As usual, we wanted to test each cooler throughout the entire speed range of its fan(s) with a step of 200 RPM but not all of them could cope with the load at low speeds (800, 1000 or even 1200 RPM). So, if you don’t see a result for a certain cooler, it means that cooler didn't pass the test at that speed. You can see the results in the table as well as in the diagram below:
Let’s first discuss the performance of the coolers in their default configurations. The advanced air cooler is superior to them, which is no surprise. Affordable liquid cooling systems cannot compete with it, although are comparable in price. Even in the quiet mode (at 800 RPM) the Phanteks PH-TC14PE is a mere 1°C worse at peak load than the two best liquid cooling systems at the maximum speed of their fans.
The mentioned systems are the Thermaltake Water 2.0 Performer and Zalman LQ315. The former is ahead thanks to its two 120mm fans while the latter has a thicker and larger radiator than the others. It must be noted that the Zalman LQ310 is only 1°C worse at the maximum speed and 2°C worse at 1600 RPM. When the speed of the fan is even lower, the junior LQ310 is 4°C worse than the LQ315. It doesn't cope with our overclocked CPU at all at 1000 RPM. The Thermaltake Water 2.0 Performer remains in the lead at the lower speeds of its two fans.
The two products from Corsair differ greatly in their performance. The Hydro H60 High Performance is 2°C inferior to the leaders at the maximum speed of its fan whereas the Hydro H55 Quiet is worse by 8 to 9°C and cannot keep the CPU stable at speeds below 1400 RPM. On the other hand, the Corsair Hydro H60 High Performance also looks worse than the products from Zalman and Thermaltake at 1600 and 1200 RPM. Thus, the different pump and waterblock design do not help Corsair against the competition in this test.
The picture changes when we install two 120mm Corsair AF120 Performance Edition fans on our liquid cooling systems. Even though 4 out of the 5 radiators are identical, like the pumps and waterblocks, the systems perform differently. The Zalman LQ315 with thicker radiator looks best at any fan speed. It is the only cooler to keep the CPU stable at 800 RPM. The Zalman LQ310 is only 1°C worse at 1600 and 1200 RPM but falls behind by 4°C at 1000 RPM.
The two Corsair products have improved their position. The additional fan makes them much more efficient. The Hydro H60 High Performance is a mere 1 or 2°C worse than the leaders at the maximum 1600 RPM as well as lower speeds. Even the Hydro H55 Quiet looks better with two fans.
The Thermaltake Water 2.0 Performer, the leader in its default configuration, has lost its ground. With two Corsair AF120 Performance Edition fans its result is worse by 3°C at 1600 RPM and by 4°C at 1200 RPM. The original fans from Thermaltake seem to be more optimal for this cooler than Corsair’s.
We also tried to overclock our CPU further with the most efficient liquid cooling systems in their default configurations but even the Thermaltake Water 2.0 Performer with its two fans working at max speed couldn’t cope with the 4.5GHz CPU at 1.43-1.44 volts, aborting the test with an error:
The Phanteks PH-TC14PЕ didn’t find this overclocking to be a problem even at higher voltage. It kept the CPU stable, never letting it get hotter than 77°C.
Now let’s see which of these coolers is the quietest.