WE HAVE BEEN anxious to test Cooler Master’s TPC 812 since we saw a prototype at this year’s CES—or was it last year’s? Regardless, the company piqued our interest with its talk of “vertical vapor chamber cooling,” and we finally have our hands on the TPC 812, a massive air cooler with six heat pipes and two vertical vapor chambers.
The latest Zalman heatsink looks cooler than it is
THE CNPS12X MIGHT be Zalman’s most eye-catching cooler, with two arrays of black-nickel-coated cooling fins and three 12cm fans to push air through them. And it is massive. It’s 6.1 inches tall, 5.25 deep, and more than 6 inches wide, and weighs two pounds, four ounces. It’s so big it overhangs the inner four RAM slots on our Asus P9X79 Deluxe test motherboard, requiring the use of RAM without tall heat spreaders. The six direct-contact heat pipes rise into two sets of cooling fins, with the front and rear fans nestled into their respective fins, and the middle fan in between the two sets. All three fans are controlled via a single 3-pin power connector.
WHEN WE REVIEWED the first-edition Noctua NH-D14 back in April 2010, we praised its quiet performance, but our then-current test bed didn’t put out enough heat to best showcase its cooling chops. Fortunately, our new one does. This coincides nicely with Noctua’s release of the NH-D14 SE2011, which includes (gasp) LGA2011 support and updates the D14’s two fans to include PWM, or pulse-width modulation.
SOMETIMES WHEN we use the Hyper 212 Plus in a build we get comments to the effect of, “Why don’t you use Xigmatek’s Gaia? It’s just as good and just as cheap!” Just as cheap? Definitely. Just as good? We’ll see!
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Gaia is a skyscraper-style stack of aluminum cooling fins on top of three direct-contact copper heat pipes. The Gaia is 6.5 inches high by 2.9 inches thick (with the fan) and 4.9 inches wide. At one pound, 4.7 ounces, it’s practically the same weight as the Hyper 212 Evo. Aside from the slightly narrower cooling fins and the fact that it has three heat pipes rather than four, and its 12cm PWM fan is held on by rubber pegs rather than a plastic clip, the Gaia looks a lot like the Evo.
We just realized that the Xigmatek Gaia’s cooling fins resemble the letter X.
NZXT’s second air cooler, and they still can’t spell ‘havoc’
NZXT DIDN’T ENTER the CPU cooling game until quite recently. We reviewed its first cooler, the skyscraper Havik 140, in December 2011. The Havik 140’s dual 14cm fans helped it power to the top of our air-cooling charts, though the slightly cheap-feeling mounting bracket kept it from Kick Ass Award status. NZXT’s second air cooler is the smaller, less expensive Havik 120.
What, this old thing? Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo is the new‑and‑improved version of our standby CPU cooler. It’s just $35 and offers performance far exceeding other coolers in its price range, so it’s the first thing we reach for when we build a new budget-conscious rig. Given that LGA2011 CPUs don’t come with heatsinks, the Evo is the closest thing we have to a stock cooler, and it will be the standard against which all other Sandy Bridge-E coolers are judged.
YOU'RE FORGIVEN if you’ve never heard of Phanteks. After all, the company only makes one heatsink, though it comes in four colors, and it’s only been out since last fall. The Phanteks PH-TC14PE consists of a nickel-plated copper heatsink and five thick heat pipes, rising through two sets of anodized aluminum cooling fins in orange, blue, red, or plain ol’ aluminum.
Fans of Austrian engineering might notice that the PH-TC14PE looks a lot like Noctua’s NH-D14. They’re almost exactly the same (massive) size and follow the same basic design. The TC14PE’s box even says “Designed in Europe.” But, see, it’s totally different, because the Phanteks cooler has five thick heat pipes and the Noctua has six smaller-diameter pipes. The Phanteks’ colored fin stack is a tiny bit shorter than the tips of the Noctua’s heat pipes and around a tenth of an inch wider. Also like the Noctua, the Phanteks cooler can interfere with the RAM slots on some motherboards. We couldn’t install it at all on a microATX Rampage IV board, and we had to use RAM without towering heat spreaders on our P9X79 Deluxe board in order to install the Phanteks.
Frequent Maximum PC readers will have noticed our love affair with Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Plus CPU cooler. The 212 Plus came out of nowhere and captured our hearts—and a spot on our Best of the Best list—with its excellent cooling power and rock-bottom $30 price tag way back in 2009. It’s not the best CPU cooler we’ve tested, but we’ve installed it in virtually every stock-clocked PC we’ve built since, thanks to its unbeatable price/performance ratio. Cooler Master’s all-new Hyper 212 Evo costs five dollars more than the Plus. But is it five dollars better?
We recently got our hands on three coolers marketed directly to overclockers, so we clocked our 2.8GHz Core i7-930 up to 3.9GHz and hit it with Intel’s internal stress-testing utility, which has been known to physically damage motherboards and fry CPUs if used improperly. We cranked up the utility until our Hyper 212 Plus (our favorite inexpensive cooler) could barely keep up without throttling, and used that as our baseline. Can any of these coolers beat the heat?
NZXT isn’t the only company branching into CPU coolers. EVGA—better known for videocards and motherboards—recently released its Superclock cooler, with five direct-contact copper heat pipes, one clear 12cm fan with red LEDs, and a sharp-looking black finish to its skyscraper-style copper cooling fin stack.
At $50, the Superclock is around the midpoint of CPU cooler prices, but can its performance live up to its name?