The general rule of thumb when overclocking is to increase the performance of your system. Increasing performance almost always means increasing memory performance and bandwidth. With memory capable of handling up to 266mhz, motherboard chipsets are often your bottlenecks. The perfect example of such hot chipsets would be the nForce2 Northbridge and Southbridge. Many a times, stock active cooling is not enough. A bigger and better heatsink and fan is necessary to achieve higher overclock, while a passive heatsink on the Southbridge is necessary to maintain stability. A company called Microcool has manufactured a Northbridge chipset cooler that will allow overclockers to squeeze the very last bit of juice from their motherboard.
The Northpole comes packed in a nice compact cardboard box. The company name is written across the top of the cardboard box. Nothing fancy shmancy here. Upon opening the box reveals the instructions manual. Instructions are available in many different languages.
The instruction manual also has the specifications of the fan and the heatsink. For anxious enthusiasts who hesitate to read through step by step instructions, Micrcool has provided pictures for reference. Microcool has also given a 3 year warranty on this heatsink. In case anything fails, and the only thing I can think of is the fan, simply give Microcool a call and they will replace the unit for you.
Out of the Box
Removing everything out of the box revealed the Northpole, 6 MOSFET heatsinks, 2 PLL heatsinks, a small pack of silicone grease, and installation accessories. The Northpole is a copper heatsink shrouded by a black aluminum housing. The black shroud makes the Northpole look very sexy. Removing the shroud was a simple task. It revealed the bare copper heatsink with 27 rows of copper fins. The copper block was well constructed. The fins were formed from shaving from a solid copper block, meaning that it is not soldered on. Such design of the fins is called "skived" fins. The main advantage of using such design is that it provides better transferal of heat from the base to the fins. It eliminates the extra path of going through the soldered materials. The base is well polished and seems to be well lapped. The sample I received had a few scratch marks on the bottom of the base. Normally, this would not be a problem if the scratched marks did not come in contact with the chipset, but since the Northbridge is so big that it covers the entire base, having scratch marks will decrease performance as it does not give excellent contact. Using more thermal paste to fill the larger gaps will be need.
The MOSFET and PLL heatsinks are made of aluminum and anodized in black in match the Northpole. These heatsinks are used to help maintain stability in the MOSFETS, which generate a lot of heat as the voltage to the CPU increases, and the PLL chips, also known as clock generator chips, which get extremely hot as the CPU frequency increases. The 6 MOSFET heatsinks have 3 x 3 fins while the PLL heatsinks have 4 x 3 fins. The extra row of fins help cover the entire PLL chip. The heatsinks are attached by using pre-applied thermal tapes.
The installation accessories are a lot like the Swiftech and Alpha heatsinks. There is a motherboard mounting screw and nut and 2 long screws and 2 small springs for installing the Northpole, giving the perfect pressure when installed. The nylon washers provided were a bit too big for my nForce2 Northbridge. I had to make a little adjustment for it to fit well. There's nothing you can't fix with a pair of trusty scissors.
Now that the nylon washers have a perfect fit, I went on with the installation. Here is a picture after installing the motherboard pack.
After applying some Arctic Silver 3, I aligned the Northpole and screwed it on. Only a finger tight pressure was needed to install the cooler. Note that when applying Arctic Silver 3, care must be taken as just one dab of AS3 will short out the entire motherboard. I recommend using Arctic Silver Ceramique as the paste to use as it is non-conductive and provides excellent performance. Here are the shots of the Northpole and heatsinks installed.
From left to right: bird's eye-view of the Northpole installed, 2 MOSFET heatsinks and 1 PLL heatsink installed on the Southbridge, 4 MOSFET heatsinks installed on the A7N8X-X's two-phase power, the PLL heatsink installed on the PLL chip, and an angled shot of the Northpole installed.
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