Hello and welcome back to the last installment of the AM3 round up for this half of the year. Over the last year, we have done a number of cooler reviews on the AM3 platform and this review will look to add to these results. But before we begin, we would like to thank Noctua and Thermalright for helping us to put this extensive shootout together.
Over the last two years, there have been a number of changes in the rankings of the top air coolers. The TRUE was at the top for a long time before the Megahalems came along. The Megahalems held on to the top spot for a while, but then it saw some intense competition from a number of new products, mainly the Thermalright Venomous X, the Noctua NH D14 and then later from the Cogage Arrow. The last year has seen a lot of competition for the top spot, with some innovative designs and ideas coming into play as well. Today, these three are widely regarded as the top dogs of air cooling and we are going to take a look at these, plus another four coolers to see who will take the top spot. Most of us have seen these coolers fight it out for the top spot on the various Intel platforms, but we rarely see an AM2+/AM3 shootout, even though the Phenom II line up has had considerable success in the market. This review should help all AMD users in making a better decision when looking for a new high end cooler.
Let’s take a look at the seven competitors for today’s shootout:
1. Thermalright TRUE RevC
2. Noctua NH D14
3. Cogage Arrow
4. Thermalright Venomous X
5. Thermolab Baram
6. Coolink Corator DS
7. Corsair H50
We have a nice looking list which comprises of three twin tower coolers, each working on a different idea, three single tower coolers and one closed loop water cooling setup.
Now lets take a short look at the three new entrants before moving on to the test bed. For the other four, please check previous reviews in this section.
The TRUE Rev C has been one of the all time greats in the air cooling world and it was important for us to add this to our list of coolers, simply to see whether it still had enough to run with the top dogs. The new Venomous X is a reincarnation of the Rev C, and both share a lot of features with each other. Let’s take a look at the specifications before going ahead:
* Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme Ready
* Intel Core i7 Ready
* AM2 & AM3 Ready
* Quiet and powerful cooling due to multiple heat pipes and large aluminum fin area
* Proprietary bent winglet design to minimize airflow resistance
* Heat pipes soldered to base (nickel plated)and fins for optimum heat transfer
* Includes thermal paste Chill Factor
* Dimension: L63.44 x W132 x H160.5 mm (heatsink only)
* Weight: 790g (heatsink only)
* Recommended Fan: All 120mm
* INTEL: LGA775/LGA1366/LGA1156 (Optional)
* AMD: Socket AM2 / AM2+ / AM3 Processor
The TRUE comes in a plain brown box with only the name written on it. All of Thermalright’s products used to be packaged in the same way till the Venomous X came along. Once we open the box, we are greeted by the cooler itself along with a box of accessories.
The cooler itself traveled all the way from Taiwan. Since it reached me without a single scratch or dent, I am pretty happy with the kind of safety that this package ensures to the product. Let’s now take a look at the list of accessories. As you may remember, the company decided to go all out with the kit on the TRUE Rev C and included every possible piece of equipment other than a fan.
The only thing that I can think of that would be good for this kit is an additional set of fan clips. Other than that, Thermalright have got the setup spot on and I wish they had carried this forward to the Venomous X and included the AM2+/AM3 bolt through kit with it as well.
The cooler itself is a massive piece of work and weighs in at a pretty impressive 790 grams, and that’s without a fan attached. It follows the design of the previous versions of the TRUE, so there’s not much to discuss on that front. The fins are evenly spaced out and as has been proven, it should do a good job with even low pressure fans. It has six 6mm heat pipes to help dissipate the heat and they seem to do a good job going by the results. The heat pipes are staggered, to allow for maximum airflow to reach each individual heat pipe.
The overall fit and finish is not as good as a Noctua product and as you can see from the base below, it’s a bit rough when compared to the finish on the newer coolers we see these days. The base has a slight curve to it and this is actually by design to improve performance.
I wish Thermalright would spend more time on the final finish as this is a common complaint that I have against all the coolers that the company makes. The base on the TRUE still has the scuff marks from machining and a nice shiny chrome finish would have looked much better here.
The cooler is a bit painful to install on an AM2+/AM3 platform as you do need to make sure that your motherboard is outside the case. Secondly, the cooler tends to move a bit even with screws all the way down and you do need to move it around a bit even during installation. The same installation is carried on to the Venomous X and the Cogage line up. Thermalright should look at a better mounting system that is more user-friendly.
Lets now move on to the Noctua NH D14.
Let’s take a look at this beautiful piece of engineering from Noctua.
The NH D14 has been hailed across various forums as the cooler to beat and it comes into this round up with some massive expectations. It has been topping the charts over the last few months and it certainly appears that this is one cooler you need to keep your eye on. First we’ll start with the specifications:
Noctua NH-D14 Heatsink Specifications:
* Socket compatibility: AM2, AM3, 775, 1156 and 1366
* Height (with fan): 160mm
* Width (with fan): 140 mm
* Depth (with fan): 158mm
* Weight (with fan): 1070/1240g
* Material: Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
* 1x NF-P14 premium fan
* 1x NF-P12 premium fan
* 2x Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.) Y-Split Cables
* NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
* SecuFirm2 Mounting Kits
* Fan compatibility: 140x140x25 & 120x120x25mm
Fan Specifications – Noctua NF-P14 & Noctua NF-P12:
* Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm
* Bearing: SSO-Bearing
* Blade Geometry: Straight-Blade-Design
* Rotational Speed: 1200 / 1300 RPM
* Rotational Speed w/ ULNA: 900 / 900 RPM
* Airflow: 64.7 / 54.3 CFM
* Airflow w/ ULNA: 41.7 / 37.3 CFM
* Acoustical Noise: 19.6 / 19.8 dBA
* Acoustical Noise w/ ULNA: 13.2 / 12.6 dBA
* Input Power: 1.2 / 1.08 W
This is a great example of a complete setup, with the fans as well as every single mounting accessory thrown in. At this price, this package is hard to beat. The cooler is also way easier to install as compared to the Thermalright line up. Let’s now take a look at the packaging.
The cooler comes in an attractive box with a picture of the cooler as well as a few lines on the most important features. Once we open the box, we are greeted by the accessories box, under which lies the cooler, safely packaged in two sets of cardboard boxes.
The accessories for the NH D14, as mentioned earlier, leave nothing out. You get a whole kit, including a set of two fans.
Noctua also added a screwdriver to make it easier to install the cooler. Once we take the cooler out of the box, the first thing that hits you is it’s size and weight. All put together, with the fans, this cooler weighs in at close to 1.24 kilos and that’s no joke.
The cooler comes installed with both fans, and only the middle 140 mm needs to be removed for installation of the cooler. Now we’ll take the fans off and take a closer look at the cooler itself.
This cooler is simply massive. The primary components here are the six 6mm heat pipes, which are evenly coated in chrome. The heat pipes run in such a way as to make sure that each and every one of them gets direct airflow from the fans. This helps to cool down the heat pipes much faster. Again, the fins have sufficient space between them to provide good cooling even with medium pressure fans. The whole idea of this cooler is to give great results with relatively low noise.
Looking at the NH-D14 from the side, we can see that the cooler only has place for a 25mm fan here and that is a bit of a disappointment. What is not, is the absolutely wonderful finish of the cooler itself.
As you can see, the cooler comes completely prepared for mounting with even the fan dampeners in place.
The base is finished in chrome and comes with a slight curvature. Again, this is a due to the design and Noctua does not advise any lapping to the base.
Overall, it’s got quite a few positives going into the test, including the wonderful finish of every single part and the fact that its a complete package. The only thing missing is an extra set of fan clips and you can mount only a maximum of two fans with the included kit. Also, taking the clips off of the fans is a bit of a task in itself, so be prepared to spend some time if you want to change the fans out. The clips will also hold only open corner fans, so I had to use rubber bands to keep the GT’s running on them.
Keep in mind that the installation may be very simple, but it will block any ram with large heat sinks. Luckily I am using an OCZ platinum kit and that helped in making things easier. You will want to install the ram before the cooler as otherwise there is barely any space to work with. Overall, it is a much easier install than the Thermalright coolers.
Lets now move on to our third new comer.
The Cogage Arrow came in as a wild card entry and was not supposed to be a part of this shoot out to begin with. But with the rave reviews that it has been getting across the globe, we were more than happy to put it on the test bench. The Cogage is a twin tower cooler with the added advantage of being able to accommodate a 32mm fan in the center. We did do some testing with a 32mm fan on all the coolers, but since this one was able to get it in the right spot, the results really showed. Here are the specifications before going ahead:
* 4 X 8mm large sintered heat-pipes efficiently remove excessive heat away from the CPU, allowing for great Overclocking potential
* Nickel Plated Base and Heatpipes, increase the longevity of the heatsink by slowing oxidation and deterioration rates… maintained performance over time
* Double fin stack design, provides each tower with an impressive 147 x 103mm of surface area for heat dissipation
* Special Arrow fin design, which allows cool air to pass through while rapidly moving heat away and maintaining a quiet operating volume
* Soldered Heat-pipes, Fins and Copper Base, ensure all components maintain the higest of Thermal Efficiency
* Support for Multiple-Platforms: Intel Socket 1366/1156/775 and AMD Socket AM2/AM2+/AM3
* Includes a Quiet 120 x 25mm PWM controlled fan 1000-1800 rpm
* Capable of supporting up to three fans (2x 120x25mm or 140x25mm fans) for the Ultimate Enthusiast (1x 120x38mm fan will fit between the two towers)
* Cooler Dimensions: Length 147mm x Width 123mm x Height 160mm
* Cooler weight: 825 g (excluding Retention Hardware and Fan)
* Heat-pipe: 4, 8mm Sintered Heat-pipes
* Cooler Base Material: C1100 Pure Copper with Nickel Plating
The cooler comes with a full setup, but unfortunately it does not include an AM3 mounting kit. It however does include three pairs of fan mounting clips and that’s a big plus point right there.
The Cogage Arrow comes in a nice black box with the picture of the cooler dominating the front.
The box clearly says that this cooler is made for a variety of Intel socket types, but you can use the same AM2+/AM3 bolt through kit to get this running on an AMD setup as well. Once we open the box, we are greeted by a cardboard placeholder which holds both the cooler as well as all the accessories that go with it. Lets take a quick look at the accessories before going ahead.
The accessories list is quite extensive as you can see and it comes with everything other than the AM3 mounting kit. The fan is pretty decent, but we will not be using it for the testing up ahead. Overall, the kit is in line with what we get from Thermalright, which makes sense.
The fan is held securely between the two towers and overall the packaging, though not as flashy or well done as the Noctua, did a good job in keeping the products secure.
The cooler itself is a twin tower design, with the capacity to hold a 38mm fan in the middle slot. So, an overly extreme setup can be done with 3 X 38mm fans. This is achieved in almost the same dimensions as the Noctua by keeping the towers a little smaller in depth.
This cooler is different from the previous two in that it makes use of four large 8mm heat pipes rather than six 6mm. The fins are also more closely spaced and a high pressure fan will be required to bring out the best in them. The fit and finish, while not up to Noctua’s mark is pretty decent. The heat pipes are placed in such a way as to make sure that all of them get the best possible air flow and this helps in the final analysis.
The base is very similar to the Venomous X, and again, has a small curvature in the center by design. The sample we got had a small line on one side, but that did not affect it’s performance in any way.
Overall it is a much better made cooler than the TRUE, but there is room for improvement in the finish and the package as a whole.
The cooler is as difficult to install as the TRUE or the Venomous X, as it uses the exact same mounting system. Due to the size, it is recommended to take the motherboard out of the case, as a run away screwdriver can cause a whole lot of issues to your board. The fan clip system needs to be installed before you install the cooler as it is very difficult to install this with no way of looking at the bottom of the cooler.
Lets now move on to the test setup.
The test setup will be the same as with the previous reviews and we will look at three mounts per cooler. The best of the three results will then be taken as the final result. Each cooler will be tested at stock clocks and an overclock of 4Ghz at 1.525V. The test will be run on OCCT for 30 minutes per test.
The results will be calculated with a base ambient and additions and subtractions will be made to the results taking this number. So if the base ambient is 25 degrees, then a cooler tested at 27 degrees will have 2 degrees deducted from its final readings. All testing will be done in a closed case environment.
Now moving on to the test bench, which will remain the same for all the coolers that we have tested so far and for a few more in the near future.
CPU: AMD 965 BE @ 3.4Ghz (1.30V) and 4Ghz (1.525V), CPU NB @ 2.6Ghz (1.20V)
Memory: OCZ 1600Mhz Platinum @ 1333Mhz 1.65V
Thermal Paste: Arctic Cooling MX-3
Motherboard: MSI GD70 790FX
PSU: OCZ Modextreme 700W Modular
Case: Coolermaster Sniper with 3X120, 1X200 Intakes and 3X120 Exhausts
GPU: Sapphire 5850 @ Stock
Fans: 2 X Scythe Gentle Typhoons 1850 in Push/Pull
Moving on to the main part of the review. Let us first take a look at the results at 3.4 Ghz, 1.30V.
Kicking off at stock clocks with a slight under volt, the Coolink Corator DS gets the lowest idle temperatures at 29.5 degrees. This is closely followed by the Noctua and the Cogage Arrow. Our contender from a previous generation, the TRUE comes in at last place in the idle test.
Moving on to the load results, the lowest temperature was recorded using the Cogage Arrow, with the Venomous X coming in at a close second. The Noctua rounds up the top three, and the Thermalright Rev C manages to beat the Thermolab Baram in the load test, but only by a whisker to take 6th place.
If we look closely at these figures, we will see that the difference between the best and the worst cooler on load at stock settings is a very meager three and a half degrees. So for anyone planning a mild overclock, any of these will do just as well as the other and be a lot more quiet than the stock AMD heat sink.
Now let’s turn the heat up and separate the men from the boys.
I am sure this is the part of the review that most people want to see, so here we go.
The NH-D14 leads the pack in terms of idle temperatures at just 34.5 degrees, with the Venomous X and the Coolink following closely behind. The total difference between the best and the worst temperature is around 3.5 degrees, which again is not that high.
When we move on to the load tests, surprise surprise, it’s the Cogage Arrow which leads the pack with a load temperature of just 56.5 degrees. It is closely followed by the Noctua in second place with a temperature of 57.3 degrees with the Venomous X rounding off the top three at 58 degrees. The difference between the top and bottom spots now opens up to around 5 degrees. The Corsair H50 comes in at last place with a maximum recorded temperature of 63 degrees.
The Cogage Arrow was the surprise package, beating it’s more well known sibling the Venomous X, as well as the Noctua NH-D14. Keep in mind that the temperature difference amongst the top three is around 1.5 degrees, but all the same, the Cogage Arrow is the new top dog for the AMD platform.
The Noctua comes in second to the Cogage and the Thermalright Venomous X comes in at a not too shabby third. The Venomous X manages to beat the third twin tower cooler, the Corator DS, as well as the other three coolers that we tested. For a single tower cooler, this is not bad at all and for those looking for that extra bit of space on their motherboards, this would be the top cooler for now.
The Cogage Arrow receives the TechREACTION.net Gold Silicon Award!
But if I were to buy a new cooler today, space not being a constraint, I would happily go for the Noctua NH-D14, simply because of it’s overall package, ease of installation and the fact that it comes with a good set of fans. The Noctua is still a bit ahead of Thermalright in terms of their build quality and ease of use and that’s one reason that they will see me coming back to them in the future. For now, I’m back to my Venomous X, which gives me top rate performance at probably half the size.
The Noctua NH-D14 receives the TechREACTION.net Gold Silicon Award!
The TRUE is clearly showing its age and finishes near the bottom in both the tests. But it does manage to edge out the H50 in the final test and that’s the number that we are more interested in.
All of the coolers we tested were able to keep the CPU within it’s thermal limits, but when it comes to the final few Mhz that we need for a benchmark attempt, it’s the top three that will go the distance.
Finally, coming to the price, the Noctua rightfully charges close to $85-$90 depending on where you shop, with the Venomous X and the Cogage Arrow both at the $65-$70 price mark. Remember to keep an extra $10 for the AMD mounting kit though. Taking this into consideration, all three coolers from the top three cost nearly the same. The Baram is the cheapest cooler we used in this review and it comes in at around $40, which makes it a great value proposition.
Thank you for reading and I hope this review helps you in making the right cooling choice.