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Installation
The MasterAir Pros each come with two sets of mounting systems: a rather complicated X-brace-and-bracket system for all recent AMD and Intel sockets, and a screw-on push-pin system for Intel LGA 115x and LGA 775 sockets. That push-pin system should work fine for the 390-gram (0.8-lb) MasterAir Pro 3, but I'd be wary of asking it to hold the 472-gram (one-pound) mass of the MasterAir Pro 4. Builders will probably want to install this cooler with its X-brace system instead.

That X-brace appears identical to the notoriously complex one used to secure the Hyper 212 Evo. I have to wonder why Cooler Master didn't take this opportunity to standardize the mounting system used among its various coolers. The Hyper D92 and MasterAir Maker 8 both include a superb, easy-to-use mounting system that's a snap to install. I'd have loved to see that system come to a Hyper 212 Evo-class cooler, but CM didn't seem to feel that move was justified in this generation of products.

Despite my long run of building PCs, I've never actually had the pleasure of installing a Hyper 212 Evo. After using the MasterAir Pro 4, however, I can see why those instructional videos exist. The foundation of the system comprises four bolts that drop through the motherboard from front to back. The threaded ends of those bolts pass through ears on a universal bracket, and four nuts secure the bolts to the bracket from the rear of the motherboard.

This system practically requires the motherboard to be held vertically in order to get everything on properly. Flip the board over to put the bracket on, and the bolts fall out. Keep the motherboard socket-side up, and the bracket just falls off the bolts. When the board is held vertically, the bolts stay in place just well enough that it's possible to slip on the bracket and install the bolts on the back of the board.

Builders will want to be careful of the way they drop these bolts into position—one side of the bolt has a flat on it that corresponds to the flat side of the ear on the accompanying bracket. Mess up this alignment, and the bolt may not drop into position fully. I made this error on the initial installation of the Pro 4, and it negatively affected cooling performance. After installing the bolts in the proper position and performing a thorough re-tightening of the nuts on the base of the cooler, I observed improved performance from the Pro 4.

Did you put your motherboard in your case to hold it vertically while you put on this bracket? Well, get ready to take it out again—or at least, turn the system on its side—because the X-brace isn't secured to the cooling tower in any way. I found it impossible to hold both the X-brace and the tower in place while also screwing in any of the brace's four mounting bolts with the system in a vertical orientation. Builders also need to be careful that an alignment cut-out on the X-brace and a pin on the top of the Pro 4's base are mated properly before performing the final tightening of the four screws on the brace. Mess up this step, and it'll be immediately obvious—the brace will be quite crooked.

The Hyper 212 Evo has a reputation for needing a third hand during installation, and the MasterAir Pro 4 doesn't do anything to dispel that perception. With my PC on its side, I was able to get the brace screwed down easily enough. I'm still scratching my head as to why Cooler Master didn't just engineer this cooler with one of its more recent mounting systems, though.

The MasterAir Pro 3, in contrast, goes on with a literal snap. Once the four Intel-stock-cooler-style push pins are screwed onto its base, installation is as simple as pushing down until one hears the click. Effortless.

The MasterAir Pro 4's non-offset fin stack means it'll interfere with the first DIMM slot on many Z170 motherboards. The fan's clip-on system means it can be moved upward to avoid interfering with memory in that first slot, at least.

The Pro 4 doesn't encroach on the airspace of the first PCIe slot of our test motherboard, and it shouldn't cause problems for boards with PCIe x16 slots in the first slot position, either.

Thanks to its offset design, the Pro 3 doesn't interfere with any of the memory slots on our Z170 testing board. Builders looking to fill all of the memory slots on their boards shouldn't run into any issues with this cooler.

To nobody's surprise, the Pro 3 doesn't interfere with the first PCIe slot, either. As stock cooler replacements go, the Pro 3 doesn't require builders to make any tradeoffs for its increased size and cooling capacity versus a boxed Intel heatsink.

Now that we've thoroughly kicked the tires of these coolers, let's see how they perform with a CPU underneath.