Our First Intel Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

The new Intel Core i7 platform includes a new larger CPU socket that forces you to get a new CPU cooler. The task of picking out the right cooler can be daunting, so we figured that we'd give you all the information in one article to make the task of finding information and comparisons easy.

Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

Today we have a nice group of coolers for the new Intel Core i7 CPUs (LGA1366) that includes a couple of the favored top coolers for the new socket. First, let’s take a quick look at the line up and then we can take a little closer look one at a time. To keep things fair we will go in alphabetical order by manufacturer.

Cooler dimensions Weight Fan Size Price
Height Width depth
Asus Triton 81 144.7 117.6 120.5 695g 90mm $67.99
Cooler Master V8 161.1 120 128 866g 120mm $69.99
Noctua NH-C12P 114 126 152 730g 120mm $69.99
Noctua NH-U12P 158 126 95 770g 120mm $59.99
Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 158 126 119 940g 120mm $79.99
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT 156 90 120.5 1.02kg 120mm $69.99
Vigor Monsoon III LT 160 120.9 131 855g 120mm $59.99

The heavy weight of the group is the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366RT weighing in at a hair over a 1kg; the tallest is the V8 from Cooler Master at 161.1mm tall. All the coolers are pretty much 700g or heavier, so using "light" and "Core i7 cooler" in the same sentence will not be used much.

On to the first cooler, the Asus Triton 81!

Asus Triton 81

Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

The smallest of the coolers in our round up is the Triton 81 from Asus. This light weight was achieved with the use of aluminum fins and 90mm fans rather than 120mm. The Triton also has a very small base (more on that in a moment). Let’s take a look at the specs for the Triton.

Specifications

  • Cooler dimensions: 120.5(L)x 117.6(W)x144.7(H) (mm)
  • Weight: 695g
  • Connector: 4-pin
  • Material: Pure Copper base + Al fins + 4 Copper heat pipes
  • Acoustics: 18 dBA during normal operation
  • Fan dimensions: 90 x 90 x 25 (mm)
  • Fan speed: 800–2,500 rpm ± 10% (with PWM control and Blue LED)
  • Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Looking at the top of the cooler we can see the rather interesting X shape. This was done on purpose to allow for what Asus calls “4 way air flow”. This is a departure from what I have seen in the past where shrouds were used to keep air moving front to back and not go out the side.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    One of the other things that caught my eye was the base of the Triton. Aside from the stock Intel cooler the Triton 81 has one of the smallest bases I have seen in some time, ironic considering the size a Core i7 CPU. For a little reference for our non-US readers the US quarter is about ¾ inch in diameter, or 19mm

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The Triton also uses dual 90mm fans that are wired together. So if one fails you’re replacing both unless you are handy and can splice the wires. To install the Triton 81 you will need to remove the fans to have access to the push pins, which is easy to do; remove 4 screws on the top of the cooler and slide the fan housings off the cooler.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The Triton 81 comes with everything needed to mount up to not only the LGA1366 socket, but LG775 and all AMD sockets 939 and newer.

    Cooler Master V8

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    We had recently tested the V8 on our Intel Core2 Quad Q600 and it did pretty well, so I wanted to see how it would do on the Core i7 system. Cooler Master says the V8 will work for the Core i7 with the right mounting hardware. Cooler Master has a LGA1366 mounting kit that will allow for select Cooler Master CPU coolers to be mounted up to the new socket. The kit number is RR-ACC-1366-GP, and with a little digging in Google there are several online stores that carry the bracket kit for less than $10 +shipping. For those that didn’t see the last review of the V8, here are the specifications:

    Specifications

  • CPU Support
  • Dimension: 120 x 128 x 161.1mm
  • Weight: 1.91 lbs
  • Heat Sink Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 158mm
  • Heat Sink Material: Copper Base / Aluminum Fins / 8 Heat Pipes
  • Heat Pipes Dimensions: 6mm
  • Fan Dimension (W / H / D): 120 x 120 x 25mm
  • Fan Speed: 800 - 1800RPM
  • Fan Airflow: 69.69CFM
  • Air pressure (mmH2O): 2.94mm H2O
  • Bearing Type: Rifle Bearing
  • Fan Life Expectancy: 40,000hrs
  • Fan Noise Level (dB-A): 17 - 21dBA
  • Fan Speed Adjustment: Install on PCI Slot
  • Connector: 4-pin
  • Fan Control: PWM + VR Controller
  • Rated Voltage: 12V
  • Start Voltage: 7V
  • Operating Voltage: 10.38V - 13.2V
  • Rated Current: 0.12A Input Power: 1.44W
  • Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The V8 has a very unique appearance to it with its crazy looking heatpipe arrangement.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The V8 is the only cooler in our round up that uses a center mounted 120mm fan.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The fan for the V8 has a hardwired fan control, and this is mounted into an open expansion slot with the included bracket.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Speaking of mounting hardware, the V8 comes with everything required to mount the cooler to your favorite Intel LGA775 and LGA1366 or AMD 940/AM2/AM2+ sockets.

    Noctua NH-U12P and NH-U12P SE1366

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Here is our reining low temp champ from our Core 2 cooler testing, the Noctua NH-U12P. This was the first cooler we looked at by the Austrian company and it became our favorite. Not only did it perform very well, its NF-P12 fan was pretty much silent at 100% speed. If its 19 dBA rating was too loud for your taste Noctua also included adaptors to throttle the fan to a very quiet (if not silent) 12.6 dBA.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Noctua says that the NH-U12P is very much compatible with Core i7 and if you already own the cooler you can go to their site and request an LGA1366 SecurFirm2 mounting kit for free, provided you can prove you own the cooler. If you don’t own one then you can purchase the NH-U12P SE1366 version. The coolers are identical except that the SE1366 model is LGA1366 only and sports two fans instead of one. Let’s take a quick look at the specifications for the NH-U12P and the NF-P12 fan.

    Specifications

    Fan specifications

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The LGA1366 SecuFirm2™ Mounting-Kit makes all Noctua CPU coolers compatible with Intel's LGA1366 socket for Core i7 processors. Those that have installed the original SecuFirm retention kit will instantly love the SecuFirm2; it is by far much easier to install. You will still need to loosen and remove one side to get your processor out, but it can be done with out removing the whole mounting system.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The cooler itself is built rather well. It's one of the few coolers that I can handle and not have the thought in the back of my head that I’ve got to handle it gently or I will bend up the cooling fins. Here we have the NH-U12P in the original configuration that we first received from Noctua.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Here is what you would have in the NH-U12P SE1366 configuration. I will be testing the NH-U12P in both the configurations so those that already own a NH-U12P will know if they need to pick up a second NF-P12 fan in addition to the SecuFirm2 mounting system.

    Noctua NH-C12P

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    This is the second cooler we received from Noctua, the NH-C12P. It’s a lowish profile down draft cooler design, and so far the only option (that we have in our lab) over stock cooling your new Core i7 in a narrow case. So far there is no LGA1366 version of the NH-C12P listed on Noctua’s site, but they did send us a SecuFirm2 mounting kit for it. Now, we did not see that great of a performance from the NH-C12P when we tested it on our Core2 platform, but since Noctua says it will work with Core i7, and I still have it in the lab I will be testing it. Let’s take a quick look at the specifications.

    Specifications

  • Warranty: 6 Years
  • Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    As you can see the cooler is rather short as compared to the coolers we have looked at so far, even though the top mounted 120mm fan, the NH-C12P, is only 114mm tall. So this makes the NH-C12P very attractive to those with narrow cases.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The design of the NH-C12P allows it to be the only cooler, other than stock, in our testing today that does not block or restricted access to RAM slots or the height of the RAM sticks. More on this issue in a moment.

    Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Next, we have for the first time in our labs the ever so popular Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, but this one is the newest incarnation for Core i7. Thermalright calls it the Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366RT. I have heard many good things about the Ultra-120 coolers for a long time, so I’m looking forward to see how it stacks up to the other coolers I have in the lab. Let's take a quick look at the features and specifications of the Ultra-120 eXtreme.

    Features

    Specification

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The cooler itself is quiet heavy, but feels very solidly built. Weighing in at 790g for just the heatsink, the Ultra-120 is one of the heaviest coolers in our line up today. When holding the fan and cooler together is was quite heavy, so I weighed the fan and fan mount together to see how much they weighed. They weighed in at 8.2oz or 232.5g. That brings the total weight of the Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT to a hair over 1kg. That, my friends, is one heavy cooler!

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Thermalright also says that you can install a second fan holder and fan assembly on to the Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT to achieve the push-pull effect, as we can see in the image above from Thermalright's website. This would make the cooler top the scales at 1.26kg. We will be testing the cooler in the single fan configuration as that is how we received it, and that is how it would normally be purchased.

    Vigor Monsoon III LT

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Vigor is well known for their complete gaming systems, but they also sell the components from those systems like the CPU coolers and cases. The Monsoon III LT is the next incarnation for the Monsoon line of coolers. Compatible with just about any of the popular CPU sockets today the Monsoon III LT should work for just about anyone. Weighing in at 855g and standing 160mm tall the Monsoon III LT is not a small cooler, but is definitely not the biggest. Let's look at the features and specifications.

    Features

    Specifications

  • CPU Support
  • Dimensions: 131 x 120.9 x 160mm
  • Net Weight: 855g
  • Material: Polished Cu base, AI base, 4 Cu heat pipes
  • Heat Pipe Dimensions: 4 @ 6mm diameter
  • Fan Type: 2 x Blue LED / PWM controlled
  • Fan Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 25mm
  • Fan Speed: 2000 RPM +/- 10% max
  • Fan Airflow: 69.69 CFM
  • Fan Air Pressure: 2.94 mm H2O
  • Bearing Type: Long life sleeve
  • Fan Life Expectancy: 50,000 hours
  • Fan Noise Level: 20 dBA
  • Connector: 4-pin PWM
  • Fan Control: PWM
  • Rated Voltage: 12V
  • Start Voltage: DC 7.0V max
  • Operating Voltage: 10.8~13.2V
  • Rated Current: 0.35A(each)
  • Input Power: 4.2W(each)
  •  

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The Vigor Monsoon III LT was one of the first Core i7 coolers we received here at Legit Reviews, and to be honest, the snazziest looking cooler in the bunch. The dual 120mm blue LED fans and the fan shroud make the cooler look very nice. The fan shroud also helps the air flow stay in the front to back direction rather than out the sides.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    There are 4 heat pipes, with two separate fin towers. To direct air through the cooler Vigor has the fan mount and shroud.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Overall the Monsoon III LT cooler feels rather well built, is light, and despite using Cooler Masters retention system is not to hard to install. This may be due to the fact that the cooler can be turned upside down and due to its girth the motherboard can be balanced on it freeing up a hand for installing the retention plate.

    Intel Stock Cooler

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Ah, the lonely stock cooler. No enthusiast wants the stock cooler, thus the reason you’re reading this, but in order to know what you're gaining you need a common starting point. The Core i7 920 CPU we are using has yet another incarnation of the tried and true stock Intel design, just bigger. I will say this about the Core i7 stock cooler; it is much quieter than the coolers of the past. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still loud, but it won’t make your ears bleed under full load.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    To help those get a feel for the size of the stock cooler I lined up the stock coolers I had -- from left to right, stock cooler for Core2 E8200, Core2 Q6600 and the Core i7 920.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    The design still uses the push pin retention system, aluminum fins and copper core. The base of the stock cooler is the same size as the base for the Core2 Q6600 cooler, the fins are just bigger. This is most likely why coolers that could handle Core2 CPUs can work with Core i7 with new mounting hardware. This is good; it saves money for those that already have a high end air cooler. That is as long as the manufacturer sells a retro fit kit for LGA1366 socket, and most do. Cooler Master, Noctua, OCZ, Thermalright, Thermaltake, Zahlman, and others have all released some form of LGA1366 bracket. So, if you have a high end air cooler and want to use it on your new Core i7 system then head over to your manufacture's site and take a look to see what they have. Chances are they have something for you.

    Cooler Clearance Issues

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    For our testing we will be using the Intel DX58SO motherboard. After installing a couple of the coolers in the round up a pattern started to appear. All the coolers, except the NF-C12P, blocked at least 1 of the four RAM slots on the motherboard from being able to hold tall RAM. Some of you would have a hard time getting a stick of value RAM in, but you're thinking, “Well I’ll be running triple channel kits, I won’t need the fourth slot.”

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Not so fast, even then you would be a snug fit for tall and thick RAM like Corsair Dominator. I know that the heatsinks on Dominator RAM average 3/4 inch taller than ram without heatsinks. So, with the aid of my handy dandy quarter (which is aprox. 3/4 inch in diameter), you can see where the top of the ram would be with the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366RT installed.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Looking from the side we can see that the first two banks are blocked. So, no fitting tall ram in there.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Even with the Noctua NH-U12P installed you can see in the above image not only would the heatsinks hit the cooler body, the spring clip for the fan would be in the way as well. Motherboards that have the RAM slots to the side rather than the top of the board should not have as many clearance issues. If your board is like ours for the test system you are going to want to research and do some measuring.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Other things that came up were getting to motherboard mounting screws and power connectors. This will be different from board to board for the power connector placement, but the mounting points will be across the board. 

    Legit Reviews Core i7 Test System

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    Here are the parts that make up the Legit Reviews Core i7 test system:

    Intel Test Platform
    Component Brand/Model Pricing
    Processor Intel Core i7 920 Click Here
    Motherboard Intel DX58SO Click Here
    Memory Kingston DDR3 3GB 1333MHz ValueRAM Click Here
    Video Card ATI X1950 XTX Click Here
    Hard Drive Western Digital 250gb SATA Click Here
    Power Supply PC&C Silencer 750 Quad Click Here
    Chassis Ultra M998 Click Here
    Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate (64bit) Click Here

    To test the coolers I ran them on our Intel Core i7 test platform, which was then set to run at both default and overclocked settings. As a baseline all coolers will be compared to the retail boxed Intel cooler.

    All of the temperatures were obtained by using Core Temp v0.99.3 after the system sat at an idle for 30 minutes and then again under 100% load while running Prime95 (64bit) v25.8 for 30 minutes using the blended test. The room temperature was kept a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22c) for all benchmarking. All of the coolers were tested with Arctic Silver Lumiere as the thermal interface material.

    Temperature Test Results

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    With the system running at stock settings the i7-920 ran at 37.75*C when idle and a toasty 74*C under full load. Our previous low temp champ is still the winner. In its single fan configuration it beat out the Vigor Monsoon III LT by a very small margin of 0.5*C under full load. In the NH-U12P’s dual fan configuration it was clearly the winner with a 1.75*C gap between it and the closest competitor, the Monsoon III LT. The NH-U12P SE1366 cooled our i7-920 to a very nice 56.25*C under full load, and a whopping 17.75* under stock.

    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    With the system overclocked to 3.5GHz and under full load the stock cooler starts to scream for mercy as the load temp climbed to 83.5*C. The Vigor Monsoon III LT dropped back 2 spots, and the NH-U12P is still in the lead, keeping our i7-920 to a toasty 67.5*C; a whole 16* cooler then stock.

    Final Thoughts and Conclusion


    Core i7 CPU Cooler Roundup

    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 Reviews Editor's Choice Award

    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.