As you know, today's CPUs are getting smaller, faster, and being produced with more cores. Well with all these advancements, you're very likely to build up heat from the CPU (and more so when you overclock.) Usually when you purchase a CPU, you'll also get a stock cooler made mostly of aluminum fins (although AMD now puts heatpipes onto their stock coolers made of copper with a copper base) and a small fan. These stock coolers are good for CPUs at stock speeds but that's about it. If you're wanting superior cooling then it is best to purchase an afermarket cooler. However, choosing an aftermarket cooler for your specific needs is a very hard choice since there are so many different brand names, designs, and methods of cooling. However, there are 4 basic known methods of CPU cooling: fin-type cooling, coolers with heatpipes, thermo-electric coolers, and liquid coolers with 2 different types of materials usually used (copper and aluminum with copper being the better of the 2). I shall cover these in more depth below.
Fin-type coolers: These are the type that are either made from aluminum or copper. These are the typical looking ones and look like the stock coolers from Intel and AMD. There are some companies that create humongous fin-types that do a much better job at cooling and usually come in size of 120mm. The very first type of cooler I used on my first system was Ultra's X-Wind CPU cooler. This cooler was made from all copper fins with a 120mm fan in the middle of these fins. This cooler was so big that it actually covered 2 of my RAM slots. If you're wondering just what the hell kind of cooler it is, here's the link: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... &CatId=493
Heatpipe coolers: Heatpipe coolers are coolers that use fins connected to a number of heatpipes, which are usually filled with gases or liquids to help move the heat away from the CPU up to the fins which is then blown out by a fan. Heatpipe coolers are becoming the most common type of CPU coolers since they are better at transferring heat away from the processor than the traditional fin-type all the while being budget friendly. An example of a budget-end heatpipe cooler would be: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... CatId=4749
and a high-end heatpipe cooler would be: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... CatId=4749
. These coolers come in all different shapes, sizes, color, and accessories and are usually multi-socketed (meaning you can use them on either AMD socket motherboards OR Intel socket motherboards.)
Thermo-electric coolers: Thermo-electric coolers (aka: Peltier coolers) utilize the Peltier effect [def link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermoelectric_cooling
] and these types of coolers do a much better job at cooling mainly because it uses a mixture of thermo-electric cooling with heatpipes. I haven't had any experience with thermo-electric coolers but based on what I've read, they do an excellent job at keeping the CPU cool (even better than fin-types and heatpipes) but they are rather rare in the CPU cooling market but there are certain manufacturers that are attempting to bring them into popularity. An example of a thermo-electric cooler is: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... ster%20v10
. Now keep in mind that this cooler is HUGE but not all peltier coolers are bulky. Ultra makes a more space-friendly cooler: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... &CatId=798
Liquid coolers: Ah yes, the luxury of CPU cooling. The reason I say "luxury" is because this method of cooling is generally used by the biggest of PC enthusiasts, psycho gamers, and the rich PC users. Actually, I might be overstating a little bit because there are manufacturers that are creating liquid coolers at budget prices. Manufacturers like Corsair (fairly new in the budget liquid cooling business) and CoolIt have created what is known as LCLC (low-cost liquid cooling) systems to help people who haven't made the dive into liquid cooling get into well.....liquid cooling. Aside from the dangerous fact that you have liquids moving around inside your system, a liquid cooler has many great benefits. It is MUCH quieter than air coolers (when I say MUCH, I SERIOUSLY mean MUCH), cools a lot better than air coolers, easy to maintain (meaning that you don't have to clean dust out of the fan and fins), provides more room than a heatpipe cooler, and it doesn't add a huge amount of weight against the motherboard. The bad part of it is (besides knowing you have liquids around computer components) is that it's VERY costly, setup can be difficult and time-consuming, you'll have to refill the reservoir, and some maintenance can be difficult (keeping corrosion and oxidation away.) All this, however, mostly pertains to custom liquid cooling systems and not LCLC coolers that are manufactured. Here are examples of LCLC coolers and custom liquid coolers.
Corsair H50: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... CatId=1871
CoolIt Eco: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications ... olIt%20Eco
In conclusion, CPU coolers can come in so many different shapes, sizes, and colors that it can be a tedious job looking for the one that will best suit your needs. Hopefully, this little uhhhh....article has given you some knowledge on what to look for. It took me a while to find the cooler I truly wanted (using the Corsair H50) and I went through a few coolers before I settled with my current one. I have never used the stock cooler ever (unless you want to count the times I've used pre-built systems) and will probably never even consider stock cooling so as long as I build my systems. However, if you're a PC user that doesn't care about overclocking your CPU to faster settings then maybe the stock cooler is the choice for you.