SilverStone Argon AR01 & AR03 CPU Coolers

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The last direct-touch cooler we reviewed, the Enermax ETS-T40, turned out to be a dud. The smaller and lighter Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus decisively defeated the bulkier ETS-T40 and the difference really boiled down to the tension and quality of contact between the base and CPU heatspreader. The Hyper 212 Plus' thermal compound imprint indicated higher exerted pressure, a firmer mating, and superior heat transfer. The SilverStone AR01 and AR03 follows a similar strategy — the Argon series has the tightest mounting system we've encountered on direct-touch models, and this appears instrumental to their success. When using our 120 mm reference fan, the AR01 surpassed the Hyper 212 Plus, and the AR03 was better still, making it one of the best 120 mm fan coolers we've had the pleasure of testing.

The sound quality of the fan is average at best, a bit of a disappointment after our experience with the silky smooth AP123. Still, as stock fans go, it's fairly competitive in terms of efficiency. Our only other complaint is relatively minor. The installation scheme produces excellent base/processor contact, but assembling it is a slightly more difficult than similar systems from Noctua, Prolimatech, and Thermalright. The backplate lays flat against the trace-side of the motherboard with nothing protruding to help keep in place. The rest of the system is admirable though — the big bolts and nuts and fairly coarse threads make it essentially idiot-proof.

The AR01 is currently going for US$35, putting it in same league as two other superb yet affordable coolers, the Hyper 212 Plus and the Cogage TRUE Spirit. It's a better value than the AR03 and also keep in mind, if you have a smaller sized processor (LGA1156, 1155, 775), the AR03's outer heatpipes won't make contact with the heatspreader, making them completely useless.

Even with the larger heatspreader of our LGA1366 test chip, the AR03's performance advantage was negligible, at least using the included stock fan. Our reference fan gave it about a 2°C lead, not a lot, but enough to place it among the ranks of the truly elite single fan heatsinks. With a street price of US$50, it doesn't provide as much bang-for-your-buck, but it's hard to imagine you'd be disappointed with the purchase.

Our thanks to SilverStone for the Argon AR01 and AR03 CPU cooler samples.

Silverstone AR01 and AR03 receive the SPCR Editor's Choice Award

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Noctua NH-U12S Slim Tower Heatsink
Cooler Master Seidon 240M: Dual Fan Liquid CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC12DX CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC90LS Mini Cooler
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M CPU Heatsink
Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler

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