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KitGuru Annual Awards 2012

Cooling Technology

All of this passive cooling talk with power supplies has whet our appetite for CPU and system cooling. Every electrical component in your system leaks juice. If you want to go faster, then it's something you have to accept – that leakage increases to the point where it will defeat your attempts to push your hardware further.

Improved heat dissipation can cost you anywhere from £15 for a simple CPU cooler, through to thousands of pounds for a climate controlled room for your system or a liquid nitrogen rig where your processors may not last the day.

At KitGuru, we're all about the real world usage scenarios.

We reckon the market for cooling divides into 2 simple groups: Value and Performance. In both cases, it has to be for a solution that will (a) last and (b) not seriously degrade the life span of your key components. It also needs to be relatively straightforward to install and use – so we're not going to look at the non-sealed options.

When Corsair released its updated liquid cooling units at the end of 2012, they set a new benchmark for all coolers.

Value
Very tough. To be honest, the Arctic Freezer range is very hard to beat, but most of those coolers were released over the past 3 years. We're looking for something new from 2012 and ‘new' is certainly what BeQuiet delivered with its innovative approach to low profile cooling for CPUs clocked anywhere up to 160 watts.

We had no expectations when this £30 cooler arrived, so we were pleasantly surprised when it held its own against the Phanteks PH-TC14PE on a 3770k chip clocked up to 4.7GHz. Under serious overclocking load, it allowed the CPU to get 5 degrees hotter, but with a regular overclock the difference was only 1 degree. Impressive. For us, the Value Cooler of the Year winner is the Be quiet! Shadow Rock TOPFLOW SR1.

Performance
Strangely enough, the manufacturers arbEqUIETe double parked around this award. Not only did Corsair deliver some fancy updates to its liquid cooling solutions, we also saw the Thermaltake Frio Extreme beat the Noctua NH D14. Unfortunately, its performance is almost identical to the Phanteks PH-TC14PE, which is £11 cheaper at the time we went to press. BeQuiet's Dark Rock 2 is also a great cooler, but at close to £50 it is in the wrong price space for its performance. Phanteks seems to have come out of nowhere to mount a very serious challenge at the high end. Our High Performance Air Cooler of the Year goes to the Phanteks PH-TC14PE.

Right at the close of the year, we reviewed the complete range of new Corsair liquid coolers. The H100i, H80i, H60 and H55. Factoring in cooling performance and value for money, we have to award both the Corsair H100i and the Corsair H80i as our Water Cooling products of the year. The icing on the cake is that they don't take much space around the CPU socket either, so fitting problems are never a concern – and if you have to move/transport your system, there's far less sheering force on the board and socket.

Interesting cooling surprises in 2012 included Noctua being taken off top spot for air coolers, Corsair's improved liquid cooling options and just how well Be Quiet's low profile cooler performed in an overclocked rig.

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