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Recommended Heatsinks

Update History

  • Sept 21, 2014 - NZXT Kraken 61 added.
  • Sept 16, 2014 - Big changes - another complete overhaul.
  • Dec 13, 2010 - Minor corrections, added Thermalright Ultra-120
    eXtreme Rev C.
  • July 10, 2010 - Minor corrections, added Scythe Samurai ZZ
    & Grand Kama Cross.
  • May 20, 2010 - Complete overhaul.
  • June 1, 2009 - Prolima Megahalems, Scythe Ninja 2, Thermolab
    Baram added. A few older models retired.
  • June 24, 2008 - Zerotherm Zen and Noctua NH-C12P added. Zalman
    Reserator1 removed.
  • June 9, 2008 - Thermalright HR-01 Plus, four Xigmatek models,
    and Scythe Zipang added.
  • Mar 22, 2008 - Ninja demoted one point.
  • Jan 16, 2008 - Long overdue update, many additions and retirements.
    New ones on the lists in light blue/violet.
  • Aug 21, 2006 - A handful of new coolers added.
  • Jan 29, 2006 - First update in a year, much needed, many changes.
  • Jan 23, 2005 - Added several new models.
  • Sept 22, 2004 - Added Thermalright XP-120, Scythe NCU-2000
  • Aug 25, 2004 - Complete overhaul of recommended HS tables,
    many new models added, some retired. Ranking system changed to make use of
    full 1-10 range.
  • Aug 7, 2003 - Zalman 7000 Cu/AlCu, Scythe Kamakaze & Arctic
    Cooling SS 4 Pro TC added. All coolers for current CPU combined into one table
    -- too many multi-platform models made for much repetition.
  • June 17, 2003 - Arctic Cooling SS Pro TC added; Swiftech MCX
    models downgraded - recent testing shows very good performance with high (read:
    noisy) airflow but mediocre cooling with low airflow. There are better
    choices for less money for quiet cooling. Rankings reshuffled a bit based
    on recent work.
  • Feb 24, 2003 - Thermalright SLK-900U and Zalman ZM80A added
  • Dec 3, 2002 - Zalman 6500al-cu and Thermalright AX478 added;
    other changes to P4 list based on P4 HS roundup.
  • Oct 29, 2002 - Changes to Socket-A list based on Socket-A
    HS roundup
    .
  • July 17, 2002 - First published.

Recommending quiet heatsink/fans for CPUs has become both simpler and more
complex in recent years. On the one hand, fierce competition has created a large
pool of high performance CPU coolers that need little if any user modifications
for effective and near silent operation, and almost any of the top performers
that we review will do fine for silent or near-silent computing. On the other
hand, the thermal specs (TDP) of current CPUs spans from under 30W to over 140W,
so it makes sense to match the cooler to the TDP of the specific CPU, not wasting
space and money for a huge heatsink when a smaller one will do fine. There's
also a bigger range of cases sizes in wide use, from huge Extended-ATX towers
to tiny mini-ITX desktops. To accommodate all this, we established two different
CPU test platforms some years ago, one for large cooler and a second one for
smaller coolers.

Our approach to apprasing heatsinks is summarized below. For full details,
please read the article about SPCR's
2010 Heatsink Testing Platform
. For full HSF reviews, please check in
the Cooling section. Links to the listed
coolers are provided in the tables below.

We consider the heatsink and mounting system together as a unit.
The heatsink's intrinsic cooling power is determined mainly by its radiating
surface area, the heat transfer coefficient of its materials, the spacing
and number of fins, the geometry, the smoothness and flatness of the CPU contact
surface, and overall mass. The mounting system is mentioned because it is
critical in maintaining the all-important contact between CPU and heatsink.
The amount of pressure brought to bear on the interface also affects cooling.
Some clips are poor; others are integrated wonderfully into the heatsink.
Increasingly, the overall mass is becoming important as HS get bigger, taller
and heavier: The cantilever effect in any tower case can put tremendous stress
on the vertically mounted motherboard.

The test results summarized here are with the stock fan(s) whenever
available, or our reference fan(s) at 550, 700, 900 & 1100 RPM
.
In many cases, replacing the stock fan can lead to improved performance, and
this is usually detailed in the reviews. However, for this list, since most
coolers come with their own fan(s), it was decided that performance with the
stock fan was most apropos.

A HSF represents only one component of effective CPU cooling. The
influences on CPU temperature include the overall heat generated in the case,
case ventilation airflow, ambient temperature, software applications, and
user habits. The temperature rise above ambient, which tells
us how many degrees above the ambient temperature the CPU is allowed to rise
by the particular heatsink, is a specification that tries to elminate these
other influences.

Heatsinks come and go faster than just about any peripheral PC product.
We don't expect to keep up with everything available. Remember, we're only
interested in well-designed heatsinks that cool well with low noise.

Summary tables on all comparable coolers are included in every SPCR heatsink
review these days, and these tables are the best one-glance, up-to-date survey
of silent CPU cooling. Such comparison tables have made this recommended heatsink
article less compelling than before, which is one reason it hadn't been updated
for years

Our previous recommendations ranked the coolers into large, medium and small
(low profile) coolers and assigned a "Q" (quality rank) based each
unit's performance, noise, etc. Reducing an entire heatsink's "value"
into a single number was no easy task. Given the even greater complexity of
the task, we're resorting to a version of the comparison tables used in our
reviews.

A List of Big Coolers

We have all types of coolers in the mix: Top-down and side-blow towers, single
fan and dual fan. The only criteria here are that they are large, best in cases
meant to house large CPU coolers, and able to get down to at least 20 dBA @
1m with no more than 45°C rise over ambient. All-in-one water coolers are
in the mix because there's no better place to put them (for now). They're meant
to compete with big air coolers, and their radiators usually need extra room
around 120mm or larger fan exhaust openings. Some of these WCs will obviously
fit fine in small cases where big air coolers cannot.

BIG COOLERS: °C Rise @ SPL

<<Tested on 130W TDP i7-965>>
Type
20~19
18~17
16~15
14~13
12~11
W
34
37
Prolimatech
Genesis


(2 ref fans)*
S
36
37
39
S
35
38
40
S
38
41
42
S
38
40
43
Noctua NH-D14
(2 ref fans)†
S
38
41
44
Noctua
NH-C14
(2 fans)
T
37
39
41
S
37
40
Thermalright
HR-22
(2 ref fans)*
S
38
39
Prolima
Megahalems
(ref fan)*
S
38
41
44
Noctua NH-D15
(2 fans)
S
38
39
40
S
39
40
43
S
39
40
41
43
S
40
42
45
S
38
40
43
S
38
39
41
W
38
NZXT Havik
140
(2 fans)
S
39
41
41
43
S
40
41
42
S
40
43
S
41
43
46
S
40
42
47
S
41
44
54
S
43
48
S
44
46
S
44
50
S
44
47
S
40
S
42
44
SilverStone
HE02
(2 ref fans)*
S
44
46
W
44
44
47
S
45
47
S
45
48
50
52
W
44
46
47
S
45
47
49
Type
20~19
18~17
16~15
14~13
12~11
S = side blow towers, T = top down airflow, W = watercooled
* = reference fan(s) because sample came with only one
fan or no fan.
† The Noctua NH-D14 results are with 2 Nexus 120 fans;
tests with the stock 14 & 12 cm fans were done only on the previous
socket 1366 platform & cannot be fully trusted.

The term "cooler" (which really irks my language logic) is actually
apropos here, as both "air only" heatsinks and all-in-one water cooling
devices are in the mix.

The table may be a bit difficult to understand at first. Here's an FAQ:

1. What's the data shown? The core information shown is the
rise in CPU temperature over ambient air temperature (in °C) at various
measured noise levels (sound pressure level or SPL in decibels, A-weighted,
at 1m distance) for all of the listed cooling devices. The test platform is
a hot overclocked (and over volted) 130W TDP 1366 Intel core i7 running Prime95.
The the coolers here were tested with its own single, stock fan.

2. What are the tested noise levels? The SPL levels are divided
into five 2-dB range increments, from 20~19 dBA, to 12~11 dBA. The different
noise levels are achieved by changing the speed of the fan(s); we have several
standard speeds (defined in RPM) that are used for almost every review, though
sometimes, hardware/fan limitations prevent this.

Most of you know that 20 [email protected] is already pretty quiet. A 1 dBA difference
is extremely difficult to hear, especially at such low levels, so the difference
between 17 and 18 dBA or between 19 and 20 dBA is negligible; hence the 2-dB
increments, to keep the table from getting overly complex. As the SPL drops,
small differences get increasingly harder to hear, because it approaches the
threshold of your hearing sensitivity, and the ambient noise level of your
room.

In most cases, anything below ~15 dBA is pretty much the same, subjectively,
because it will be masked by ambient noise, — other components in your
PC or other sources, such as the fridge in the kitchen, the distant drone
of traffic a block away, etc. 11 dBA is the ambient noise level of the anechoic
chamber where the coolers are measured; we cannot measure anything quieter
(and it is extremely difficult to hear).

3. Why is there no data above 20 dBA? There is in the original
reviews, but we set 20 dBA as the upper limit for recommended coolers. You
want to know how a cooler performs at low noise levels, not when it's blasting
at 49 dBA and 4000 RPM!

4. Why the 45°C rise cutoff? Given 25°C ambient, that
means 70°C at the CPU. Many CPUs don't throttle till ~80°C, but the
ambient inside a case can easily be 10°C higher than the room. If anything,
we might be overly generous; it could have been set at 40°C... but then
many reasonably good coolers would have been excluded, and not many use a
130W TDP CPU any more.

5. In what order are the coolers listed? The lower the
°C rise at each SPL, the better the cooler. The coolers that test best
are listed first. (Best on top.) Keep in mind that the accuracy of temperature
measurements is not better than +, -1°C, and a 1 dB difference is virtually
inaudible.

6. Is the higher position cooler always the better performer? Usually,
but not always. Not all coolers behave the same way as fan speed is reduced.
For example, in the table above, the Zalman CNPS10X Quiet has about the same
40~41 °C rise as the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus at ~20 dBA. At a super-quiet
11~12 dBA, however, the Zalman achieves 47°C rise, while the Coolermaster
runs 7°C hotter with a 54°C rise. In other words, sometimes a cooler
that doesn't cool as well as another model at higher fan speed cools better
at a lower fan speed.

Hence, you need to apply your own judgement: If you think you'll be fine
with 20 dBA, the obvious cooler is the cheapest one which hits 20 dBA while
keeping temperature rise below ~45°C. (Assuming the room temperature is
~25°C, this keeps our CPU below 70°C, above which it throttles.) But
a further consideration is the TDP of your CPU; your target temperature rise
should be lower or higher depending on whether your CPU runs hotter or cooler
than ours, and by how much.

7. How about if I just want the best? Check the clearance (ie,
will it fit with regard to your motherboard, video card, RAM height, etc)
and get the cooler positioned highest on the list.

8. What about the missing data points? All coolers are tested
at full fan speed as well as at 1100, 900, 700 and 550 RPM (whenever possible).
This usually means that the cooling performance at maximum speed is not shown
on this table, because most fans on most heatsinks run louder than 20 [email protected]
at full speed. The missing data points exist because the other tested fan
RPMs did not fall into those SPL slots. Once you hone in on a particular cooler
or two, it's best to study the original review for full details.

9. Can these coolers' performance be improved? Many of these
coolers can be fitted with a second fan in a push-pull setup, which usually
does provide a bit of performance benefit, sometimes with no or very little
increase in noise. Decreasing ambient temperature naturally helps.

10. Are all the coolers still available? Market conditions
change rapidly; we just can't track comprehensively around the world, so you're
best to check on your own. Some models will have been modified with mounting
hardware for newer CPUs; others with new fans. Let us know if you find a cooler
is completely discontinued & unavailable.

11. Why not call it a Tower cooler instead of the odd Side-blow?
There's only one term for Top-blow coolers, which starts with T.

A List of Smaller Coolers

As with the big cooler list, we're not differentiating between top-down and
blow-across tower types, nor between single fan and dual fan. The only criteria
here are that they are not huge, fit in smaller cases, and they can get down
to at least 20 dBA @ 1m. These are actually ALL the heatsinks tested on our
cooler small heatsink test platform.
It's a small enough number so the list is not onerous. No maximum temperature
rise has been imposed, as some of these are truly tiny heatsinks, for use in
systems where nothing else will fit.

SMALLER COOLERS: °C rise @ SPL

<<Tested on overclocked, overcolted Core i5-2400>>
Type
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
Noctua
NH-L12


(2 stock fans)
T
33
-
-
34
-
35
-
36
S
-
32
-
-
-
34
36
38
S
-
33
-
34
-
-
35
38
S
-
-
-
-
-
35
-
42
-
S
-
-
-
-
38
-
-
-
43
T
-
39
-
-
-
43
-
48
T
-
-
-
-
42
-
-
47
-
T
-
-
45
-
-
46
-
52
T
43
-
-
-
-
46
-
61
T
-
-
-
53
56
-
64
T
-
-
56
-
-
61
-
-
-
T
-
-
57
-
-
62
-
65
T
-
-
67
-
-
-
69
-
-
T
-
66
-
-
-
-
77
-
F
S = side blow towers; T = top down airflow ; W =
water cooled

F = fail

Fanless Coolers

This is a special category of very few coolers, tested without any fans mounted
on them, and with no forced airflow around the open bench test platform (on
which the cooler is mounted). In all cases but one, the CPU became too hot and
throttled (at around 78°C), which indicates failure. So the metric here
is time: The number of minutes before overheating occurred.

FANLESS COOLERS

Minutes to Overheat
NoFan
CR-95C Copper
62°C
Thermalright
HR-22
13m
SilverStone
Heligon HE02
9m
Thermalright
HR-02 Macho
8m

Only the NoFan CR-9C Copper can be considered a truly successful fanless heatsink.
It managed to keep our Core i7-965 CPU at 62°C (in 23°C ambient) indefinitely
under Prime95 stress load without any forced airflow anywhere near the test
platform. Inside the walls of a case, the air might heat up enough over time
to make our CPU overheat even with this cooler, but if you can keep the internal
temperature of your system under ~35°C, you have a good chance of running
complete fanless (without any other big heat sources like a gaming graphics
card).

Tested on the cooler (95W TDP) smaller HS test platform, the NoFan stabilized
a thermal rise of 54°C, which is not bad considering it's making no noise
at all. See the review for full details.

The inability to keep our 130W TDP i7-965 CPU from overheating should not be
considered a complete failure. Each of these other heatsinks is likely to provide
good enough CPU cooling when combined with a good low noise case airflow setup.
However, keep in mind that VRMs and controller chips on motherboards (PCH) can
overheat without adequate airflow and/or if the CPU is allowed to run very hot
indefinitely. And yes, these coolers appear on the Big Coolers list because
they were also tested with fans.

* * *

We haven't tested any VGA coolers in quite some time; the previous
recommendations will be considered and an update will be made in due course.

The remaining pages are previous recommendations (last updated mid-2010, which
will still be useful for some purposes.)

Discuss
this article in the SPCR Forums.

GUIDE TO THE RETIRED LISTS

Current recommended CPU heatsinks are listed in the table below. On the next page are heatsinks for older slot-CPUs, VGA Cards and Chipsets, and Retired models.

Make / Model: Manufacturer and model number

Q: Simply stands for quality, with 10 at the top and 1 at the bottom. It is our assessment of the heatsink's overall design, cooling performance and build quality.

  • A perfect 10 is reserved for, well, perfection. We don't believe it can be achieved.
  • A rank of 1 is good enough fanless for VIA C3 in a reasonably well ventilated case. A rank number followed by a ? indicates we have not fully verified the assessment.
  • The + sign is used where a product has a slight edge over others in the same numeric rank.
  • With a heatsink rated at 6 or better, you can cool any current CPU even dramatically overclocked if you use a powerful enough (and noisy) fan or adequately cool most current CPUs with minimum fan noise.
  • What we are rating is the intrinsic cooling power of the HS. How you choose to use that cooling power is up to you.

CPU: The CPU socket the HS is designed for

A
AMD socket A for Duron, K7, XP and MP
AM2
AMD; replaces 754, 939
AM3
Latest AMD; similar to AM2 but uses 4 bolts.
K8
AMD K8 for Athlon 64, Opteron (socket 754,
940, 939 )
370
Intel socket 370 for P3, Celeron and VIA
C3
775
Intel socket 775 for P4, Pentium D, Core 2
1156
Intel i3/i5
1366
Intel i7
478
Intel P4 and new Celeron - 478
pins
423
Intel P4 original - 423 pins
S-1
Slot 1 for P2, P3 and Celerons
S-A
Slot A for early AMD K7

Comments: The Q rating is incomplete without these comments. The date
of the entry or update is given at the end of the comment.

$: Average market price found online time of entry or update, or if
not widely available, the manufacturer's suggested price, in US $. MSP is
marked with an asterisk (*) following the price. Shipping and taxes are not
included. DO NOT COUNT ON THE PRICE CITED HERE!
It is impossible to keep this up to date without automating the updates, which
at this time is not really feasible or desirable.

Source: All the recent additions to the lists are based on our own
reviews, but in the past, a few recommendations were based on other sources
of information.

Reviewed: Link to SPCR review.

F: First-hand knowledge gleaned by Silent PC Review staff.

R: Recommended by respected contributors and other associates.

O: Other manufacturer's info and reviews of other web sites

Items in darker blue boxes are new entries.

WARNING about VRM COOLING

Motherboard makers generally assume a certain level of "spillover" airflow from the heatsink fan across the voltage regulator module (VRM) components that are placed around the CPU socket. These components include capacitors, power transistors and inductors (coils). When the CPU fan speed is reduced to minimal levels in order to achieve low noise, cooling for the CPU may be perfectly adequate with a good heatsink, but the VRM components may be prone to overheating, which can impair electrical efficiency and reduce component life.

Tall tower (or high rise) heatsinks with fans that blow air parallel to the motherboard rather than down at it are more likely to cause VRM component cooling problems — even when the fan is not run at minimal speed, bcause the airflow is sometimes blocked by the fins from reaching the sufrace of the motherboard. When the fans on such heatsinks are slowed to minimum speed, VRM cooling can suffer quite a bit.

Users should be aware of this potential issue and ensure some additional airflow from at least one case exhaust fan in most systems, especially those with high power CPUs. The quality, efficiency and intrinsic cooling of VRMs varies substantially from motherboard to motherboard, however.

PREVIOUS RECOMMENDATIONS (mid-2010)


LARGE CPU HEATSINKS (mostly tower w/ 12cm or larger
fan)
Make / Model
Q
CPU
Comments
$
Source
Thermalright
Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev. C
9.5
AMD, 775, 1156, 1366
Latest version of a classic matches or exceeds cooling performance of all others with lower or higher airflow and allows rotated mounting on AMD boards.
65~70
Noctua NH-D14
9.5
775, 1366, AMD
Huge dual-tower
heatsink with excellent universal mounting system. Two fans (12 & 14
cm) included with speed adjusting resistors; noisier than ideal but not
bad. May 2010.
90
Prolima Megahalems
9.5
1156, 1366, AM2*
Big innovative
tower heatsink performs great with minimal airflow fan. An excellent high
tension mounting system for Intel boards. AM2 hardware is optional. No fan,
costly. June09.
60~70
Prolima Armageddon
9
1156, 1366, AM2*
Excellent performance,
same mounting system as Megahalems, resized fin stack to accommodate a 14cm
fan that's not included. Fan clips work but are not versatile. It may leave
more room for RAM than the Megahalems. AM2 hardware is optional. May 2010.
60~70
Scythe Mugen
2
9
All AMD, 775, 1366
Features design
improvements over original Mugen, ships with a quiet 120mm PWM fan, and
mounts using a simple bolt-thru installation procedure - a first for Scythe.
Multiple fans can also be accommodated. With two fans, quiet cooling is
amazing.
35-40
Thermalright
HR-01 Plus
9
AM2, 775
Updated version
of HR-01 with six heatpipes instead of four, and 120mm fan clips works exceptionally
well with very low airflow. Not super heavy, same mounting mechanism as
U120. HR-01X variant with different hardware allows free rotation of mounting
position on AM2 for correct fan position. June/08.
50~55
Xigmatek HDT-S1283
9
AM2, 775
A tower configuration,
3 U-shaped heatpipes, a 120mm fan and "direct touch heatpipes"
in the base combine for exceptional performance in this modestly priced
heatsink. The stock 4-pin PWM fan is decent at minimum speed; replace it
with a super-quiet one for great low airflow performance. June/08.
35~40
Cogage TRUE
Spirit 1366
9
1366
Slightly smaller
than earlier Ultra-120 and U120 eXtreme, it still managed to edge them on
our 1366 test platform. Fan is reasonably quiet though not a champ. Good
value. May 2010.
40
Zalman CNPS10X
Quiet
9
AMD, 775, 1156, 1366
Performance similar
to Cogage True Spirit. Its fan is pretty quiet, especially with speed reduced
using supplied Fanmate2 controller. AMD clip is a bit anemic. May 2010
55~60
Thermalright
Ultra-120 eXtreme
9
AM2, 775, 1366*
Bigger version
of U-120 with six heatpipes instead of four, the U120E beats all other HS
tested thus far. Any 120mm fan works. Same mounting mechanism as U120. Jan/08.
*Several different versions with different mounting sets.
55~65
Noctua NH-U12P
9
478, AM2, 775, 1366*
Large tower heatsink
with 120mm unusual fan. With lower airflow, it's competitive. Easily rotated
for best airflow configuration. Excellent mounting systems.*1366 version
only compatible with i7 boards. June09
~60
Coolermaster
Hyper 212 Plus
8.5
K8, 775, 1156, 1366
Tall tower heatpipe
heatsink offers excellent performance and value. Clever universal mounting
system. Fan is not quiet but replacement cost acceptable at the price. May
2010.
30
Titan Fenrir
8.5
K8, 775, 1366
Big tower heatpipe
heatsink with high impedance fin stack and a not-great fan still provides
very good performance. Cannot be rotated on K8 socket, and will point up
(to PSU) in most cases. May 2010.
50
Thermalright
U120 Rev. A
8.5
K8, 775, 1366
Huge tower heatpipe
heatsink just edges the Ninja for cooling.Works great with a Nexus 120 fan.
Heavy, cannot be rotated 90 degrees on K8 socket. Check on AM2 clip. Now
Rev. A - June09.
45~50
Apack ZeroTherm
Zen FZ120
8.5
AM2, 775
Another huge tower
heatpipe heatsink. Secure and easy to use spring-loaded bolt mounting system
for 775; can rotate for fan airflow directionality on AMD boards. Excellent
performance. Fan noisy at full speed but quiet when slowed. June/08.
40~50
Scythe Kabuto
8
K8, 775, 1156, 1366
Very tall, blow-down
design with a quiet 120mm fan for very quiet, excellent performance. The
usual relative weakness of Scythe mounting. Jan/08.
30
Scythe Grand
Kama Cross
8
All AMD & Intel
Very large, unique
design with good 140mm PWM fan provides best cooling performance of all
top-down coolers. July 2010
~45
Scythe Mugen
(Infinity)
7.5
478, K8, AM2, 775
Huge tower heatpipe
heatsink with both tightly and loosely spaced fins, one of the biggest in
the enthusiast PC cooling market today. The stock fan is pretty quiet, the
performance is better higher airflow than lower. Decent mounting clips.
Jan/08.
45~50
Scythe Ninja
2
7.5
K8, 775
Big tower heatpipe
heatsink with loosely spaced fins once tops on our list, but tests 775 push-pin
mounting forces a markdown. Still a v. good performer, esp w/ low airflow,
and good value w/ quiet fan. June09
~40
Scythe Andy
Samurai Master
7.5
478, K8, AM2, 775
A gigantic blow-down
heatsink that performs well with its stock 120mm fan, althought it more
optimized for best cooling with high airflow (noisier) rather than lower
airflow (quieter) fans. Jan/08.
~35
Scythe Zipang

7.5
AM2, 775
Huge, fairly light,
blow-down, asymmetrical design uses 6 loop-around heatpipes and a super
quiet 140mm fan for very quiet, excellent performance. A bit more airflow
would have been useful. Jan/08.
45~55


MID-SIZE CPU HEATSINKS (mostly not tower or 8/9cm
fan tower)
Make / Model
Q
CPU
Comments
$
Source
Noctua NH-C12P
7.5
AM2, 775
Carefully designed
and manufactured top-down cooler with unusual features. All joints soldered
for maximum heat transfer throughout, excellent spring-loaded bolt-through
mounting. Unusual fan has high turbulence noise at 12V, but when used with
supplied speed reduction adapters, works silently. High price might be the
only quibble. June/08.
~65
Xigmatek HDT-D1284
7.5
AM2, 775
Fairly light, blow-down
120mm fan design with four heatpipes offers good performance about on par
with Asus Triton 75. PWM fan is noisier than it has to be except at min
speed. June/08.
40~45
Xigmatek HDT-S964
7.5
AM2, 775
A tower configuration,
3 U-shaped heatpipes, and "direct touch heatpipes" in the base
combine for excellent performance in this modestly priced heatsink. The
stock 4-pin PWM fan is OK at minimum speed; replace it with a super-quiet
one for great low airflow performance. June/08.
~33
Thermalright
SI-128

7.5
AM2, 775
Large area of aluminum
fins only connected via four heatpipes to a minimalist base. It's bigger
than the earlier XP120 but easier to mount. The latest version (not reviewed)
uses bolt-through mounting for both 775 and AM2. A very good performer.
Jan/08.
~45
Scythe Ninja
Mini
7.5
478, K8, AM2, 775
A shorter version
of the Ninja, designed to fit in lower profile cases such as the Antec NSK2480/Fusion,
in which it can run fanless with most systems due to close proximity of
case fans. More even spacing of heatpipes than the original helps performance,
which is excellent for the size. Stock 80x25mm fan is pretty quiet. We don't
like the 775 mounting hardware much but it works. Jan/08.
~35
Asus Triton
75

7.5
AM2, 775
This fairly light,
blow-down, Thermalright-derivative lookalike offers excellent performance
with any 120mm fan of your choice. Socket 775 mounting is not fun but it
works. Excellent pricing. Jan/08.
~35
Scythe Samurai
ZZ
7.5
All AMD & Intel
Modest size/price
top-down cooler with 92mm PWM fan that's OK at lower speed. Very good low
airflow performance. July 2010.
~35
Cooler Master
Geminii S
7.0
AMD, 775
Five heatpipes,
decently quiet 120x25mm fan, decent mounting and good performance. It will
fit in some lower profile cases. May 2010.
30~40
Arctic Cooling
Alpine 7 Pro
5.0
775
Basically a quiet
replacement for a stock Intel cooler. It's cheap, way quieter than the stock
Intel cooler, but doesn't offer better cooling. May 2010.
~15
LOW PROFILE CPU HEATSINKS
Make / Model
Q
CPU
Comments
$
Source
Scythe Big Shuriken
7
AM2, 775
Very low profile,
4 heatpipes, and a super sling 113mm diameter fan combine to provide very
good cooling. Installation is painful, but among low profile coolers, this
is about the best we've found. May 2010.
30~40
Nexus LOW-7000
7
775
Similar in performance
to the Big Shuriken but with a 120x25mm fan that's definitely not as quiet,
and way more pricey than it should be. But it may fit where the SBS does
not. (The Cooljag Falcon 2 appears to be identical and $15 cheaper.) May
2010.
55

See next page: Coolers for VGA Cards and Chipsets, older
slot-CPUs, and Retired Models.


Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



OTHER HEATSINKS

Make / Model
Q
For
Comments
$
S
Arctic Cooling
Accelero S1
8.0
VGA
Simple brute-force design with huge
cooling fin surface area outperforms just about everything else available
— even run passively! With active cooling, it's good enough for any
GPU today. Low cost makes it a real winner, espcially with new Rev.2 that
increases compatibility to much wider range of video cards. Jan/08.
~25
Scythe Musashi
8.0
VGA
Equals the performance of the Accelero
S1 with Scythe 100mm fans with low airflow, and pulling ahead slightly with
high airflow, all while taking up less physical space. May 2010.
~40
Arctic Cooling
Accelero S2
7.0
VGA
Performance very close to the S1,
with slightly smaller size and just two heatpipes. The main downsides is
that it doesn't fit all the hottest VGA cards. Reviewed along with very
quiet and effective dual-fan Turbo Module, which fits both S1 and
S2. Jan/08.
~22
Xigmatek Battle-Axe
6.5
VGA
Four heatpipes in direct contact
with the GPU, a large array of fins and two 92mm fans can't help but give
excellent cooling. The fans are rather noisy, though, and the mounting hardware
is terribly flimsy. Too pricey. Jan/08.
45~50
Zalman VF-1000CU
6.5
VGA
Natural upgrade from VF-900CU sees
a near-doubling of fin area and much improved cooling performance with the
same acoustics; the same fan is used. Excellent mounting system. Jan/08.
~40
Zalman VF-900CU
5.5
VGA
Deceptively small yet effective and
quiet (when undervolted) video card cooling with this heatpipe-enhanced
HSF from Zalman. Much more effective than the pipe-less VF-700CU. Aug/06
32~44
Zalman ZM17CU
3.5

VGA

Passive all-copper HS for video card.
Elminates noisy fan on many video cards. Suitable for hottest high power
models only with cooling fan. 6/02
20
F
Zalman ZM80-HP
4.5
VGA
Passive all-copper heatpipe sandwich
HS for "virtually all kinds of video cards" according to Zalman. An optional
fan kit helps with really hot cards. There are 3 variants, A, C and D --
details of which are best discovered on Zalman's web site. (D model has
2 heatpipes). They work fairly well, but correct installation can be a little
tricky. A model reviewed. Aug/04
25~35
Zalman ZM-NB47J
-
chipset HS
Much taller replacement HS for northbridge
chipset on most motherboards. Eliminate small noisy fan safely. Should cool
better than NB32. 6/02
7
R
Zalman ZM-NB32J
-
chipset HS
Replacement HS for northbridge chipset
on most motherboards. Eliminate small noisy fan safely. 6/02
6
F

SPCR
Shopping Engine


* * *

RETIRED HEATSINKS

These models are no longer produced, have been superceded
by superior products, or are no longer relevant in some other way.
The list is maintained for those seeking parts for older systems and
for historical value.

Make / Model
Q
CPU
Comments
$
S
Zalman Reserator1
Fanless External Watercooling System
9
478, K8, A
It doesn't really belong here but
until we have more Water Cooling systems to recommend, this will do: This
fanless external tower WC HS/pump is the quietest, powerful CPU cooling
system we know of. Aug/04 (Update Jan '06: There have been
a fair number of pump problems reported by users. Zalman seem to have provided
good warranty service.) TOO LONG SINCE REVIEW. (June 08)
200~260
Thermalright
XP-120

7.5
478, K8, 775
Large area of aluminum fins profiled
to clear motherboard components, nickel-plated copper base and five heatpipes
for a very light (370g) HS designed for a 120mm fan. With the right quiet
120mm fan, it's both super quiet and cools incredibly well. Sept 22/04 BETTER
OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
40~45
Zalman CNPS-9500
7.5
478, K8, 775
Zalman's first CPU heatsink to use
heatpipes and cross-flow fan configuration; it's the most sophisticated
implementation of a CPU heatpipe HSF. A top performer, but the 92mm fan
acoustics could be better. Can be freely rotated for best airflow configuration.
Modest weight considering the performance and all-copper construction. Jan
2006. AM2 clip in latest production models. BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE
NOW - MAY 2010.
50~60
Apack ZeroTherm
BTF80 / BTF90
7.5
K8, AM2, 775
Unusual butterfly-shaped fins on
these copper and copper/aluminum HS tha integrated a 92mm fan. Excellent
performance, mounts with fan blowing in any direction. Availability a question.
Aug/06. BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
~50
Scythe Ninja+
Rev B
7.5?
K8, 775
Big tower heatpipe heatsink with
loosely spaced fins was once tops on our list, but tests with latest 775
push-pin equipped Plus Rev. B forces a markdown. See discussion in Ninja
Copper Review
. March 22/08. DISCONTINUED
~40
Thermalright
SP-94
7
478
Add three heatpipes to the big all-copper 900-series HS
and you have the SP94 (and SP97). It is an excellent low-airflow HS, but
its edge over the non-heatpipe 900s comes in only with really hot CPUs
(and higher airflow). Very secure spring-loaded through-the-board bolts
and backplate under motherboard. Aug/04 - DISCONTINUED (Jan
06)
50
Thermalright
SP-97
7
A
Add three heatpipes to the big all-copper SLK-900A and
you have the SP97. It is an excellent low-airflow HS, but its edge over
the non-heatpipe 900A comes in only with really hot CPUs. Very secure
spring-loaded through-the-board bolts and backplate under motherboard.
Aug/04 - DISCONTINUED (Jan 06)
50
Coolermaster
Hyper 48
7
478, K8, 775
Big, a bit too heavy (864G), all-copper
heatpipe-equipped thin fin HS with 92mm fan is Coolermaster's first really
quiet model. Needs a speed controller from the fan, though. Very similar
in performance to Zalman 7000 and Thermalright SP-9X series.
40~50
Thermolab Baram
7
AM2, 775
Big tower heatsink with interleaved
fins looks the part and is a good performer, but falls a bit short of most
other similar size tower coolers in performance, and it's hampered by a
poor mounting system for either AMD or Intel boards. June09. BETTER OPTIONS
AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
30~40
Thermalright
XP-90C
7
478, K8, 775
It's an all-copper version of the
XP-90. We haven't reviewed it, but we're pretty sure it deserves this rank.
A bit heavy but small enough to fit in most systems. Jan 2005 BETTER
OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
45
Friends & colleagues
Scythe Mine
(Rev. B)
7
478, AM2, 775
The Mine is a tower HS, the offsping
of a Ninja and a Kamakiri, with genes from the Samurai Z mixed in. It has
a very smooth quiet 100mm fan. Very good cooling, but not quite as good
the best. It cannot be rotated 90 degrees. Aug/06. Now with socket AM2
compatibility - Jan 2008. BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
30~40
Thermalright
XP-90
7
478, K8, 775
It's the XP120 scaled down for a
92mm fan that fits on a wider variety of systems. Well designed heatpipes
and large area fins with very tight clip for a light (340g) HS. With the
right quiet 92mm fan, it's both super quiet and cools very well. Jan 2005
BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
30
Zalman 7700AlCu
7
478, K8, 775
120mm fan version of 7000 benefits
mainly from larger fan, as total fin area is only 3% higher than 7000. Still
a top performer, but let down by a fan that's not a top performer, acoustically.
Copper version is mighty heavy. Jan 2005 BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW
- MAY 2010.
35~40
Zalman 7000/A,
both Cu & AlCu
7

478, K8, A, 370

Zalman's flower turns radial and
gets a quieter embedded 92mm fan. Big, powerful cooling, modest noise (Fanmate1
controller included), secure mounting system, low 445g weight for AlCu (which
matches 773g Cu performance). Original version compatible w/P4 & K8; newer
"A" version adds Socket-A compatibility. Tight fit on some boards
and cases where PSU is very close to CPU. June 17/03 BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE
NOW - MAY 2010.
28~35
Noctua NH-U9
7
478, K8, 775
Tower heatsink for 92mm fan, similar
to Thermalright HR-01 but smaller. Cannot be freely rotated for best airflow
configuration. Noctua comes fanless, but with fan clips; the Coolink comes
with a mediocre fan, and simple fan controller. Good mounting systems. Jan
2006. BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
~45
Arctic Cooling
Freezer 7 / 64 Pro
6.5
775 / K8
Tower heatsink w/mechanically decoupled
92mm fan, like earlier Freezer model, but bigger and with better fan frame.
Both versions can be freely rotated for best airflow configuration. Cooling
performance is very good at standard fan voltage, but too loud. When fan
is slowed to a quiet level, cooling performance is disportionately poor
because fins are spaced too tightly. Mounting system is standard Intel for
775, and captive standard clip for K8. Cooling for VRM with airflow deflector
fins is claimed. Note that the untested 64 Pro has a slower fan, which will
impact both cooling and noise. Jan 2006. BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW
- MAY 2010.
~25
Reviewed

(7 version)
Arctic Cooling
Freezer 4 / 64
6.5
478 / K8
Their first tower heatsink, frameless
integrated fan is easily damaged. Cooling performance is good at standard
fan voltage, but too loud. When fan is slowed to a quiet level, cooling
performance remains OK. Mounting consists of standard clips, whether for
soket 478 or K8. The HS cannot be rotated freely (to aim the fan at the
exhaust case fan.) Jan 2006. BETTER OPTIONS AVAILABLE NOW - MAY 2010.
~25
Reviewed

(4 version)
Alpha PAL8952
5.5
478
Taller variant of 8942, black anodized
aluminum pins, large copper inset base. Great spring-loaded bolt-through
board mounting as usual, and blow-up airflow optimized for exhaust ducting
fun. 645g, suitable for 80mm fan. Aug/04 SOCKET LONG RETIRED - MAY 2010.
~40
Zalman CNPS-6000Cu
3.5
A, 370
2700 sq cm surface, copper, 462 gram
flower-style HS. FB123 fan bracket and handy Fanmate1 fan speed controller.
Standard clip with useful tool, flexes too easily from spec. Cooling power
is OK, but bettered by Zalman's P4 offerings. 6000AlCu variant has
central copper fins with aluminum fins on either side for lower weight,
slightly lower cooling power, and lower price. 6/02 SOCKET LONG RETIRED
- MAY 2010.
26
Thermalright
SI-97A
6.5
A, 370, K8
It's an XP90 variant. We haven't
tested it, but we suspect it's the best socket A heatsink ever. Jan 2005.
DISCONTINUED Jan/08
35
Friends & colleages
Scythe FCS-50
6.5
478, K8, A, 370
Tall, flat-heatpipe design with many
thin aluminum fins, 80mm fan w/wide speed range in embedded controller,
and flow-through design that allows easy evacuation of CPU heat through
the back case fan. Does fine with Panaflo 80L. Socket "directionality" is
important; performance is best with fan blowing towards the back of the
case. A most innovative design w/ multi-platform compatibility. 720g. Aug/04
DISCONTINUED Aug/06
50
Thermalright
SLK-900U/A
6.5
A, 370
DISCONTINUED (Jan 06)
45
Scythe Katana
(775)
6
478, K8, A, 370
Small, canted tower model with good
performance at low airflow/noise when stock fan is undervolted. Probably
one of the best socket A models around. Can be oriented for different fan
directions. Fiddly installation, though. Jan 2006. Now offered only for
775 socket - Jan 2008.
30
Swiftech MCX478-V
& MCX462-V
6
478 / A
Continuation of classic Swiftech
design, now with pins splayed for improved airflow access. Beautiful workmanship,
massive copper base, aliminum "helicoid pins", fits 80 or 92mm fans. No
more bolt-through mounting; conventional but secure clips for both the 478
and 462 (620g & 650g w/o fan). Aug/04 - DISCONTINUED Jan/08
~40
Aerocase Condor
/ Raven
5.5
VGA
Massive brute-force multiple heatpipe
passive cooling solutions built to order by a new US company. They need
case airflow to work, but work they do. DISCONTINUED; company no longer
doing business. Jan/08.
46~60
Arctic Cooling
VGA Silencer
5.5
VGA
An 80mm waterwheel style fan in a
heatsink replacement for ATI 9500~9800 and nVidia GF3 video cards that expells
the hot VGA heat out of the case. Tough to tell whether it does a better
job than the competitive Zalman ZM80/50, but the exhaust feature
is exactly what's needed. The fan is quiet on low, but a bit too loud on
high. Relatively simple install. Main gripe: Fits only a select number of
ATI cards, but that's all changing with the new ATI Silencer and
NV Silencer series that's just been released. Aug/04 - DISCONTINUED
Jan/08
20
Zalman 6500B-CU
5.5
478
Huge 3300 sq cm surface, copper,
0.9 kg flower-style HS, convenient mounting clips. (But suspect because
of softness.) Comes with FB123 fan bracket and handy Fanmate1 fan speed
controller. Can cool >2.8G P4s quietly (but not with noisier stock 92mm
fan). Great results w/ Panaflo at 7V. Dec 3/02
44
Arctic Cooling:

ATI Silencer 1-4


NV Silencer 1-5
4~5
VGA
VGA heatsink replacements that expel
the hot VGA heat out of the case... for just about every ATI and nVidia
video card on the market. The fan is a bit bigger, and unfortunately noisier.
They generally cool better better than the original VGA
Silencer
. but are definitely not as quiet. An outborad fan controller
like the Zalman Fan Mate helps.
25~30
Thermalright
SLK-800A/U
4.5
478, A, 370
A tall, slim profile to fit almost
all motherboards, nice 6-lug clip, many thin all-copper fins and an innovative
design combine to make this 505g model the winner of SPCR's first low-airflow
HS review roundup. Excellent performance
even with Panaflo at 7V. For 60-70-80 mm fans. 29/10/02 - DISCONTINUED
(Jan 06)
30/38
Scythe Kamakaze
4.5
478, A, 370, K8
Unique oval-cross section pin HS
with copper insert base, similar to Alpha, excellent finish, integrated
fan w/shroud for blow up operation, P4 / socket-A compatibility, fan speed
rheostat. Very good performance, low noise at lower settings. New Kamakaze2
appears to have an improved mounting mechanism. Aug 7/03 - DISCONTINUED
(Jan 06)
35
Scythe Samurai
SCSM-1000
4.5
478, K8, A, 370
Somewhat more conventional all-copper
tin-finned HS w/ excellent finish, integrated fan w/shroud for blow up operation,
multi-platform compatibility, 80mm fan w/speed rheostat. Very good performance,
low noise at low settings. Aug 7/04 - DISCONTINUED (Jan 06)
30
Zalman 6500B-AlCu
4.5
478
Aluminum/copper hybrid of 6500 has
the same 3300+ cm2 radiating area, central copper fins with aluminum fins
on either side for lower weight, slightly lower cooling power, and lower
price. Dec 3/02. Discontinued.
41
Scythe NCU-1000
Fanless
4~5
478
This unique, huge yet relatively light (615g) heatpipe-embedded
fanless device is well-engineered and very difficult to
rank. With a 120mm low noise fan, it matches 6 or 7 rank HS. Without a
fan (and no easy option to install one), it's not much better than the
Zalman 6000Cu with a Panaflo 80L at low voltage - but it is complete silent.
One huge benefit: It can be rotated 90 degrees for optimal cooling with
a nearby back case fan or a bottom mounted fan in a power supply. You
must read the review to see if this HS is for you. Aug/04
- Bettered by NCU2000 (Jan 06)
60
Scythe NCU-2000
Fanless
4~5
478, K8
Improved version of fanless NCU-1000 using flat heatpipes,
like the Scythe FCS-50 also fits Athlon 64, which is a better
match because it runs cooler than P4. You must read the
review to see if this HS is for you. DISCONTINUED - Jan/08.
60
Spire Coolwave
SP441B0-F
4
478
A low-profile oval skivved all-copper
HS with integral 70mm manual speed-control fan that's acoustically acceptable
ony at or near min speed, it still provides v. good cooling performance
and no-fuss fit for tight spaces in small PCs. Aug/04
25
Zalman ZM50-HP
3.5
VGA
Similar to above but smaller, for
cooler cards and/or tighter spaces. 6/02
TBA
O
Thermalright
AX7
3.5
A, 370
Big chunky 430g large-finned alumium-copper
hybrid can't keep up with its more expensive siblings but offers great performance
-- especially considering price. Good 6-lug clip. May not fit all mobos.
For 80mm fan. 29/10/02. Discontinued - Aug 7/03
30*
Swiftech MC462
3.5
A
Heavy (560g) 3/8" copper base HS
with 269 aluminum pins & excellent secure if fussy retention mechanism.
Does very well with low airflow (Panaflo at 7V on XP1700). Replaced by improved
MCX462. For 80mm fan. 6/02 (Discontinued)
n/a
Thermalright
AX478
3.5
478
P4 version of AX7 aluminum-copper
hybrid with larger copper base offers good performance and value. Very secure
metal clips. For 80mm fan. 29/10/02. Likely discontinued - Aug 7/03
29
Arctic Cooling
Super Silent 4 TC
3.5
478
TC stands for temp. controlled. Large
aluminum HS w/80mm thermal fan + good clip provides inexpensive quiet performance
with decent cooling on P4s. Much quieter than stock Intel HSF. It's a no
fuss soluition that should fit any and all P4s. Great for the money. Aug
6/03 - DISCONTINUED (Jan 06)
15
Arctic Cooling
Copper Silent 2 TC
3.5
A, 370
TC stands for temp. controlled.
Copper-base soldered to good side aluminum HS w/ thermal 80mm fan + decent
clip provides inexpensive quiet performance w/ adequate cooling on any 370
socket CPU and up to ~60W XPs. A no fuss solution that should fit any and
all socket 370 and A systems. Very nice price. Aug/04
15
Globalwin VOS32
3.5
S-2

S-A
Monstrous aluminum omni-directional
fins model is best ever for Slot (P2, P3, K7) CPUs. Supplied with 2 60mm
fans, not quiet; with finesse, can run sub-GHz CPUs w/o fan. Check for space
on motherboard. 6/02
30
F

Alphatech 3125 / 7125

3.5
S-2

S-A
Similar to GW VOS32, slightly smaller,
copper inset in base. Alpha trademark of black anodized fins. 2 60mm fan
design, can run many Slot CPUs w/o fan. 7125 for Slot-A. 6/02
32 (no fan)

O, R

Swiftech MCX4000B
3

423, 478

Swiftech's biggest, a P4-dedicated
0.6 kg model with 429 pins that takes advantage of larger space for HS on
P4 motherboards. Meant for 80mm fan, not included. Rating conjecture based
on experience with MC462A.
47* MSP
O
Swiftech MCX462U
2.5
423, 478, A
MC462 improved: 371 helical
pins that increase cooling area and mounting hardware for AMD, Intel P4
and Xeon. Tight spacing between pins hurts low airflow performance. No fan
with Universal model.
54* MSP
O
Millennium Glaciator II
(also ULN version)
2.5
A
Unique design, all copper, 615 grams. Integrated
modest noise fan offers very good cooling. Ordinary clip. Ultra Low Noise
version reduces noise by 8 dBA at the cost of 2-3 degrees C. Integrated
fan is smaller than 80mm but seems quiet. 6/02
30/35
O, R
Arctic Cooling
Super Silent Pro TC
2.5
A, 370
TC stands for temp. controlled.
Large aluminum HS with thermal fan + decent clip provides inexpensive quiet
performance with adequate cooling on cooler AMD CPUs. Newer copper-base
models may provide better performance. June 17/03
17
Intel P4 HSF
1.5
423, 478
HSF supplied with retail P4 is good
performer. The fan is too small not to be whiny, but at reduced voltage
(~7V), provides good cooling and reasonably low noise with pretty fast P4s.
(Note: Intel changes supplied HSF w/o warning.)
n/a

SPCR
Shopping Engine

* * *

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