The CES 2022 opened the curtain on a huge amount of news, including the first information about the brand new Ryzen 7000 based on the platform Zen4 which will introduce AMD’s new socket. The company will make a historical update by switching to an LGA socket to offer a more practical and, above all, secure fixing of the processor on the motherboard. Of course, anyone preparing to assemble a new build, whether AMD or Intel, is faced with a fundamental choice: the heatsink. The market offers multiple solutions suitable for any pocket and need, which is why we have decided to offer a guide that can guide you through a decidedly large and varied sector. Choosing the product that best suits your needs is not easy, and finding your way around the countless alternatives can be quite complicated. However, AMD, with the next generation of CPUs and motherboards, tries to simplify this aspect. The company has already anticipated that the heatsinks per socket AM4 will be perfectly compatible even with the new socket AM5 arriving in the second half of this year.
On the other hand, if we decide to build a high-performance build, having an adequate cooling solution is essential to get the most from the performance point of view. One of the problems that plague processing units, such as CPUs and GPUs, is thermal throttling. This reduces performance when the cooling unit fails to disperse the heat produced, inevitably limiting performance. It, therefore, becomes essential to have a heatsink as efficiently as possible, especially if you decide to overclock the CPU which inevitably generates a greater amount of heat. For these reasons we have decided to guide you in choosing the product that best suits your needs, replacing the stock products supplied with the CPU which, although of good quality, are hardly able to bring out the maximum performance that this can offer.
First AMD with Ryzen and its cooler Wraithespecially in the Prism variant that accompanies the high-end CPUs, and now Intel, which has also renewed the stock coolers, offer substantially acceptable solutions. However, if you decide to buy a CPU with a multiplier unlocked it becomes essential to purchase a separate product to make the most of the processor’s potential. In this guide, we will therefore analyze which are the best solutions to cool the CPU, based on both needs and budget, trying to deepen the differences between the various proposals on the market and the reasons why it may be necessary to purchase a custom heatsink to replace the one possibly offered in the package.
CPU Coolers Overview
In recent years, CPU cooling systems have dramatically increased the choice, bringing increasingly efficient solutions to the market, and managing to cover any need for dissipation. Whether you want a PC silent, extremely performing, or simply well cooled, the heatsink industry has a solution that truly fits anyone. In this part, therefore, we will analyze the 3 main categories of heat sinks: ad Airto AIO liquid it’s at the custom liquid.
These are the most used, simplest, and most reliable systems. In most cases, an air dissipation system is supplied directly in the package together with the processor, in others, it will be necessary to rely on third-party solutions that tend to be better than the stock ones offered by CPU manufacturers. In this category, we will be able to find a solution for every budget, from extremely economical products to top-of-the-range products able to offer good margins of overclocking.
The main advantage of an air cooler is its simplicity as it is a heat spreader to which one or more fans will be hooked. It does not require special precautions, and maintenance is limited to a simple cleaning from dust. They are also cheaper and safer, however, they suffer from limitations due to their nature.
AIO liquid heatsinks
These are solutions more expensive and more complex capable of exceeding several hundred euros. The advantages of these solutions are many, obviously starting from the dissipation capacity: exploiting the liquid that passes through the closed-circuit (in fact these are also called closed loops), these systems can dissipate the heat produced by the CPU in a better and greater way. The operation of the AIO systems is quite simple: the coolant contained inside, thanks to a pump placed on top of the CPU plate, or attached to the radiator, is pushed through the entire circuit. The liquid will pass through the first plate of the CPU collecting the heat generated, after which it will pass through the radiator which will disperse the heat; the cooled liquid will be pushed back towards the plate to restart the loop.
Naturally, cooling occurs in a much faster and more efficient way than an air cooler, which is why they can reach significantly higher overclocking margins, sometimes close to those offered by a custom loop (which we will talk about later). These are therefore solutions dedicated more than anything else to those users who intend to push their hardware to the maximum but contain the expense and effort to achieve the purpose. To this must be added a series of advantages which however depend on the type of product chosen. In addition to the remarkable reduction of used space which, however, is linked to the subjectivity of aesthetic taste, some of these systems offer a variety of additional features, from lighting control (also present on some air models), up to hardware monitoring with models equipped with the display on the front.
Not all that glitters is gold though. Although manufacturers have managed to make liquid cooling affordable for everyone, AIO liquid coolers require some more knowledge as well as some precautions. The radiator must be fixed correctly, and care must be taken during assembly as damage to one of its parts could cause irreversible damage in the event of leaks. Furthermore, unlike air coolers, AIO ones tend to have an expiration date, as it is not possible to do accurate maintenance, such as the fluid change which inevitably tends to stagnate and deteriorate, thus losing efficiency over time until it no longer performs its task adequately. Finally, as mentioned at the beginning, they have a decidedly higher starting cost than the air counterpart.
Custom liquid cooling systems
The so-called custom loops, that is, the customized liquid cooling systems, are undoubtedly the best solution to cool your CPU (and many other components), but also the most expensive. In fact, you can opt for starter kits, i.e. packages in which we are given all the essentials to start building our system with a budget of around 300 euros, up to double or triple loop systems capable of exceeding thousands of EUR.
It is a solution addressed to the most demanding enthusiasts, to those who intend to push their hardware to the limit regardless of costs, and the custom loops are the right way to achieve such a goal, being the only systems to offer so much performance. extreme. The main advantage of custom loops is performance, incomparable to any other system, able to make happy numbers lovers in particular, such as benchmarker they overclocker.
While performance is an unbeatable aspect of custom loops, these systems require an equally high effort to be applied and managed correctly. First of all you need to have the right knowledge and skills to safely assemble the loop. The risk of leaks in this case is quite high, as it will be up to the user to choose the correct combinations between pipes and fittings, and to verify that everything works correctly. They must also be chosen with a care pump, radiator And waterblock depending on the result and the intended use of it.
Ultimately the custom loops will be excluded from this guide, as their complexity and vastness require a separate discussion.
How to choose the best CPU cooler
Having understood the general framework of all the solutions that the cooling market offers us, all that remains is to understand which product is best suited to our needs. It must be said that of course there is no best product in the absolute sense, there is no heatsink capable of surpassing any other from every point of view. It is therefore essential to analyze some aspects to look for a heatsink that can offer the best combination for each one.
We must start first of all from the use we intend to make of our PC. If it is a PC that will be used for office functions, such as document management, internet browsing, and occasionally some entertainment such as watching movies and TV series, then the cooler that usually comes in package together with the CPU is more than enough, and it will not be essential (although still recommended) to buy a product separately.
However, when we decide to use our PC for more demanding functions, such as the gaming, photo or video editing, elaboration of three-dimensional projects, rendering or in general any operation that requires a large amount of resources, then it is essential to purchase a third party heatsink to obtain a good heat dispersion and let the components maintain full efficiency over time.
If our intention is simply to make the most of the hardware, without going into the world of overclocking, leaving all the parameters related to the hardware to remain unchanged compared to what is imposed by the manufacturer, a good air cooler is the right solution to have an efficient cooling that reduces the phenomenon of thermal throttlingand at the same time simple, easy to assemble and manage. It is also about cheap products that allow us to enjoy all the power available to us at a low cost, given that in these cases sometimes even the most expensive air coolers can be “oversized”. In conclusion, an ideal choice for both beginners and for those who want a good yield, without shelling out a fortune.
Finally, if you want to enter the world overclockingraising the bar of performance beyond what is imposed by manufacturers, then needless to say that a good quality heatsink is essential. Also in this case we will be able to decide whether to opt for an air model, or alternatively an AIO liquid model. It goes without saying that a cheap product will hardly be able to satisfy your hunger for performance, consequently you will be forced to opt for higher-end models, especially in the case of air coolers where a top of the range will most likely represent a rather starting point. that one of arrival. The same argument can be extended to models a all-in-one liquid (AIO) which tend to offer higher performance than a normal air cooler, but obviously at a much higher price and with a shorter useful life due to the impossibility of maintenance of the internal parts that make up the loop.
The best heatsinks currently on the market
Below we propose some of the best heatsinks currently available on the market, trying to cover all the needs of use, from the cheapest, to the high-end for those who just can’t get enough of performance.