Arctic Cooling Alpine HSF: A New Budget King?

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The design of the Alpine is very basic: A chunk of extruded aluminum with a fan on top. This simple design served the industry well enough for ages before power consumption went through the roof. The Alpine is a little bigger than the heatsinks of yesteryear, and its fan is bigger and quieter (we hope), but there's little else to distinguish it from the typical heatsinks found on processors five years ago.

The Alpine 7 and the Alpine 64 may be sold as different models, but there is little to distinguish the two when they are compared side by side. The aluminum heatsink is the same for both models, the mounting clips are the same (!?) and the only visible difference between the fans is the number of wires that go to the connector — four wires on the 7 and three on the 64.

There is one other difference that cannot be seen in the photo below: The Alpine 7 comes with a heatsink retention module (and baseplate) that is compatible with Socket 775 motherboards. The Alpine 64 does not come with any additional hardware, as the clip on the heatsink is compatible with the stock AMD retention module.

This explains why Arctic Cooling lists the Alpine 7 as compatible with AMD processors. The heatsink itself is designed to mount on a K8 system; it is the additional hardware that allows it to be mounted on Socket 775.

Because the Alpine 7 is compatible with K8 systems, it's a little strange that Arctic Cooling sells the Alpine 64 at all. Why go to the trouble of selling two separate products when the Alpine 7 can do the same job as the Alpine 64? Sure, the Alpine 64 is marginally cheaper, but most people aren't likely to sweat an extra dollar or two.

The Alpine 7 and the Alpine 64 side by side.
The labels and the number of wires coming from the fan are the only visible differences.

The body of the heatsink consists of 27 tapered aluminum fins spaced 2~3 mm apart. For some reason, nine of the fins are a little taller than the rest, as shown in the photo below. The fins are widely spaced enough to offer decent performance with medium-low airflow, but extremely low airflow and passive cooling are probably not viable options.

The heatsink is oblong in shape, and the diameter of the fan is wider than the heatsink, allowing some air to be blown down the outside edge. This ensures that a small amount of air flows around all four sides of the heatsink, providing cooling for the VRMs on the motherboard.

The body of the heatsink is narrower than the diameter of the fan.

A large square of thermal interface material is pre-applied.

The base is machined flat but is not perfectly smooth. Hundreds of regularly spaced ridges that can be felt with a fingernail cover the base, giving it a "grain" that makes it difficult to clean thoroughly. The slightly uneven surface is supposed to work well with certain kinds of thermal interface material, but it is unclear whether this is the intent or if it is simply more cost-effective to leave it less polished.

A generous square of MX-1 Thermal Compound that is thicker and less liquid than most thermal interface material comes pre-applied. It is quite sticky, and removal may be difficult if it hardens over time.

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