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I am at the end stages of choosing parts for my PC but am finding it quite difficult to choose a CPU cooler since there is so much to take in. Should I go for a standard CPU cooler (with fans), a fanless one or water cooling?

I am considering either water cooling / fanless because they are both quieter than normal coolers. Would you recommend going for a water cooling system or a fanless cooler? My only concern with the water cooling is that if in some way it malfunctions, it might damage my other parts. Out of the three options I know they all have their positive and negatives but which one would you say is best?

  • CPU - Intel Core i5-6600K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Motherboard - Asus Z170-A ATX LGA1151 Motherboard
  • Memory - Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2666 Memory
  • Storage - Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
  • Case - NZXT H440 (Blue/Black) ATX Mid Tower Case
  • Power Supply - SeaSonic X Series 400W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular Fanless ATX Power Supply

Budget: Around £720 pounds (the parts listed above total £670 so the cooler is in budget as long as it is under £60 or there about).

Edit: listening to all of the feedback, I have decided to go with the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO as it seems to be the best option for me.

  • 3
    My feeling is that water cooling is overkill and you should go for fans, but my experience here is so limited that I can't stretch to recommending something. – ArtOfCode Oct 29 '15 at 14:31
  • Yes, I also had a feeling that water cooling is unnecessary, however I have read numerous reviews about top of the range fans which state that they are relatively noisy - I mainly want a quiet CPU cooler. – TOPCOD3R Oct 29 '15 at 14:32
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    It depends on what you are using your computer for. If you are doing any process intensive work, I would not recommend a fanless cooler. In order to cool effectively, they need a lot of surface area which is not available in many cases. – Cfinley Oct 29 '15 at 14:41
  • @BG_Programmer Do you plan on overclocking? You have an unlocked processor and motherboard. Also, do you have a preferred budget? – Rubyjunk Oct 29 '15 at 19:45
  • @ RubyJunk I do not plan on overclocking, and my budget for the cooler is maximum £60 - £70 – TOPCOD3R Oct 29 '15 at 20:06
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I don't recommend fanless or water cooling. Instead, I recommend Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO (which is a newer version of the 212 Plus I have).

Cooler Master 212 EVO

This is a very quiet fan. The specs say it's between 9-36 dBA. For me, it's quieter than the noise my video card generates. It keeps the CPU cool too. I don't have a "before" comparison, as it was installed when I built the machine, but I have had no issues with the temperature of the CPU. This is despite very processor intensive tests and real world work.

Newegg is selling this for $30, which Google is telling me is about £20.

  • 2
    The 212 Evo is a very, very large cooler. However, with the OP's case, this shouldn't be an issue. – tombull89 Oct 29 '15 at 18:58
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    Expanding slightly on @tombull89 's comment. The 212, and other similar 120mm tower coolers should fit in any case that puts a 120mm fan over the IO panel. At this point, that's most full size aftermarket tower cases; with 80/92mm fans in that region (and no minimal space between the side panel and expansion slots) are uncommon outside of OEM designs and thin cases that only support half height cards. Worries about heat sink fit in conventional towers is mostly only a problem with the even larger 140mm towers or if reusing an older case. – Dan Neely Oct 29 '15 at 19:27
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    +1 I actually just put this into my build that also uses the Core i5-6600K. I use a HAF 932 full tower case. The size wasn't a problem and there are no issues at all keeping the CPU cool while gaming. I'm not overclocking. My previous cooler was a stock liquid cooler and it leaked all over my old mobo, which is why I ended up with a new mobo/cpu. I lost faith in liquid coolers for regular use. If OP is going to do some big OC-ing, then LC is more of a concern. The new i5's are also on 14 nm dies vs the 22nm, which should generate less heat but I'm not sure how significant that is. – jmbertucci Oct 29 '15 at 22:07
  • +1 I also have one of these (on i5-4590k) and it is very, very quiet compared to, say, my old 60mm Pentium IV cooler. I cannot hear my 212 EVO over traffic noises outside (disclaimer: I live 200m from a main road). – Amziraro Oct 30 '15 at 9:13
  • I have the NZXT H440 Case along with the Hyper Evo 212, now this is quite a large Heat Sink. By looking at images of your motherboard it looks very similar to my Asus Maximus vii Ranger. The RAM slots are close to the CPU, and when the 212 is fitted it hangs over the first RAM slot slightly. I could not fit my high profile Corsair Vengeance modules into this slot with this cooler, so I had to use slots 2 and 4. So as a warning you may have to purchase low profile RAM if you are looking to upgrade in the future. As a side note, the heatsink is brilliant. Very quiet and keeps my OC I5 4690K cool – JostySpoons Oct 30 '15 at 11:50
9

This is a slightly more budget friendly option, which is according to the budget which was just edited in, the Noctua NH-D14.

This CPU cooler keeps temps pretty low, about 5*C higher on an i7-4770k than the NZXT Kraken x61 I mentioned above.

The NH-D14 is an air cooler available here, for 56 pounds.

Pros

  • Is an air cooler, and therefore does not have the probability to leak
  • Is within the budget
  • Is colder than the 212 evo

Cons

  • Not as cold as the Kraken x61
  • Looks ugly as heck
  • Is only 4 pounds lower than the budget.

  • 2
    Note that the NH-D14 is an enormous heatsink. You'll want to check the compatibility list to make sure it won't run into your video card, RAM, or mainboard heatsinks. – Mark Oct 29 '15 at 21:10
  • This or the EVO would both be great. Big air can be quieter than water in the right circumstances. On a stock i5, with decent case airflow, you could probably run this cooler fanless and it would be fine. With fans and a decent profile, you can definitely run the fans at minimums most of the time. – J... Oct 30 '15 at 12:40
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    I use this heat sink. CPU is at about 42 degrees C at idle and about 74 with all 6 cores at full load (i7-3960X CPU 3300MHz overclocked to 3600 MHz). But it also blocked one PCI-Express port and all memory is right under it. – h22 Oct 30 '15 at 18:38
5

The question was edited with a budget after I posted this answer.


If you are looking for something more fancy, something a bit quieter, and a lot colder, I recommend you check out the NZXT Kraken x61. I do not believe it fails very often, as it's been around for awhile and it's relatively popular, plus there are no negative reviews about the pump failing, so I'd say it's pretty safe. It is available for $140 USD on the official NZXT website.

You can get is from a 3rd party retailer $20 cheaper here.

Pros:

  • Variable pump speed (quiet when it needs to be)
  • A lot colder, good for overclocking and heavy load
  • Nicer looking (if you care)

Cons

  • More expensive than the other option
  • Has the possibility to leak, though unlikely

I say it all depends on your paranoia and budget.

NZXT Kraken

  • Good idea - this one is a bit over my budget so I will probably look into the slightly cheaper alternative, such as the X41 or X31. – TOPCOD3R Oct 29 '15 at 20:09
4

As an alternative to @rubyjunk, there is a similar water cooler made by corsair that includes usb control for only $100: the H100i.

I have personally had a H100i on an overclocked FX-8350 (125w TDP), and the maximum temperature I've seen has been 40 degrees.

I did have the 212 Evo previously, but I found that it got unreasonably hot on my rig.

  • The h100i has a reputation for being extremely ehm extremely noisy. BG_Programmer seems to want an extremely silent build. What is your experience w/ the h100i's noise level? Some reviews say it goes up to 60+dBA which is insane. – Rubyjunk Oct 30 '15 at 0:31
  • The fans in it are pretty lousy, yeah, I did end up swapping the fans out with some cheap low-noise ones. Probably not the most silent thing out there. I did find that even with almost no airflow the thing still keeps my 8350 cool enough, but that might not be true with higher-end processors. – 0xDBFB7 Oct 30 '15 at 1:10
  • The 8350 is 125 W. The 6600K won't be as hot, it's only 95 W. – timuzhti Oct 30 '15 at 2:43
3

I'm going to recommend the Be Quiet Shadow Rock Top Flow SR1 (£43). Be Quiet, like Noctua, specialises in making very, very quiet CPU coolers. The advantage of this particular cooler is that it also helps keep the motherboard components cool. Pulling air down greatly improves airflow around the motherboard. It's also more compact than the D14.

All three air coolers should be more quiet than the water coolers: The need for a pump in addition to fans negates the advantage of slower spinning fans. The amount of sound insulation in your case probably makes the difference negligible though.

  • I would recommend the Cryorig H7 as well, because it's a decent bit cheaper, and slightly better than the EVO in performance, but availability is an issue. – timuzhti Oct 30 '15 at 2:45
  • I have both the Be Quiet Dark Rock 10 and EVO and out of the two the Be Quiet cools better, looks better, and is more quiet. That said is is more pricey and a hell of a lot harder to install than the EVO. I have had no issues with the EVO aside from replacing the default fan with two better ones. – Gram Oct 30 '15 at 15:39

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