|Best CPU Cooler Performance Q2-2010|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by Olin Coles - Testing by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 27 July 2010|
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Best CPU Cooler Performance Q2-2010
Why do we overclock? It's really a very simple question, but one that has found new meaning over the years. It used to be that computer hardware enthusiasts had very few options when it came to choosing a processor, and building your own custom system was simply not possible. You looked for the best pre-built system, and compared Kilobytes of memory between choices. Those days are behind us, and now the computer hardware industry offers hundreds of processor, motherboard, memory, and peripheral hardware options. But the question still remains.
Its been more than a decade, but I still remember why I began overclocking: it was out of necessity, because my computer operated close to a modern day speed limit. This was back in the day when computers featured a 'Turbo' button, overclocking from 33 to 66MHz was a click away. It wasn't until around 1998 that I began visiting 'enthusiast' websites and found myself overclocking a pathetic Cyrix M-II 233MHz processor. My pursuit for speed would risk an entire Packard Bell computer system for the purpose of finishing reports faster. Back then, overclocking the CPU could push clock speeds past any production level. Today the market is different, and overclocking the processor could result in very little additional performance.
Now days I'm fortunate enough to afford top-end hardware, and so I no longer overclock out of need. With so many dual-, quad-, and hexa-core processors sold on the open market, it seems unnecessary to overclock for the sake of productivity. Overclocking has transformed itself from a tool to help people work faster, into a hobby for enthusiasts. There's a level of overclocking for every enthusiasts, from simple speed bumps to the record-breaking liquid nitrogen extreme projects. Overclocking is addictive, and before you know it the bug has you looking at hardware that might cost as much as a low-end computer system.
Enthusiast overclockers demand only the best performance from their computer hardware, which is why the aftermarket heatsink industry is thriving with fierce competition. Using an overclocked Intel Core i7 processor on the X58-Express platform, only the very best CPU coolers will endure. Benchmark Reviews tests the latest Intel LGA1366 heatsinks in this Best CPU Cooler Performance Q2-2010 article.
Computer hardware is an ever-evolving industry, and since Moore's law only applies to an exponentially growing transistor count then there should probably be another law for cooling products. In the very recent past there have been two major trends which have accelerated the performance potential of CPU cooler. That first development was the use of heat-pipes to directly contact with the CPU surface; which resulted in the Heat-pipe Direct Touch technology. The second development is by no mean a new concept, just new to our industry in specific. For many years now heatsinks have been full of right angles, but very recently companies have begun to recognize the need to disrupt smooth airflow and reduce the laminar skin effect which allows air to travel just above the solid surface. Some manufacturers have used at least one of these new concepts in their product design, and only a few are beginning to incorporate both. Benchmark Reviews will see how much this affects the overall performance as we test a large segment of enthusiast cooling products.
Before the Intel Core i7/X58 platform arrived, the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors did their part to separate the cream of the crop from our large collection of LGA775 coolers. In a previous Best CPU Cooler Performance article, Benchmark Reviews retired the LGA775 platform from its testing duties and made room for the up-and-coming LGA1366 socket. It didn't take long to collect several CPU coolers designed for the Intel Core i7 CPU & X58 platform. It's a mistake to think that any LGA775 cooler can do just as well with the new LGA1366/Core i7 platform; primarily because the size and location of processor cores has changed.
Before we inspect each member of our new CPU cooler collection, let's establish that our tests consist of methods we have determined to be the best for our one singular purpose. Our methodology isn't written in stone, and could very likely be changed or modified as we receive justification (and feedback from the community). Our scope is limited to stand-alone products only, meaning those products which can be installed and operated without additional critical components needed or kit construction. This generally excludes most commercial liquid cooling systems, which may potentially offer better performance than the products we test for this article but require components to be assembled from various options and equipment. Suffice it to say, the vast majority of gamers and enthusiasts are using air-cooled solutions and therefore we target this review series towards them. We encourage hardware enthusiasts to utilize the equipment available to them, and select the cooling fan that best suits their needs. Just keep in mind that exceptional cooling performance must begin with the CPU cooler, and end with the cooling fan. It's the foundation of the unit that makes a difference, which is exactly what we're after in this article.