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Water Cooling Versus Two Air Coolers

AMD's Bulldozer Architecture: Overclocking Efficiency Explored
By , Achim Roos

When AMD announced the FX line-up, it also revealed that it'd be introducing liquid cooling kits in certain geographies. We haven't seen these yet in North America, however the company did send us a sample of the Asetek-based unit it'll use. That's what we used for testing.

On top of that, we also wanted to explore whether liquid cooling is necessary for the FX-series chips, or if enthusiasts can still get by with aftermarket air coolers (or even AMD's boxed heat sink).

Thus, we tried out our maximum overclocked setting (4.6 GHz) not only with the Asetek water cooler, but also with the AMD boxed cooler and Zalman's CNPS 10X Extreme.

Zalman's solution does really well here, achieving a two-degree-Celsius lower result than the Asetek-based cooler. However, the boxed cooler was completely overwhelmed, and as a result the processor's thermal protection mechanism shut our system down after a few seconds. This seems to match what we've read from readers and experienced in other test setups: AMD's standard thermal solution is too small for serious overclocking attempts, and even at stock settings, it gets annoyingly loud.

Here's the test system with the water cooler during its benchmark run...

...and here's the one with Zalman's heat sink installed.

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