SBM 2: Mid Cost System

CPU Cooler: Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme

Bigger is usually better when it comes to cooling, but Thermalright's Ultra-120 Extreme isn't noticeably larger than its predecessor. The firm instead chose stealthier methods for improving its top-rated Ultra-120.

Six U-shaped heatpipes - some people might call the 12 risers a 12 pipe design - provide up to 50% better transfer capability than the previous design. Though this doesn't make the cooler 50% more effective, since the sink fins are about the same size, many testers have noted a marked improvement over the previous part.

This much cooling isn't strictly "needed" by our Q6600 at stock speed, but cooling will become critical in the later overclocking process. The $65 price seems a little high compared to other air coolers, but the performance level approaches that of many liquid-cooling systems when the unit is equipped with a properly efficient fan.

Thermalright doesn't include a fan with its top-rated parts, instead leaving it to the buyer to select an appropriate fan for his or her circumstances. Options include quiet low-speed and noisier high-flow parts from a variety of manufacturers. Scythe's S-Flex series is highly praised for airflow to noise ratios, and we selected the mid-speed SFF21F model.

Featuring Sony's fluid dynamic bearings for low noise and longevity, the SFF21F is rated at 63.7 CFM airflow at 1600 RPM, while producing a moderate 28.0 decibels of noise. An average price of $15 again appears a bit high for "just a fan", but the added quality will again pay dividends in our later overclocking efforts.