Review Index:

Towers of Power: Four Large CPU Air Coolers Face Off

Introduction and Specifications

In this roundup we'll explore the performance of three premium (and large) air coolers - with the ultra-popular Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO in the mix to see how this $29 option stacks up against the big dogs on test.

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Many of the large air coolers on the market are built for ultra-efficient cooling at whisper-quiet volume levels. With massive heatsinks (and sometimes pairs of them) they can often cool demanding CPU loads with minimal fan speeds, and this usually results in very low noise output. Another advantage is the increased thermal headroom such a cooler provides, which can allow for overclocking without the need for liquid cooling - or even much additional noise.

So what coolers are included? In alphabetical order we have:

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Can the $29 Hyper 212 EVO hold its own in this group?

Kicking Cooler Testing up a Notch

I reviewed the Thermalright Le Grand Macho RT recently, using a Core i5 6600K-based test platform (the Scythe Ninja 4 was also reviewed using this platform), and readers correctly pointed out that a cooler of this size should really be tested with some more challenging thermal loads. The Core i5-6600K is a quad-core, single-threaded design with a 91W TDP, and in moving to a new CPU cooler test system I decided to make the jump to the 140W TDPs of Intel's LGA2011 processors.

So I ended up with a Core i7-6800K; a newer Broadwell-E design with a 6 core/12 thread configuration (and of course that 140W TDP). The base speed of the CPU is 3.40 GHz, with a maximum turbo frequency of 3.60 GHz. Without much trouble I was able to push the CPU to 4.0 GHz on each core, and proceeded to test each of these coolers at both stock and OC frequencies. My hope is that the results to follow will adequately demonstrate just how effective these coolers are when really pressed.

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Continue reading our roundup of large CPU air coolers!!

Before continuing, here's a look at the specs for the coolers in today's roundup:

  Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 Scythe Ninja 4 (SCNJ-4000) Thermaltake Le Grand Macho RT
Overall Dimensions (HxWxD) 159x120x80mm 160x140x158mm 155x130x153mm 159x150x152mm
Included Fan(s)

A12025-20RB-4BP-F1 (PWM)

GlideStream 120 PWM
TY-147B (PWM)
Fan Speed 600-2000 RPM 300-1200 RPM,
300-1300 RPM
300-1500RPM 300-1300 RPM
Heatsink Material 4 Direct Contact Heat Pipes, Aluminum Fins

Nickel-Plated Copper, Aluminium Fins

Nickel-Plated Copper, Aluminium Fins Nickel-Plated Copper, Aluminium Fins
Weight (with fans) 569g 1240g 900g 1060g

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I won't delve into the mounting hardware or installation of these coolers, as they have all been previously reviewed. Speaking of hardware, the SE2011 version of the NH-D14 tested here doesn't include a mount for Intel LGA115x processors, so an adapter is needed for those processors if you want the version with PWM fans (Noctua NM-i115x Mounting Kit - $7.99, Amazon).

Next up, we'll dive right into the performance numbers to see which cooler came out on top!

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September 19, 2016 | 01:24 PM - Posted by BlackDove (not verified)

I wish you had included the Intel(Delta) TS15A for reference. I bought one for my i7-6700K build and id like to see how it compares to the giant coolers i am always skeptical of.

September 19, 2016 | 10:26 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

That's an LGA1151 cooler.

September 25, 2016 | 03:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm sure he was referring to the 2011 counterpart the TS13A

September 21, 2016 | 01:53 AM - Posted by Kraaketaer

You should check out AnandTech's recent "Battle of the Stock Coolers" article. They compare (among other things) the TS15A, AMD Wraith, and a Hyper 212 Evo for reference. Long story short: besides the Wraith, nothing comes close to the Evo in neither thermals or acoustics, and all Intel coolers perform roughly the same when paired with their intended wattage (i.e. a 65W Intel stock cooler at a 65W load results in the same temps and noise as a 120w cooler at 120W load).

September 19, 2016 | 01:24 PM - Posted by nanoflower (not verified)

I wonder what the difference in performance would be if you added a second fan to the CM Hyper 212 EVO? It's bound to help some but is it enough to notice?

September 25, 2016 | 04:02 PM - Posted by fkr

on my old 2500k running @ 4.8 and 1.5 volts it makes almost no difference (it cannot keep up at 5.0 GHz). as I adjust the voltage down the best it will do is between 1-3C. In the end all that it really did is allow me to keep both of the fans running at a lower rpm to achieve the same cfm of air flow.

eventually you will just reach the heat dissipation ability of the amount of copper and aluminum that you have with a hyper 212.

September 19, 2016 | 03:25 PM - Posted by Tombo (not verified)

What about the SilentiumPC Fortis III cooler? It's even cheaper than the Hyper 212 Evo. I wonder how it compares to it

September 19, 2016 | 10:29 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I've never heard of it. Searching Newegg and Amazon show no results... Appears not to be available in the U.S.A.

September 19, 2016 | 08:25 PM - Posted by Paul A. Mitchell (not verified)

And, compare the spring-loaded machine screws
on these Intel HSF units:

September 19, 2016 | 08:32 PM - Posted by Jason Honingford (not verified)

Is it a problem that the 212 design is not completely flat on the plate that contacts the CPU? I had to reapply a couple times, finally settling on the dap in the center method, but my CPU always throttles down under load due to max temps. My next cooler will be a different brand for sure, or one with the thermal paste already applied.

September 19, 2016 | 10:35 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Which CPU is it that's throttling? I have found that AMD FX CPUs throttle based on some apparently pre-defined perameters (doesn't seem absolutely dependant on temps, either). In my use of the EVO with Intel CPUs I haven't had any throttling, but I haven't had temps hot enough to cause it (have never even seen 90 C with it).

Still, the EVO certainly isn't perfectly flat, and I imagine there are variances between units.

September 21, 2016 | 09:56 AM - Posted by Penteract (not verified)

I've seen a test done comparing flat vs convex vs concave cooler surfaces and the convex one was actually the best. In other words, if the cooler's mating surface is designed to contact in the center instead of being flat - and some of them are - that is a good thing. Temp variations were small so I wouldn't worry about it unless the outside of the cooler is touching before the center (concave). If that's the case you have a defective unit.

Otherwise, the only reason you should see thermal throttling with a 212 EVO is that 1) You forgot to install thermal paste or incorrectly applied it, or 2) You forgot to plug in the fan, or 3) your overclock attempt is too high. The 212 EVO isn't intended to be wring all the possible OC you can get but is generally good enough for moderate overclocks.

Other possibilities - questionable CPU, bad cooling in the rest of the case. Really, considering my experience and the huge number of people that love the EVO I think it's the least likely source of your problem. But then I'm not seeing your situation in person so can only guess. :)

September 19, 2016 | 10:04 PM - Posted by Bran (not verified)

The 212 is one of the best budget coolers on the market, but it's also a pain in the ass to install. Lol I would gladly pay an extra 5-10 bucks for a better mounting solution.

September 20, 2016 | 04:49 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

Thanks for this review, glad to see my good old 212+ is up to date. My 2 cents about this HSF is to change the single rattly fan to two decent push-pull fans. I have this config since a Core 2 Duo many many years ago and the cooler seems to be fine for a Broadwell-E, how good of an investment is that?

September 20, 2016 | 03:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I think, also size, weight and aesthetic important paremeters. 1240 gr and dual fun ugly Noctua not winner overall !! imo.
and not as silent as ninja.

September 20, 2016 | 05:27 PM - Posted by Lance Ripplinger (not verified)

Thanks for the great review! Very informative look at these coolers.

September 23, 2016 | 02:49 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak


September 21, 2016 | 08:27 PM - Posted by Ziete HellShadow (not verified)

why not tests against other old monsters like cm v10?

September 23, 2016 | 02:49 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

My collection is limited to more recent coolers. Besides those tested, I have a couple of low-profile air coolers and some AIO liquid coolers on hand.

September 26, 2016 | 12:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Would you run some of those AIO liquid coolers through the same tests in this review, to compare their performance vs. the air coolers? That would be some good perspective.

September 23, 2016 | 11:47 AM - Posted by Sean (not verified)

Typo in test platform specs box, should say i7

September 23, 2016 | 02:48 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Fixed! I don't think Intel has announced any i5 processors for X99 :)

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