Keeping It Cool
Cool processors clock higher and survive longer, but finding an inexpensive cooler in the preferred 120mm tower design able to support both AMD and Intel processors isn’t easy. Rosewill surprised us with a review sample that included an AMD-style clip, since its Fort 120 doesn’t advertise Socket AM2+/AM3 compatibility on the box. Readers should look forward to a review of this unit later this month.
This is the point where some die-hard overclockers might point out that, since we used top-end motherboards, we should also use a top-end liquid cooling system. But while budget overclockers might be able to find less expensive motherboards that replicates our results, the same cannot be said of liquid cooling. We wanted to provide a realistic, yet optimistic target for value-overclockers to use as a goal.
One other place we didn’t go cheap was in thermal compound selection. The Fort 120 cooler does not include enough thermal paste for multiple uses, so we instead relied on our established thermal grease choice.
Zalman’s ZM-STG1 was chosen for previous reviews based on its easy application, quick set in time, and upper-range thermal performance. Upon request, the firm supplied enough samples for each U.S. editor to have two bottles.
Thermal grease or paste fills small gaps between the processor and heat sink to provide a greater contact area. Many experienced builders swear that too heavy a layer will prevent proper sink contact, citing the lower conductivity of thermal compound compared to the aluminum or copper surface it fills, but most modern thermal materials are thin enough that heat sink pressure will squeeze out any excess. The real problem of applying too much paste is that it can make a mess of the motherboard, and its low-conductivity is still enough to potentially cause signal or voltage problems.