Improving system cooling has been a basic part of improving system performance since overclocking began. To squeeze more performance out of computer components users found ways to run them faster than specified. When they hit walls that prevented going even faster they found ways to better cool the components. The better cooling allowed for running the system even faster until another wall was encountered.

The quest for better cooling has been very creative, with solutions as simple as added fans, progressing to larger fans and heatsinks, peltier (thermoelectric cooling), water cooling, and finally the king of cooling - phase change. There are also the truly "benchmark only" cooling solutions like liquid nitrogen cooling. This is certainly not usable in a normal computing environment, but it is a favorite with competitive benchmarkers - who seem to live for the top of the ORB or the highest benchmark scores. This type of cooling is mainly built by the benchmarker and exists for that fleeting benchmark record that will be broken tomorrow by another benchmarker.

As cooling complexity goes up, so does the associated cost. At the extreme end you will find some top phase change units selling for $2,000 or more. You have to be a very serious overclocker or benchmarking enthusiast to invest that kind of money in cooling. Fortunately, you can achieve significant improvements in system cooling and overclocking for a lot less money. The sophistication of cheaper air and water cooling solutions has improved in recent years, and there have also been genuine efforts by the cooling industry to deliver better cooling performance at a lower price point.

The Tuniq Tower 120 is one example of this. As imposing as the multi-finned, heat-piped Tuniq looks it is worth keeping in mind that the total cost of the Tuniq kit is only about $50. The question we will try to answer in this review is whether the Tuniq is effective at improving CPU cooling? If so, does the improved cooling allow higher overclocks than a stock cooling solution? Finally, the impact on system noise will be measured.

Does Cooling Matter With Core 2 and AM2?
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  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    Thanks Wesley, for the review.

    I'd love to see a complete "cooling tower" review. There are a lot of similar products out there, such as the Sycthe Ninja/Scythe Infinity family, a couple by Noctua, the CoolerMaster Hyper 6+, Arctic's Freezer Pro line, and (sort of similar) Zalman's 9500/9700 line. A lot of us would like to know how they stack up against each other on both Intel and AMD platforms, with the following notes:

    Weight of each cooler (lighter being better if it doesn't sacrifice performance)
    Ease of mounting on both AMD and Intel systems (with a key to whether the heatsink can be mounted properly for fan exhaust direction, regardless of socket orientation on the mainboard)
    Noise level
    Cooling effectiveness
    Smoothness of CPU mating surface

    I've been tempted to buy a tower heatsink/fan unit, as I think it will cool better than my good, but aging Swiftech MCX64-V, since if chosen correctly, a new model should blow air straight to the 120mm exhaust fan at the back of the case. However, I haven't seen a good side-by-side comparison yet that tells me everything I'd wish to know. I hope Anandtech will look into this. Thanks!
  • AlabamaMan - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    More pictures would have been very helpfull. I have an e680i mobo and Lian-Li A10 case I still can't fiure out if I can put in the Tower without hitting the top-mounted 120mm case fan.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    If the fan is really at the top, and not at the side of the case (in a tower design) the concerns are different. Considering dimensions toward the physical top (long dimension or height of a tower case), the Tuniq width in that direction is 110mm or 4.3". You can measure from the center of the socket 775 to see if you have 55mm (2.165") clearance to your fan from the center of the socket to the edge of the fan. Just for info the top of the Tuniq is 110mm x 128mm (4.3" x 5").
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    The Tuniq Tower dimentions are on page 3. A normal case is 19cm (7.5") deep in the cooler dimension, while the Tuniq is 15.5cm (6.1") tall. I can tell you for a fact the Tuniq clears all components on the 680i baord and can even be used with tall memory mounted (Corsair Diminator for example). You will need to determine if 1.4" is enough clearnace for you fan. Also since the fan would be blowing down on the solid top of the Tuniq, it likely will accomplish nothing as far as cooling is concerned and should be removed.

    Additional information about the size of the Tuniq can be found at
  • mackintire - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    I m pretty sure the Tuniq Tower 120 is the best air cooled heatsink.

    I have a Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700. I do have a Scythe Ninja on it with a scythe 1600rpm S-fan. Running 2 instances of Orthos on all four cores gave me a full load temp of 74C and I know I have too much artic silver 5 on it. So realistically my load temps should be 73-72C.

    I just purchased a Noctua NH-U12F which I believe to be really close to the performance of the Tuniq Tower 120.

    I think we definately need the Noctua NH-U12F in the best cooler roundup.

    The ninja need to be there for reference. And the Scythe Infinity would be a good idea too.

    Another item of note is that these larger heavier CPU's show a different delta when loaded up with super hot CPUs.

    My quad core running at 3.2 produces mega heat that few heatsinks can deal with.

    The reason I switched to the NH-U12F was that it dropped my temp by 8C at stock speeds. 2 C of that I blame on properly application of artic silver.

    Either way, this heatsink was well worth the money to me.

  • mackintire - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    I changed over to the Noctura this past weekend. Just clearing up my previous post.

    The Ninja is an excellent heatsink, but I think that there is a limit as to how much heat a heatsink can deal with. I have noticed more recently with the current round of newer solutions that the coolers with more mass tend to deal with larger heat loads better. This is not an exact trend, I m just saying that I haven t found any 300g heatsinks that can perform as well as the better 700g heatsinks under heavy heat loads.
  • baronzemo78 - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    Does anyone know how the thermal grease that comes with the Tuniq compares to Arctic Silver 5? Also I would love to see an Andantech article about lapping. I have seen some articles that say that lapping doesn't really improve your temps that much.">
  • Araemo - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    Lapping was much more important on Pentium 3s and Athlons that had an exposed CPU Die, and no heat spreader.

    On modern Intel and AMD CPUs with a heat spreader, the thermal transfer point that needs the highest efficiency is between the heat spreader and the die - you can't do anything about that. The heat spreader gives you much more surface area to transfer the heat with, so the small increase from lapping isn't nearly as important as it used to be.

    Perhaps if you're using a Tuniq Tower w/ a super high speed fan and an AC unit blowing at your case inputs and you're trying to break 4Ghz.. it might help. But for us real people, I'd say you're better off spending the time/money on a case with better airflow dynamics or just tying your cables out of the way to maximise airflow.

    I have lapped a couple heatsinks, one I did a real half-assed job on, and temps were disappointing(lower than OEM heatsink, but higher than I would have liked).. my last one was used to overclock an AthlonXP mobile from 1.8 to 2.4, and I daresay it helped, but as I mentioned, those AthlonXPs had exposed CPU dies, so you had to transfer the full 60W or whatever using .5 square centimeters of surface area, so improving the transfer rate in any way possible helped.
  • mino - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    Please consider doing the tests on Quad CPU(Kentsfield) as well as on a Duo CPU.

    Many coolers while beeing great for C2D perform poorly on Quad and vice versa.
  • Avalon - Monday, January 15, 2007 - link

    I'd like to see the Coolermaster Hyper TX included if possible!
    Good review!

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