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Cooler Master V8 GTS CPU Cooler Review

AkG

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Typically heatsink design cycles are long, drawn out affairs and Cooler Master’s V-series is proof positive of that. Their all-new $99 V8 GTS is a mixture of old and new ideas blended together, resulting in an extremely innovative take on how a heatsink should interact with the CPU. Innovation is key here since air-based cooling solutions seem to have reached something of a plateau, without the possibility of any major advancements unless some extreme steps are taken. In designing the V8 GTS, Cooler Master may be giving us a glimpse at what the next generation of CPU cooling could look like.

The original V8 used a unique design which relied on a single fan alongside an odd combination of large and small cooling towers. This resulted in a heatsink that performed well, but its overall temperatures didn’t quite live up to most enthusiasts’ expectations. The V8 GTS is a different beast altogether since it utilizes a much larger, smarter, ‘triple’ tower design which combines the highlight elements from the V8 and V6 GT into one cooler and then added in some new technology.

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One of the major changes in the V8 series’ metamorphosis is size. The GTS has been upsized for increased surface area and can now accept and properly utilize larger 140mm fans. A mere size augmentation will never be able to offer significantly improved cooling performance so Cooler Master added what they call a HVC or ‘Horizontal Vapor Chamber’. This represents the one of the first non-GPU uses of a baseplate vapor chamber and it should allow the V8 GTS to efficiently remove heat from the CPU’s IHS.

Unfortunately, Cooler Master’s pricing will seem a bit high to many. At $99, the V8 GTS is some $ 20 more than Noctua’s excellent NH-U12S and $10 more than the NH-U14S. It also lines up shoulder to shoulder with Corsair’s Hydro H90 all in one water cooling unit and costs just $10 less than an H100. These simple numbers could put the GTS onto particularly slippery ground since its competitors are well established, highly respected and provide some excellent performance numbers.

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AkG

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A Closer Look at the V8 GTS

A Closer Look at the V8 GTS


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Much like the V6 GT – and unlike the original V8 – the V8 GTS’s deep red and black colour scheme gives the whole exterior box the look of a high end automobile. It looks, feels and even reads like a high-end product is wrapped within its protective confines.

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Cooler Master has a reputation for complete, well thought out, high quality accessories and the $100 V8 GTS doesn’t disappoint in this area. It includes a well-documented installation pamphlet, a large bag containing mounting equipment for all current Intel and AMD systems, a tube of TIM and even a small wrench to help with installation. There is also a pair of high performance PWM capable fans already attached to the heatsink and even a 2 in 1 adapter which allows both fans to run off of one 4 pin motherboard header.

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As stated in the introduction, the V8 GTS represents a radical departure from previous V8 designs. The original V8 used a ‘quad’ approach which combined two thin vertically orientated heatsink “towers” with additional smaller heatsinks pushed off to the sides. It was for all intents and purposes a single fan design as it sandwiched a very loud, high speed 120mm fan in between its fin arrays. This may have been a unique way of looking at things, but it wasn’t quite optimal as it placed a lot of stress on a single centrally located fan.

The V8 GTS does things differently. Gone is the ‘quad’ tower design of the V8 and in its place is a single tower layout which combines the best of the V6 GT and the V8. By opting for one main cooling tower Cooler Master was able to make their latest creation a true dual fan capable design. However, unlike the V6 GT’s somewhat simplistic approach, the original V8’s additional miniature cooling towers were added to further increase surface area and cooling potential. There are even additional baffles over the fans in order to direct their airflow directly over the smaller heatsinks, thus increasing the potential heat dissipation characteristics.

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As with the V8, these additional cooling towers give most of the advantages (increased surface area, enhanced cooling performance and a decrease in static pressure) of a classic twin tower design but without most of the headaches associated with using two full sized fin arrays. To further increase its dissipation potential, Cooler Master has made all three fin arrays much larger so the whole affair can accommodate 140mm fans which can operate at lower RPMs.

Speaking of the fans, they use advanced PolyOxyMethylene or ‘POM’ bearings, reducing noise and increasing longevity. While this semi-crystalline polymer bearing is better known as Thermoplastic, many enthusiasts will recognize it by one of its two brand names: Delrin or Acetal. One unique characteristic of this thermoplastic is that it has a very, very low friction coefficient so while these fans technically use sleeve bearings, the thermoplastic material gives them an incredibly long life with very little noise throughout most of their lifespan.

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Unfortunately, the actual fin design and layout within each of cooling tower is rather primitive in comparison to some other CPU cooling solutions. They don’t contain performance enhancing grooves, cuts or anything else which could further decrease static pressure requirements.

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The V8 GTS makes use of eight 6mm heatpipes. As with the original V8, the two smaller cooling towers receive two heatpipes each with the larger central cooling tower receiving the final ‘four’ (or eight if each u-shaped construction is considered a pair of heatpipes).

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While interesting and impressive in their execution all these features pale in comparison to the V8 GTS’ main claim to fame: its HVC base. Cooler Master has already created vapor chambered heatsinks (the TPC 812 or 612 come to mind) but in this case the vapor chamber isn’t being used as just an additional –albeit larger- heatpipe. The V8GTS actually incorporates a horizontal vapor chamber in its base, located between the heatpipes and the CPU IHS much like it would on a high performance video card.

By borrowing this idea from the GPU market, Cooler Master has created something entirely unique with the potential to actually fully utilize all eight heatpipes. In previous designs only the heatpipes which come in direct contact with the CPU IHS would be able to properly cool the CPU. This meant a customer using a smaller 1155 socket CPU could experience radically different performance than those with a larger 2011 socket. This was always the weak link in the previous V-series and many other similar models including the Noctua D14 and Phanteks TC14PE. By opting for a horizontally mounted vapor chamber such differences in IHS sizes no longer matter. The vapor chamber will evenly spread the heat out across its full surface upon which it will to pass to all the heatpipes attached.

Another important aspect of this design is its potential to properly cool CPUs with condensed temperature characteristics. For example, current Haswell owners have complained about high temperatures since the 22nm 3D manufacturing technology of those processors focuses much of the core’s heat into one small area. While this could cause an issue for most other heatsinks, the V8 GTS should be able to handle the load in a more even, efficient manner.

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Luckily, vapor chamber’s base has been highly polished and is one of the better finishing jobs we have seen on a ‘solid’ base cooler in a long while. This should also help increase the V8 GTS’ performance as the base’s contact area will be enhanced.
 
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AkG

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Installation (Intel & AMD)

Intel Installation


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In many ways the V8 GTS’ installation shares more in common with Cooler Master’s AIO Seidon series than it does with previous V series. This is both a major strength and a weakness as it is a touch more complicated than its predecessors, but is just as straightforward.

Instead of an all metal affair for mounting which was robust but a touch convoluted to install, the hardware now makes use of a minor amount of plastic and is no longer an ‘all in one’ type affair. Basically, the backplate is from the Seidon 240M, uses plastic corner sliders and is Intel only (a second AMD backplate is included). Luckily it is much easier to work with than the one found on the V8 and is nearly impossible to install incorrectly.

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The corners of Cooler Master’s Intel backplate have a slider mechanism for each of the main Intel socketed types – including 775. You simply slide each corner post to the right length and place it on the back of the motherboard so each post goes through the appropriate corner.

Once the backplate is installed, a quartet of metal standoffs is screwed into place keeping the backplate secured. This all happens with a minimum of fuss. Unlike the Seidon 240M these standoffs are dual sided and have a second set of threads which rise above the motherboard and are used to attach the V8 GTS’ installation arms via secondary bolts.

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The next step is an area where Cooler Master has added a slightly weak link to the installation process. In order to get the Intel top brackets into place (they aren’t pre-installed), a pair of crazy-small screws need to be installed. These screws are easy to lose and finicky to get into place.

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Now that the V8 GTS ready to go, it can be aligned with the motherboard-mounted posts and tightened down with a quartet of somewhat archaic nuts. These nuts cannot be over tightened so even novice users will know when they are fully secured. Unfortunately, since this is a large cooler installing them is also a finicky, time consuming affair.

While Cooler Master includes a custom miniature wrench for this installation step, it isn’t magnetized and tends to be nearly useless for getting the nuts started and is only useful for tightening them down. Depending on how tall your motherboard’s integrated heatsinks are, you may find it easier to first remove the two fans as this will allow for more maneuvering room.


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Once all this is accomplished the V8 GTS is fully installed and all that is left to do is plug in the fan adapter cable and start enjoying the V8 GTS. Overall Cooler Master has instituted a rather quirky installation process but one that shouldn’t be overly daunting as long as some time is taken.

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While this is a rather large CPU cooler, the number of potential compatibility issues is rather limited. Lack of compatibility issues has always been a strong suit of the V8 series and the V8 GTS lives up to its predecessor’s reputation. The cooling arrays and fans themselves may have been upgraded to 140mm but there’s adequate motherboard and memory clearance. The V8 GTS really is well designed in this respect.

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AMD Installation


The Cooler Master V8 GTS uses the exact same installation procedure for AMD as it does for Intel, the only difference being the hardware components you use.

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To start the installation you once again prep the motherboard by removing the stock AMD backplate and replacing it with the included Cooler Master backplate. It then has to be secured into position via the use of four included standoffs.

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Instead of using the Intel retention arms, the two AMD arms have to be installed and they need those same small screws.


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Unfortunately, the list of installation issues is a lot longer this time around. If the motherboard has higher than usual heatsinks, the V8 GTS will be nigh on impossible to install regardless of its direction. The amount of room between the ram and heatpipes leading to the outer cooling towers is rather narrow as well so higher memory modules won’t be compatible.


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Unfortunately, even looking past the memory and motherboard heatsink clearance issues, there is still one glaring problem with the AMD setup: it’s impossible to install the V8 GTS can’t be installed in a typical front / rear orientation. Rather, the fans need to blow towards the case’s upper regions or down towards the graphics card. That’s just unacceptable, particularly on a heatsink that costs a hundred bucks.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


To ensure that the results from one review to another are not only reproducible but actually pertinent to this review, the Testing Methodology will be the same throughout all reviews used. If something does change we will be sure to make a special note of it and explain why this change was done and more importantly why things had to be changed or altered.


Thermal Paste and Application Methods:

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted.

For all non HDT coolers, application of thermal paste was in accordance with the TIM manufacturer’s instructions; and while not necessary, the TIM was allowed to cure for 24 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.

For all 3 pipe HDT coolers two lines of TIM is applied to the two centre metal posts and for all 4 pipe HDTS three (smaller) lines of TIM are applied to the metal posts. This method has been found to provide significantly better coverage than the more typical methods.


Fans Used

120mm:
For all CPU Cooling Solutions which do not come with their own fan, a Noctua NF-P12-1300 and a Scythe S-Flex “G” 1900RPM fan will be used if it accepts 120mm fans. With these two fans we are able to simulate different fan speed conditions as indicated below.


High Speed:

1900RPM Scythe S-Flex “G”. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1860RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the High speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Dual & Triple Fans*:

Two or Three 1900RPM Scythe S-Flex “G”

*Dual fans only used if the cooler comes with the necessary mounting hardware.


140mm Fan:

If the cooler being tested accepts 140mm fans, NZXT FX 140LB fans will be used.


92mm Fan:

If the cooler being tested only accepts 92mm fans, a Noctua NF-B9-1600 will be used.

If the given CPU cooling solution comes with a stock fan we will also include its numbers in the closest of the main tests BUT we will also include our standard fan results in that particular tests.


Fan Notes:

- If a heatsink cannot mount an aftermarket fan, we will be only including the stock fan results. However, if the stock fan speed can be precisely controlled by means other than the motherboard BIOS (an included remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc), the cooler will be tested at different fan speeds.

- For dual fan results ALL coolers capable of mounting two fans (and come with the necessary hardware) will be tested with two NF-P12s and the Dual Fan graph will contain data for other such dual capable fan coolers.


We feel that the combination of multiple speeds and multiple fans will allow us to give you our readers clear and precise idea of the capabilities of a given unit, in an accurate comparison. It will also help eliminate the occasional “zinger” such as when a manufacturer includes an extremely high-speed fan in order to possibly offset poor heat sink thermal performance.


Environment:

All comparison testing was done on an open bench with a constant ambient temperature of 24°C. If at any time the room temperature increased or decreased by more than 1°C, testing was halted until the temperature constant was re-established.


Testbed:

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Unlike our previous methodology which used an open bench setup with a horizontally orientated motherboard, our new open bench is a modified Tech Station with a twist.

It has been modified so that the motherboard is in a more typical vertical orientation as it would be when installed in a case.

This has been done by the simple expedient of drilling out the bumper pads and threading long bolts (typically used for mounting fans to water cooling radiators) up through the top base of the tech station. Then by simply threading the bolts up through the motherboard we can then secure said motherboard to the tech station. Rubber mounts followed by a nut ensures that nothing moves. When the motherboard has been secured we simply tip the tech station on its side and using weights on the lower “legs” to keep it from tipping over we end up with a vertical orientated motherboard which is safe and secure yet still an open, controlled benching environment.


Mounting Orientation:

Only the typical East / West (aka forward / back) orientation will be used.


Temperature Recording:

Recorded temps were as reported via the Real Temp plug-in for the RivaTuner monitor program.

Max and Average load temps are based on 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and are taken directly from RivaTuner’s built in capabilities.

The maximum temperatures will be the highest recorded temp displayed for any of the cores during the 15 minute test. While RivaTuner will display each core's average temperature it does not easily show the average of ALL the cores. To this end we will be simply taking the average of all the cores adding them together and then dividing by the number of cores.

If during any test temperatures of 90°C or more are displayed in RivaTuner (for any core) for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Idle temperatures are the lowest recorded temperature during idle period as recorded by the RealTemp Rivatuner monitoring program.

All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. In addition, Turbo Mode was disabled and Hyperthreading was enabled.

All tests are run a minimum of three times and only the best results are represented.

Maximum voltage used is 1.35 volts.


Charts & Graphs:

Due to clutter and confusion we now will only be including the best of the best. We understand that “best” does mean different things to different people, to this end we will only be including what we feel are the best representatives of the main price ranges. These main prices ranges approximately are Intel OEM (free), $30, $40, $50, $60, and unlimited. Please keep in mind that prices are variable and while we have done our best to pick what we feel best represents a given price range there can and will be some overlap as these price ranges are not set in stone (with the exception being the Intel OEM cooler). To further help clarify a given cooler’s performance we will also be including a seventh CPU cooling solution, a cooling solution which irregardless of price best exemplifies what a good “all round” dual fan capable cooler should be. For the time being this last will be the TRUE Black. After each published cooler review we will re-evaluate the coolers being included in the charts and based on the value or performance may swap out a cooler for a cooler that was just reviewed.

This way you will not only know how it compares to the Intel stock unit and the best Damn Good Value coolers but also the best of the best Damn Good coolers out there. In grand total there will only be 8 coolers represented in a graph. However, if the review is a “round up” review this limitation will be extended to include all coolers in that review plus the above 7 cooling solutions. We will endeavour to keep the number as low as possible while still giving an accurate picture of the performance of all coolers being reviewed.

Each chart will include the Maximum or “peak” temperature we recorded, the average temperature and the idle temperature.

No passive results will be shown UNLESS manufacturer claims the ability to passively cool a processor. If a manufacturer claims passive capabilities we will include the performance numbers in the charts. The only exception to this is if the review is a “review roundup” and to keep the charts from becoming confusing we may not do so.


Sound Pressure Testing:

To give a more accurate and less of a personal opinion on the noise level of the stock fan which accompanies the heatsink, we have included a new section for sound pressure testing. These tests are done in our open case setup outlined above with the meter positioned 30 inches away from the cooler and mounted on a tripod. To ensure the background noise does not skew the results all tests will start by recording the ambient noise of the room. Only when it meets our standards will the testing commence.

To ensure that no external noise unduly skews the results, the GPU used will be a passively cooled unit and the only active fan will be the one on the cooler while the PSU and HDD are isolated away from the immediate area.

These tests are run late at night when no other people or animals are awake and thus unable to influence the results.

All fans are run at their maximum speed with no voltage or PWM control being used during the sound pressure tests.

The sound pressure meter used is a DT-805 which has been professionally calibrated and NIST certified. We will record the highest levels obtained with said meter and record it as our result. The test will be 15 minutes long and will be run while the fan is running full speed via a Molex connector and the CPU cores are under a full load via Prime 95 Small FFT.

Please note: The Scythe S-Flex G and Noctua NF-P12-1300 (at 1300 and 900rpms) numbers are taken when mounted to a Cooler Master Hyper 212+. We feel that it would be extremely unfair and unrealistic to include noise rating for these after market fans if they were NOT mounted onto a cooler. They are included to help give some sense of proportion to the charts and allow you to more easily compare a stock fan against a known quantity.


Complete Test System:

Case: Cooler Master HAF-X
Processor: Intel i7 920(Intel)
Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R
Memory: 6GB Mushkin Silverline Stiletto DDR3-1600
Graphics card: EVGA GeForce GT 240
Hard Drive: 1x 240GB Intel 520 SSD
Power Supply: Topower Powerbird 900W

Special thanks to Gigabyte for their support and supplying the i7 motherboard.
Special thanks to NZXT for their support and supplying the NZXT 140mm fans.
 
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AkG

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Stock & High Performance Fan Performance Results

Stock Fan Performance Results


In the stock fan tests, every heatsnk or water cooler is tested using their default configuration and fan speeds. This gives a straightforward idea of how these solutions will perform straight out of the box, without any modifications.

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As you can see, the V8 GTS in stock configurations posts some rather impressive results. Not only is it able to handle a heavily overclocked system with ease, it is also a great cooler at lower heat levels. It even outperforms Heatpipe Direct Touch units at lower temperatures. These are two areas where the larger ‘extreme’ style air cooling solutions historically have problems. Obviously the HVC base is spreading out the heat to all heatpipes more effectively than either classic solid or HDT bases.

Against a slightly less expensive Corsair H90 though, the V8 GTS provides some mixed cooling performance. The water cooler outperformed at the highest and lowest processor clock speeds.

With that being said, these results are not precisely ‘apples to apples’ and since the coolers in the chart come equipped with everything from 2000RPM fans to 1200RPM fans. Only by removing such extraneous variables will we truly know how good the V8 GTS really is. By the same token, in stock configurations the V8 GTS is easily one of the best options available right now.


High Speed Fan Performance Results


In this section, we even the playing field somewhat by installing the same high speed fan across all cooling solutions. This may decrease performance for some heatsinks that have tailor-made fan configurations but it should also normalize the results.

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At first glance, these results are not all that impressive and seem to be a complete 180 from the stock results. However, we can't forget that the V8 GTS is designed for 140mm fans and simply has secondary compatibility for smaller 120mm units. But these results are actually very impressive and came as a rather pleasant surprise. Historically, pairing up a 140mm heatsink with a smaller fan leads to higher temperatures and that's exactly what's happening here.

With all that said, we would strongly recommend against using a V8 GTS in single fan configurations and 120mm fans in general. This model is meant for dual fan cooling, hence why Cooler Master equips it with two.
 
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AkG

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Dual Fan & Triple fan Results

Dual & Triple Fan Results


Please note:
"Dual NZXT fan" refers to two 140mm NZXT fans.
"Dual Scythe G fan" refers to two 120mm Scythe 1900RPM Scythe G fans
"Dual Stock fans" refers to a given coolers stock fan(s)


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As we can see, the HVC base certainly gives the V8 GTS a level of efficiency never before seen in higher performance air cooler, even it is not enough of an advantage to overcome the lack of a third fan. Simply put, when the other ‘enthusiast’ grade coolers were equipped with three fans they were able to brute force their way past this rather elegant design.

While the HVC base does seem to make a difference at certain heat loads, it doesn't put the GTS ahead of some competitors, particularly Corsair's H90.
 
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AkG

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Sound Level Testing

Sound Level Testing


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As with previous V models, the V8 GTS' stock fans are rather loud at full speed and no one will mistake these POM based units for Noctua or Phanteks fans. By the same token, their results are still quite good considering the performance levels being offered.

The noise created by Cooler Master's fans isn't bearing whine but rather blade and wind noise. This makes it much easier to ignore than some other designs which squeak, squeal and generally make a bigger nuisance of themselves. Due to the efficiency and performance offered by the HVC base offersm, these fans will rarely spin up to full speed and remain at lower RPM levels while still having performance left in reserve for those times it is needed. This is something Noctua's and Phanteks’ lower speed fans are unable to offer.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


The V8 GTS may not be a heatsink which takes a radically different approach to CPU cooling but it does incorporate just enough innovation to give it a leg up on the competition. However, with a price of $100, Cooler Master may be asking too much in the eyes of some enthusiasts.

While Cooler Master hasn’t necessarily taken a game-changing course here, their HVC base represents a unique approach, one which effectively transfers heat away from the CPU. Vapor chamber technology isn’t precisely a new idea, but with the GTS, they’ve moved past the “Not Invented Here” mentality which is so pervasive in this rather stagnant industry. The last great innovation – HDT bases – happened many years ago and since then not much has changed. Rather, it seemed that most manufactures’ approached increasing heat loads by simply matching larger fin arrays with bigger or faster fans. While the V8 GTS is big, it is anything but a brute force design.

The increased efficiency and adaptability of horizontal vapor chambers has been realized by Cooler Master, though within a CPU heatsink rather than one which sits atop a GPU core. Throughout testing we were continuously amazed by the V8’s ability to quickly adapt to different heat loads. It provides HDT-like performance at idle and lower heat loads but can still ramp things up when the CPU’s output goes into overdrive.

Much like an All in One water cooling solution, the V8 GTS doesn’t seem to care how large the CPU’s IHS HIS is since all eight heatpipes get used regardless of temperature or core dimensions. This is due to the V8 GTS’ vapor chamber effectively distributing the heat evenly across the entire base so all heatpipes are more closely in sync with each other and overloading will only happen at extremely high temperatures.

Unfortunately, that comparison with AIO water coolers also adds a speed bump into the V8’s otherwise excellent showing. The issue here really boils down to price. While a Corsair H90 and its comparable alternatives may have a slightly more involved installation process, from a price for performance standpoint, the Cooler Master’s $100 asking price does seem to be a bit steep. That’s a ton of money to spend on an air-based heatsink no matter how good it performs.

While it is innovative and highly adaptable, the V8 design may not have been the best foundation upon which to build a marketplace Extinction Level Event. By not going even further in the design department, Cooler Master has left the door open for the Phanteks TC14PE’s of the marketplace to still compete on a nearly level footing. The V8 GTS may be more efficient, but few consumers who are willing to spend a hundred dollars on a CPU cooler will care about efficiency. All they want is the best and lowest temperatures possible. The V8 GTS may be a more elegant solution, but those cheaper, heavier, triple fan capable models can make up for the difference by simple brute force.

In the end the V8 GTS may not be perfect and it certainly isn’t right for everyone, but this is easily the best and most innovative CPU heatsinks Cooler Master has ever created. With that being said, a $100 asking price will ensure only true enthusiasts can actually afford it.

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