All of the coolers we looked at today would be considered high end air coolers because all of them cost around $60 (or more) plus shipping. What makes this price easier to swallow is that these same coolers are able to run on both LGA775 and LGA1366 sockets. So, you can buy one for your current LGA775 system and then transfer it to your LGA1366 system.
I was happy to see that cooler manufacturers released the retrofit brackets for the LGA1366 socket. This allows the user that had already purchased a high end air cooler for their LGA775 system to be able to use it on their new system and put that $60 to $70 back in the budget for something else.
As for the coolers themselves, the Noctua NH-U12P CPU Cooler is the winner in our testing. Either in its original single fan configuration or in its new SE1366 dual fan configuration it led the pack and did it quietly. With a little Googling the NH-U12P SE1366 can be found for as little as $63 +shipping. The original NH-U12P can be found for $50+shipping, but you would have to buy or wait for the LGA1366 mount to be sent to you. If you’re upgrading your current rig then I would suggest buying the original and waiting for the bracket, but if you’re building the whole new system then get the SE1366 version.
Next in line is the Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme 1366RT. It’s heavy and has a name as long as my arm, but it is quiet and performs well. The Ultra 120 is a very popular line of coolers and for good reason – it is solidly built. This is the only other cooler in our round up other than the NH-U12P that I don’t worry about bending up the cooling fins when I handle it. With our test system overclocked it was 13.75 degrees cooler than stock but only 2.25 degrees warmer than the NH-U12P SE1366 and 1 degree warmer than the NH-U12P single fan configuration. One could very well see better performance by adding a second fan to the Ultra 120. Users that have the Ultra 120 cooler already can pick up a mounting kit and another fan and you’re set for Core i7.
The Cooler Master V8 is in the middle of the field. It cooled our overclocked system to 71*C, which is 12.5 degrees cooler then stock. Now, it’s a given that most enthusiasts cringe when they see temps in the 70’s, so the V8 may not be for overclockers with a Core i7. The V8 did, however, cool the system to a nice 59*C at stock settings. The V8 will be a good fit for those that feel the Core i7 920 is fast enough out of the box and want a nice stylish cooler that has a little flair.
The Vigor Monsoon III LT is another sharp looking cooler that performed well at stock settings but slipped back in the pack when the system was overclocked. In the stock settings the Monsoon III LT was 15.5 degrees cooler than stock and only 2.25 degrees warmer than the NH-U12P SE1366. With the system overclocked the Monsoon III LT was only 11.25 degrees cooler then stock. The Monsoon III LT is a little on the big side being a dual fan cooler, and it is also fairly tall. So, you are going to want to pay attention the dimensions of the case that will be the new home of your system to make sure that you can get the Monsoon III LT in it.
The Asus Triton 81 was the only cooler in our testing, other than stock, that used the stock retention system and 90mm fans. It is also the smallest tower style cooler in our testing. The Triton81’s fans did get a little loud when running at 100%, but was still far better than stock coolers fan. I don’t think you will be reaching for the remote to turn up the TV, but you will notice the fans. The Triton81’s small stature will make it very attractive to folks with small cases. At 114.1mm it is 16.4mm (about 11/16 inch) shorter than the Cooler Master V8. The noise may be the deal breaker though, for a quieter option there is the NH-C12P.
The shortest cooler in the bunch is the Noctua NH-C12P for those running real small cases. Now we had tested the NH-C12P on our Core2 system and it did have an all-too-stellar performance, but we received an LGA1366 mount kit for it, so we tested it. I was surprised when I saw the results for the stock settings. Running at 61*C, it was 13 degrees cooler than the stock cooler and 4.75 degrees warmer than the NH-U12P SE1366; it also ran darn near silent due to the NF-P12 fan. Unfortunately, when we cranked up the heat with the system overclocked the NH-C12P’s performance started to slip. It was still better than the stock cooler by 9.5 degrees, but in the non-comfy zone for most enthusiasts. For those that have read the old review of the NH-C12P and the issues that arose in regards to its mounting orientation, I had the NH-C12P mounted in the preferred mounting position as per Noctua (pipes to the back).
Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core i7 CPUs can get very toasty so the need of a quality cooler is a must. The Noctua NH-U12P is just that and will continue to be our King of Cooling.