Testing results, low fan speed (7 Volts)

Average thermal resistance, 60 W to 340 W

Core temperature (60 W Load)

Core Temperature, Constant Thermal Load

Noise level

Fan Speed (7 Volts)

*Note: When the cooler has two different fans, the fan speed of the faster fan is recorded.

**Note: Some of this review's PWM fans will not start if simply powered from a 7 Volts power source. Electronic supervision is required to start the fan and then reduce the voltage down to 7 Volts, or a PWM source.

Reducing the fan voltage down to 7 Volts shifts the thermal performance charts a little but brings all of the coolers down to virtually inaudible levels. The sole exception is the Okeanos, which definitely improved vastly in comparison to having its fans running at maximum speed, but remains audible.

With the Okeanos losing its advantage of brute force, the Noctua NH-D15 and the Raijintek Tisis now lead the thermal performance charts, closely followed by Cryorig's R1 Ultimate. The Phanteks PH-TC14PE is a bit more complicated, displaying that it can do much better at lower loads than with high loads, hinting that the airflow of the fans is simply not enough for this design to cope with very high loads. Be Quiet!'s Dark Rock Pro 3 is now showing thermal performance comparable to that of the aforementioned coolers, especially when the thermal load is low. Still, the Dark Rock Pro 3 technically loses its acoustics performance advantage. It may be dead-silent, with our equipment unable to record anything about the room's noise floor level, but the rest of the coolers are virtually inaudible as well.

The Thermalright Macho Zero is at advantage in these tests, as the cooler is optimized for low airflow situations. With the TY147A at a dead-quiet operating level, the Macho Zero offers very good thermal performance, especially at lower loads.

The two coolers with the worst overall thermal performance at this test were the Deepcool Assassin and the SilentiumPC Grandis. As far as the Grandis is concerned, the company will definitely not worry about their product not being able to compete directly with the best air coolers available, as it can still offer very good performance for the price of the cooler. The Assassin on the other hand fails to compete as well as it should, falling behind all other similarly sized products and even behind the Grandis during most of these tests.

Testing results, maximum fan speed (12 Volts) Final Words & Conclusion
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  • marraco - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Something really important that never is reviewed is dust control and maintenance.

    As radiator fins get closer, they have more dissipation area, but air flow gets worse. Yet the main problem of fins closeness is that they accumulate dust much faster, and get occluded.

    No review makes a dust test. I have a Thermaltake cooler, which works excellent when is clean, but it rapidly loses his capacity due to being occluded by dust.

    The easiest way to remove his dust is to use canned air, but it is a short lived fix, because an air cleaned radiator occludes itself very fast, sometimes in matter of weeks.

    The only way to clean it for good is to take out the dissipator, and put in in the dish washer. But that is a cumbersome task. I need to do a lot of work just to clean it, and I need thermal paste to place it again on the motherboard.

    So, maintenance is as important as cooling and noise.

    A good cooler should pass a dusting test (being exposed to a day of dirty and dusty air current), and should be possible to clean it without much hassle, without applying thermal paste, without using screws, without need to access both sides of the motherboard, and without his pegs breaking or being degraded by manipulation.
  • 'nar - Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - link

    Interesting concern. It makes sense, yet is never considered. I think the best answer is the same as electricity, you need to provide the best environment you can for your computer. Higher quality components are more sensitive to dirty power, and dusty air. Get that PC off the floor, and get a case with good dust filters. And if your room is bad enough, get an room air filter. I have one on my desk right in front of my PC. A Honeywell HEPA air filter.
  • Impulses - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    I understand why cases are tested with stock fans, replacing 3+ quality fans will significantly alter the price equation... It's a trivial difference for $50-100 heatsinks tho, many are often even sold sans fans anyway.

    If nothing else, a single apples to apples test with all running the same fan would've been welcome. In addition to something like the Hyper 212 as a baseline, the different Thermalright TRUE Spirit variants have remained a solid value over the years (they perform better than the 212 and even closer to some of these as per HardOCP's last roundup).

    Is there gonna be a midrange roundup? Spending upwards of $65 on an air cooler never made much sense to me when more affordable options were so close in both noise and performance. Out of 9 coolers tested only 3 or so come in at a sensible price, at $75+ wouldn't it make more sense to go AIO WC?
  • xthetenth - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    If you want low noise, good thermals and dead quiet idle well into the land of diminishing returns, high end air is still a very compelling alternative to water, especially if you're willing to put the effort into some ducting.

    However midrange products can be excellent and are well worth a good long look before hanging a hundred bucks off your socket.
  • 'nar - Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - link

    I was a HSF fanboy until I actually needed a water cooling system. Specs and testing does not show response time. Fast, transient loads can overwhelm a HSF, as heat pipes cannot transfer heat as fast as water. For low power CPU's a HSF is fine, but when you go over 100 watts the noise is less of an issue, as a HSF will need much more airflow to compare to the higher heat transfer ability of W/C. And instantaneous loads are more likely to cause system instability due to the less efficient heat transfer rates of heatpipes.
  • meacupla - Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - link

    I am going to nitpick on what you're saying there, because you have it confused.

    Heatpipes use some form of vaporized liquid inside and they actually transmit heat quite good, especially when compared against sold copper rods. Where they fail, is that they do not have a lot of capacity for transferring large amounts of heat.

    Water is actually quite poor at transmitting heat, as it's a non-metal and an insulator. It does, however, have great capacity to hold heat.

    This is why large bodies of water are warm during winter and cold during summer and results in mild weather near the coast and extreme weather in the interior.

    The advantage of water cooling systems, over air cooling, is the ability to place large radiators, with a lot of surface area, in spots that get fresh air from outside the case, instead of warmed up air that is already inside the case. Heatsinks are also limited to size and weight constraints around the socket.

    Were it possible to attach a triple 120mm fan heatpipe heatsink, as in parallel layout, instead of serial dual towers, directly to the CPU, I'm quite sure the results would be similar to a 360mm radiator water cooling setup.
  • xthetenth - Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - link

    Yeah, he's describing the thermal mass of the coolant, not any transfer capability. It seems that running coolant through radiator fins does have an advantage of relying on the fins to radiate the heat out from a heatpipe, but for a similar surface area, it's questionable how large the advantage is, especially at CPU TDPs.

    GPUs on the other hand have a more constrained form factor for large air cooling and a higher TDP, so they are a more promising place for CLCs.
  • PitneFor - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    wheres Prolimatech, my precious...
  • mejobloggs - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    I'd be very interested to see a size-per-performance chart.

    I usually buy coolers that perform the best without being too large. Although I guess "Top Tier" coolers isn't the right article to look for smaller size coolers :p
  • Impulses - Monday, July 6, 2015 - link

    Leaving it to the manufacturers to select their entry is always messy or questionable IMO, TR choosing the Macho over the Silver Arrow for one... Still curious whether there's a midrange round up planned or if this is it for air coolers at AT for a couple more years...

    Despite the criticism I do appreciate E Fyll's thorough process, otherwise I imagine I and many others wouldn't even bother commenting. Low end (212+) and high end ($120 AIO?) base lines would make the article much more useful tho.

    The into even suggests some people prefer high end air over WC at the start but then leaves that up in the air... No pun intended.

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