Optimized CPU Cooling Performance with Top-Down Heatsinks
By Olin Coles
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by Cooler Master.
Occasionally Benchmark Reviews looks at a hardware component, and recognizes the value in discussing it beyond the standard product evaluation. Not all that long ago we tested the Cooler Master Geminii S524 Ver 2 CPU Cooler, and noted how well it performed compared to many other high-end heatsinks. We looked at the temperatures, measured the cooling performance, compared it to the original GeminII S524 Heatsink, and then gave our rating of the product. What we didn’t do is discuss the benefits of a horizontal heatsink, and how they might actually help you reach an even higher overclock on your computer system.
A few years ago, back when I was busy publishing my guide on the Best Thermal Paste Application Methods, I noted the performance difference between heatsink orientation. That is, the physical direction of the heatsink and heat-pipes in either the vertical or horizontal position. What I missed was the difference between tower U-style heatsinks and their down-facing C-style counterparts. While I’ll be using the Cooler Master GeminII S524 Ver 2 heatsink to illustrate my points, the benefit of each style will be the focus of this article.
Heat-Pipe Directional Orientation
Heat-pipe coolers function in a closed-circuit environment, where heated liquid turns to gas and then returns to liquid form as it cools elsewhere. Heat-pipe technology uses several methods to wick internally-contained coolant away from the cool areas of the heatsink where it condenses and return it back to the heated area where it evaporates into a gas. Sintered heat-pipe rods help to overcome Earth’s gravitational pull and can return most fluid to its source, but the directional orientation of heat-pipe rods can also make a significant difference in the heatsink’s overall cooling performance.
The direct of these heat-pipes is important, and can substantially improve performance. For example, many hardware enthusiasts position their U-style heatsink vertically, so the fan pulls air from the front and pushes it toward the back of the case. The problem with this design is that gravity pulls liquid down into lower half of the heatsink, introducing additional climb back to the base and thereby reducing efficiency. By turning that same heatsink horizontally, the heat-pipe become level and have less gravitational pull to overcome.
The top-down C-style heatsink, such as the Cooler Master GeminII S524 Ver 2, can be naturally positioned so that the heat-pipe rods span horizontally from front to back when installed into an upright tower computer case. While the difference between horizontal and vertical heat-pipe orientation may only reduce temperature by a few degrees, hardcore performance enthusiasts will want to use every technique available to reach the highest overclock possible.