The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic value of a 32-channel head coil for the characterization of mural inflammation patterns in the superficial cranial arteries in patients with giant cell arteritis (GCA) compared to a standard 12-channel coil at 3T MRI. 55 patients with suspected GCA underwent high resolution T1-weighted post-contrast MRI at 3T to detect inflammation related vessel wall enhancement using both coils. To account for different time delays between contrast agent injection and sequence acquisition, the patients were divided into two cohorts: 27 patients were examined with the 32-channel coil first and 28 patients with the 12-channel coil first. Images were evaluated by two blinded readers with regard to image quality, artifact level and arteries' inflammation according to a standardized ranking scale; furthermore signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measurements were performed at three locations. Identification of arteries' inflammation was achieved with both coils with excellent inter-observer agreement (κ=0.89 for 12-channel and κ=0.96 for 32-channel coil). Regarding image grading, the inter-observer variability was moderate for the 12-channel (κ=0.5) and substantial for the 32-channel coil (κ=0.63). Significantly higher SNR and improved image quality (p<0.01) were obtained with the 32-channel coil in either coil order. Image quality for depiction of the superficial cranial arteries was superior for the 32-channel coil. For standardized GCA diagnosis, the 12-channel coil was sufficient.