As you may have noticed, we're big proponents of comparative performance testing here at TR. There's perhaps no better way to evaluate a product's strengths and weaknesses than seeing how it stacks up against the competition. With that in mind, I've gotta give a shout out to an excellent CPU cooler round-up published by Hardware.Info. The article compares the cooling performance, noise levels, and overall efficiency of 33 different heatsinks from a range of manufacturers.
The lab geek in me is particularly impressed with the test rig used for the comparison. Hardware.Info strapped each cooler to a CPU simulator that purportedly replicated the exact heat signatures of Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge-E processors. Each cooler was asked to dissipate 65, 95, and 125W, and the LGA2011-compatible units were also given 130 and 160W loads. Testing was conducted with the fans running at a full-tilt 12V speed and a slower 7V level.
There's far too much data to summarize succinctly, so I encourage you to check out the full article. A few interesting things jump out at me, though. The temperature deltas between the best and worst solutions range from 15-29°C, and that's without a stock cooler thrown into the mix. The differences between the quietest and loudest solutions are also quite wide: 28-32 db, depending on the fan speed. Hardware.Info quantifies the efficiency of each cooler using the product of its temperature and noise level for each configuration, which produces some interesting results.
In the end, a handful of coolers stood out. The Cooler Master TPC-800 (which was tested with a Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan), Cooler Master Hyper 412S, and Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 earned gold awards, while the Noctua NH-D14, Be Quiet! Dark Rock Advanced C1, DeepCool Deptwin, and Gelid Tranquilo Rev. 2 took home silver.