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Cooler Master MasterAir Maker 8 Cooler Review

AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
With water based All In One CPU coolers becoming more efficient, quieter, easier to install and less expensive typical air-based heatsinks have started to become less and less alluring to enthusiasts and mainstream consumers alike. It is an interesting situation, one that has led to near extinction level event for air cooler reviews here on HWC. That’s why when Cooler Master approached us to review their new MasterAir Maker 8 (yes, it’s a mouthful) heatsink we stood up and took notice…mostly due to its staggering $130 price tag.

To counteract the growing trend of AIO water cooling domination, manufacturers who design today’s modern –yet traditional- air coolers typically go down one of two routes: they either focus on budget-oriented designs or turn to increasingly more exotic solutions to compete. Cooler Master went down the former path with the Maker 8, a heatsink that represents a great example of these market forces in action. This is not your typical air cooler and instead has been built from the ground up with some rather unusual design goals.


First and foremost is unlike most CPU coolers which rely upon either heatpipes or a solid surface base to transfer the heat from the CPU’s IHS to the fin array, the Cooler Master MasterAir Maker 8 takes a page from the video card cooling industry and uses a large vapor “phase change” chamber. While not the first heatsink to use a vapor chamber design, this one addition places the Maker 8 in rather august and rarefied company.

As video card manufactures quickly realized, this type of design is much, much more efficient at whisking heat away from the core compared to either a solid base or standard heatpipe designs. At the end of the day the faster and more effective the cooler is at removing heat the more room enthusiasts have for further overclocking endeavors.

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Now the Maker8 does not just use a standard vapor chamber and instead it uses what Cooler Master calls a '3D Vapor Chamber'. In simplistic terms this means that Cooler Master has connected four vertical heatpipes directly into the chamber, instead of just having heatpipes soldered on top of it, thus lowering the thermal conductivity quotient. This greatly increases the vapor chamber’s surface area and in fact directly connects the ‘3DVC’ to the fin array for drastically improved heat transfer.

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In addition to these four vertical 6mm heatpipes Cooler Master has also included an additional four more traditional 6mm heatpipes that are soldered to the top. This has been done to further ensure that this cooler can handle copious amounts of heat without being overloaded, while at the same time guaranteeing the entire fin array is used for cooling the gases in the vapor chamber back to a liquid state.

Basically this configuration is similar to what the older CM V8GTS uses, albeit with a few obvious improvements – namely the ‘3D’ vapor chamber instead of a horizontal-only layout.

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It almost goes without saying that the efficiency of this highly advanced design does relies heavily upon how good the base finishing is. As all enthusiasts know, the smoother and perfectly finished the base of the cooler is the better the contact with the IHS – which in turn means better heat transfer.

By flipping over the MasterAir Maker 8 we can see that in this regard Cooler Master has done a fairly decent job. While certainly not a mirror shine, this level of finishing should not prove to be a detriment to heat transfer – especially if a high quality TIM is used.

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With such concerns taken care of, the only issue with using vapor chamber technology for this cooler boils down to cost. Not only do these chambers cost more in materials, but they require rather extensive engineering to properly utilize it. This one key feature does explain the high online asking price of $130.

To put this in perspective, this one feature causes the Maker8 to cost nearly fifty dollars more than a Noctua D15 and just as much as Corsair’s H110 Extreme All in One. That is indeed one large price premium.

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Backstopping this large vapor chamber is a potent single tower design that offers rather significant amounts of cooling surface. To be precise the Maker 8 weighs in at 785 grams and measures 160.5mm by 144.5 by 78mm. Interestingly enough these dimensions put it between Cooler Master’s V8GTS and the smaller V6GT - both of which proved to be very potent coolers in their day.

Also noteworthy is the fin array’s two very aggressive faces that help focus air inwards and over the exterior fins. This large central channel on each side runs the entire height of the fin array so that no matter what size fan, or what model, the dead zone in front of the controller hub will be eliminated. Brilliant stuff.

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Of course to actually see the cooling fins requires the removal of copious amounts of plastic. While they may not look all that impressive, these three pieces of plastic are actually not only there for aesthetic purposes. Instead they have been carefully designed to provide a proper standoff for the fans. Basically the two large side pieces not only focus the fans’ air onto the heatsink’s face, but also allow enough space to reduce static pressure introduced by the somewhat restrictive fin array.

This combination of aggressively cut fin array and proper standoff height allows the full power of the fans to be effectively used by the Maker 8. Of course if you are so inclined you actually do not need to use all three pieces. For instance, if you wish to, you can completely remove the top covering with little to no detriment to the Marker 8’s cooling performance. Single fan configurations can be used as well.

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The included accessories are rather impressive in both their completeness and their quality which is as it should be with a $130 cooler. Not only does Cooler Master included the usual accoutrements for mounting this impressive cooler on both Intel and AMD systems they include enough hardware to mount it on basically every system made in recent memory. Everything from ancient Intel 775 systems to 2011 and as well as all major AMD systems are covered. Another interesting addition are 3D printer plans/ instructions so that enthusiasts can easily modify the top fascia to their needs.

Cooler Master also includes additional TIM, and additional hardware to mount 120mm fans on this marvelous model. As an added bonus they even include a secondary solid aluminum top if the clear plastic topper is not to your liking.


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This model comes standard with two 140mm Silencio FP 140 fans which are rated for 1800RPM and a maximum pressure envelope of 2.2mm/H2O. For consumers who consider these stock fans to be less than optimal for their needs – as they are a touch loud thanks to their ‘loop dynamic bearing’ (read hybrid rifle and ball bearing design)– the MasterAir Maker 8 can easily accommodate aftermarket 140mm fans as well as more common 120mm fans.

This one two-combination of high efficiency and high performance is sure to satisfy anyone who can look past the asking price. Whether or not these features can indeed justify the Maker 8’s asking price remains to be seen. In either case these are the key selling features that Cooler Master is counting on to persuade consumers away from lower priced dual bay 120mm, and even dual bay 140mm, AIO coolers.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Setup and Installation

Setup and Installation Issues


As the MasterAir Maker 8 is capable of being installed on such a wide variety of system it is only fair to actually take them up on their offer. As such we installed this cooler on three different systems. An ASRock Z97 based motherboard, a Gigabyte 2011 motherboard and even a Gigabyte AMD AM3+ motherboard. This is what we found out.

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Starting with the Z97 system the installation process basically follows the same path as previous Cooler Master air based cooling solutions. The first thing you need to do is install the multipurpose back plate and then install the top bracket hardware. We have very little issues with the back plate as while it does rely heavily on plastic it is both easy to use on a wide variety of sockets and more than robust enough to get the job done. The top brackets though are not quite as good.

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Compared to the hardware used by some alternatives like Noctua’s latest solutions, these thin metal brackets simply do not inspire all that much confidence. Put simply, they may be strong enough to get the job done but they are easily bendable. This is not reassuring to say the least. However, they are more than durable and more than robust enough to handle the couple pounds of force that the Maker 8 will exert on them.

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What is not acceptable is the fact that Cooler Master seems to have gone out of their way to find the absolute smallest, most user unfriendly nuts possible. No matter what you do, at least one of these will fall off and under the motherboard heatsink during installation. This is just a given, as they are not only too small to be easily gripped but they have an extremely fine thread pitch.

After removing both fans and then placing the cooler in position you are expected to use two even smaller nuts to secure it to the top brackets. This wouldn’t have been a deal breaker but the Maker 8 has to be precisely aligned so the nuts can fall into their respective holes and then onto the vertical shaft that sticks up from each of the two top brackets. If you are off by even a tenth of a millimeter they will just spin in place… and then fall off.

During the installation process we lost count of the number of times that this happened and had to tip the motherboard up to let the itty bitty nut fall free. There is simply no reason for using such small parts on such a large cooler. They do not inspire confidence, they are not easy to work with, and they get lost awfully damn easy.

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These issues would be tolerable if they would be the only ones you had to work past. Sadly, due to the way the fans are attached this is only the beginning of the problems. You see, unlike every other mega cooler on the market, the Maker 8 relies upon plastic grooves and two plastic snaps to hold the fans in place.

While this certainly looks fancy, it means that you cannot simply move the fan up higher on the fin array and have it securely mounted. In testing if you do as Cooler Master suggests the amount of noise from the fans significantly increases. This is because the fans vibrate more if not locked into place.

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Cooler Master also made the mistake of starting the fin array off very, very low to the motherboard. In fact, on our Z87, Z97 and Z170 systems (yes we tried multiple motherboards) the amount of room between the bottom of the fan and the two nearest DIMM slots was extremely limited to say the least.

Having to first install the ram before the CPU cooler is par for the course, but having to use only standard height ram is not since many enthusiast modules have higher heatsinks these days. As you can see even standard height ram will touch the bottom of the fan, causing additional vibration. So much so that out of all the DDR3 RAM modules we had on hand only the Mushkin Stiletto model would work with the fan locked firmly into position. Various G.Skill lines would not, and even Corsair’s Vengeance ‘LP’ series was not low profile enough. This means that the nearest one to two RAM sockets – depending on the particular motherboard - are nearly unusable.

While you can somewhat alleviate this issue by using smaller 120mm fans, that is not an optimal solution. In fact, all the main options are less than optimal. Consumers are basically left in the unenviable position of choosing to either use smaller fans on the Maker 8, not fully securing the fans in place, or severely limiting their RAM selection. None of these options acceptable solutions when dealing with such an expensive CPU cooling solution.

To be blunt this issue alone makes this cooler a sub-optimal choice for Z87 to Z170 based systems. The only exception would be anyone with access to a 3D printer and thus the ability to modify the height of the fan brackets. Though Cooler Master does not include the schematics for these parts so even dedicated enthusiasts will have to first recreate them, then modify them. What a damn shame, and one that could have been easily avoided by the inclusion of ten cents worth of wire mounting brackets or a slightly modified design.

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Thankfully when we turned our attention to Socket 2011 / X99 based systems things were a bit more confidence inspiring. Put simply the installation process is easier as it uses the integrated Intel 2011 backplate, and the standoff height is slightly greater. With that being said the amount of height between the bottom of the fans and the DDR4 RAM modules is still going to be limited.

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In this case our Corsair Vengeance DDR4 ‘LPX’ series fit easily. Sadly, our Mushkin DDR4 ram modules were unable to fit in either of the two nearest DIMM slots on either side of the CPU socket.

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Meanwhile, our high performance DDR4-3600 G.Skill memory modules were also unable to fit underneath in either of the first two nearest DIMMS. Instead, just as with our Mushkin DDR4 RAM, they were limited to the outer most slots. Sadly, this makes the Maker8 a touch less than optimal for Socket 2011 systems as well.

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When we turned to the AMD AM3+ system we must admit to having rather low expectations. Thankfully it appears that the AMD installation team was not the same as the Intel one. In a very uncommon move – for AMD users at least – this cooler can easily be installed in either typical North/South orientation or East/West orientation. That certainly makes the Maker 8 above average for AMD users.

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This however was only the tip of the iceberg as the amount of room between the bottom of the fan and the RAM was downright amazing. Obviously the original design team for the Maker 8 are all AMD users….maybe. That to us is a rather odd turn of events, but if you have an AMD based system this cooler is actually a joy to work with and is easily one of the better options for your fire breathing AMD system.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Performance vs. Air Coolers

Stock Fan Performance Results


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High Speed Fan Performance Results


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As you can see the included stock fans are very decent in their abilities. More importantly the underlying design of the Maker 8 is very robust and technically sound. So much so that this 140mm design can easily provide very good results even when handicapped with smaller 120mm fans.


Dual Fan Results


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While the included stock fans are fair decent, switching them out for – admittedly even louder – aftermarket fans may be worth the investment. Of course spending an additional thirty dollars on a CPU cooling solution that is already outlandishly priced is rather surreal. This CPU cooler desperately needs a price cut.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Performance vs. Single Bay AIOs

Performance versus Single Bay AIOs


You can find our 2016 CPU Cooler Testing Methodology HERE.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/CM_maker8/single_stock.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/CM_maker8/single_oc.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/CM_maker8/single_oc2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

On the one hand this air cooler shows that consumers do no need to go the water cooling route in order to get very good CPU cooling results. Unfortunately, many of these devices that the Maker8 is dominating costs significantly <i>less</i> and therefore should be outclassed by this rather expensive cooler!
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Feb 26, 2007
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12,841
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Montreal
Performance vs. Dual Bay AIOs

Performance vs. Dual Bay AIOs


You can find our 2016 CPU Cooler Testing Methodology HERE.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/CM_maker8/dual_stock.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/CM_maker8/dual_oc.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/CM_maker8/dual_oc2.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

On the surface of things it may seem a touch absurd to compare any air based cooling solution to massive dual bay 120 and 140mm All In One CPU cooling solutions but the Maker8 is actually more expensive than some of the models in these charts and as such we feel this is a fair comparison.

As you can see your money simply is not best spent on this cooler if you are looking for the best solution for your hard earned dollar. It is outclassed by even cheaper dual bay AIOs and that to us highlights precisely what is wrong with this cooler: it is simply too expensive for what it has to offer.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Sound Level Testing

Sound Level Testing


While everyone "hears" noise differently there is one easy way to remove all subjectivness and easily compare different fans: use a sound level meter. This way you can easily compare the various fans noise envelopes without us coloring the results and see what fans fit within your personal comfort level. Of course, we will endeavor to try and explain the various results (which are taken at a 30 inch distance) to help you our readers get an even better understanding of how loud a cooler's stock fan is, but even if you discount our personal opinions, the fact remains numbers don't lie. All fans are tested with both voltage regulation / PWM turned off. 32 decibels was the background noise level and as such anything below this level is considered inaudible. This is why the bottom of the chart stops at 32.

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Overall this cooler may not be the quietest we have ever tested but it is fairly reasonable in the noise department. This is especially true at lower RPM levels.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Conclusion

Conclusion


The Cooler Master MasterAir Maker 8 is certainly a unique air cooler that puts an emphasis on advanced technology and customizability. With nods to both the 3D printing community and those who want something other than just another AIO, it works quite well. However, it may only end up appealing to a relatively niche market for a number of reasons.

With what seems like a never-ending deluge of All in One water coolers being released, seeing a new air-based solution is certainly a breath of fresh…air. More importantly, Cooler Master has backed up their latest creation with some good old fashioned engineering in an effort to compete against liquid-based alternatives. That patented 3DVC along with a pair of excellent 140mm fans allow the Maker 8 to power through every thermal scenario and literally demolish every other air cooler we have tested to date.

Against AIOs the Maker 8’s performance looks quite good as well. At higher thermal loads it outperforms even the best single bay integrated water coolers and remains competitive with quite a few dual bay units as well. This is all accomplished while retaining a relatively low noise profile. That’s simply incredible but it only tells half the story since we have to remember this cooler costs a whopping $130.

One the single bay side of this equation, let’s look at the Corsair H80i. Despite offering only slightly higher (about 3°C) temperatures it retails for a good $40 less than the MasterAir Maker 8. That may not sound like all that much but ultimately those forty bucks would go a long way towards equipping yourself with a higher end GPU or CPU.

The same situation holds true when comparing dual bay AIOs to the Maker 8’s staggering $130 price point as well. It competes well against less expensive dual 120mm-equipped coolers like the Corsair H100i GTX (~$110), Cooler Master’s own Nepton 240M ($100) and Silverstone’s TD02-E ($90). Meanwhile Cooler Master’s latest creation gets manhandled in every conceivable way by similarly priced 2x140mm coolers from those same manufacturers.

While pricing will ultimately be the Maker’s undoing against All In One alternatives, its installation process is an absolute nightmare. We’re used to neatly avoiding installation problems with today’s air and water coolers since –for different reasons- they’ve all come to grips with current generation mounting restrictions like higher memory modules and extensive VRM heatsinks. Not so with the MasterAir; on Intel-based systems its installation procedure is not only contrived but fraught with potential restrictions from your other hardware.

Cooler Master really is onto something with the Master Air Maker 8. Its cooling performance and noise profile is nothing short of incredible for an air-based cooler; this is a platform that can certainly hold great things for the future. Unfortunately, an overly high price and serious installation problems mar our opinion of what could have been a breakout cooling product.
 
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