Just when we thought CPU coolers couldn’t possibly get any larger, along comes the Tower 120. This sucker is absolutely massive, but don’t let that scare you away; it’s an exceptional cooler. Despite its obscene girth—or, actually, because of it—the Tower 120 offers tantalizing performance at a surprisingly affordable price—half that of Zalman’s prized CNPS9500 cooler.
Though it follows traditional CPU cooler design with its copper base plate, six heatpipes, and big-ass array of aluminum fins, the Tower 120 blazes a new path by dropping a giant adjustable-speed 12cm fan right into the middle of the array of fins, so it sucks air in one side of the cooler and blows it out the other. It’s a fantastic alternative to hanging the fan off one side of the fins, which usually creates clearance issues somewhere around the CPU socket.
The only downside to the Tower 120’s size is that it requires a motherboard backplate to support its weight. The backplate is included with the kit, but you have to remove the mobo in any P4 (Socket 478 or LGA775) system to install it. Athlon 64 processors use the stock backplate, so no mobo removal is necessary. Once the backplate is in place, the Tower 120 attaches with large thumbscrews that are a cinch to tighten. An included fan speed controller fits into an empty PCI slot.
During testing, the cooler performed exceptionally, posting numbers right up there with the very best CPU coolers we’ve tested. As we expected, the Tower 120 makes a bit of noise with the fan turned all the way up, but it’s remarkably quiet on 90 percent of the available settings.
Sure, it’s huge, but every worthwhile CPU cooler is large and in charge. This one is just a bit larger than most, but it certainly earns its keep with stellar performance.
— Josh Norem
Month Reviewed: December 2005