Is It Worth Upgrading Your Stock CPU Cooler?


We used a modern MSI X58 Pro-E motherboard and a Core i7-920 processor (2.66 GHz overclocked to 3.7 GHz) with current components to look at the impact and benefit of spending roughly $75 on an efficient aftermarket cooler. Will the retail boxed cooler suffice, or does it make sense to purchase a more powerful heat sink?

Enthusiasts with aspirations to overclock should look for a better cooling solution, even if overclocking is not on the top of the list. And here’s why:

Little Noise Advantage

A high-end aftermarket air cooler doesn't provide too much of a benefit running at default clock speeds, especially if you're only really looking at noise output. Intel’s reference cooler and the Zalman solution are similar, and the Zalman solution will even be slightly noisier on an overclocked system when the CPU runs idle. However, the fact that the Zalman cooler maintains much cooler CPU temperatures when idle (-9°C/-16°F at stock idle) and at full CPU load (-6°C/-11°F at stock peak) makes it clear that the cooling potential helpa to better distribute heat and to further reduce speeds of other system fans, if necessary. But the real deal is cooling performance at overclocked speeds.

Huge Temperature Advantage at High Clock Speeds

The new CPNS 10X shows its muscle when it comes to cooling an overclocked Core i7-920 (3.7 GHz). We found that it reduces CPU temperature by -16°C/-29°F at idle when overclocked, and by -15°C/-27°F at load while overclocked compared to Intel’s stock cooler.

In such a scenario, the aftermarket cooler lets loose its full potential, as it is equally noisy as the Intel cooler at idle conditions. Moreover, it is quieter or comparable to the Intel heatsin on an overclocked 3.7 GHz Core i7 at full load when running low or medium fan speeds. In this context, it has to be said that noise is still fairly acceptable versus the performance level you get.