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Cooler Master's MasterAir Maker 8 CPU cooler reviewed

The CPU cooler goes 3D

A couple weeks ago, Cooler Master told me it would be sending us a new CPU cooler to review. "Neat," I thought, musing briefly about another Hyper D92-class heatsink, before filing away the tracking number and forgetting about it for a few days. When UPS showed up with an unexpectedly huge package, I had no idea what it was until I ripped it open and revealed the box for the equally huge MasterAir Maker 8 CPU cooler.

While this 6.8"-tall (or 172 mm) cooler may look like the average large tower heatsink from above, turning it over reveals a base plate unlike anything else out there. The MasterAir Maker 8 is the first cooler to implement Cooler Master's 3D Vapor Chamber base design. This design comprises four vertical heat pipes that are cast as part of the main vapor chamber. The bottom of the vapor chamber is then machined into the contact surface for the CPU's heat spreader.

For good measure, another four U-shaped heat pipes are soldered to the top of the main vapor chamber, for a total of eight. This design lets the Maker 8 pack more heatpipes than even the largest single-tower coolers from Noctua, Phanteks, and other heatsink makers. All that copper and aluminum adds up to a weight of 42 ounces, or 1.2kg. This is not an insubstantial item to hang off a motherboard.

Cooler Master includes two of its Silencio FP 140-mm fans with the MasterAir Maker 8. Unlike many heatsinks that use metal or plastic clips, the Maker 8's fans slide on and off using a pair of plastic rails with click-in retainers. Removing each fan is as simple as pushing in a pair of tabs at the base of the heatsink and sliding the fan up and off. The downside of this design is that each fan can only be used with the Maker 8. These fans light up with red LEDs when they're powered on. I don't mind the look, but other builders might appreciate the option to turn off the lights. For those who don't like the sound of the Silencios, Cooler Master also includes some 120-mm fan brackets that should work with spinners from many manufacturers.

One of the thoughtful touches on this cooler is an integrated set of cable-routing brackets on either side of the base of the tower. Instead of letting the fans' power cables go where they will, Cooler Master gives builders the option to route those cables to the side of the tower nearest their motherboards' CPU fan header. The issue with this design is that the fans still have to come off the tower during the installation process, and it might be difficult to get cables through these clips once the main tower is situated among today's heatsink- and fascia-laden motherboard sockets.

The "Maker" in the Maker 8's name means that one can swap the default smoked-plastic top plate for an included crinkle-coat metal affair that fully reveals the LED-illuminated Cooler Master logo at the top of the tower. Folks with 3D printers can also grab the schematics for one of these plates and customize it to their hearts' content. Mere mortals will probably just appreciate the aesthetic choice on offer here.

The Maker 8 may be a single-tower air cooler, but it's not priced like one. Cooler Master's suggested price for this tower is a whopping $130, $30 to $40 more than the most expensive air coolers from other manufacturers on Newegg today. Given this eyebrow-raisingly-high price, we're expecting great things from the Maker 8. Let's see how it performs.