Conclusions, Part 1

While the Deepcool coolers were unique in their own ways, the conclusions I came to with them were basically the same. Most of them were fairly underwhelming with little to really recommend them, and today's testing pretty much puts the final nail in that coffin. None of them really stand up particularly well to the already widely available Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. The Deepcool Frostwin continues to be the highlight of their lineup, but if you need to go lower clearance than that, Noctua certainly has you covered.

I'm drawing conclusions on the individual coolers because each one arguably has something to offer in its own right that goes beyond absolute performance.

Noctua NH-D14

The Noctua NH-D14 performed admirably, and if for whatever reason a closed loop cooler isn't on your list, the D14 is about as good as it gets on American shores (at least until we get hardware from Prolimatech or Thermalright in for review.) SilverStone's Heligon HE01 can hit the same performance levels, but it produces much higher noise in the process. You'll pay a pretty penny for the NH-D14, but it definitely feels like a quality cooler. Installation is sturdy, and performance and acoustics are very good.

Noctua NH-L12

The Noctua NH-L12's performance isn't exceptional, but it has one very important ace in the hole: it has a fairly low profile. In situations where a tower cooler simply isn't going to be an option, Noctua's NH-L12 offers decent performance and excellent acoustics. With the 120mm fan installed, the cooler's height is 93mm; remove it, and it's down to just 66mm. I also experienced no clearance issues with the NH-L12, even on the fairly crowded mITX board used for testing.

Noctua NH-L9i

While the other coolers definitely have something to offer above and beyond the Intel stock cooler in every way but clearance, the Noctua NH-L9i is a tougher sell. Essentially what you're paying for with this cooler is maximum compatibility and superior acoustics to the stock cooler. For many users that may very well be enough, but I suspect for a lot of people the price tag is going to make it a hard sell. At that point you may very well be better off looking to spend up on the NH-L12 if cooling performance and clearance are going to be sticking points.

SilverStone Heligon HE01

As a longtime fan of SilverStone's stuff, I approached the Heligon HE01 with some trepidation. Reviews for it elsewhere are generally favorable, but none are effusive. That typically means that the reviewer is being diplomatic. SilverStone's entrant doesn't perform poorly, but unfortunately runs into one major problem: nothing about it really recommends it over any of the other options available. If you're going to spend this much on an air cooler, you might as well go whole hog and grab Noctua's solution.

Silent Cooling Performance and Absolute Performance Conclusions, Part 2: be quiet! and Cooler Master
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  • cjs150 - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    Personally I would also prefer water cooling for the simple reason that a good (thick) 240/280 Radiator can cool both CPU and GPU and there is no need to worry about whether the RAM heatspreaders are too tall for the air cooler.

    What the result show is just how good the closed loop water coolers have become.

    However, there is no denying air cooling is simpler, less prone to messy accidents (I know!) and perfect for those who like to keep the computer on all the time. Nice review and keep up the good work
    Reply
  • James086 - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    A minor caveat: be sure to point a fan at the ram and motherboard heatsinks. I didn't and because there was no airflow around my motherboard, it popped a VRM. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Monday, March 18, 2013 - link

    Ram cooling isn't important, they don't even need heatsinks, it's all for looks.

    However, motherboard cooling is important, spend a little extra and get a motherboard with decent heatsinks or even active cooling like the Sabertooth x79.
    Plus, case airflow is important too.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    Nice review! wish there was a thermalright silver arrow on there to get a more comprehensive look at the high end coolers. When i bought mine it was widely considered superior to closed loops, looking at the review's results i'm not so sure about that now. Reply
  • wiyosaya - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - link

    I've been a fan, pun intended, of Thermalright paired with Scythe fans for a long time. I currently have a TRUE Spirit 120M paired with a very low noise 120mm Scythe fan cooling an i7-3820. The absence of noise was a prime factor for me, and I don't overclock because stability is also of prime concern for me. IMHO, this combination works very well.

    I, too, would have loved to have seen any of the Thermalright heat sinks in this review.
    Reply
  • iTzSnypah - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    I don't believe that the case has adequate airflow. Reply
  • iTzSnypah - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    Also there is a fault in your testing methodology. When you tested the CLC's you effectively increased the number of case fans, which would increase airflow and decrease load temps.

    I suggest you retest, with the case always having 3 fans, 1 intake and 2 exhaust.
    Reply
  • FragKrag - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    I don't think the point here is to get a completely unbiased performance test, but rather test the coolers in a realistic environment Reply
  • dragosmp - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    The thing is there's not more realistic not to have case fans than to have them. One may argue that it's more likely to encounter systems that have one/two exhaust fans than to have only one intake.

    I'm suspicious of these results as most sites put aircoolers in a much better light and my own experience show it's a bad bad thing to remove rear fans.

    In this setup aircloolers spit warm air that is hardly being channeled out by anything; the positive pressure generated by the front intake can be dissipated in many ways that don't move the warm air around the CPU zone. I've worked recently with a 600T, if the up/rear fans were slowed to 400RPM (so still working) with a CM 212+ @1200RPM and a 2700K@4.2GHz the CPU got toasted in games 80°C+ - running the fans @800RPM decreased the temp by some 20°C.

    "I removed every case fan but the front intake, which I ran at 5V to prevent it from affecting acoustics while still providing adequate airflow." - how much airflow was there thru the fan-less rear exhausts?
    Reply
  • lever_age - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    Right, look at how restrictive the back panel looks. Some people with intake-heavy setups (and that would be a whole lot more than a single fan at 5V in a large case that's very far away from the CPU cooler) cut out the spot and use a wire grille instead, and remove slot covers.

    If it weren't for some of the top venting, the air coolers would have been really suffocated. In that setup, there is a bias towards the CLCs because their fans are actually working close to the actual vents on the case, due to how everything is mounted and positioned.

    If you're only testing down to 30 dB, you can easily run a few more decent-quality fans at some ~800 rpm and get some more reasonable airflow without really increasing the noise level measured.
    Reply

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