Over the last year or so, I have reviewed a number of air coolers and also a number of different fans and cooling setups. I thought that sharing my experiences would be useful to a lot of people and this is the reasoning behind the writing of this series. This series will cover a number of topics and to start with we will take a look at CPU cooling, which is by far the most important part of our computers.
Well let’s look at it this way. A single core of a CPU is made up of millions of transistors, which operate continuously to complete any command. The moment we open a word file, for example, we are running a command which involves thousands of operations on each of these transistors, every second. The operation of these transistors within the core is what causes the CPU heat up. The greater the number of cores, the greater the power that is required to run it and the greater the heat produced.
If unchecked this heat can cause damage to our expensive CPU’s and that’s the main reason to keep it cool. That is where increased air cooling comes into play. Heat always moves from a warmer mass to a cooler mass, and in this case it is air which helps to move this heat away from the CPU.
All processor manufacturers provide some type of a heat sink solution for use with their processors.
What we see above is a heat sink which is slightly better than a stock all-aluminum heat sink. Let’s look at how each part of this heat sink works to keep a CPU cool.
At the bottom of the heat sink, we have a copper base which is in direct contact with the CPU. Through this base run a number of copper “pipes” known as heat pipes. The heat pipes are basically tubes of copper which are filled with a pressurized fluid and a wick. The heat pipes then run through a series of aluminum fins, and right on top of all of this is a single fan. Now let’s see how this works.
The copper base of the heat sink is in direct contact with the surface of the CPU. The heat from the CPU is conducted to the copper base, which then causes the fluid in the copper tubes to heat up and vaporize. This vapor travels to the top of the heat pipes, where with the help of the fan and the fins, cools down and turns back to it’s original liquid form and travels back to the base of the heat sink.
The aluminum fins help to increase the total area of the heat sink, which in turn helps to dissipate the heat faster.
Now that we have the basics in place, the next question is, why do we need an after market cooler? Well, there are two main reasons to get an after market heat sink:
So, taking all of this into consideration, let’s look at some suggested aftermarket heat sinks:
1. Cogage Arrow- The Cogage Arrow is a dual tower solution with the capability to use up to three fans. It’s made by a sister company of Thermalright and the design is based off of the IFX-14. It uses four 8mm heat pipes, which are very capable of pulling heat away from the CPU. We have done a thorough review on this heat sink on the AMD Phenom II platform, and in our tests, it beats it’s nearest competition (the Noctua NH-D14) by a very small margin. It is currently the best cooler money can buy.
Link to the product: Cogage Arrow
2. Noctua NH-D14 – The current king of the hill, but not by much. It costs an arm and a leg, and your case better have a lot of space as this is one big cooler. Please check clearances around the motherboard before buying this. It is just slightly behind the Cogage in temperatures, but it does come as a complete setup (including fan) and you do not need to spend anything extra to get this cooler up and running.
Link to the product: Noctua NH-D14
3. Thermalright Venomous-X – The Venomous-X is by far the best single tower design to date. It even manages to beat the previous king of the hill, the Prolimatech Megahalems. The Venomous-X comes ready with two sets of fan clips and an excellent thermal paste. I just wish they would concentrate more on the finish as the base is not up to par with offerings from Noctua. The best solution for those who cannot fit either a Noctua or Cogage in their cabinets.
Link to the product: Thermalright Venomous-X
4. Prolimatech Megahalems – The Megahalems and the Megashadow are the last entrants in the high end list. The Megahalems was the first cooler to dethrone the TRUE and held on to the crown of the best air cooler for almost a year. It is still rated highly amongst the top five coolers.
Link to the product: Prolimatech Megahalems
After the top four we have a number of players, but the more noticeable are the Noctua NH-U12P, the Prolimatech Armageddon and the Xigmatek Thor’s Hammer. You can also look at the H50 from Corsair. It’s a nice piece of hardware, but I would rate it more as air cooling than liquid cooling. Remember, that it’s not going to beat the top four air coolers, but it does tend to keep the rest of your case rather clutter free and therefore keeps the motherboard a lot cooler.
1. Thermolab Baram -The Thermolab Baram is one of those coolers that never got the right amount of marketing behind it. It’s one of the best budget coolers around, and at its price, it’s really very hard to beat. It has a very good fit and finish, and a great mounting system.
Link to product: Thermolab Baram
2. OCZ Vendetta 2 – The V2 is by far one of the best coolers for dual and triple cores available on the market. The three direct touch 8mm heat pipes do a wonderful job and it’s a snap to install on an AMD board. For a dual or triple core look no further as this cooler can handle your overclocks pretty well. The stock fan is good, but the stock TIM should be avoided.
Link to product: OCZ Vendetta 2
3. Cooler Master Hyper 212+ – The “+” version of this cooler is wonderful for dual and triple cores. One of the few budget HDT coolers that have the ability to handle a push-pull setup, and the included fan and TIM provided is pretty good as well. The mounting system is a bit difficult to use, but it does it’s job and gives a very tight fit. I have seen a fair number of high Phenom II overclocks using this cool which should tell you not to judge this cooler by it’s price.
Link to the product: Hyper 212 Plus
4. Xigmatek S1283 – Like the TRUE, the Xigmatek S1283 is legendary. This cooler has spawned a lot of look-a-likes, including the OCZ Vendetta 2. Both are similar in terms of their specifications and even share the same fan. The OCZ V2 has a larger fin area and that’s where it wins.
Link to the product: XIGMATEK S1283
Another heat sink that is worthy of mention is the Scythe Mugen 2, and the only reason that I did not add this to the list above is that we have not had the opportunity to test it ourselves.
That brings us to the end of the first part of this write up, we hope it provided you with a solid guide for your air cooling solutions. Part two will concentrate on fans for case and CPU cooling.
As always we recommended Performance-PCs for all of your case and cooling needs as they offer some of the best service and product selection that we have seen.