After the leading CPU manufacturers both proclaimed the end of their “gigahertz race”, users who wanted a really fast and quiet PC could give a sigh of relief. The most optimistic of them hoped that Intel would make Dothan processors widely available to the public, but this never happened, unfortunately. Instead of one heat-generator both Intel and AMD proposed two under one cap thus solving the problem of more performance with the simplest of arithmetic operations – addition! If it’s impossible to increase speed further by increasing the frequency of the processor, the overall performance will be increased through executing program threads in parallel. And it doesn’t matter that this parallel execution isn’t actually necessary for an ordinary home PC. Both companies need sales, and the new dual-core concept can ensure them.
Yet the biggest and hearty thanks for the introduction of the dual-core processors will certainly come from the manufacturers of CPU cooling solutions: the size of the processor has remained almost the same, but its performance and heat dissipation have increased. The performance issue may be arguable (average users won’t notice any speed boost in typical multimedia and gaming applications), while heat dissipation, beyond doubt, is much higher now. We are even lucky that the CPU makers didn’t double the heat generation of the whole thing after they had added the second core. But even as they are, the new dual-core processors are beyond the cooling capacity of such respectable solutions as Zalman 7000CU or Zalman 7700CU, for example. The latter can still keep the temperature of a dual-core Intel Pentium Extreme Edition (with a frequency of only 2.8GHz but based on the Smithfield core) at about 75-80°C under an ambient temperature of 20-22°C, but the 7000CU cannot do even that – the temperature of the CPU got higher than 85°C and we stopped further experiments with it.
The new processors are similar to the latest revisions of the Intel Pentium 4 on the Prescott core when it comes to cooling: the speed of heat transfer from the CPU core is vitally important. There are two possible solutions: coolers on heat pipes (with the base and the heat-spreader separate) or liquid-cooling systems. The price differs in two times between solutions of these two types: off-the-shelf liquid-cooling systems are about two times more expensive in average than top-end coolers on heat pipes.
We regularly cover available liquid-cooling solutions on our site, but today we’re offering you a review of four air coolers that represent the current state of the market quite well. Moreover, even Intel doesn’t seem to be going to abandon classic cooling systems in near future – the BTX standard describes air coolers, although of an unusual design. Besides such priorities as high efficiency and minimized noise, the manufacturers currently focus on the aesthetic qualities of their products, too. Even makers of low-end cooling systems have realized that people who shell out a nice sum of money for a CPU cooler should get a nice-looking product in return.
Well, Thermaltake has few competitors as concerns the appearance of its products – this company has always surprised us with its original design solutions. This tradition is continued in the new line of Thermaltake coolers which are going to look well in the now-fashionable system cases with a side window. The coolers reviewed below are large (this is another market trend, by the way), but fit perfectly into a standard ATX system case.
There can be numerous approaches to testing CPU coolers, but we think they must be inspected under real-life conditions, with a most advanced central processor.