart below is organized by stock fan performance.

Noctua and Scythe had the largest sinks, so it’s no big surprise that these coolers offered the best performance with the dual-fan NH-14 in the lead. Yet there is a surprise near the middle of this chart: Thermalright’s thin MUX-120 takes second place when our custom fan is used. Middling performance for the stock configuration can be attributed to a low-speed stock fan.

Note that Arctic Cooling’s Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 reaches an astounding 82 degrees Celsius over-ambient temperature with our highly overclocked processor. This is not a typo! We were forced to drop the lab temperature to a chilly 11 degrees Celsius to complete its evaluation.

Also worth mentioning is that the top four contenders in today’s comparison did not use direct-contact heat pipes, but instead relied upon copper heat spreaders to interface the integrated heat spreader of our CPU. If we instead look at the results obtained using our own fan, Thermaltake’s Frio drops out while Thermalright’s MUX-120 drops in and we’re still left with the top four performers lacking this so-called “feature.”

A fan that hangs below the cooler and an open center allowed Thermalright’s MUX-120 to provide excellent airflow over our system’s voltage regulator. Two peculiarities in this test are that the Thermaltake Frio cools the VRM poorly with our single fan, while Arctic Cooling’s Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 excels with the replacement fan. Arctic Cooling’s dramatically improved performance is explained by how the edge of the replacement fan rested on top of the motherboard, producing interesting results from an otherwise impractical configuration.

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  • arkadi
    I just love to read toms old school articles like this one :)
  • Other Comments
  • kumaiti
    Not 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".
  • mrgrey
    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?
  • barmaley
    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?
  • Anonymous
    Is there an article testing thermal compounds?
  • nzprogamer
    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
  • nzprogamer
    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.
  • arkadi
    I just love to read toms old school articles like this one :)
  • falchard
    What no Coolermaster V10 or Thermaltake SpinQ Vertical?
  • Crashman
    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.
  • micky_lund
    prolimatech megahalems
  • Anonymous
    If NH-D14 is in this, where's Prolimatech's Megahalems and Thermalright's Venomous X?
  • mayor_mccheese
    just bought a freezer pro too :(
  • Crashman
    BobalinaIf NH-D14 is in this, where's Prolimatech's Megahalems and Thermalright's Venomous X?

    Thermalright sent the MUX-120.
  • Spanky Deluxe
    Why no Megahalems? They're widely considered the best air coolers out there right now.
  • pbrigido
    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?
  • Crashman
    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.
  • fred2421
    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?
  • ubernoobie
    the best cpu cooler is now the thermalright vemonous I believe
  • JohnnyLucky
    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?
  • Silmarunya
    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?