Observations and Final Thoughts

The most obvious trend in both systems is the dominance achieved by closed loop liquid coolers, with the Corsair H100i coming out on top in both test systems. It's a loud cooler with its fans set to their maximum speeds, however, so it's good to see that it still performs admirably along with its smaller brother, the H80i, at lower speeds. The Antec Kuhler H2O 920 puts in a great performance too, but the slightly lower temperatures of the Corsair coolers and their better installation and software means that we stand by our initial recommendations. We'll be taking a look at more all-in-one water coolers in the near future, however, so hopefully we'll see some good competition.

CPU Coolers: New Benchmarks Observations and Final Thoughts
Click to enlarge - The H100i is still a chart topper

If you're attracted by the prospect of water-cooling your CPU but less so by the inflated price tag that liquid coolers traditionally carry over air coolers, the Cooler Master Seidon 120M may well be worth considering. It demonstrates the benefits of water-cooling quite clearly, as despite being a very basic cooler, its performance is on par with the Noctua NH-D14, the best air cooler in the test. Cooler Master's effort is excellent value, as at around £45 it's about £10 cheaper than Noctua's and takes up less room. It's a fair degree noisier, however, and as it lacks fan control, Noctua's cooler (which comes with low noise adaptor cables for even quieter cooling) is still an excellent choice for those more concerned with sound.

At the lower end of the cooling charts are the remaining air coolers, the Black Edition and Tranquillo Rev. 2 from Gelid and Arctic Cooling's Freezer i30. In LGA1155 systems, their performance actually scales quite well with their relative prices, as the Black Edition is the most expensive of the three and the Tranquillo the cheapest. The i30 still strikes a decent balance between price, performance and noise, but if you want better and quieter performance still, the option is there with both the Black Edition and Noctua's NH-D14.

CPU Coolers: New Benchmarks Observations and Final Thoughts CPU Coolers: New Benchmarks Observations and Final Thoughts
Click to enlarge - The H80i (left) and the massive Noctua NH-D14 mounted to our LGA2011 system (right)

Differences between air coolers were less obvious in the LGA2011 rig, however, with only Noctua's cooler able to beat the delta T result of 55°C that the rest settle on along with the H80i on its Quiet profile. The Freezer i30 again puts in a decent showing in terms of price versus performance, but we've always said that users of toasty LGA2011 systems will really want to shell out some extra cash on liquid cooling if possible, as air coolers tend to struggle with the chips, especially when they're overclocked.

Even this relatively small group retest demonstrates that there's a healthy variety of CPU coolers to choose from depending on your needs and budget. As the push for closed loop liquid coolers doesn't appear to be going anywhere soon, we're interested to see just how much performance can be squeezed from single unit coolers. That's not to say that air cooling is a dead market, however, but manufacturers will need to be aware that the pricing of such coolers will need to truly be spot on for them to be a success.

We'll be back very soon with some brand new coolers tested on these new rigs, so keep your eyes peeled.
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