Thermalright pretty much rewrote the blue-print on what a CPU Cooler should be when they released the TRUE 120. This was a monster tower cooler that quickly became the cooler of choice for the Intel socket 775 processors.
With the release of the Core i7 series though a new solution was required to tame the heat that these put out, and eventually it settled upon Noctua, with the NH-D14, to stand atop the mountain and take over the number one slot. Many companies have tried to knock it off its perch without success.
Thermalright have re-entered the battle with the immense Silver Arrow, a cooler than follows the Noctua trend of twin towers and twin fans. Can it really take over the premium position?
We're here to find out in the battle of the Heavyweight champions. Please put on your best Michael Buffer...
In the Blue corner weighing in at 825g, hailing from Taiwan, the challenger, the Thermalright Silver Arrow.
In the, erm, Brown corner weighing 1070g with fans, the Austrian Powerhouse, the Champion of the World Noctua NH-D14.
Of course we're all familiar with the Noctua NH-D14 as it's been our reigning Best In Class for some time now. If you're unfamiliar with it then you can catch up by clicking here. As for the Thermalright Silver Arrow, let's take a look at what the Challenger is bringing to the party.
* 4 X 8mm large sintered heatpipes efficiently removing heat away from the CPU, allowing for great Overclocking potential.
* Nickel Plated Base and Heatpipes, increase the longevity of the heatsink by slowing oxidation and deterioration rates.
* Double fin stack design, provides each tower with an impressive 147 x 103mm of surface area for heat dissipation
* Special Arrow fin design, allowing cool air to pass through while rapidly moving heat away.
* Soldered Copper Base, ensure the highest of Thermal conduction.
* Support for Multiple-Platforms: Intel Socket 1366/1156/775 & AM2/AM3 .
* Includes Two TY Series Ultra Low noise 160*140*25mm PWN controlled fan .
* Heatsink Dimensions: Length 147mm x Width 123mm x Height 160mm
* Cooler weight: 825 g (excluding Retention Hardware and Fan) .
* Heat-pipe: 8mm Sintered Heat-pipe x4 units
* Cooler Base Material: C1100 Pure Copper with Nickel Plating
* Fan Compatibly: 120x25mm / 140x25mm / 120x38mm
* Fan dimensions: Length 160mm x Width 25mm x Height 140mm
* Fan Speed: 500~1300RPM
* Fan Air flow: 28~73.6CFM
* Fan Noise Level: 17~21dBA
To make sure that our results are as accurate as possible to those that you'll achieve, we've setup our test system in a case rather than on our Dimastech bench table. We'll run our processor at three different speeds and three different voltages. Because voltage is the main cause of heat you can compare what your processor needs voltage-wise to get an approximation of how the cooler will perform on your system.
To make certain that everything is above board, rather than just report our maximum temperature we'll be taking the ambient temperature and using that to give us the Delta temp as well as the maximum.
Delta is measured as the difference between two values, sometimes load and idle but for today between maximum recorded temperature and the ambient of the room.
Each cooler was mounted and tested three times to eliminate any slight variances in thermal paste or pressure. For our average results in the graph we've taken an average of all four cores because of the slight variances that occur.
Case : BitFenix Survivor
Motherboard : Gigabyte UD3R-v2
CPU : Intel Core i7-950. 4 GHz @ 1.25v. 4.2 GHz @ 1.35v and 4.4GHz @ 1.45v.
RAM : 6GB Mushkin Radioactive RAM @ 2000MHz
PSU : Corsair HX850
GPU : ASUS HD6870
CPU Coolers : Thermalright Silver Arrow and Noctua NH-D14
At 4 GHz the Silver Arrow just manages to edge out the Noctua being 0.7°C cooler after 30 minutes of Prime thrashing away at all four cores.
It's a very close contest so far but the Thermalright just edges the round 10-9.
Both fighters are up off their stools early looking to get into the nitty gritty.
At the 1.35v used to achieve 4.2 GHz on our test i7-950 the results are pretty much the same. Although the average temperature is only a quarter of a degree cooler, thanks to the higher ambient temperature the delta of the Silver Arrow is 0.8°C cooler than the Noctua. Again not a lot but every little helps.
Another very close round, but once again the Silver Arrow just edges the judges scorecard 10-9.
The challenger is looking the fresher of the two as we head into Round Three, although the Noctua has been landing some telling blows too.
With 1.45v on the Core i7-950 to achieve 4.4 GHz the Noctua keeps everything cool as before but the Thermalright Silver Arrow hit 100°C after only 15 minutes of Prime and so the test was halted to save damage to the chip. Naturally this counts as a fail.
And it's unbelievable. A sudden flurry of punches and the challenger is down and unable to answer the referees 10 count. It's a knockout blow! Quite shocking considering the Silver Arrow was looking the better of the two up to that point.
What a contest this was between two closely matched Heavyweight contenders. The result was very close to the most recent Heavyweight contest we've seen, although this time the Challenger didn't just stand there like an idiot and fall over in the third, rather the Silver Arrow matched the NH-D14 jab for jab, cross for cross, until the third round when the power of the Champion was just enough to put the Challenger down.
Until then we even had the Thermalright Silver Arrow ahead on points and if this was a two-round affair it would be the blue corner having their hand raised. However in the professional world we don't have short contests. So why doesn't the challenger get the belt this time?
The main points are that the Thermalright Silver Arrow just about has the beating of the Noctua NH-D14 at 1.25v and 1.35v, beating it by 0.7°C and 0.8°C respectively. Once the voltage is increased it proves incapable of shifting the heat away effectively with the heatsink becoming overwhelmed.
Away from the temperatures the mounting system isn't the most user-friendly that we've seen. Although if you're the "install once and never again" type and you own a roomy case then this will prove less of an issue as it does to us with our test setup and requirements.
The fan retainers are the same 'straightened paper-clip' style that Thermalright have been using since seemingly the dawn of time. They're fiddly, annoying and worst of all they seem cheap. For a cooler costing above £50 the last thing we want is any part of it seeming cheap and fiddly.
All in all it's a pretty capable cooler. There are clearance issues if you've got anything other than vanilla DIMMs, or a case that isn't the widest, but it does keep the processor cool and quiet under reasonable conditions. It's fairly attractive and reasonably priced.
For all the in depth testing and varification of our results please watch this monster video!
For our purposes though the reality is that the Noctua is easier to use, sturdier designed and doesn't fail when the going gets tough so still retains our top spot as the best CPU Cooler on the planet.
It's not to say the Silver Arrow is a bad cooler. Just not quite good enough to dethrone the Champ.
Thanks to Noctua & Thermalright for making this fight possible! Discuss in our forums.