Are you shopping for a CPU cooler and want to know how to determine which CPU coolers run the coolest or are the quietest? Here are some simple, logical methods you can do find the best choice with just a computer with an internet connection.
If you are in the market for a CPU cooler for a custom PC, then more than likely, you are probably interested in PC hardware like me. In that case, these methods can be generalized for basically any kind of PC hardware or anything where performance can be measured.
- Generate rankings
- In action
1. Look for reviews that compare different products to each other.
This should probably be the first step for anyone comparison shopping on the internet since it is the easiest way to quickly get familiar with the market. Unlike many conventional methods, the method talked about here will not need reliable raw numbers such as temperatures or noise levels, just a comparison to other products based on these numbers. Sources I find to be the best are from Youtube in the form of roundups or reviews from tech channels such as Gamers Nexus, Linus Tech Tips, Hardware Canucks, Optimum Tech, and many, many more.
2. Compile the lists.
The next step is to combine all of the benchmarks that other people have done. This step can be more time consuming since you may need to transcribe figures from Youtube videos or images.
3. Reorder the coolers based on whatever you are looking for.
If you are looking for a quiet cooler, sort the coolers you compiled earlier by noise levels. If you’re looking for performance, then sort them by temperature under load. Now that you have comparative data, you can sort the coolers based on all the comparisons you’ve gathered.
For example, if you know from a source that the Noctua NH-D15 performs better than an NH-U15S, and you know that a 360mm water cooler is better than the D15, you can infer that the water cooler is a better performer than the U15S as well.
Inferring performance in action
Here’s an example of how I used this method to find my air cooler. In my case, I wanted to find an air cooler that has the best thermals with the least noise that will fit in my Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic.
First, I need to find a couple CPU cooler comparisons of all the good coolers on the market.
Hardware Canucks is an excellent resource for this. They have a standardized testing methodology, so you can rest assured the comparisons between different coolers can be trusted.
Here are some charts from various cooler reviews that contain temperature and noise levels.
Since these are all from the source, lets say you wanted to also see some coolers that weren’t covered by you source of preference.
Here is the Scythe Mugen 5, a cooler that was never covered by Hardware Canucks, but was benchmarked by Greg Salazar on Youtube. His channel also focuses on computer hardware and, although not as big as Hardware Canucks, can also be trusted. Regardless of whether the source is reliable or not, though, the comparison to other popular coolers are still valid, which lets us infer performance and noise levels compared to the other coolers we were looking at.
Now that we have all the benchmarks we need, lets compile them into a page where we can then compare all of them to each other. Be sure to create a new dataset for each chart even if its the same cooler from the same source since the testing conditions may be different between different reviews.
Since I will be transcribing the images, I will use an Excel sheet since that seems to be the easiest way.
Sort based on available fields
From this, I can make inferences about coolers in different datasets and generate a ranking of the coolers based on either temperature or noise.
Here is an example of the though process of ranking the Hyper 212 among the others: “the Hyper 212 BE is 3.1 dB louder than the NH-U12A, but the MA620M is 2.6 dB louder than the NH-U12A, so the 212 is probably louder than the MA620M.” By repeating these guesses, you can get an approximate list of how different coolers perform compared to each other even if they are never directly compared.
Here are my results:
|NZXT Kraken X62||1|
|Cooler Master MA620M||6|
|Scythe Fuma 2||7|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4 Pro||10|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4||11|
|Scythe Mugen 5||12|
|Hyper 212 BE||13|
|Scythe Fuma 2||4|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4||6|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4 Pro||7|
|NZXT Kraken X62||8|
|Scythe Mugen 5||9|
|Cooler Master MA620M||12|
|Hyper 212 BE||13|
Since I value noise and performance, I can simply add the temperature and noise rankings of every cooler to get a combined score. The lower the score, the better.
|NZXT Kraken X62||9|
|Scythe Fuma 2||11|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4||17|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4 Pro||17|
|Cooler Master MA620M||18|
|Scythe Mugen 5||21|
|Hyper 212 BE||26|
Picking the cooler
Finally, I have a list of the best performing CPU coolers with the least noise. Now I can pick the cooler based on price, aesthetics, or compatibility. My case, the PC-O11 Dynamic, only supports CPU coolers that are less than 155mm tall. This unfortunately means that a lot of the coolers in this list are automatically disqualified.
|NZXT Kraken X62||9||N/A|
|Scythe Fuma 2||11||154.5|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4||17||159.4|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 4 Pro||17||162.8|
|Cooler Master MA620M||18||165|
|Scythe Mugen 5||21||154.5|
|Hyper 212 BE||26||158.8|
From this list, I can see the best cooler for my setup is going to be the Scythe Fuma 2 since it is the best scoring cooler that fits in the 155mm space that isn’t a liquid cooler. Choosing air over liquid cooling is a personal choice of mine since I prefer to have more reliable parts in my PC.
So now that you know how to do your own research on CPU coolers, you can generalize this method to whatever item you are wanting to buy.