Overclocking On Air: 10 LGA 1156-Compatible Performance Coolers

The enemy of both stability and longevity, heat changes the characteristics of silicon in a way that eventually makes it unsuitable for use in a logic circuit. Heat damage can sneak up on overclockers quickly, such as the 59 degree Celsius stability limit we encountered when overclocking AMD’s Phenom II. Similarly, many of our Core 2 Duos responded unfavorably to temperatures over 65 degrees Celsius.

But hasn’t all that changed with the advent of Lynnfield, a core that can just withstand temperatures of up to 100 degrees Celsius? We have, after all, been flirting with 95 degrees Celsius regularly while testing the overclocking capabilities of motherboards, yet still reach stable clock speeds of over 4.3 GHz.

Although our Core i7-870 sample raised the temperature level at which we had to put on the brakes, its temperature limit coinciding with our cooling and voltage limits happened by mere coincidence. Surely a platform that operates so close to its thermal limit on an open test bench would be unsuitable for use in a closed case, since the higher ambient temperatures would cause thermal throttling (Intel’s automatic speed reduction) at anything close to full CPU load. Liquid cooling could help, but recent tests have shown that anything less than a dual-fan radiator version often provides unsatisfactory results. Most users don't want to bother with a high-end liquid configuration, and most cases don’t support those enormous radiators. For the sake of builders, it’s time for us to track down the best possible air-cooling solution.

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  • 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?
  • 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
  • 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?
  • DavC
    How much better are all these compared to the stock cooler? It would have been interesting to see that included in the tables just for a benchmark.

    but great article. I've recently built an i5 750 based PC and am fairly new to overclocking, so this is particularly helpful for me
  • fayskittles
    I was woundering what program you used to put a load on the CPU? I run a program called Boinic with setti@home and world community grid. this run the most and i see it has always heated up my cpu more then any other program or game has.
  • fayskittles
    I was woundering what program you used to put a load on the CPU? I run a program called Boinic with setti@home and world community grid. this run the most and i see it has always heated up my cpu more then any other program or game has.
  • I've got 4 DIMMs installed with heat spreaders. Am I reading this right that the MUX would be the best choice due to its small overhang from the CPU socket?