Fall 2014 Cooler Roundup - Final Thoughts

Article Index
Fall 2014 Cooler Roundup
NZXT Kraken X31 LCS
NZXT Kraken X41 LCS
NZXT Kraken X61 LCS
Thermaltake Water 3.0 Pro LCS
Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate LCS
Thermaltake NiC L32 HSF
Thermaltake Frio Extreme HSF
Thermaltake NiC C5 HSF
Fall 2014 Cooler Performance
Final Thoughts



We have recently upgraded our cooling test rig and wanted a bunch of coolers to put head-to-head to get a start on a new database. I thank Noctua, NZXT and Thermaltake for helping us get this new test-bench off the ground. As we have simply piled up the data, we are going to wrap up with a few thoughts and points about each cooler.

Noctua NH-D15:
This is the largest and most expensive HSF unit in this roundup and is the largest cooler we've ever tested. True to Noctua form, the NH-D15 is virtually silent - and the volume level is even quiet managable at 100% fan speed (~1500rpm). The cooling performance of this monster actually bests all but two of the liquid cooling systems and every other heatsink we tested. At full speed it is quieter than most coolers and is about the volume of the NZXT Kraken X31 and X41


NZXT Kraken X31:
This is the smallest Kraken cooler that we tested and while it comes in dead last in terms of performance, it is quieter than some of the Thermaltake HSF units and offers software control, relatively low noise - even at full RPM - and has great case compatibility. If you want to lose the noisy fan and get into liquid cooling, this cooler won't break the bank.


NZXT Kraken X41:
This larger cooler from NZXT offers very good performance for a modest price. While this is no budget cooler, the X41 has software control, LED lighting options on the pump and long hoses that will allow you to install the cooler pretty much anywhere in your case that you want. It comes right in the middle of the pack both in terms of performance and price and is a very good choice if you want to push your CPU a little faster without hurting your ears with noise or crashing your system.


NZXT Kraken X61:
The 280mm Kraken X61 is a large unit that will require a large case. With two 14cm fans keeping the radiator cool, it comes in as the second highest performing cooling in the roundup. As with the other Kraken coolers, it includes software monitoring and control as well as nifty LED lighting on the pump. The long hoses make sure you'll be able to mount this anywhere in your case and still get top-notch performance. When cranked to 11, it's not very quiet, but it is quieter than both the Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate and the NiC C5.


Thermaltake Water 3.0 Pro:
The Water 3.0 Pro comes with a very beefy 12cm radiator that offers great performance for its size. It includes a couple of fans that maximize airflow through this thick radiator and it gives you great performance. It's pretty loud when cranked up, but if you're overclocking your system, the payout is great. It comes in third overall and has a very decent price:performance ratio.


Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate:
The Water 3.0 Ultimate is just that - Ultimate. It will require a case that is designed for a 360mm radiator mounted at the top. Case compatibility is going to the be biggest drawback here as the short hoses won't allow you to install in at the front of the case. The other major drawback is the noise. With three 120mm fans spinning like mad, it's loud when maxed out, but for most applications it can be ran very quiet and offer good performance. It's the performance king - but you pay for it with price and noise.


Thermaltake NiC L32:
This cooler surprised me. With the small size and low cost, I didn't expect this cooler to do well at all. It comes in at $38 and outperforms the more expensive Kraken X31. The only kicker is that in order to get that performance, this cooler makes a lot of noise. For stock systems or enthusiasts wanting a good cooler for a great price, this is my pick.



Thermaltake NiC C5:
When I plugged in this cooler and turned the fan speed up, I thought to myself "Welcome to the FOP32 in 2001". This cooler absolutely screams when spun up and while you may not do that on a daily basis, if you want to push the performance of this cooler, you'll have to push on some hearing protection. It performed very well and looks fantastic, but in the end, it's just too loud to be a serious contender in the high-performance cooling roundup.


Thermaltake Frio Extreme:
The Frio Extreme costs more than a liquid cooling kit and offers performance that is better than the Kraken X41 and X31 liquid cooling systems. It is massive and offers great performance at a decent volume level. It's louder than the NH-D15 from Noctua and doesn't quite measure up to the other massive HSF unit, but it's still a beast of an air cooler - both in size and performance.


As previously stated, this is a roundup and there must be winners and losers. The winners are listed below.

  1. Best performance cooler: Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate
  2. Best low-noise performing cooler: Noctua NH-D15
  3. Best overall value/performance/noise: NZXT Kraken X41 


If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please feel free to post in the forum at the comments link below. I would like to thank Noctua, NZXT and Thermaltake for helping us kick this new cooling test bench off the ground.