Stock-clocked cooling performance
Here are the test results from each cooler, plotted over time:
And here are some minimum and maximum numbers from each testing phase:
As these numbers demonstrate, both of these coolers are overkill on our stock-clocked Core i5-6600K. Neither one has the least bit of trouble keeping our CPU chilly, even under our grueling Prime95 load. Let's see if our noise results widen the gap.
Here are some minimum and maximum noise levels from each cooler on our stock-clocked CPU, collected at idle and under load. For reference, the noise floor in my office (according to my iPhone) is about 27 dBA.
The MasterAir Maker 8 produces slightly less noise than the Nepton 240M at idle. Under load, however, the Nepton only gets one dBA louder, while the Maker 8 has to rev up a little more to compensate. That's demonstrated by its 34-dBA noise levels under load. Neither of these coolers are loud, but the Nepton's more-or-less constant noise levels fade into the background better than the Maker 8's.
Even on a stock-clocked CPU, the noise character of the Maker 8's fans is just OK. At idle, these 140-mm spinners are practically inaudible, but they get a tad growly as they ramp up that tiny bit under load. I wouldn't call the noise unpleasant, but it is obvious. I was hoping for a better performance here given the Maker 8's price. Meanwhile, the Nepton 240M is practically silent at all times save for the minor hum from its pump.
Neither of these coolers are necessary if you want to quiet down a stock-clocked CPU, though. Cooler Master's more compact Hyper D92 is more than enough cooler to do that job. The MasterAir Maker 8 and Nepton 240M are targeted at those who want to crank up the clocks on their CPUs, and in keeping with that mission, let's see how they do in an overclocking face-off.
To see how much performance the MasterAir could wring out of our Core i5-6600K CPU, I followed our general overclocking strategy of pushing clock speeds using multiplier settings until the system became unstable. I then added more voltage until the system was rock-solid again under our Prime95 load. I continued this cycle until the processor began to reach what I considered unsafe temperatures under each cooler—about 90° C or so—or when I couldn't eke stability out of the system after multiple rounds of extra voltage.
Using that procedure, I took our i5-6600K to 4.6GHz at an indicated 1.325V under the MasterAir Maker 8. With those settings and the MasterAir's fans running at 100%, the processor reached 75° C during our Prime95 load, and the cooler produced about 47 dBA. (The temperatures in the screenshot above weren't obtained during our testing phase.) My system was never quite stable at 4.7GHz no matter how much voltage I added, so the MasterAir didn't prove to be the sticking point in my overclocking efforts.
At full tilt, the 140-mm Silencios produce a growly, baritone hum instead of a broad-spectrum whoosh. That sound isn't as annoying as a higher-pitched noise would be, but it also doesn't fade into the background as readily as I would like. What's more concerning is the almost motorcycle-like sound these fans produce as they rev up to full speed. While that transition won't happen often, it's still pretty jarring.
Another problem arose with the Maker 8 running at full tilt. Occasionally, the cooler would begin producing a high-pitched whine that sounded like someone blowing on the bare reed of a woodwind instrument. I'm guessing that's from the plastic-on-plastic fan rails, but I'm not entirely sure. Removing and reinstalling the cooler seemed to stamp out this issue, so it's possible that my experience was a fluke.
With the Nepton 240M strapped on, the Core i5-6600K topped out at about 72° C, and I measured sound levels of about 47 dBA. I think the Nepton sounds slightly better than the Maker 8 at full speed, even though I wouldn't call either of these coolers quiet when they're running all-out. Even so, the smaller Silencios sound better at full speed than their 140-mm counterparts.
I have to wonder which one of these coolers would sound best inside a case, though. In an enclosure like Fractal Design's Define R5 or Define S, placing a radiator at the top of the case also creates a path for other system noise to escape. Placing the radiator at the front of the case to avoid that issue means waste heat gets vented back into the case, potentially making other components run hotter and noisier under load. An air cooler like the Maker 8 lets builders leave those cases' silencing features in place, potentially reducing system noise without compromising cooling that much.
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