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SilverStone SST-AR03 CPU Cooler Heatsink Review

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AR03 Final Thoughts

I have to admit, I was a little surprised at how well the AR03 managed the heat from an overclocked FX-8320. Of course this type of thermal load is what it was designed for, but since it looks deceptively similar to the AR01 at first glance I suppose I had assumed it would perform similarly as well. That is not the case! While we’re only talking differences of a few degrees Celsius, the AR03 managed to out-perform a few all-in-one liquid coolers (to which I credit its greater surface area).

While I don’t normally place it in the results, I often test these types of coolers using a push/pull configuration as well (I don’t list them because in almost every case it drops the temperature by approximately one degree Celsius, making the additional cost and noise not worth the trouble for most applications). The AR01 seemed to benefit from an additional fan, the AR03 not so much. This leads me to believe the AR03 is already performing at its “peak” efficiency, whereas the smaller AR01 needed a little help offloading those 200 Watts of heat.

AR03_Corner

AR03 Conclusion

There’s a reason why the AR03 is at the top of the Argon series of coolers – that’s where it’s designed to sit! With its greater surface area and additional heat-pipes, the AR03 should be your choice if you are working with higher thermal loads from high-end processors. It may be overkill for some setups, but that’s what the other Argon coolers are for.

I was surprised to see the AR03 go toe-to-toe with some popular all-in-one liquid coolers. Of course, this shouldn’t be that surprising – usually, the more surface area the cooler has to dissipate heat, the better it will perform. With its larger 140mm width and six 6mm direct-contact heat-pipes, the AR03 handles the heat from an overclocked FX processor without an issue.

If blue is your favorite cooler, you’ll probably agree with me in saying the AR03 is a great addition to the various tower coolers available. There’s only so many ways you can arrange a stack of aluminum plates, but SilverStone manages to keep the AR03 looking like a premium product. Everything is polished nicely, and the AR03 looks and feels like an attractive product.

It is constructed on par with other products in its price range. There aren’t that many moving parts to tower coolers, but the heat-pipes are finely ground and polished, and set precisely in the aluminum base.

I’m still highly impressed by the simple and effective means of mounting fans that SilverStone has utilized for their Argon series of CPU coolers. They are easy to use, and make it a simple process to mount and remove fans. Unfortunately, since it shares the same back-plate with the other Argon coolers, you will be unable to choose a different cooler orientation than what your motherboard allows. It’s a pretty common back-plate though, so if you look around you may be able to find a compatible mounting system that allows you to change the direction of the heat-sink.

As of August 2013, the AR03 was selling for $47.99 (Amazon | NewEgg). For the performance it offers, this is a very fair price. If you have the room and can deal with the default motherboard orientation (at least on AMD sockets), you can probably find a use for the AR03. If you don’t feel that your socket will make the most out of those six heat-pipes, there’s always the AR01…at least they both use the same convenient fan mounting system. Or, if you’re the type of person that likes to keep a little performance in reserve, the AR03 should accommodate whatever platform you choose to use it on.

Ultimately, you need to choose the cooler that best fits your build and purposes. If it fits within your budget and you have a socket that would make the most of it, I would feel comfortable recommending the AR03. There’s quite a bit of cooling performance there for the price, and the fan mounting system is great to work with.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Recommended Product Award Logo (Small)

+ Excellent fan mounting system
+ Still clears most DIMM slots
+ Added surface area can accommodate higher TDP CPUs
+ Great price/performance ratio
+ Blue helps it stand out among similar coolers

Cons:

- Hope you like blue! (If not, I guess it’s easy to switch the fan…)
– Can not switch orientation of heat-sink (at least on AMD sockets)

Ratings:

  • Performance: 8.00
  • Appearance: 9.00
  • Construction: 9.50
  • Functionality: 8.00
  • Value: 8.50

Final Score: 8.60 out of 10.

Recommended: Benchmark Reviews Seal of Approval.

COMMENT QUESTION: Who makes your favorite CPU cooler?

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3 comments

  1. BeauCharles

    I’m confused by what you said about not being able to change the AMD “default motherboard orientation”. Does the AR03 (and AR01) point in the traditional east/west direction to blow hot air out the back? If forces a north/south orientation that blows air up I wouldn’t want it (such as my old Xigmatek with an AMD clip).

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      In response to your question, yes. *Most* AMD motherboards use that “traditional” orientation of east/west airflow (or front/back), although many mATX motherboards will switch that up to gain a little more space around the socket in my experience (and although there aren’t many AMD mini-ITX boards, I’d wager all bets are off when it comes to that form factor :) ). The board I use for testing is an Asus M5A99FX PRO 2.0, ATX, and it uses the “traditional” orientation.

      The AMD socket mounting pattern forms a rectangle. If you’re looking at motherboards, draw a line to each of the mounting holes around the socket, imagine that rectangle as the heatsink itself, and that is the direction it will be mounted in *most* cases (of course, every cooler is different, so that really only applies to the AR01/03). I hope that helps clear things up!

  2. BeauCharles

    Thanks for the explanation Tom. This is for an ATX AM3 board (ASUS M4A79T Deluxe), so it sounds like I would get the front/back orientation with either the AR03 or AR01 (which is the one I’m leaning towards).

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