Thermolab Baram Blows In

Cooling
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MOUNTING HARDWARE

The most critical aspect of heatsink installation is secure, tight mounting. The more firmly and securely it is installed, the better the contact between the heatsink's base and the CPU itself. Ease of installation is also very important — a simple mounting scheme means less time spent installing, and reduced likelihood of user error.


Socket 775 mounting arms screwed on. Four screws (not pictured) secure the heatsink bracket from the underside of the mounting plate (not shown).

The socket 775 mounting arrangement shown above does not use spring loaded bolts, unlike most bolt-through systems. There are two arms which are secured with two screws each. The screws have heads that don't sit flush, but they sit outside the CPU/base interface, so although it looks bad, it is functional. The system looks reasonably straightforward until you try to actually do the installation. It turns out to be a terribly awkward, inconvenient and probably unsafe system. It's a bit complex so we'll explain later when we install the thing on our heatsink testing platform board.


The AMD AM2 mounting arms are screwed on, and the back plate is shown. Four screws secure heatsink from the top side to the mounting plate, which has threaded nut inserts in the corners. Again, springs are not used for tension.

The mounting arms for AM2 secure to the base in only one way, as shown in the photo above. The arrangement is convenient: The screws can be accessed from the top with a screwdriver without any interference from the heatsink itself. It is probably possible to mount with the motherboard already in place, as the nut inserts have the same thread as those used in the standard AM2 retention bracket and plate.

Unfortunately, the arrangement means that on most motherboards, the wide side of the heatsink will be perpendicular to the plane of the back I/O panel. With most AM2 motherboards, this means that a fan mounted on the Baram would point up at the power supply intake area in most tower-style cases. That can have a negative impact on PSU temperature as the heat from the CPU gets blown into it; this, in turn, will tend to push up the speed of the PSU fan, which is invariably thermally controlled, thus raising the overall noise level of the system. In a nutshell, for a tower heatsink, the inability to be mounted with its fan aimed not at the PSU intake but the back panel exhaust fan is a design weakness. It doesn't change the cooling performance of the heatsink, per se, but it can affect overall system cooling and noise.

This problem does not arise in socket 775 boards because the mounting pattern of the screws/bolts used is square, symmetrical. Most socket 775 heatsinks can be rotated so that the fan faces the back panel of the case.

THE PAIN OF SOCKET 775 INSTALLATION

Installation of the Baram on a LGA775 motherboard is very difficult, even with the motherboard complete loose on a work bench. Here is why:

  • The screws go in through the backplate from the underside of the board.
  • The backplate does not have nubs which insert into the holes in the motherboard.
  • The threaded shafts into which the screws attach do not reach the surface of the motherboard. This is necessary, because the mounting arms have to bend in order to apply pressure on the CPU/base interface.
  • Thermal interface material has to be applied while you're aligning the backplate, motherboard and heatsink so that a screw can be threaded and secured with a screwdriver through the three pieces.
  • The three main elements — backplate, motherboard and heatsink — don't interlock in any way, and with TIM in place, the heatsink and motherboard tend to slide around.


The threaded inserts of the mounting arms don't touch the motherboard. It is one of the reasons the three elements don't interlock or line up easily before mounting.

It may be difficult to picture all this. We did not get any photos of the installation process because it required all four hands of two people working together while cursing and straining to accomplish. In the end we were just plain relieved the motherboard still booted. The potential risk of damage to the board was high, especially when you consider the frustration that mounts during the process.

Thermolab's instructions suggests putting the heatsink upside down and the motherboard atop it during installation, but our advice is simpler: DO NOT TRY TO INSTALL THIS HEATSINK ALONE! TIP: A screwdriver with a magnetic tip that fits snugly into the screw head is an absolute necessity. Mounting the fan with the wire clips was an absolute breeze in comparison.


It took four hands and a good magnetic tip screwdriver to install, but here is the Baram mounted on our test motherboard with a Nexus 120mm fan.



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