With the numbers in we know where all the coolers fall temperature-wise. If we go by that alone the winner is the NH-U12P from Noctua, but we have a few other things to consider, such as looks, price, and availability. Yeah, the cooler is great, but only a few retailers are carrying it. On top of that, the cooler runs about $60. Then, there is the not-so-easy-on-the-eyes fan; it’s beautifully silent, but the color is horrid. It’s not so bad for those who do not have a side window, but the hue is atrocious for those who do. For these reasons the NH-U12P is in second place.
I picked the ZEROtherm NV-120 as the over-all winner in our little gathering of coolers today. Its look is easy on the eyes, the finish combined with the LED fan makes it almost art. Those who have a window will be proud to show it off, and those who don’t will want a window so they can. Then there is the price, at around $45 it’s $15 cheaper than the NH-U12P, and then the icing on the cake (so to speak): there’s a very good chance that your favorite online retailer carries it.
In close third is the Zalman CNPS9700 LED. Back when I first purchased this cooler it was my first high end air cooler and set me back $65. Now you can find it for around $50. Now if you don’t like the all copper look and prefer a finish like the Nirvana, have no fear. The 9700LED has a brother: the 9700NT LED sports a gun metal finish like the Nirvana and a green LED fan. I also highly recommend this cooler to those running small cases. I run this cooler on a regular basis in a Cooler Master Centurion 541 mATX case. There is no way that either of the ZEROtherm or Noctua coolers would fit due to their height.
So if you are not quite ready to make the jump to water cooling, but still need to cool down that new dual or quad core, I think you would be happy with any of the coolers we have looked at here today.
Bottom Line: Bang for buck you can beat the ZEROtherm NV-120, but if you have the few extra bucks (and can stomach the color) the Noctua NH-U12P will keep you cool and silent.