It's always great fun to move to a new platform and test coolers. When launched however we could not have seen the heat issues with Ivy Bridge processors coming. Whatever you fire off at it, Ivy Bridge remains hard to cool once overclocked with added voltage. A handful of processors can take 4600 MHz @ 1.2 Volts, but really there is only one in our test that kept the temperature acceptable, and that was the Noctua NH-D14, a cooler design that has proven itself to be leading, many times over the years.
It is not all about cooling though, take for example HTPCs where you do not overclock. You want the more silent products used. None of the coolers tested today is really noisy, but the Noctua NH-L12 and Cooler Master GeminII SF524 both can't be heard. On the other side of the spectrum though, they perform the worst cooling wise. But with normal non-tweaked usage the temperatures will remain just fine, and they are designed for silence.
Aesthetics & design
The overall looks are important, you might want to go for performance but hate big dual-fan solutions, it's there where I find the Scythe product pretty nice. The Ninja for example is still a rock-solid looking product. But also the Cooler Master GeminII SF524 is just a great looking cooler. Then again, taste differs and is very subjective, so I'll leave that topic to rest for now.
Mounting systems are always difficult with CPU coolers. The push-pull clips (Intel like) are fairly handy though dangerous as you need to apply a lot of pressure. The two cheapest Scythe products have these. Overall, Cooler Master has a fairly easy to install mounting system these days as well as the two Gelid products. The best however come from Noctua and Coolink with that Corator DS. Quality iron mounts with a very sturdy design. Included are the tools to install these product. The Alpenfohn K2 also has a mounting system very similar to that of the Noctua, and that one works great as well.
The mounting system for the Scythe Ninja and Mugen I consider to be downright horrible. On our TUF motherboard we had to remove the shielding as otherwise we could not even install the cooler. With the shielding removed it still was a pain in the proverbial ass to mount. You cannot reach the screws well enough. I've literally cut my fingers open on the aluminum fins during installation with these two products. My advice to Scythe, please go back to the drawing board as that's just messed up.
Your needs, performance and pricing are the three major combining factors you base your purchase on, here's an overview:
Cooler Master GeminII SF524
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
Cooler Master Hyper 412S
Coolink Corator DS
Deepcool Assassin / Alpenfohn K2
Scythe Grand Kama Cross Rev. B
Scythe Katana 4
Scythe Mugen 3B
Scythe Ninja rev 3B
The Scythe products are all surprisingly affordable these days, I really do still like the Ninja very much but the Scythe Grand Kama Cross Rev. B is just serious value for money. You need to accept the sheer size though. Mind you, I noted down the street (r)etail prices. For each cooler I noted down the lowest price with stock availability. Gelid is very affordable as well, but overclocking a 3770K with added voltage, it simply is too much for these two.
The Coolink Corator DS is definitely interesting in terms of what you get for the money, albeit slightly more noisy, and I like the Cooler Master GeminII SF524 for the money. For a little more dough you can get the Hyper 412S though, which is just great value for money.
The most expensive heatpipe coolers are the Noctua NH-D14 and Deepcool Assassin / Alpenfohn K2. Both excellent coolers, but the Noctua wins in performance and noise levels. HTPC wise I like the Noctua NH-L12 over the Cooler Master GeminII SF524, the reality however remains that for roughly the same noise levels the Cooler Master GeminII SF524 is the best value product for 35 bucks.
So, overall I'm pleased with what all the coolers did in terms of performance. Performance does come at a price as the best units were the most expensive, but as we've been trying to explain, it's not all about performance as not everybody will overclock their PC. The majority of coolers tested remain under 35 EUR and these offer great value for money. If you need that little extra then the 40+ EUR range comes into play.
It's all about choices though and with articles like shown today you can decide and fine-tune a little as to what is the most important thing for you, and that choice lies in performance, money or noise levels... well, that and size, mounting systems, number of fans, fan controllers, looks... etc... *sighs* ;)
Noctua NH-D15S CPU cooler review We review the Noctua NH-D15S CPU cooler, the Mack Daddy of Noctua coolers now is available in an S model, the silent version. The D15S is basically your D15 yet with one fan. As we learned it help...
Noctua NH-C14S Low Profile CPU cooler review We review the Noctua NH-C14S Low Profile CPU cooler. These CPU coolers offer massive cooling performance albeit being low profile configurable with the single fan it uses, that fan can be placed bel...
Noctua NH-L9x65 Low Profile CPU cooler review We test and review the Noctua NH-L9x65 Low Profile CPU cooler. These small and petit CPU coolers can be used with any form factor motherboard and CPU but focus on Micro ATX and Mini ITX. They are sma...
Be Quiet! Shadow Rock LP CPU Cooler review We test and review the Be Quiet! Shadow Rock LP CPU Cooler. The cooler might not be the strongest performer on the block, but it is low profile and intended for small form factors. These small puppies...