Now that CPU cooler reviews have begun in earnest here at AnandTech, it’s been interesting to see just how conventional wisdom plays out in practice. There’s been a pervasive attitude that closed loop coolers are only really competitive with the highest end air coolers, and there may be some truth to that, but we have at least one of those flagship coolers on hand today along with parts from SilverStone, be quiet!, and Cooler Master.
Once we got in touch with Noctua and let them know we were doing cooler reviews, they gave us the opportunity to correct what I’d consider to be a sizable omission in terms of coverage in general: no review of the flagship NH-D14 CPU cooler. The NH-D14 is big, beefy, expensive, and typically regarded in enthusiast circles as one of the finest air coolers available. Alongside the NH-D14, Noctua also sent us their NH-L12 and NH-L9i low-profile CPU coolers; while the NH-L9i is potentially underwhelming, the NH-L12 stands to impress as potentially the most powerful downward-flow cooler on the market.
In the interests of making it a full-on roundup, three additional coolers were brought in for review. First is the flagship SilverStone Heligon HE01, a substantial dual tower cooler with a massive 140mm (38mm thick!) fan in the center and rated to cool a staggering 300W. Next up were two coolers I’ve had in house for a little while that are going to get to see sunlight and scrutiny: the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 (rated for 220W) and the cooler from my case testing bed, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. The EVO can typically be found for under $ 40 (and usually much closer to $ 30) and is regarded as one of the best budget coolers on the market.
|Noctua NH-D14||Noctua NH-L12||Noctua NH-L9i|
|Dimensions (in mm)||158x126x120||93x128x150||95x95x37|
|Fans (Supported)||1x 140mm & 1x 120mm (3)||1x 120mm & 1x 90mm (2)||92mm (1)|
|Rated Noise in dB(A)||13.2~19.8||13.1~22.4||14.8~23.6|
|Price at NewEgg||$ 81||$ 69||$ 48|
|SilverStone Heligon HE01||be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2||CM Hyper 212 EVO|
|Dimensions (in mm)||140x119x160||147x138x166||120x80x159|
|Fans (Supported)||140mm (3)||1x 120mm & 1x 135mm (2)||120mm (2)|
|Weight||926g (w/o fan)||1250g||580g|
|Rated Noise in dB(A)||18~41||13.5~26.4||9~36|
|Price at NewEgg||$ 75||$ 99||$ 33|
Before we get started with testing, some notes. First, the NH-D14 that Noctua sent is their Socket 2011 edition, but there’s no appreciable difference between that one and the standard version; the mounting brackets from the NH-L12 were used for the NH-D14 and worked like a charm.
The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 is unfortunately, like the rest of be quiet!’s line, still a bit rarefied stateside. That’s unfortunate, because this little company has a lot to offer (as you’ll see later). Of all the coolers tested, the Dark Rock Pro 2 is the most intimidatingly large, but be quiet!’s products are designed for silence first, so we’ll see how it works out.
Finally, having the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO in this lineup almost seems unfair; it’s smaller than the other coolers, only really benefits from one fan, and is the least expensive by a longshot. Looks can be deceiving, though. I used to run a Hyper 212 Plus and can attest to that cooler being both remarkably inexpensive and efficient, and the EVO’s fan is both more powerful and quieter than its predecessor’s.