It is a widespread opinion among overclockers that the potential of air cooling for CPUs has almost been exhausted by now, and I personally agree with that. It is two years ago that the Zalman CNPS9700 LED and Scythe Infinity were released – we found them very efficient and proclaimed them super-coolers (for details see our article called SuperCoolers Return: Zalman CNPS9700 LED and Scythe Infinity). And one year before their release we had tested the Thermaltake Big Typhoon, which proved but slightly inferior to the Scythe Infinity in our subsequent tests. Thus, two years ago we had (and have now as the VX revision) a cooler whose performance is comparable to top-end coolers of today. By the way, the Scythe Ninja, an even older product, is not much weaker, either. I won’t talk about typhoons and samurais today, though.
What has happened in the area of air cooling in the year that passed since the release of the Scythe Infinity? There have appeared such products as ASUS Silent Knight, Enzotech Ultra-X, Cooler Master GeminII, Thermaltake MaxOrb and Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme. There were others, perhaps less efficient but noteworthy, products, yet there was no real breakthrough. I can only single out the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme as a cooler that combines high performance with low noise, but this cooler does not has a great advantage over its opponents in terms of CPU temperature or maximum CPU frequency you can achieve with it. Moreover, new air coolers announced by the manufacturers for a Q4 release do not impress with their design or specs.
Interestingly, there is no stagnation on the market of air coolers. Not only new products but new brands are emerging on a regular basis (like the recently tested coolers from Auras or Floston). Now that the heat dissipation of modern CPUs has ceased to grow further, the manufacturers try to attract the customer with factors other than sheer performance such as original exterior, various types of highlighting, compact size or reduced weight, and low price. After all, not all PC users want to have maximum performance and lowest noise while almost everyone wants to have an original product he could show off to his friends.
Cooler Master, a leader of the market, doesn’t stay aloof from the market trends and introduces a new cooler called Sphere. It’s going to be the subject of this review.