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How to Choose the Right Heatsink (Page 1/6)

Posted: March 16, 2001
Written by: Tuan "Solace" Nguyen


Itís been quite a while since weíve written a review or guide on heatsinks informing you of ones that are the best on the market. Tweak3D has been in the overclocking and tweaking business for quite some time and weíve come across a good number of heatsinks that didnít live up to the hype. When looking for a heatsink, there are certain things to look for and be aware of.

The first thing youíll want to examine when youíre out looking for a good heatsink is its size. Thatís an obvious factor in the overall effectiveness of its performance. Although you can use size to gauge overall effectiveness, size alone shouldnít be the determining purchase factor. You also need to be conscious of things such as surface area, material, surface efficiency and weight.

Throughout this guide, Iíll talk about some of the things that contribute most to the performance of a heatsink and those that are just hype.

Size and Surface Area

The size of a heatsink is definitely one of the most important factors in its performance. The greater its size, the more it can absorb heat and pass it quickly onto another cold area. Heatsinks these days are increasing in size primarily because of CPU temperature increases. Before AMD and Intel come up with miracle ways of reducing CPU temperatures by a significant amount, heatsinks will continue on the same path.

With size comes surface area, and the more the better. Surface to air size is the area of the heatsink that is in contact with the surrounding air. The more area that is in contact with the air, the more heat can be transferred from the heatsink to the air and be taken away. A heatsink increases its overall surface area by having lots of fins that help release heat more effectively.

Notice the fins on the Vantec (left) and lots of long smaller prongs on the Alpha.

Generally youíll want a heatsink with a lot of fins, but not so much that each one of them is really soft and bends easily. Fins should also be placed strategically. Heatsinks should have fins in the center of the heatsink because thatís where the most heat is generated. Usually youíll find that heatsink clips are placed in the very center of the heatsink and thus there are no fins right down the center. Some heatsinks do have clips that split into two and avoid cutting the center fins. Both of the two heatsinks pictured above have good clips.

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