A good CPU cooler can usually be found at the top spots of an enthusiast’s shopping list, as stock coolers rarely are sufficient for the wants and needs of advanced users, especially when overclocking is involved. Choosing the right aftermarket product can be a little complicated, mostly depending on what the product’s focus is and the available budget. For example, some products have been designed to be as quiet as possible while others strictly aim for maximum thermal performance and neglect acoustic comfort completely. Even if two coolers cost about the same, their behavior can be radically different, and it falls to the user to make a judicious choice according to his/her needs.

Whether the focus of the user is quieter operation or higher thermal performance, there is another factor that can make the purchase of a good cooler complicated: size. Sometimes you cannot just buy the best cooler for the job for the simple reason that it will not fit into the system. This is particularly true for compact and/or narrow cases, especially those meant for ITX systems and horizontal placement. With the majority of typical CPU coolers being tower-type constructs, it is difficult to find one that fits inside compact case designs.

To combat this, many manufacturers designed and produced horizontal coolers, i.e. coolers with the fin array placed horizontally instead of vertically. Horizontal coolers are much shorter than typical tower coolers and tend to cool the motherboard’s parts better as well, yet rumor has it that they do not perform as well as tower coolers. The truth is that size/mass is a major factor here as well, meaning that the horizontal designs are meant to be compact and usually just lack the mass of comparable tower cooler designs.

In today's review we will explore three such lower-profile coolers; the Reeven Steropes RC-1206b, the Phanteks PH-TC12LS and the Noctua NH-C14S. These horizontal coolers are all meant for desktop/HTPC designs but they also are significantly different in terms of size, with the Steropes starting at 60 mm tall, moving up to 74 mm with the PH-TC12LS and jumping up to 115/142 mm with the NH-C14S. In the following pages we will explore their design, quality and performance.

Horizontal GPU Cooler Roundup
  Reeven Steropes RC-1206b Phanteks PH-TC12LS Noctua NH-C14S
Fan(s) (mm) 120 (low profile) 120 140
Fan Speed (RPM) 2000 1800 1500
Height (mm/in) 60/2.4 74/2.9 115/4.53
Current Retail Price $40 $40 $75
The Reeven Steropes RC-1206b
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  • nafs_asp - Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - link

    Big Shuriken is probably the best you can cram into a Node 202. I have a 6600k at 4.5GHz in mine, and the Big Shuriken keeps it under 70C during x264 and Aida64.
  • Brainonska511 - Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - link

    I have a Cryorig C7 in my mITX system on a regular i5-6600. I could have gone with something taller, as there is room my Corsair 250D, but what was really appealing to me is the fact that the C7 fits completely within the socket area. Some mITX boards are pretty packed and some users reported that other, larger horizontal coolers could block the PCI-E slot or hit other components on the board.
  • creed3020 - Thursday, January 19, 2017 - link

    Look no further than a Cryorig C1, it needs 74mm of clearance so see what you can do with your case options. I have one and it works wonders on an overlocked Intel Core i5-4690K @ 4GHz inside a Silverstone RVZ-01B.
  • YukaKun - Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - link

    How does the "The Reeven Steropes RC-1206b" stack to the "CM GeminII M4"?

    They look very similar and the M4 does quite a good job with my old A8-3500 inside a Thermaltake SD200.

  • creed3020 - Thursday, January 19, 2017 - link

    Be very wary of the Cooler Master GeminII M4 as its base has poor CPU contact. The base is not flat and just has the heat pipes squished and exposed to the CPU leaving air gaps between the CPU heatspreader and heatsink base. I know this because I recently bought one for an HTPC with an AMD APU and haven't been very impressed with that aspect. The thermal performance is better than the stock heatsink and acoustics are excellent but the product is not as well engineered as it could be for $45.
  • YukaKun - Friday, January 20, 2017 - link

    That is kind of why I am asking. Although I have no complaints on how it's performing, I'd like to know if I should keep it or consider a newer/different HSF for my upgrade.

    Thanks for the input as well :D

  • LiviuTM - Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - link

    It's Celsius.
  • 80-wattHamster - Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - link

    Not the subject of this article, but what stands out to me is the performance of AMD's Wraith. It's so close to the 212 EVO in every metric (except fan speed) that one can't help but conclude that AMD used the EVO as its benchmark during development. And very nearly hit it. On a bundled cooler.
  • wolfemane - Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - link

    You really should have included the Scythe BIG Shuriken 2 Rev. B cooler to your group as it's also a horizontal cooler. The company claims a max TDP of 130w on 115x CPUs. Noctua only claims 95w max TDP on 115x CPUs for the Noctua NH-C14S. Would have been nice to see how this compares.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - link

    Based on my experience (quietly cooling an i5-2300 in an extremely small HTPC case barely bigger than the ITX board dimensions) it would clobber all of these except for the Noctua, and it will fit where the Noctua will not.

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