Aluminum, copper or hybrid? Small or large? Expensive or cheap? Buying an aftermarket heatsink can be a confusing experience. Mike Mackenzie explains the differences, pointing out the ones that matter so you can put together a very cool computer system.
When users purchase a computer system they are often given a low tech, budget cooling system. It is normally composed of a block of aluminum with thick fins protruding from the base, actively cooled by a simple fan. These coolers usually offer enough performance to keep the processor temperature a few degrees cooler than its maximum thermal load, but otherwise very little cooling performance.
Not too long ago, manufacturers started introducing copper inserts to aluminum heatsinks to help pull heat away from the CPU; this in turn allowed for development of hybrid heatsinks which were designed to optimize airflow to achieve lower temperature. These heatsinks also led to the introduction of pure copper heatsinks. Copper heatsinks had a tendency to warm up considerably before allowing the heat to dissipate by the fans. With larger copper heatsinks there was a need to develop a fast heat-transferring heatsink, which eventually helped develop our current heatpipe heatsinks.
Many companies such as Zalman, Arctic Cooling, Swiftech, Thermalright, and others are dedicated to providing aftermarket cooling solutions which have integrated many of the latest advances in technology to provide considerably better performance that the stock cooling system.
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