Basically, if you are happy with your boxed cooler performance and you don’t want to bother with replacing it, simply skip this article. With so many choices and so many custom rigs, it’s hard to make a right choice. We are here to give you a few tips. Hope this will help.
1. COMPATIBILITY – CPU SOCKETS
The master concern would be the compatibility with the CPU socket type. Please check the user manual or information on the packaging to see what socket type your motherboard and CPU are. It could be Intel Socket 775/1156/1366/1155 or AMD 754/939/940/AM2/AM3/FM1
The biggest concern is whether or not the case is large enough for the chosen cooler. Please check to see if the heat sink can fit in the case (e.g. Coolermaster’s Hyper 612S CPU cooler fits Thermaltake’s M9 case – 163 mm / 6.4″ vs max. 165mm / 6.5″ – with fan duct removed and only 100 mm / 3.9# with fan duct).
You should consider weather your case comes with the fan duct or with the pre-installed side panel fan. Then you need to remove these or to look for a low-profile CPU cooler.
You could even remove the side panel if you wish to but it’s not recommended.
3. RAM HEAT SINKS
You might want consider on the height of ram heat sinks you are using. Sometimes if memory is too tall (e.g. G.Skill’s DDR3 Trident Series) it will hit the fan on the heat sink. You should check with the user manual and compare these dimensions. Well, it’s hard to believe manufacturers will provide this data by default but it’s possible at product technical support or searched through the web.
That’s why we are here to provide you that data according to our burned rigs measurements.
With narrow CPU heat sinks, you probably want to have this kind of information (e.g. Arctic’s Freezer Xtreme or Xigmatek’s Gaia).
Sometimes is not easy to install the cooler regardless user manual provided, because the mounting mechanism is too complicated. Than you should think of easy installation as the right way for you to take.
I don’t want to discourage you but if you don’t have idea of how to apply thermal compound to a CPU then choose only the simplest installation coolers with pre-applied thermal compound – not the best solution but good enough.
5. EXTERNAL SIGNS – the NUMBERS
There are a few signs which could tell what to expect and which are preferable:
-packaging – basically the bigger is the better,
-heat sink size and weight – again the bigger is the better (cooling capacity)
-number of heat pipes – the more means the better heat conduct,
-base – Copper base with direct touch design should be more efficient than other designs,
– TDP – Thermal Design Power or maximal dissipation heat capacity before exceeding the maximum junction temperature for the CPU – the higher the better. Note the parameter is not crucial unless you do heavy burning / overclocking
6. VENTILATION – FAN(S)
An active CPU cooler uses fan so here are a few recommendations what to pay attention at with the fan(s) bundled:
- the bigger the better (e.g. 140mm vs 120mm), the more the better (e.g.Zalman’s CNPS12X with triple fan)
- the more flow the better (CFM – cubic feet per minute or L/min – litters per minute, typically 20 to over a few hundreds CFM) e.g. Delta Electronics case fan with over 240 CFM,
- the more pressure the better (mmH2O – millimeter of water @ 4°C, typically 0.1 to over 2 ) e.g. Delta Electronics case fan with 27.48 mm H2O
- PWM function is a common method of controlling fans speed. (Must be enabled in BIOS settings after installation.) It is recommended to choose a PWM capable fan. You could easily recognize it by the 4-pin connector. Speed range from 0 to few thousands RPM, e.g. Delta Electronics case fan with 5200 RPM.
- Option for installation of second fan for push/pull setup is preferable but not crucial
7. NOISE LEVEL
Passive cooling (e.g. PROLIMATECH Super Mega) is the best way to silent system but as you could guess, the most CPU coolers are active with fan(s) installed.
If you appreciate silence coming from your rig then check the noise performance of the cooler’s fan(s) before buying. The less dBa the quitter the fan.
Sometimes manufacturers provide accessories to control or reduce fan speed manually via adjuster and/or adapters/resistors – choose these manufacturers/products. If you like to modify your rigs yourself then you should make sure fan(s) can be replaced with the custom fan(s) you prefer because sometimes it’s not possible to make alterations (e.g. Arctic’s Freezer Xtreme).
You should also check if Anti-Vibe fan mountings are bundled – highly appreciated addition.
Except a few things mentioned before (fan speed adapter/control-resistor, optional fan mounting mechanism, anti-vibe mountings, etc.) you would like to see some more stuff bundled:
- Good user manual
- Thermal grease
- LED fan if you like cool aesthetics
Everybody wants to be sure as long as possible to be able to replace the bad product if it dies. But be sure to check what the numbers behind the years declared mean for real.
10. HOW MUCH ARE YOU WILLING TO PAY
Nowadays manufacturers offer a wide price range for the one type of products so please choose as you like. It’s like with the cars for example, for a few more horse powers the price rises exponentially what bring us to the conclusion – it’s not always necessary to use the most expensive hardware.
Let me mention few best seller CPU Coolers for you to have an idea what to search for:
– Cooler Master Hyper 212+
– Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro
– Noctua NH-D14
– Cooler Master V8
– Cooler Master Hyper TX3
– Xigmatek Dark Knight
– Prolimatech Megahelms