Normally you might expect that with testing CPU coolers the winner would simply come from picking the best spread of wins from the benchmarks, but that’s not the case with this month’s test. Cooler Master’s Nepton 240M doesn’t actually win any of the benchmarking and yet we’ve decided to name it the champ. What gives? Well, it’s not just about the outright cooling of the system. You need to be able to get the setup into your rig and be able to do it with the minimum of fuss, without necessarily having to entirely remove the motherboard either.
Ideally you also want to be able to do it on your own, too. This is where the Cooler Master wins out. Its fiting is excellent and, because the bracket attaches to the motherboard before you bolt the actual water block onto the CPU, you can easily fi it inside your chassis, without needing to grow a Beeblebrox arm.
It’s also got really excellent cooling performance. The Nepton 240M isn’t top-of-the-class at anything, but does everything very well indeed – only a few points off the best at most. The peak-toidle performance is a particular highlight and doesn’t matter if the processor is being seriously overclocked or not. The Nepton is also very, very quiet in both fan noise and the operation of the pump. And at just £78 it’s a great value chip chiller too.
The struggle with Thermaltake’s Water 3.0 Ultimate on the other hand is that actually getting the behemoth into your chassis is going to be the biggest challenge.
To fi this monster you need to hold the bracket on with one hand on the rear of the motherboard, your other hand holding the pump in place atop the CPU, and your other hand screwing it all in place. Tech juggling at its fiest. Either that, or you have to remove everything from your PC and attach it to your motherboard outside of the case.
But that’s the same with a lot of other coolers. The big issue is that this superlong radiator may well deliver top-of-theclass cooling, but you may have to do some shopping around to fid a chassis capable of housing it. If you’re all about the cooling though, and in the market for a new chassis too, then the extra size and extra expense of the Ultimate might well seem worth the headache. It’s a close run thing with these top two, but for our money the cheaper Nepton 240M is just too good to miss.
What about if you’re after the top 120mm cooler? After all, not every chassis can house even a 240mm radiator, let alone a 360mm one. Thermaltake would probably take the win here if it was again all about performance. Sadly the Water 3.0 Pro is let down by seriously shouty push-me-pullyou fans. We don’t even think it’s the speed they’re going – the pitch of the noise makes it piercing even when you’ve got a headset on. Which makes it a toss-up between the Nepton 120XL and the Kühler 950. One has better overall cooling and the other is quicker to push down the temperatures.
In the end though the bargain price of the Kühler helps it win out.
A special mention has to go to both the Corsair H100i and the Zalman Reserator 3 though. Corsair’s quality fiting and Link software makes the H100i a very worthy cooler, especially if you’re rocking a Corsair chassis. Zalman’s cooling know-how is also very evident in the Max Dual’s chip-chilling performance. It’s about the coolest on the test, just a little slow to return to idle temps and a bit bonkers to fit.