CPU air-coolers are relatively cheap compared to other computer system components. With the top air-coolers selling in the $45 to $75 price range it is easy to forget that many buyers are really looking for that killer $15 cooler, or at least a $15 cooler that does its job without bringing too much attention to itself with overheating or a loud fan.

In the Intel cooling arena finding a good cheap cooler is particularly difficult, because the stock Intel cooler - included at no cost in Intel Retail CPU packages - is today both a very good performer and very quiet. This makes competing in the value segment particularly difficult for companies aiming at the Socket 775 market.

One company that targets this value market segment is Arctic Cooling. Arctic Cooling is a privately owned company founded in 2001. Headquarters are located in Switzerland, with offices in Hong Kong and the USA, while production is in China. The company specializes in producing thermal cooling solutions for CPUs, GPUs (video chips), and PC cases.

In the few years since its inception, the Arctic Cooling family of coolers has earned a solid reputation for good value in the cooler market. Reputation is one thing and performance is often quite another, so it is time to give that reputation a test in the harsh reality of our cooler test bed. The questions we aim to answer are:

  1. Does the entry Alpine 7 outperform the stock Intel cooler? This is another way of asking whether anyone should bother with the Alpine 7; if the cooler does not outperform the stock Intel unit there is no real reason to buy it.
  2. Are noise levels well controlled at both stock and overclocked settings?
  3. Does the price increase of the Freezer 7 Pro buy equivalent performance improvements? I.e., is it worth the extra cost to buy the Freezer 7 Pro over the Alpine 7?
  4. How do performance and noise levels compare to the best coolers tested at AnandTech?

To provide answers, we dropped the Alpine Cooler pair into our new cooling test bed.

The Arctic Coolers
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