Primary Test Results

Given that I tested thirteen coolers total, and all of them with at least two different data sets, there's a lot of ground to cover. I don't want to produce too many oversized tables, so I'll break down all of the test results into two categories: closed loop coolers, and air coolers. I'm also breaking down performance by load temperature, idle noise, and load noise.

Load Temperatures (CLC)

Load Temperatures (Air)

There's a lot of data to digest here. First, it looks like the very best air cooling has to offer is only really hugging the bottom of what closed loop cooling can do, but that's a bit deceptive. The breaking point is actually when you go beyond a 120mm radiator, and even then it's not certain: Noctua's new NH-U14S, at its fastest, is a better performer than Corsair's H100i at its quietest setting.

What's missing from the above chart is the noise the closed loop coolers have to generate in order to beat the air coolers; the only exceptionally loud air cooler is the underperforming SilverStone HE-01, as you'll see below.

Idle Noise Levels (CLC)

Idle Noise Levels (Air)

As you can see, the average idle noise on the air coolers is way, way lower than the closed loop units. That suggests that liquid cooling isn't in and of itself a plainly superior solution outside of Swiftech's H220 and the 280mm NZXT Kraken X60. It gets better, though.

Load Noise Levels (CLC)

Load Noise Levels (Air)

Almost all of the air coolers are relatively silent under load, while the closed loop coolers produce a tremendous amount of racket if they're not configured for silent running.

If you're like our own Dr. Ian Cutress and interested only with getting as much cooling performance as you can out of your cooler, then the NZXT Kraken X60 continues to be the best option. However, note that the Swiftech H220 was able to produce thermals just one or two degrees warmer while running 10dB quieter. This is why some stores are having trouble keeping the H220 in stock: it's the best 240mm unit by a longshot, and it's even competitive with the beefier 280mm Kraken X60.

Also note that the two new Noctua coolers are meeting or beating their old standard, the NH-D14, and they're doing it while being quieter. The NH-D14 looks frankly overengineered compared to the NH-U12S.

Finally, Cooler Master's Hyper 212 Evo continues to be a tremendous value, offering reasonably competitive thermals and noise for an air cooler at a fraction of the cost.

Testing Methodology Silent Running Performance
POST A COMMENT

62 Comments

View All Comments

  • DanNeely - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    In the last test it was 6C hotter than the worst cooler in this review. That would put the core temp in the high 90s and possibly result in thermal throttling.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6830/cpu-air-cooler-...
    Reply
  • tsponholz - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    It would be nice to see this a baseline. Reply
  • Hrel - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    agreed, just mention the numbers outside of the graph, so it doesn't fuck up the comparative look. Reply
  • Torrijos - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    It's a little sad not to have the H110 on that test since it tends to be quieter than the X60 for the same level of performance. Reply
  • JustMoreFun - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    It's very sad that you up to now didn't test one of the Thermalright Coolers, as they are commonly referred to as being the reference when it comes to air coolers. Reply
  • davidthemaster30 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    If the NH-U14S, was mounted so that it pushed air towards the top of the case, would it still block the PCIe slot? Reply
  • marc1000 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    I don't believe it would fit inside the case in this position... it looks like it would go past the backplate. Reply
  • epoon2 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    You should check with Noctua, they have an FAQ listing motherboard compatibility Reply
  • spidey81 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    First I'd like to say that I thoroughly enjoy your articles. In your recommendation of the U12S/U14S over the D14 I think you may have missed something. At your current 4.4 Ghz overclock the smaller/cheaper heatsinks performed, let's say, more efficiently. However, wouldn't the D14 be able to handle a higher thermal load that come with higher overclocks? So it's kind of like you said, it depends on your usage. It would be interesting to see at what point in overclocking would the D14 become worth purchasing over it's smaller siblings. Reply
  • epoon2 - Friday, April 26, 2013 - link

    it scales in the same direction for all coolers as temperature increases, common sense or wrong? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now