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Can't Touch This! A Comparison of 46 CPU Coolers

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since our last CPU cooler test. In this comparison, we've rounded up no fewer than 46 coolers (of which 23 are brand-new models), which all strive for an optimum in cooling performance and noise level.

There are basically two ways to maximize a cooler's performance - you can increase its dimensions, with the "more is more" approach; or you can turn to an entirely new design. The first method is comparable to increasing a car's performance by increasing its cubic capacity. The second method, on the other hand, requires using technical tricks to achieve better cooling results. We have numerous test candidates that have followed this path, offering some tasty construction and design tidbits. The material used in the heat sink is crucial, since an ideal material drastically improves cooling performance by offering the best thermal conductivity. Silver, copper and gold offer ideal properties, providing very high thermal conductivity. With aluminum, a compromise can be reached - it is very inexpensive to produce, but doesn't offer ideal thermal conductivity.

Although the Zalman coolers look really slick, their thermal performance is disappointing.