There is no doubt that the top heatpipe tower air coolers perform very well. Test results have shown the best heatpipe designs with side facing fans have cooled processors better than any air cooling design. These top heatpipe towers also outperform the entry level water cooling systems we have tested.

Why then is it important to test smaller coolers and hybrid designs? The biggest reason is the size of the heatpipe tower coolers. While they will fit most of today's motherboards, the top heatpipe towers are heavy and bulky. This creates concerns in mounting the coolers, and long-term questions about whether a side-hanging weight in a tower case is really good for your motherboard. Manufacturers have addressed the mounting and weight issues in many different ways, but the fact remains that for some users something smaller would be better.

This was clearly demonstrated with the tremendous success of the Thermalright Ultima-90 as our review found this smaller, lighter cooler performed about as well as the best full-size heatpipe towers. When mounted with a 120mm fan, the Ultima-90 is a top performer and user comments and sales figures show this is appealing to many buyers.

Finally, as reasonable as the top heatpipe towers are, some readers don't want to lay out $50 to $70 for a top air cooler. They would be happier at the $30 to $40 price range with perhaps a minimal loss of performance. Not everyone wants to run their CPU at the top edge of performance and they would welcome a smaller but still effective cooler that meets their needs.

The smaller cooler presents something of a dilemma for buyers who value silence above all else. Review after review shows the large cooling fans used on the top heatpipe towers can generally move enough air for effective cooling while still maintaining a slow speed and low noise levels. The smaller and cheaper coolers generally use smaller fans at higher RPMs which generally creates higher noise. This conundrum that smaller equals noisier is a constant frustration for fans of ultra low noise coolers.


This time around two new air coolers are going through the tests in our new cooling testbed. As you can see they may be similar in price, but the coolers are quite different in size. The OCZ Vendetta is very small and almost looks lost next to the Scythe Kama Cross with a 120mm fan mounted. These are the first air coolers tested in the new cooling testbed, so we also retested a few previous coolers and will report results with CoreTemp instead of NVIDIA Monitor.


OCZ has just introduced the OCZ Vendetta. This small cooler, based on a Xigmatek design, looks like a shrunken version of the top side-fan heatpipe towers with a few innovations in the shape and turbulence characteristics of the stacked fins. The best way to understand the size reduction is that the Vendetta uses a 92mm fan instead of the 120mm used on full-size heatpipe towers.


The Scythe Kama Cross takes a completely unique approach to a mid-priced cooler design. It is not really smaller than other heatpipe towers, but it does combine components in a slightly different way. The Kama Cross twists heat pipes in an X configuration with a top mounted fan. The idea is to combine the best of the down-facing-fan coolers with the proven cooling abilities of the side fan by mounting fins at 45°. The shipping fan is a 100mm fan, but Kama Cross is also predrilled to mount a 120mm instead. Whether this hybrid approach really works or not will be determined on the test bench.

Smaller and cheaper cooling towers are a great idea - as long as they work. No one expects that they will perform quite as well as the top designs or they would be priced accordingly. However, the real question is how little you have to give up with these mid-priced designs? Are they a good cooling value?

Scythe Kama Cross
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  • rbuffetta - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    Spend the extra $20-30 and get the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme. Of all the places to cut corners and save money this is really where it counts to protect your cpu and allow for decent overclocks. Reply
  • EtherealDragon - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    As always, it was a nice read, but why oh why would you plot the 2 graphs on page 7 in that manner? Seems funny to me to have the points on the graphs "drop" as the temperature raises... I guess thats just my .02 Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    It's very easy to change the chart with temp going up if enough readers prefer it. We changed the graph scale after receiving several complaints that the top performance was the lowest chart position on the old charts and difficult to comprehend. If more readers prefer the original chart layout we will be happy to change back. Please let us know. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    I prefer the old orientation, as it makes sense to me that when you are looking for the cooler with the lowest temperature, you look at the lowest point on the graph. Reply
  • Sentrosi2121 - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    Pretty acceptable for the OCZ cooler. I wonder how it would perform inside an enclosure like the X-Qpack. I'm trying to build a nice gaming rig with the X-Qpack and would like to see if it would fit inside. Reply
  • Basilisk - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    quote:

    I wonder how it would perform inside an enclosure like the X-Qpack.

    Depends on your skill with a hammer and chisel: The X-Qpack (and X-Qpack2 and Ultra Micro Fly) only have about 75mm of headroom above the CPU -- challenging for a 92mm fam mounted perhaps 40mm above the CPU! Go with a Zalman horizontal flower (7000, 7700, 8700), a few other units or just the stock fan in those cases.

    PS: The X-Qpack2 has improved airflow and clearance (length) over the X-Qpack.
    Reply
  • Anonymous Freak - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    StorageReview just did a review of the http://www.storagereview.com/1000.sr">Western Digital "Green Power" 1 TB hard drive. While it's not the best performing drive in the world, it's no slouch, and it has the side effect of being the quietest drive they've ever tested. (Plus it runs cool enough that you could probably slap it in a Reply
  • EtherealDragon - Tuesday, October 02, 2007 - link

    As always, it was a nice read, but why oh why would you plot the 2 graphs on page 7 in that manner? Seems funny to me to have the points on the graphs "drop" as the temperature raises... I guess thats just my .02 Reply
  • Phil Harris - Monday, October 01, 2007 - link

    It seems utterly ridiculous to me that these coolers are tested on dual setups.
    If someone looking to build a quad is trying to find useful information, this review is completely pointless.

    A test on a quad however will still provide useful info to someone building a dual core.

    The defence that games don't use quads yet is also totally specious, if thats the reason, why bother testing anything other than dual core machines?

    Lets all ignore quad core computing until we can play games on them... is that the idea?

    This is the second poor quality review in the cases and cooling section within a few weeks, if Anandtech wants to be taken seriously, a serious re-think is required.
    Reply
  • Acanthus - Monday, October 01, 2007 - link

    Many enthusiasts that are spending money on components for overclocking have opted for cheap quad cores.

    Sorry to sound frustrated, but this is getting rediculous when we are in the world of $270 quad cores.
    Reply

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