When it comes to keeping your CPU cool under pressure, it’s hard to beat a closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC). They’re on the expensive side, though, so there’s still plenty of room at $50 and below for conventional air cooling. What, then, do we make of an air cooler with an MSRP of $100? It’s gotta be pretty fancy to command that kind of scratch, and the Cooler Master V8 GTS sure seems like a contender.
The fans have small embossed arrows to indicate airflow.
As its name suggests, it’s an update of the original V8, which used a single 120mm fan to cool four sets of radiator fins. That version is actually still compatible with recent CPU sockets, but it’s rated for “only” 180 watts of heat dissipation. The GTS version ups the cap to 250 watts, with dual 140mm fans and a vapor chamber. But despite its bulk, it will still play nice with high-profile RAM sticks and large motherboard heatsinks, such as those on the Rampage IV Extreme in our test-bench machine.
However, the fans are not designed to be removed, making installation a bit awkward. You know that things are not going to go swimmingly when the bundled items include a proprietary tool for tightening nuts. And sure enough, we had to pull the RAM, video card, and motherboard from the case to get enough clearance to crank this widget. This is also a four-way SLI motherboard, so the first slot is designed for the primary video card. But unfortunately, there was not enough space there to install it. We can just use a different slot in our test system, but you may run into trouble if you’re already using your slots for other devices.
You might let these hassles slide if the cooler had the class-leading performance to justify its quirks. Unfortunately, our testing demonstrated that the V8 GTS was good, but not $100 good. The Phanteks TC14PE cools a little more, costs less, and is quieter and a lot easier to install. Cooler Master’s own Hyper 212 Evo air cooler edges out the GTS for nearly a third of the price, albeit at unacceptable noise levels (never mind the CLCs from NZXT and Corsair that cost about the same as the V8 GTS and considerably outperform it).
The GTS’s aesthetics may win over some converts, though. A silver-and-black theme rarely fails to deliver, and an overall shape evoking a V8 engine block is admittedly pretty nifty. The fans also sport several red LEDs, slotted in the top to make it look a bit like a Decepticon. More LEDs are tucked underneath, so they can’t be seen directly but emit a spooky glow onto the motherboard.
But that silvery look comes at a cost; the GTS’s heat pipes and contact surface are aluminum instead of copper, which can make a difference when dealing with this much surface area; copper tends to transfer heat more quickly, but it’s also heavier and more expensive. It’s also disappointing that the fans will be tricky to replace if they break down, get damaged, or aren’t beefy enough for your needs. They use a custom housing similar to a Noctua NF-P14, but with two screw holes removed.
The V8 GTS isn’t a complete indictment of performance air coolers, but we’re wondering if that time isn’t fast approaching.
Best scores bolded. All temperatures in degrees Celsius. All tests performed with an Intel Core i7-3960X at 4.1GHz, on an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, in a Corsair 900D with stock fans set to Standard.