A CPU cooler can be very cheap, very expensive and can even cost you up to 100 euros. For this article we tested 39 current CPU coolers and try to find out which one has the best cooling, is the quietest or ideally which one excels at both.
Every processor you can currently buy comes bundled with a standard cooler, but normally these are not the best at keeping your temperatures down and definitely not the quietest models on the market. A boxed cooler is designed to keep your processor at an acceptable temperature under normal use and on the standard settings. If you are looking to overclock your CPU it is best to invest in a better form of cooling, the same goes if you wish to keep you PC as silent as possible.
The last time we tested a large amount of CPU coolers was around 18 months ago, and in the meantime most manufacturers have introduced newer models. For this test we chose 39 different coolers that are currently available, varying in price between €22 and almost € 100. We have tested all models on cooling capacity and on noise levels, and have calculated a efficiency score based on the results. This score will indicate if a model can combine decent cooling performance with low noise levels.
For this test we use the same setup as we did in our previous test in 2012. We ar enot using a real CPU but a professional CPU simulator that can generate an exact amount of heat. For this test we have calibrated our setup and have made some changes in the cooling paste that we use and the amount of times that we have tested. The results of this test therefore are not comparable to results out of earlier tests we done with the same coolers. Obviously from this point forward we will be using this method when testing CPU coolers.
We use two different CPU-simulators. Firstly a socket 1155 chip, modeled to the heat generated by Intel Ivy Bridge processors. This is a generation old by now, but as Ivy Bridge is identical to the Haswell CPU in both size and TDP we can conclude that if a certain cooler performs well on this platform the results will not differ massively when placed on a Haswell CPU. On this platform we test 65W, 95W and 125W performance. 65W and 95W are the TDPs of the standard Ivy Bridge CPU’s, roughly the same as the Haswell. The 125W test is to simulate a overclocked CPU.
The Socket 2011 CPU-simulator is modeled to a Sandy Bridge-E CPU. Again not the latest iteration of the Intel CPU but between Ivy Bridge and Haswell-E there is no difference in size or TDP values. On this platform we test 130W en 160W, 130W being the standard TDP of the fastest six-core processor, 160W simulating a overclocked processor.
The Hardware.Info test setup for CPU coolers