CPU CoolerPC Hardware Reviews

Twelve CPU Air Cooler Roundup

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Conclusion and Closing Thoughts

 

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I think the industry as a whole has air cooling down. There isn’t a lot of differences between the performance of the CPU coolers. The maximum spread we saw during our testing was about 7° between 1st and last place. However bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.  Larger CPU coolers block off memory slots or have a difficult time fitting into a case if they happen to be extra tall. So what features are important to you? For me, good CPU cooling and the ability to use all the features and slots on my motherboard are important.

Lets do a real quick run down of the CPU coolers:

Results are based on the following:

Installation, appearance and usability – points are awarded on a 10 point scale. Installation is graded on the completeness of the kit and how easy or difficult it was to install. Appearance is graded on how well the product is finished and how well it looks installed. Usability grades how much the CPU/Cooler blocks Ram slots. If the cooler sits low and blocks RAM slot number 1 completely to where no memory can be installed in that slot a 1/10 grade is given.

Performance is split into a quarter scale or 1/4. The Silent Profile charts are used. The 1st three coolers are graded 4/4, the next three 3/4 and so on. if a cooler jumps position then the places are added together and divided to get the score. The score should be something like 3.5/4.

The scores are graded on a 100 pt scale then averaged together to get the Overall score.

 

1. Thermaltake NiC F4

  • Installation – The installation was simple and very easy. 8/10
  • Appearance – The ThermalTake NiC F4 is simply two fans attached to a tower cooler, no frills. 5/10
  • Usability – The NiC series from ThermalTake is designed for maximum cooling with no interference to the memory slots. 10/10
  • Performance – The ThermalTake NiC F4 performed in the lower 1/2 of the round up with a 24.35°C delta temperature at stock speeds and a 41.43°C delta temperature in the overclocked test. 1/4
  • Overall 6.37/10

2. ThermalTake NiC C5

  • Installation – Installation was the exact same as the NiC F4, super simple and easy. 8/10
  • Appearance- The NiC C5 has a more refined and finished look to us as the fans are housed in a black plastic housing. 7/10
  • Usability – The NiC series from ThermalTake is designed for maximum cooling with no interference to the memory slots. 10/10
  • Performance – The ThermalTake NiC C5 performed in the upper range of the round up with a 24.05°C delta temperature at stock speeds and a 40.40°C delta temperature in the overclocked test 2.5/4
  • Overall 7.81/10

3. Cooler Master TPC 612

  • Installation – The installation of the Cooler Master TPC 612 was easy and straightforward.  8/10
  • Appearance- The heatsink is well finished as the heatpipes have been capped. The fan is mounted to the CPU cooler in a black plastic housing that snaps onto the tower. 7/10
  • Usability- The TPC CPU cooler w/0 the fan clears the memory slot just fine. Adding the fan does interfere with the 1st memory slot but the fan can be moved vertically to accommodate taller modules. 8/10
  • Performance- The Cooler Master TPC 612 performed in 10th place with a temperature of 24.58°C delta in the stock test and 9th in the overclocked test with a delta temperature of 40.93°C. 2.5/4
  • Overall- 7.31/10

4. Phanteks PH-TC14CS

  • Installation – The installation of the Phanteks-TC14CS was very simple and fast. 8/10
  • Appearance – The Phanteks PH-TC14CS has a unique appearance as it is a “C” type tower cooler. The fans are clipped to the tower portion of the cooler. 7/10
  • Usability – Depending on the orientation of the CPU cooler 1-3 slots of RAM could be blocked. Eliminating the lower fan, again depending on the way the cooler is installed can facilitate taller modules. 6/10
  • Performance – The Phanteks PH-TC14CS led the way on all of the tests with a delta temperature of 18.25°C at stock speeds and 36.73°C in the overclocking test. 4/4
  • Overall- 7.75/10

5. Phanteks PH-TC12DX

  • Installation –  The installation of the Phanteks PH-TC12DX was very simple and fast. 8/10
  • Appearance – The Phanteks PH-TC12DX is a very well finished heatsink. The entire top of the heatsink is finished off by an aluminum cap. The fans clip into the sides of the heatsink. 7/10
  • Usability – The Phanteks PH-TC12DX does in fact clear the memory slot and does not block it on the 1150 board we tested. Clearance was close, but still usable. 10/10
  • Performance – This CPU cooler constantly performed in the top in the top 1/4 of the charts. 4/4
  • Overall – 8.75/10

6. Phanteks PH-TC14PE

  • Installation- The installation was extremely simple. However, I am going to knock off a couple of points as the kit the I received did not have the proper fan adapters in order to get the fans installed. 6.5/10
  • Appearance – The Phanteks PH-TC14PE is a sweet looking cooler, The anodized red color really stands out and is accented by red fans with white frames. 9/10
  • Usability- The CPU cooler does overhang the memory slots however, it was tall enough to allow the Kingston HyperX kit to be installed afterwards taller RAM may run into issues. 9/10
  • Performance – The performance of the Phanteks PH-TC14PE came in at the upper portion of the scale. Stock delta temperature was 23.33°C while overclocked the delta was 38.93°C.  3.5/4
  • Overall – 8.31/10

7. DeepCool Gamer Storm Assassin

  • Installation – Very similar to the other dual tower cooler in the round up. The installation kit was very well thought out and very quick to assemble. 8/10
  • Appearance- DeepCool has done a very nice job with the fit and finish of this CPU cooler. All ends of the heat pipers were capped and finished. 9/10
  • Usability – The CPU cooler w/o fans overhung the 1st two memory slots. While there was enough clearance for the HyperX Beast taller modules will not fit. The fan just barely cleared as well. 7/10
  • Performance – The DeepCool Gamer Storm Assassin did very well at number 3 in the stock performance test at 22.05°C delta, and dropped a bit in the field in the overclocking with a delta temperature of 40.40°C. 3/4
  • Overall – 7.87/10

8. DeepCool Lucifer

  • Installation – The installation kit is exactly the same as the Assassin. A very well thought out kit and easy to assemble. 8/10
  • Appearance – The DeepCool Gamer Storm Lucifer has a very unique shape. The ends are also capped off nicely. The single fan just clips onto the heatsink. 8/10
  • Usability – The CPU cooler does clear all the memory slots on the 1150 motherboard. The fan does overhang the first two. 9/10
  • Performance – The DeepCool Gamer Storm Lucifer held steady at number 5 on both charts. With a stock delta temperature of 23.75°C and an overclocked delta temperature of 40.30°C. 3/4
  • Overall – 8.12/10

9. Noctua NH-U12S

  • Installation – The installation kit is the best I’ve seen yet. Each box is clearly labeled as to what is included. Installation was a snap and the cooler was on in under 5 minutes. 10/10
  • Appearance – The subdued tones of Notcua’s fans leave little to be desired. The colors flow well together. The heat pipes are capped off. The fan clips onto the heatsink. 8/10
  • Usability –  The Noctua NH-U12S is 100% non interference with our 1150 motherboard, there is plenty of room for even the tallest memory modules. 10/10
  • Performance – The Noctua NH-U12S held steady an number 11 in our chart. The stock delta temperature was 25.58° C and overclocked it was 41.68° C. 1/4
  • Overall – 7.63/10

10. Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 2

  • Installation – The installation kit was complete with extra fan clips for the Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 2, however the actual installation process was a little more complicated that it should have been. 7/10
  • Appearance – The square shape of the Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 2 is quite pleasing. The heat pipes are nicely capped off and the top of the cooler is capped with an aluminum cap. The fan clips on. 9/10
  • Usability – The cooler does overhang the 1st memory slot, but does have enough clearance for some of the taller memory modules. The fan overhangs the rest of the slots. 9/10
  • Performance – The Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 2 trails in both charts. Stock delta was 26.63° C and overclocked it was 43.90° C. 1/4
  • Overall – 6.8/10

11. Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3

  • Installation – The installation was more complicated that it should have been. This is a large cooler and two people maybe needed to install it while the motherboard is in the case. 7/10
  • Appearance – The Dark Rock Pro 3 is a nice black color. The heat pipes have also been tinted to match. The top of the cooler is capped off as well as the heat pipes. 9/10
  • Usability – The cooler overhangs the 1st memory slot and our HyperX Beast kit was just too tall to fit underneath. The fan does overhang the other three. 5/10
  • Performance –  The Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 bounced around in the charts. The stock delta temperature was 24.0°C and overclocked it was 39.28° C 2.5/4
  • Overall – 6.81/10

12. Enermax ETS-T40

  • Installation – The installation kit for the Enermax ETS-T40 was fairly complete but there are a lot of little bits and pieces that could get lost. Installation was fast. 8/10
  • Appearance – A very simple heatsink with more emphasis on function than form. 7/10
  • Usability – The heatsink clears all memory modules but the fan overhangs. The fan can be moved vertically to provide more clearance. 9/10
  • Performance – The Enermax ETS-T40 is a middle of the pack performer with stock delta temperature at 23.80° C and overclocked at 40.63° C. 2.5/4
  • Overall – 7.56/10

score

With every contest there are winners and there are losers. However, when it comes to CPU cooler ANY of the coolers listed above will do a good job of keep the CPU cool and going for years to come. None of the cooler listed above failed to meet the standards we put in place nor did they allow the CPU to throttle. In our round up the clear winner is the Phanteks PH-TC12DX. The PH-TC12DX did a great job during all of our testing, was easy to install, and allowed full use of the memory slots on our Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD4H motherboard.

We want to thank all of the sponsors who participated in the round up.

The Phanteks PH-TC12DX is awarded our Editor’s Choice Award.

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Tom Brokaw

Tom is a network and computer hardware enthusiast. He has been reviewing hardware products around for various sites around the net since 1999. He has modded a few cases back in the day.

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