Intel LGA1366 Stock Cooler: Good Enough?

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Intel LGA1366 Stock Cooler Performance: Good Enough?

June 6, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Intel Core i7-920
Stock CPU Cooler
Intel Core i7-980X
Stock CPU Cooler
Intel Intel
Street Price

The dreaded stock CPU cooler is typically well known for its small size, poor acoustics and general ineffectiveness. AMD and Intel have three big reasons for shipping their processors with such lowly heatsinks: to keep costs down, to ensure compatibility in small cases, and to discourage users from overclocking. The stock unit is designed only to cool the processor well enough to keep it stable at stock settings, the bare minimum you could say. Of course this philosophy gives quiet PC lovers a literal headache and more often than not, they simply ditch the included stock heatsink on sight without testing its performance or checking if the noise generated by the fan is bearable. We at SPCR are also guilty of this behavior, but then one day Intel sent us something that made us pause: their latest greatest 6-core processor with a stock tower heatsink.

The Core i7-980X stock cooler stands 124 mm tall.

Such an anomaly is this cooler, that it prompted us to actually want to review a stock cooling unit. While it does not have the refined appearance of most aftermarket heatsinks, it doesn't quite fit the mold of a stock cooler either, not looking at all like a product of the bare minimum philosophy. A six-core processor obviously needs better cooling than a four-core model but the i7-980X carries the same 130W TDP rating as its quad-core brothers. The heatsink features 4 copper heatpipes, 57 aluminum fins, a large LED fan, and gasp — screws/backplate instead of pushpins! The question is whether this new cooler is good enough to compete with budget aftermarket coolers or whether it is simply another "just good-enough" stock cooler only in tower form.

The Core i7-920 stock cooler is 64 mm tall, almost half that of the i7-980X heatsink.

A standard Intel stock cooler will provide a good reference point. The bottom-the-rung model pictured above is the familiar LGA1366 stock cooler that shipped with the now defunct Core i7-920. This is the same heatsink packed with all current retail LGA1366 quad core processors, save the "Extreme" line. The basic design has been in use since the release of LGA775 four years ago: a mass of aluminum fins splayed out radially and a frameless fan with high angled blades. With its round shape and low height seems primarily built not to be obtrusive, though only in the physical sense. Acoustically these coolers have never been great.

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