Optimized CPU Cooling with Top-Down Heatsinks


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Optimized CPU Cooling Performance with Top-Down Heatsinks

By Olin Coles

Manufacturer: Cooler Master Ltd. Inc.
Product Name: GeminII S524 Ver 2
Model Number: RR-G5V2-20PK-R1
UPC: 884102026942
Price As Tested: $42.47 (Amazon l B&HNewegg)

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.


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  1. Bill Bright

    As a long time electronics technician, I was very pleased to see your comment,

    “The entire CPU cooler is designed to reuse the fan’s downward airflow to cool surrounding hardware components, which is very beneficial for both high overclocks and overall system stability.”

    I am constantly debating the value of aftermarket coolers with some who believe the OEM coolers of today are still junk. I see first time (and even experienced) home builders automatically toss their OEM coolers for just about anything that isn’t OEM. And very often, they are the cheapest side-firing coolers they can find. I think this is a mistake. Today’s OEM coolers are much better than those of 10 years ago. But also, as you noted, the components surrounding the CPU socket also take advantage of the “expected” downward firing OEM cooler. And unless you address additional case cooling requirements, automatically replacing the OEM cooler can actually hurt performance, system cooling and system stability. I contend it is the case’s responsibility to provide an adequate supply of cool air flowing through the case. The CPU cooler needs to then toss the CPU’s heat into that flow. So with proper case cooling, today’s OEM coolers are fully capable of, and do provide adequate CPU cooling, even with mild to moderate overclocking.

  2. JackNaylorPE

    One thing that can still be said about OEM coolers, they ain’t quite there yet. With no OC applied, if you fire up a CPU stress test such as OCCT, it will shut down since CPU temps break the self protection features inherent to the test which, by default, is 85C. This is getting better as Intel is now getting back to providing better thermal heat transfer again, but even w/ DC, users are still seeing a lot to be gained by delidding, so there’s still much room for improvement.

    I would not put an OC on a user’s build w/ stock cooler still as I have to worry about what and how he’s going to test it. When you break 85C at stock settings in 68F room temperature, you have to be worried what he’s going to run, how he’s going to run it and when he’s going to run it … as in the dog days of August when indoor temps reach 95F.

  3. JackNaylorPE

    As for the revised article and the question put forth “Would you consider a top-down heatsink such as the Cooler Master GeminII S524 to cool your overclocked computer system?” I lean to water cooling, and not CLC type, but on user builds I certainly would, but before doing so would be anxious to see how comparably cost / size / rpm coolers of each type compare.

    Clamping mechanisms also I think need more attention with respect to the presence of stops or other mechanisms to prevent over tightening. I have had 3 rebuilds in recent years, all w/ Hyper 212’s where MoBo was cracked (AsRock), circuit traces cut (sharp burr on bottom of washer – Asus board), or traces possibly broken (Asus) by what appears to have been the user over tightening the mounting mechanism.

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