Almost Everyone is Wasting Their Money On CPU Coolers

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No matter where you go, you’ll see people debating the amount of cooling you need to make sure your CPU runs fast. With power hungry GPUs and computer cases that go a little too heavy on tempered glass it is important to make sure that your Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor can run its best. But cooling can be expensive. So how much do you really NEED? Especially if you’re just gaming? Less than you think.

Discuss on the forum:

Check out the CPU Coolers in this Video:
Buy an AMD Wraith Prism RGB CPU Cooler:
Buy an Intel CPU Cooler:
Buy a Corsair H150i Elite CAPELLIX XT RGB Liquid CPU Cooler:
Buy a DeepCool LS320 120mm Liquid CPU Cooler:
Corsair iCue H100i Capellix Liquid CPU Cooler:
Buy a Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler:
NZXT Kraken X63 RGB 280mm Liquid CPU Cooler:
Buy a Thermalright Peerless Assassin 120 CPU Cooler:
Buy a Vetroo V5 CPU Cooler:
Noctua NH-L9a CPU Cooler:

Check out the Components of our Testing Rigs:
Buy a Lian Li LanCool PC-LAN216RW RGB ATX Mid-Tower Case:
Intel Core i5 13400 CPU:
Intel Core i5 13600K CPU:
Intel Core i9 13900K CPU:
AMD Ryzen 7 7700X CPU:
AMD Ryzen 9 7900 CPU:
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X CPU:
Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master Motherboard:
Gigabyte X670E Aorus Xtreme Motherboard:
G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB 6800MHz 34CL 2x16GB DDR5 RAM:
G.Skill Trident Z5 Neo RGB 6000MHz 30CL 2x16GB DDR5 RAM:
Samsung 980 Pro 2TB NVMe M.2 SSD:
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Ti FE GPU:

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MUSIC CREDIT
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Intro: Laszlo – Supernova
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Outro: Approaching Nirvana – Sugar High
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Intro animation by MBarek Abdelwassaa
Monitor And Keyboard by vadimmihalkevich / CC BY 4.0
Mechanical RGB Keyboard by BigBrotherECE / CC BY 4.0
Mouse Gamer free Model By Oscar Creativo / CC BY 4.0

CHAPTERS
—————————————————
0:00 Intro
1:01 Test Setup
3:47 Stock Coolers
5:30 Vetroo V5
6:21 Thermalright Peerless Assassin
8:40 Deepcool LS320
8:59 Partial Answer
9:19 When Expensive Coolers Make Sense
10:43 Corsair H100i
11:02 NZXT Kraken X63
12:19 Corsair H150i
12:35 Noctua NH-D15
13:52 Noctua NH-L9a/i
14:54 The Final Answer
16:48 Outro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YFR20MmvpM

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60 Comments

Layk

There’s a lot of evidence here. Shame, it’s wrong. RGB makes my PC run faster.

    ImperatorCaesarAugustus

    Am I the only one who really does not like RGB? I think it looks tacky

    Ryan Segovia

    RGB makes my brain run faster, which makes my PC run faster because my inputs are faster. Thus, better. Logic.

    Gai

    Same

    Techno243

    ​@CanadianBakin420Had to look it up, but this was the first time I have heard that alot is not a word. Never would have guessed.

    Techno243

    Did you add racing stripes, and flame decals for extra speed?

PerfmonX64

I picked up an original NH-D14 in late 2011, and it is still running in my work system to this day. I picked up an NH-D15 a few years back to go into my main gaming rig. I have never regretted buying either cooler. Over the years, Noctua has continued to make mounting adapters available for newer chipsets that further extend the life of the coolers. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

    555Custom

    Same here still got my nh-d14 ^^

    Dbug’s stuff

    Same here, bought the NH-D14 for my Core i7-2600K, kept it with the i7-4790k, and still using it now on my AMD 5950x.
    It was expensive, but it’s rock solid, silent, does not fall from the board (looking at you “stock intel cooler with the stupid plastic rotating thingies”), but yes, it’s ugly, but I don’t care because the PC is under the desk 😀

    buck choi

    ​@Flare my 2011 nhd14 is also still going strong. Just replaced a fan because it started making but more noise, still amazing how well it performs. Will probably last me 20 years at this point.

    Djuntas

    TRIED TO READ ALL THE COMMENTS; This was not mentioned but Noctua will re-fresh the NHD-15 apparently in Q4 this year. Its quit cool to see air coolers beating it these days anyway. But I recently bought one aswell for my new build 7800X3D, and I gotta say on AMD it was easy to install and understand. Using the y-splitter, the cables for 2 fans etc is quit long, and yes not much space for GPU which ended up causing me a lot of problems, which sadly turned into a broken pcie GPU clip…100% DO THIS: Buy a plastic ruler that’s long – Im dumb, don’t be me.

    Stevie Huppenbauer

    I own a NH-C14S and it was the best choice ever. While having him for years now, i get a new mounting adapter for my new system for free from noctua. This is how real premium should be. Greetings from Germany.

Ryan McMurphy

For me coolers are all about how well they can cool at lower decibels. It is that data that I keep waiting for. Would love a chart of most cost effective cooling at decibel level x, then y, and z.

    Fabi an

    My slow ryzen is totally silent having my gigantic noctua cooler. Would never go back. For me these coolers are all about noise first, performance second.

    King Kong

    People are talking about gamer suxkus who are not reliable at all. They don’t even have ah chamber

    drister007

    Then Noctua NH-D15 is your best cooler, thank me later. 🙂

    Moldy Shishkabob

    @drister007 Only for higher wattage CPUs.
    Peerless Assassin 120 is both cooler and quieter for lower wattages.

    drister007

    @Moldy Shishkabob I would neceserly say cooler and quiter, but Peerless Assassin 120 is also a good choice for lower wattage CPUs, yes.

pussnuts

NH-D15 is just such a fantastic cooler. I’ve used it in 3 build since 2017 and have never regretted it.

    mismagius

    It just looks so god damn ugly though

    RS Redbaron

    @Gameurai Blame that on airflow in case. Need more air out then in. Do you clean it much the dust filters (don’t forget PSU)? Make sure your cables are out of the way for air to flow. Check if you build it your self or bought it 2e hand and the other do that that all fans are blowing the right way maybe 1 or 2 are blowing air in and it need to be out. Dont have it on the ground under the table. Not to close to the walls and the side can breath?…etc. Or GPU makes it hotter. Or check what Fan profiel is picked.

    s n

    Been using it for some time as well. Tried AIO’s , a few of them. They were all too noisy, vs D15. Either the noise through the rad or the pump sound. I didn’t like the risk to the system as well.. for leak or corrosion + leak.

    Miles

    @Evilleader that’s not what the test said.

    Evilleader

    @Mandragara how many people will continue use the same cooler for 20 years lol? Technological innovation is a thing and Noctua no matter how good the cooler was when it was released will surely be oberthrown by cheaper and more modern coolers as we are starting to see.

Chris Monkman

You forgot to mention with the Noctua gear that they support new mounting brackets for older coolers – meaning that when you upgrade, the cooler can come with you.

    Beiranvand

    He said they are going to make a video about it :cooling a new cpu with the very first cooler noctua has ever made with new brackets.

    ThomasD66

    Yep, I love my TR 140 Spirit Power but an AM4/5 mounting bracket would be another $20 plus shipping when I upgrade

    Phil

    This is the reason I got an NHD-15 for my i5-10600k. Overkill? Definitely, but I can carry it forward when I upgrade to the 7800x3d later this year

    Coconut Strawberry

    not only that, but man, they are so much easier to install than cheaper, shittier coolers. they come with better packaging and instructions as well. I have a U12S and it was 100% worth it.

    Mijc Osis

    Still using a NH-U12P from over a decade ago on my 3900X

Mike McFarlane

Really great analysis of the different options. It’s so useful to get such a clear summary in what is a really confusing area.
Slightly off topic of coolers, but if you haven’t tried undervolting, it is another great way to drop temps and power consumption. I was experimenting with undervolting an i9-12900K last night, and without impacting performance or stability, dropped nearly 20degC from temps, and approx 40W from power consumption. Significantly better noise levels too. Might make a big difference in your cooler choice too.

V10S

A suggestion for the next part of this series:

Test the CPUs at a higher ambient temperature (like 30C or even higher) to help buyers who live in hotter climates make a more informative decision.
Some coolers that are passable at 21C won’t really cut it during summer time (the time when cooling matter most)

    Hoofprint

    Aussie summer my computer room hits 55C. aint stock cooler that can handle that.
    its proper water cooling or constant thermal shutdowns

    Fifferx

    @drister007 While there is truth to what you are saying, it is a bit misleading.

    It is true, that by design, modern cooling solutions will likely stick to that 1:1 ratio (or close). However, it’s because they are designed to do so.

    When ambient temperature goes up, the RPM of your fans also goes up. Meaning more energy is being used, to effectively give you the same amount of cooling. BUT, this has a cap, and is dependent on the cooling solution used. As soon as you hit your RPM limit, you will immediately fall away from that 1:1 ratio.

    So while we have data sources such as: https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/how-ambient-temperatures-affect-your-pc-158/

    That back up the 1:1 ratio. It isn’t exactly a one shoe fits all situation, and only exists because we have fan curves to ramp up to try and keep our components cool.

    With that said though, it is silly how many people misunderstand and believe that if they get better coolers that it will magically make their rooms cooler. NOPE! In fact, it’s almost always the opposite. The more cooling you are giving your CPU, the more energy you are likely required to use do so. Which in practice means more heat being pumped into your room. Which is why the only real way to keep your “game room” “cool, is either A) get AC or B) move your hardware outside of the room. Or an extreme C) Water cool your PC, but have it pumped from an external location (such as from the basement). Or… an even more extreme D) Use a cooling solution that pumps the heat of your CPU into another dimension/location in space-time.

    drister007

    @Fifferx Yes is it true as you said and no, it is not misleading at all. In reality 10 degrees hotter ambient air temperature results in approxiamately 10 degreees hotter CPU, that’s it. Even if computer would not increase RPM of the fan, that would still be true (approximaterly).

    “With that said though, it is silly how many people misunderstand and believe that if they get better coolers that it will magically make their rooms cooler. NOPE! ”
    YESSS, THISS, 100 % true! Coolness of the room depends of the power consumption of the computer, not the CPU and GPU cooling solutions choosen. Yeahh the “average Joe” is very stupid, no supprise there.

    drister007

    @Fifferx Some people also stupidly think that watercooling the CPU and GPU will result in their room beeing cooler, but that is NOT the fact at all! It is the opposite: watercooling have the additional water pump consumption, so in reality it will make the room a little hotter compared to Noctua NH-D15 air cooler.

    drister007

    @Fifferx That solution to pump the water OUTSIDE the room and have heat exchanger there (for example dumping the heat in the pool) would work, but 99,999 % do NOT do that, so that is irrelevant in reality. Also you can do the same with custom heatpipes (move the heat outside the room). In reality almost nobody dump the heat outside the room, so in reality water cooling will make your your HOTTER compared to air cooling (because there is rather small, but additional water pump power cosumption and power consumption means heat=increased heating of your room).

Mark A

Replaced the NH-D15 to Arctic Freezer 2 3x120mm when I upgraded my cpu from Ryzen 3700 to 5950. So far happy with it, cleaner look, higher boost for longer periods, and very quiet after fan upgrade. So happy but I was happy with the NH-D15 too apart from the looks.

Oi Mazzo

Bought a peerless assassin 1 year and a half ago after upgrading to a 5800x after seeing a bit the first reviews on it. The thing is pretty impressive for the cost for sure!

Pepijn Krijnsen

I’m so impressed with LTT for investing in their lab to make these tests possible.

    jonessii

    And it was all worthless since they didn’t noise normalize. Linus very smart and good with money.

    RWDtech

    Absolutely none of this testing required a lab since they didn’t noise normalize or use their temperature chamber to normalize ambient temperature for each system. You could do these tests yourself at home if you had all the components.

Umar Atlagh

I’ve used the peerless assassin in a few builds and gamers nexus did a deep dive into the cooler. In terms of performance coolers, it basically makes no sense to go with anything else unless you are stepping up to a 360mm.

    Muu

    @Umar Atlagh the none se has 2 fins more and 20g more.

    Andrew Frink

    ​@Umar Atlaghcan you show me an AIO that is still running 15+ years later? Can of air once a year and a new fan every 10 or so is the most I’ve ever needed for a air cooler.

    Umar Atlagh

    @Andrew Frink No an aio doesn’t last that long, but it also gives performance you can’t get with an air cooler. If you want an air cooler, get the peerless assassin. I wouldn’t buy the NH-D15 for it’s price when their performance is so similar

    Umar Atlagh

    @Muu Must have missed that. I was sure there wasn’t really a performance difference between the two, but there might be. The thermalright phantom spirit was recently launched and it looks like it may replace the peerless assassin but that is yet to be seen

    Don Valentino

    I see a lot of ppl still doesn’t know Thermalright released the PHANTOM SPIRIT 120 that wipe the floor with the NH-D15, I got one for 45€!

Dis236

A friend of mine in uni gifted me a NH-D14 in 2015 because he “upgraded” to an AIO. I’ve been using it ever since with zero issues and it’s been amazing!
If you’re reading this, thanks so much Alex! Your generosity has given me a cooler that I might never replace!

    Jason Groom

    Add to that, over 7-8 years, he has probably been through that AIO and likely another as well

    Xealous

    Your welcome 🙂

AT

Noise should have been tested here as well but I guess that comes with the new Lab. I have the noctua nh-u12a in a mITX on a 5800x overclocked. I adjusted the fan speed curve and on all tasks that dont require heavy load the cooler is basically noiseless. I also bought 2 noctua case fans with similar adjustment and its heaven.

pahbi1

As always, I’m glad for Linus and crew bringing us this kind of information.

For me, and I bet for many others, the choice to buy a aftermarket cooler wasn’t about cooling it was about noise.

Xaldin

I think it is important to also factor in temperatures of other countries.
For instance here in Japan it’s usually 30+ degrees with 70%+ humidity during summer, so for us a cooler IS required

STEENBRINK

Fantastic piece of content. The lab is imo the best thing you have ever done in this space by far. Keep it up

Prime_Comando

Love to see my Vetroo V5 make an appearnace. Bought it for my 5600x and been extremely happy with it. Only thing sucks is they’re getting to ahead of themselves and starting to creep up the price.

    Ralf Hoffmann

    Same combination here. The processor is so efficient and the cooler handles the rest great. I did replace the fan for a Noctua one though for noise reduction.

kasakka

I’d love to see a followup for some small form factor coolers with maybe just say the 13600K and 7700X as they are more reasonable for SFF. The Coolermaster NR200P, SSUPD Meshilicious/Meshroom and maybe a FormD T1 or Fractal Ridge are probably the most popular cases for this format each with unique limitations. NR200P can take a fairly hefty air cooler like the Thermalright PA120 SE or even larger so the smaller cases would be more interesting overall for checking eg Noctua L9 vs L12S vs 240 AIO and some others.

David’s Babel

I am sad that noise was largely omitted from testing. Many people (especially with SFF) keep their PCs on their desks next to them, so suddenly noise levels and perceived (!) noise levels make a big difference.

Nathan Peterson

Really interested to see actual decibel noise during testing as well. Running my pc gaming while my wife is on work calls is an important aspect for me.

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