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back to article Ten of the best... Core i7 CPU coolers

Intel’s standard CPU cooler for the Core i7 family looks like a slightly bigger version of the cooler that we're used to seeing on LGA775 Pentium D and Core 2 chips. It works well at the standard speed but lets the side down when you start overclocking. Thermaltake SpinQ After-market coolers for Core i7 come in two distinct …

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Black Helicopters

Dont forget the chipset...

Some boards rely specifically on down draft to cool the NB chipset and power mosfets... Dont forget to take this is in to account when looking for a cooler... as a hot chipset will ruin any performance gain from a cpu cooler...

That Triton looks very similar to my Artic Cooling Freezer Extreme...

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Megaphone

Fan Pitch

any indication of which fans whine and which ones purr, would have been really nice in this article..

They may put out Low dB but those squeely blower style fan drives me nuts..give me a 120mm any day.. even if it is more dB its still way more tollerable.

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WTF?

Triton88 Installation...

I'm surprised at it being such a pig! the Artic Cooling Freezer Extreme it looks like it was based on is so simple! unclip & slide out fan undo two screws (with a screwdriver) to remove HS from mounting bracket, mount braket to board, mount HS, replace screws, slot in fan, plug in and done. EASY.

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FAIL

Akasa Nero

I don't agree with the editor's choice of the Akasa Nero. The Intel style clips may be easier to install but then the full weight of the heatsink has to hang off of them. The heatsinks with a backplate are a lot more sturdy. You only have to install it once, the potential for it to fall off lasts the lifetime of the machine.

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Thumb Down

no thanks

I will stick with my watercooling thank you.

Keeps my i7 below 60 when fully loaded. Plus it's silent.

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More from your author

Chipsets may well require active cooling however I would far rather install a quiet CPU fan - provided it is up to the job - and then install a large, slow, quiet case fan to handle the chipset.

Noise levels - yes, I agree that pitch, annoyance and volume are not necessarily the same thing but it can all get horribly subjective. With these coolers I found that the four-pin fans were better than the three-pin jobs as they can be quiet when the load is modest and spin up to speed when necessary. The Thermalright was very nearly a superb cooler and was much improved when I used it with the Akasa fan.

Installation: OK, tricky one this. If you're building your PC once and only once then the aggravation of the Asus or Zalman doesn't much matter. If you intend on semi-dismantling your PC every so often then the Noctuas are really good as you install all the hardware one time with the motherboard removed. Thereafter you can remove the cooler and part of the mounting hardware to gain access to the CPU without touching the motherboard.

I scored the Intel style of mounts highest as they are the easiest to use if you want to pop off the standard cooler and replace it with an after-market cooler. Changing from Intel to GELID, for instance, takes about 20 seconds.

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Flame

No titan fenrir?

Keeps my 920 running at 38 degrees at 4Ghz - 56 degrees at load (Prime 95)

(Fire in the disco)

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Dead Vulture

Worthless list since the best cooler is missing!

0/10 for doing your research properly.... here are some extra links you really should have checked:

http://www.silentpcreview.com/Recommended_Heatsinks

http://www.prolimatech.com/products/megahalems.html#

http://www.silentpcreview.com/prolima-megahelams

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Bronze badge

Highly polished chrome...

...is as we all know the most efficient surface finish going for promoting thermal radiation.

Not. In fact it is difficult to imagine anything worse.

Which tells us all we need to know about these heatsinks simply by looking at them. The target market does not really give a shit about efficient cooling. They want something that _looks_ the part and who cares if it actually does the job well.

These are the same idiots that claim side windowed cases don't harm EMI screening at all simply because they look good and that even an office machine doing nothing more challenging than running Word all day needs a £300 GPU. Conversely, not even a network server can benefit from a £50 intelligent disk controller.

These heatsinks appeal to the "my machine is faster that yours" wankers who would not know a true performance machine if it hit them over the head. In the mean time people doing real work and are not about to cripple their machines with reckless overclock find that the stock heatsink does the job just fine. After all, Intel are hardly going to supply their processors with accessories that will damage their wares and reputation.

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WTF?

i keep wondering

about heat pipe designs....

Heat pipes work because there is water ( or some other liquid ) inside , while a vacuum (or low pressure) is pulled on them before sealing. ( they should be welded shut )

The low pressure inside the pipe makes that the liquid boils (go from liquid to gas state) faster under application of heat.

The hot cpu makes the liquid 'boil' (faster due to low pressure), this vapor rises , dumps the transported heat in the fins, thus cooling down and becoming liquid again. it condensates on the walls and dribbles back down to the pool at the bottom where it is heated again by the CPU.

Now, looking at the design of these heat pipe constructions : you can only use these effectively if the pool is at the bottom. that means the motherboard has to be HORIZONTAL.

In my understanding these heat pipe constructions only work effectivly when using a flat case and not a tower case ... Alas most overclockers use big vertical cases ... Am i missing something or are they totally daft ?

The best cooling is a big lump of metal with lots of fins on it and forced air flow ( preferrably ducted ) directly attached to the cpu.

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Noctua NH-U12P

I run the Noctua NH-U12P with only one fan on an i7940 and runs at 37 idle and 57 under load, it is always pretyy much inaudable.

It's the damn xtx gtx295 graphics card that is noisy, it idles at 40% rpm and sounds like a hoover!

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Silver badge

@vincent

Capillary action, wicks or just through pressure/vapour-flow.

Regardless, I'm gobsmacked that they bothered with this when a large chuck of the fans on test couldn't even be bothered to use a 4-pin plug for fan control. They've been standard in Intel chipsets for how long now??

In-line resistors that you can plug to your hearts content. I'd be avoiding any of those fans for sheer laziness on the manufacturers.

I'll stick to my watercooling :D

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@the spectacular chap...

...I agree entirely. I've got a stock AMD cooler on my quad-core Phenom II x940. It's just fine - idles at 34 degrees C and maxes out at 51 on load with Prime 95.

Good air flow through the case is probably more important otherwise you're just recirculating hot air. A decent 120mm fan front and rear and some proper vents are probably far more effective. I look at all these coolers and just think..."bling". I suspect much of it is pretty useless and as someone has already pointed out...polished chrome isn't much cop for radiating heat. The best thing is lots of aluminium and lots of surface area - this is why car radiatiors are made this way, this is why air-cooled engines are made this way.

The other thing that bothers me with these "coolers" is the sheer weight of them...how much are they mechanically stressing the motherboard?

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Anonymous Coward

@refined chap

I wish my Intel cooler worked as well as an aftermarket. My AMD stock coolers were better than the ones Intel shipped with their procs. and I didn't have to buy an aftermarket. Every Intel proc. I've owned had the heatsink replaced because the temps were too high for my taste. I also really hate the push/pin design and I'm waiting for a Zalman 9700 to put on my cpu so I can push my cpu without worrying about it overheating. My uATX has a quad core AMD with a stock heatsink and limited airflow (I'll never build a uATX as a main computer again though). It stays cooler than my i7 in a server case with a lot of airflow. The AMD board also has the brace for the heat sink built into it, unlike my expensive X58 board. I understand the price gouging, but at least throw me something so it doesn't sting as much.

The other problem I noticed with the stock cooler was the small, circular contact plate. I would think that heat would build up faster on the cornered areas of the processor. And why use Al when Cu is much more efficient at absorbing the heat.

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Who Really Cares?

Many decent motherboards have fan throttling circuits to reduce noise, and many of us may overclock but don't care about squeezing the last 3% performance out of a system so ultimately there are three main factors against which the rest are trivia:

1) Wussit cost?

2) Decent long-life fan or cheap sleeve bearing crap?

3) How long's it take to clean the dust out? Some of these sinks are designed by idiots who never bothered to run them long enough to realize you have to pull the entire heatsink out and tediously pick at the dust to clean it, AND that they build up dust faster as well. You can opt for a filtered case to cut down on this maintenance issue, but then you have to clean the filters out all the more often or else replace room-air filters.

I have to agree about the northbridge heatsink issue one person mentioned, in that the ideal heatsink will blow some air towards the heatsink, but I'd have to disagree with another poster that it's necessarily a tradeoff of a quiet fan and needing a 2nd fan, or a louder fan which isn't necessarily true.

Also, most of them cannot have a large case fan effectively pointed at them but they dont need one, if your board and CPU 'sink don't allow for quiet cooling all you have to do is use your preferred method of fan speed reduction for a 2nd fan you strap on.

That fan does not need to be large, there are no motherboards that start out with passive chipset sinks which won't be cooled effectively enough with a sub-1500 RPM, 40 x 20mm fan which is a nearly inaudible if not totally inaudible (once the case panel is put back on) noise level. They simply don't produce enough heat to need anything more unless you're running in a quite inhospitably high ambient temperature, in which case you have to address entire system cooling as merely pointing another fan at the chipset won't cut it.

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Thumb Down

The "Titan TTC-NK85TZ Fenrir" is better than these

I have one, it's huge, but cools damned well, and can even cope with tall DDR3 (you mount the fan higher up the heatsink.

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Bronze badge

hmmm

kinda wished you had also based results on the stupid special fans that need lots of cable ties if the clips ever break or fan needs replacing

i use a mini ninja on my case with 3 fans loaded on it and nootice only a 4 degree cahnge under load and idle :D

but its louder than a bloody 747 at take off :/

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FAIL

I want a gold plated IEC mains lead too

@refined chap and others

It is indeed largely about "bling". But roughened matt black, whilst good at losing the heat, wouldn't look so good in comparison with superprettified polished chrome would it.

The eejits these things are aimed at are the same eejits that gold plated fuses for the car stereo are aimed at. Fuses. Gold plated. Think about it.

Respect is due also for the EMC comment re see-through PC sides, not that anyone in authority in the UK cares much about EMC regulations anyway (otherwise the market for powerline ethernet (Homeplug etc) would be just as dead as the market for SSE Telecom's powerline broadband).

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Xigmatek HDT-S1283

This is without a doubt one of the best coolers on the market fish around for reviews...it costs less than £35 delivered and is in my experience the best you can buy for a air cooled cpu. Water cooling is such a farce...I have had the Zalman 8700 and 9700 models as well as the scythe coolers...min cpu i have had them on is a Q6600 my QX6700 runings @ 40c under load @ 3.2Ghz with the Xigmatek HDT-S1283.... FIVE STARS!

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Stop

@Radiated heat commenters

Wouldn't a CPU cooler be better off with low radiated heat and high conducted heat? I mean radiated heat would go into heating the surrounding case and electronics (which is bad as the heat ends up in non-actively-cooled components), but conducted heat only heats up the air being pulled through by the fan (which, with proper case airflow, is good as the heat's pulled out quickly afterwards). So the best cooler designs would be those with huge surface area (i.e. many vanes) and a big fan.

The best case designs, however, would radiate heat- they're (typically) radiating to a whole room (so radiated heat is spread over a massive surface area) rather than blasting the heat back at whatever you're trying to cool in the first place.

Saying that, the most important thing to start with is good case airflow. Otherwise you just end up recirculating the hot air...

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