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Optimized CPU Cooling with Top-Down Heatsinks

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The Benefits of Top-Down Heatsink Coolers

In the previous section I explained how horizontal heat-pipes help the internal coolant to overcome gravity, and prevent pooling at one end of the heat-pipe rod. In this section I illustrate the benefits of a top-down heatsink cooler, and how it could improve not only your CPU overclock – but the stability of the entire system.

Cooler-Master-GeminII-S524-V2-CPU-Cooler-Angle

Take, for example, the Cooler Master GeminII S524 Ver 2 heatsink, shown above. This cooler features a design with a large open area below the heatsink to accommodate tall memory modules. Although lower-profile memory will enable this heatsink to be turned in all directions, the most ideal configuration is to orientate this cooler (and others like it) so that the heat-pipe rods span front-to-back (shown below) as opposed to top-to-bottom.

Cooler-Master-GeminII-S524-V2-CPU-Cooler-Mounted-Upright

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. Most systems have other heatsinks surrounding the CPU cooler, but nothing to move air onto and past those areas. The same is true for system memory, which often features RAM modules with heatspreaders, and no active cooling to help remove the heat.

Cooler-Master-GeminII-S524-V2-CPU-Cooler-Mounted-Side-Illustrated

By using a top-down cooler such as the Cooler Master GeminII S524, you not only gain the benefit of utilizing a “C” design for the heat-pipes, but the 120mm cooling fan forces air down onto the CPU and past other nearby components.

Cooler-Master-GeminII-S524-V2-CPU-Cooler-Mounted-Angle

When the motherboard is secured upright (vertical) into a computer case, the cooler’s heat-pipes will run front-to-back (horizontal) and very little effort is needed for internal fluid to overcome gravity and flow back to the base. Some experimentation may be necessary to determine if better performance is available by orienting the heatsink so that the bent and exposed heat-pipes rods are positioned towards the bottom of the motherboard. If the surrounding components allow for this orientation, the fluid will be pushed towards the CPU base by gravity.

In the next section, we look at additional heatsink considerations for optimized cooling performance.


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3 comments

  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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