CPU Heatsinks - OCZ Vendetta 2
Keeping one's computer quiet has become more important than ever, now that computers have invaded all corners of our homes. A quiet computer is important to one's sanity when it is in your bedroom, and is important to the total entertainment experience when used as a HTPC (Home Theater PC).
You need to attack computer noise on a number of fronts: The chief sources of noise in a computer are (to put it simply) FANS. The fan on the CPU heatsink, the fan in the power supply unit, the case fans and (if present) the fan on the graphics card. The secondary sources of noise (and vibration) are the hard disks and sometimes the DVD drive. A very important attack vector in the War Against Noise and Vibration in Computers (WANVIC?) is also the computer case. A strong, sturdy case with good insulation reduces the noise and vibrations considerably.
In the coming weeks, I will try and present recommendations on all the components mentioned above. Let us start with CPU heat-sink.
In terms of WANVIC, a good heat-sink is one whose fan runs slow and quiet (duh!). Conventional wisdom says that you should try and use a heat-sink with 120mm fan rather than that with a 92mm or an 80mm one. Even among the heat-sink with 120mm fans, you should look for ones with lower RPM. Once you have identified a few potentially good heat-sink, you should check out the reviews on it to make sure that they are not unusually loud (for their speed) or inefficient in dissipating the heat. Believe me when I say both these things happen, more often than you think. A heat sink that comes from a reputable brand name, that looks excellent on paper, may turn out to be a loud one or one that makes the CPU run hot (or - worse - both).
Now, here's a heat-sink that passes all those tests. OCZ Vendetta 2 at $39.99 ($24.99 after rebate till 12/6/2009) at Micro-center. This being a vertical (or upright) heat-sink, and a monster one at that, a major requirement for using this is that you need a clearance of about 6.5" as measured from the motherboard surface to the opposite side of the case. If you have only about 5" clearance, consider KingWin XT-964 I mentioned here.
Vendetta 2 is very easy to mount on AMD boards, but considered a pain-in-the-wrong-place to mount on Intel boards (but then which one isn't? Intel must have been smoking really bad stuff when they designed the heat-sink mount for LGA775 - and they are not in a hurry to change that on newer platforms). It seems to stay clear of RAM strips on most motherboards. On a Phenom X3 720 that I tested, the fan stays below 800 RPM most of the times, raising to 1200-1250 RPM on load. The CPU stayed at 5-7 degrees C above room temperature throughout the test. In a quiet room, I can barely here the fan even at 1250 RPM.
Conclusion? An excellent heat-sink which earns the grade of a four-star general in WANVIC. The only thing that prevents it from earning five-star general grade (AKA General MacArthur grade) is its height which prevents it from being useful in medium sized cases. Highly recommended.