Gelid Tranquillo - £25
This is a full tower cooler with four 6mm heat pipes without direct touch and fin stack which, for once, didn't feature blood-letting edges. It also caters for the usual suspects of AMD and Intel chips.
There's a fair bit of hyperbole on the box about intelligent fans, high airflow and optimised fan blades (what are the rest using then?).
The design is certainly very plain, but shows signs of some thought, there's a cheek piece on one side to deflect air away from your graphics card, for example. The fixings are of above average quality: heavy backplates and screws with nice big slots and knurled edges.
You can even get at the main screw heads from directly above all round, which is more than many can manage. Performance under full load lags a little behind the rivals, the smaller heat pipes playing a part perhaps, but nothing to cause undue concern.
It's the price that seals the deal, its good, easy to fit and it is good value. We like.
Noctua NH-D14 - £65
This Austrian-designed beast is in a different league to the others here. For a start it boasts two fin stacks and two fans. The quality of engineering is superb, from the solid, easy to use fittings for all possibilities, right through to the colour instructions. Even the thermal paste is 'award-winning' gunk.
The Noctua looks the business, in a no-nonsense way too, only the hospital beige coloured fans spoil the party here.
It cools beautifully, as well it should. One word of warning though, the sheer size means you'll probably be covering a RAM slot and with just 53mm clearance your stick's heat spreader could spoil the fun, as it did in our test rig.
We were even pleased by the price of the Noctua. It is expensive for sure, but considering the quality that's on offer it ain't too bad either. If you need more robust cooling and are looking for something that puts substance over all other considerations, this comes very highly recommended.
Cooler Master Hyper 101 PWN Universal - £12
Now this just isn't fair. The Hyper 101 isn't really designed for the full fruitiness of a i7 920's LGA 1366, but it fitted our tests system and was in the office, so what the heck. It's really meant for AMD K8, AM2/3 and LGA 755 and 1156 boards, hence the 'Universal' tag.
Next to the mightily tower of fins here, it is a wee beastie. It does have direct touch for the two heat pipes, which is good at this price.
The Intel fixings are not a masterpiece of design and involved plastic push-pins, nuff said. At least the fan slides off easily and it comes with a set of brackets for a second fan on the other side.
It couldn't keep our test system as cool as the big chaps and its no wonder. It was stable, despite having a maximum TDP of 95W and a i7 920 pushing out a theoretical maximum of 130W, but it was a tad too hot for comfort under load.
We want a wider margin than that for peace of mind. It goes to show that you do need to fit proper specified coolers.
Artic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro REV. 2 - £17
The Revision 2 nomenclature here means LGA 1156 compatibility added alongside pretty much every other standard. On paper it should cope with our i7 920 despite the cooler's relatively diminutive size.
It has three 6mm heat pipes, which did have us wondering if it was really up to the task in hand. The 9cm PWM fan fits neatly over one side and it mounted on rubber springs. It also boasts a 'unique mounting system', which is no great loss to the rest of the world because it's nothing special.
It includes a mounting bracket secured by push-pins which don't like being removed much. The cooler then screws down onto this with inadequate-looking screws.
Despite our misgivings it coped with the 920 perfectly adequately, so it is an efficient design. It's good value, lovely and quiet, and has a solid reputation, but its size counts against it for more demanding applications.
If that's your path then you'll need to go bigger. Otherwise, it's the pick of the wee ones.
Benchmarks for the coolers
First published in PC Format Issue 242
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