Several companies offer cooling solutions for motherboards and
their various components. Companies like Thermalright, Thermaltake, and Swiftech
make northbridge chipset coolers and companies like Vantec, Zalman, CoolerMaster,
and OCZ make "universal" heatsinks that can be used to cool various
motherboard components. Unfortunately, most of these universal "heatsinks"
are in fact one size, and without modifications by the end user, are usually
limited to being used on larger surfaces, such as the video card, memory,
or southbridge chipset.
The "North Pole" northbridge chipset cooler I recieved
looked to be a very well made heatsink. It has a full copper construction of the base,
with a good, clean surface. A 40MM fan secured with an aluminum frame and
the ability to mount the cooler on boards using either holes or hooks (with
a seperately purchased "Hook Kit") should offer a big improvement
over any stock northbridge chipset cooler. I have yet to come across a chipset
cooler that can be used on both motherboard types until now. My only concern
with the "North Pole" is the size and weight. I think the size could
possibly be an issue depending on the CPU heatsink used (forget about using
it with the XP-120) along with the proximity to the CPU brackets. The Microcool
"North Pole" weighs in at 195G, easily heavier than any stock cooler,
but lighter than two other well known coolers, the Swiftech MCX-159-R(235G)
and the Thermalright NB-1CF (250G). I just might bring up these two competitors
later in my review!
An overlooked aspect of system cooling is that other motherboard
components get extremely hot under stress and would benefit from additional
cooling. People rightly focus on things such as RAM, the northbridge chipset,
the CPU, and GPU when setting up their cooling solution. What they don’t realize
is that while providing maximum cooling for these main components helps with
stability and performance, the heat generated by these parts in fact affects
the stability and lifespan of other system components. For example, cranking
up the voltage to your processor and RAM for a good overclock tends to stress
things like the Mosfets, and unless you have a motherboard like Abit’s IC7-Max3
and its O.T.E.S. (Outside Thermal Exhaust System) cooling solution, these
power supply regulators can become extremely hot, and we all know heat is
our enemy, right?
Upon opening the package I was extremely impressed by the great
variety of chipsink sizes — you would be hard pressed to find anything that
couldn’t be covered by one of the chipsinks. I was also impressed by the fabrication
of the chipsinks, they were very attractive and seemed to be extremely sturdy.
I was a little concerned with the thermal tape Microcool uses. It has been
my experience that thermal tape in fact doesn’t transfer heat as well as thermal
epoxy, and it doesn’t take much force to knock something mounted with thermal
tape loose. The directions were a little vague and the picutres included were
less than clear, but we’ll see in a bit whether this affected my installation — if I can install something, then anyone over the age of 5 should be
alright installing it.
Before we get too far into this, let me introduce each individual
part, explain its importance, and show you its technical data. Then we’ll get
into the overall package and its affects, and how they benefit your system.