Cooler Master, DEEPCOOL, Noctua, and Thermaltake CPU Cooler RoundupWaco - January 20, 2013
Category: CPU Cooling
Price: $44.99 to $129.99
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When building a high-performance gaming computer, many people simply throw some parts together and never touch the BIOS. Clearly since you're reading this you aren't part of the "stock computer" clan – you want the best performance for your dollar and won't settle for sub-par parts or performance. An oft-overlooked part of a new build (and generally thrown in as an afterthought) is the heart of your computer's cooling system: the CPU heat sink. While originally regarded as somewhat of an afterthought in past years with modern CPUs being multiplier unlocked in the upper model ranges having a decent CPU heat sink can unleash a lot of additional performance from your processor without increasing temperatures to dangerous or damaging levels. After all, what good will all that extra performance be if your computer does an imitation of Chernobyl in the process?
Some of you are already rolling your eyes and sighing after reading the previous paragraph; after all good cooling is essential to a properly-configured rig, right? Lucky for you I have a gaggle of boxes filled with all sorts of copper, aluminum, nickel plating and water. Five CPU coolers from the prestigious Cooler Master, DEEPCOOL, Noctua, and Thermaltake are lined up for the OCC gauntlet of tests. First up is the Cooler Master TPC 812, a tower cooler with an integrated vapor chamber in the base. Next is a pair of coolers from DEEPCOOL: the Ice Blade Pro V2.0 and the Neptwin. Both are tower coolers utilizing 120mm fans and a slew of heat pipes. Next under the microscope is everyone's favorite Austrian heat sink manufacturer Noctua with the low-profile NH-L12. Lastly we'll be taking a look at the Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme which is the big mac-daddy of the Water 2.0 line (with the smaller siblings having been reviewed in the past few months: LINK). Now that you know what to expect on the next few pages, keep reading to discover whether these coolers deserve to suck the heat out of your components!
The Cooler Master TPC 812 showed up in a classy maroon and black box that clearly shows the heat sink itself along with the included fan. Just in case you didn't know what it was, there's a large chrome and black sticker to remind you that this is indeed intended to keep your CPU cool. The front of the box also boasts about the "vertical vapor chamber" cooling design that's ready for overclocking (we'll see about that later!). The side of the box lists the specifications of the cooler and the included 120mm fan – for more detail jump over to the Specifications & Features page. The backside of the box spits out a little blurb that highlights the vapor chamber design, the overclocking capabilities, and the ability to have "silent cooling". Whether these claims have merit remains to be seen but overall the cooler looks quite impressive and should fit on any modern CPU socket!
OCC is no stranger to DEEPCOOL having reviewed quite a few of its cooling components in the past (LINK). The first of the pair of DEEPCOOL CPU coolers I'll be looking at today is the Ice Blade Pro V2.0, an updated version of the original Ice Blade Pro. This refreshed model features a blue LED-lit 120mm fan, quad heat pipes, and support for all modern Intel and AMD sockets and CPUs up to 150 watts. Curiously enough the aspect ratio of the photos on the box is a bit off and makes the cooler appear quite a bit chunkier than it actually is as you'll see in a bit. The rest of the box details the direct-touch heat pipe design and the various specifications that you can read in full on the Specifications & Features page.
The second cooler from DEEPCOOL is the rather impressive looking Neptwin. The Neptwin shares a similar box design to the Ice Blade Pro V2.0 and makes them look quite at home next to each other on a shelf. The Neptwin features six (count-em, six!) heat pipes arranged in a twin-tower design that houses dual 120mm spinners. Unlike its smaller brother the heat pipes are not of the direct-contact type and are instead soldered into a copper base. Being much larger than the Ice Blade Pro V2.0 and running dual fans I expect the Neptwin will perform a bit better when really pushing the thermal load even though the two share a maximum heat rating of 150 watts. For a full list of features, well, you know the drill by now don't you?
The contender from Noctua is a bit of an odd duck in this bunch; the NH-L12 is a low profile and low noise cooler. The low noise part isn't unexpected from Noctua since most of its coolers range from very quiet to near inaudible, but the low-profile design is definitely a new thing from the makers of the monstrous NH-D14. Designed to fit into small micro ATX and mini ITX cases, the NH-L12 only rises to 66mm tall over your motherboard when running in single fan mode. With both the 92mm and 120mm fans installed the quad heat pipes should be able to move quite a bit of heat away from your CPU (and I suspect it will do that in near-silence as well). The box itself doesn't paint a very good picture of the heat sink as it lacks any photos with the exception of a small diagram of the cooler dimensions. Will this small cooler be able to keep up with the bigger (and probably louder) competition?
The last contender in the lineup will probably never be the last one to be chosen for the basketball team; the Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme stands tall over all of the other coolers. Sporting a dual 120mm radiator, integrated PWM fan and pump controls and hassle-free sealed cooling, the Water 2.0 Extreme is the biggest and baddest of the Water 2.0 line. I have no doubts that this monster of a self-contained water cooling system will outperform the rest of the coolers today, but it comes with a few caveats of its own that we'll dig deeper into later in the review.
All in all there is a nice spread of cooler sizes and types in the running here. From the small and quiet Noctua to the big and bad Thermaltake there's enough variation here to make the comparisons both interesting and difficult – so keep reading to find out how each of these heat sinks stacks up in ease of use, compatibility, and performance!