After spending the last few days trying to learn a bit more about coolers, so I can locate just the right CPU cooler for this desktop, I've come to the sad conclusion that I really don't know a helluva lot more about it than I did before I started.
My humble criteria are as follows:
- Must fit the flippin' CPU. (Yeah, you'd think that was a given ... but after research ... not so much.) -- [AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE - 125w = AM3]
- Minimum headaches to install. (Ok. I know. This one is a dream-land special.)
- Must be capable of dissipating at least 200W. (The CPU only makes 125 ... but I like safety margins.)
- Must fit inside the case.
- The fewer moving parts, the better. (One fan is preferable to two, no fans is preferable to one, etc.)
- Must be able to avoid immediate catastrophic failure of the CPU in the event of the failure of moving parts in the cooler.
- Must be able to cool the CPU well below current experienced levels whilst running all four cores at max speed (factory set) and 97~100% usage. No over-clocking involved.
- It's size and shape should not be such that it endangeres other components by lack of airflow.
- It should not be so massive as to endanger the structural integrity of the motherboard.
- Noise isn't so much of an issue. After dealing with the Charley Foxtrot I've got in there now, most anything would be an improvement. Especially if it complies with the minimum moving parts requirement.
- It must be -- by design and practice -- easy to clean. This means that is must be relatively easy to remove the fan and access the fins in-situ.
- It actually has to be available for sale in the USA.
You'd think that would be simple enough to find, no? Yeah. So did I. Before I started.
What I've found is a wasteland of hyperbole, conflicting specs, mounting nightmares, proprietary replacement parts (lock-in) no single across-the-board rating method, un-educated guesstimates, pure sales pitches, clueless user reviews, laughably silly youtube install videos, and a flippin' headache.
Concepts I do
- Heatpipes seem to work better than monolithic conduction.
- Fin-count alone won't predict performance. Spacing and thickness play big roles.
- Soldered seems to be more effective than swagged.
- Direct contact heatpipes are more efficient than otherwise arranged with a conducting block.
- Airflow across the radiator is still the king for all coolers ... including liquid cooling systems.
- Not all heat pipes are equal. Internal composition, size, quantity and arrangement in the radiator stack are significant variables.
- As always ... money talks.
Concepts I don't
- How LED illuminated fans make any difference at all in cooler quality.
- How companies who supposedly specialize in high-performance systems could and would fail to understand and therefore offer designs accommodating high-profile RAM heatsinks.
- Why presumably intelligent CPU manufacturers would willing put such nearly useless quasi-dangerous/destructive junk coolers on their OEM stuff, and making any changes/improvements thereof fully destructive to the warranty.
- Why it is that no matter how you try to step over a cat, they always manage to swish their tail to exactly the same spot you were planning to place your foot.
I'll post some of the possible contenders I've found in a few minutes. All that ranting made me throat a bit dry, and my coffee cup is empty.