Left to their own devices on our LGA1155 motherboard's standard PWM setting, the fans on the Archon SB-E X2 are whisper quiet, and we had to struggle to make out their noise over the background hum of our labs. Its delta T value of 43°C places it on par with the Noctua NH-D14 on full speed, which although a tad quieter and approximately the same price, is also a somewhat bulkier cooler, so it's still a good result.
One of the problems that expensive air coolers typically encounter is being outperformed by all-in-one liquid coolers that are only marginally more expensive, but that simply isn't the case here. When we forced the fans of the Thermalright cooler to full speed in our LGA1155 system it was able to achieve a delta T result of 40°C, which puts it on par with the Corsair H100i on its Balanced profile and, incredibly, the H80i with its fans spinning at their very noisy fastest pace. Even with the two TY-141 fans spinning at maximum speed, the Thermalright Archon SB-E X2 is quieter than both of these set-ups, especially the H80i, as it only produces what can best be described as an audible but still non-intrusive fan noise.
Click to enlarge - The Archon SB-E X2 will fit between the two RAM areas on LGA2011 motherboards
Our LGA2011 system has a higher thermal output than our LGA1155 one, but once again the Archon SB-E X2 is able to keep pace with the best performing closed loop coolers we've reviewed thus far. Its delta T value of 46°C ties it with the Antec Kühler H2O 920 on its obnoxiously loud Extreme profile, and places it just behind the equally loud H80i and H100i coolers on full speed. It's significantly quieter and cheaper than all of these set-ups, so this is an outstanding result, and it's also 6°C cooler than the Noctua NH-D14 on full speed, while only being a little louder.
Through a combination of its octet of heat pipes, ultra high pressure mounting system and a pair of efficient fans, the Archon SB-E X2 hits a sweet spot when it comes to cooling CPUs. Its low temperatures are matched by low noise levels, and evidently our initial concerns about the small amount pivoting present when it's mounted were unfounded. Build quality is fantastic too, and though the installation procedure is made a little trickier by the pressure bolt, it seems as if it's worth the extra effort and once the cooler is strapped on, it won't be going anywhere. The fact that it's able to boast full RAM compatibility, even with the LGA2011 socket, is the icing on the cake.
Click to enlarge - The cooler mounted to our LGA2011 test rig
It's great to see an air cooler give high-end liquid coolers a run for their money, as it represents something of a step forward for the humble air cooler. Closed loop coolers are also likely to improve in the future with 140mm and 280mm radiator models (which we'll be looking at soon) now available, but air coolers come without the risk of leakage and performance degradation over time. We'd also wager that coolers like the H100i would give you a bit more leeway when it came to heavy overclocking, but there's no denying the Archon SB-E X2's cooling capabilities.
While the £55 asking price is a lot, it's not excessive, and the Archon SB-E X2 goes a very long way to justifying it. If noise is your primary concern, Noctua's NH-D14 is worth considering, and the colour range of the Phanteks PH-TC14PE gives it an aesthetic advantage. On balance, however, the SB-E X2 is our new premium air cooler of choice, and well deserving of its awards.