Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In search for the best CPU cooler


The best doesn’t necessarily mean that the cooling performance is highest. I’m sure many can design a cooler the performs much better than the ones available for purchase, if the system – case and other components - can be fixed. Like in the case of the Apple’s Trash Can.

Let’s back on the topic shall we? Why am I searching for a new CPU cooler? Because of this and this.

I already have planned on which case to get if I manage to sell this. It’s either the Silverstone SG09 or SG10. They are small and optimized for air cooling. There is only one place you can mount a radiator and that is the rear exhaust. Even then, it is only a 120mm radiator. A lot of high-end air coolers perform much better than the best 120mm AIO water cooling unit. Heck, some even perform better than the dual 120mm units. My current case also is optimized for air cooling and doesn’t support larger than 120mm radiators out of the box.

Now that I had ruled out all of the AIO water cooling units, it was time to check out air coolers available in Japan. I managed to get a rough idea about which models were available in the market. In fact it seemed that all the high-end models were available. The prices were, though,  sky-high on most of them. All except two dual tower coolers were going for more than JPY10,000.

While that was unfortunate, it was not saddening. The reason being that they were too big to fit in the Micro ATX case anyway. Some couldn’t fit even in my Raven RV03 case due to height. Furthermore, some did not have sufficient RAM clearance and some were blocking the top PCI-E slot. RAM clearance issue was applicable to both ATX and Micro-ATX boards while PCI-E slot clearance was only applicable to Micro-ATX boards and only certain ATX boards.

So basically, the best CPU cooler had to satisfy 6 criteria.

  • Has to be an air-cooler
  • Has to be shorter than 163mm
  • Has to be able to install A-DATA XPG V2 RAM with it installed
  • Has to be able to install a graphics card in the top most PCI-E slot
  • Last but not least, has to cool the CPU really well
  • Should be reasonably priced

That’s a lot of criteria to satisfy. That’s the price you pay when you go small. It’s pretty easy to satisfy the first 4 criteria. Let’s forget about the final criteria because that only matters when deciding between two coolers. First we have to find at least one cooler. The most difficult part was satisfying first 4 criteria and the 5th criteria at the same time.

With a lot of research, I managed to find narrow it down to few coolers.

  • Noctua NH-U12S
  • Noctua NH-U14S – but this has issues with the Micro-ATX boards except one board, the ASRock Z97M OC Formula
  • Silverstone Heligon HE-01
  • Scythe Ashura

After reading up the reviews, I decided to go with the HE01. It seemed to perform only slightly worse than my Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme cooler while being a little quieter. But it had awesome RAM and PCI-E slot clearance. The height was ideal. The fan noise was concerning but I thought it wasn’t that bad.

HE01 in SH09

I ordered the cooler from Amazon. It cost me JPY7.399. That was the cheapest price in Japan for this cooler so that’s not a bad buy at all. I selected free delivery and it was supposed to arrive a couple of days late. I was looking forward to playing with the CPU when the ncooler aaro

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