CPU Coolers: They Matter
I won't go into the functional advantages of an aftermarket CPU cooler here (I already did that over in this post), but looking purely at aesthetics and post-build hardware upgrades, CPU coolers are an obvious choice. A good-looking heatsink or LED-highlighted liquid block is a lot more physically imposing, clean, and impressive than the ugly box coolers that Intel & AMD ship. Take this Zalman unit, for instance:
Or this Kraken cooler I reviewed:
An entry-level CPU cooler will blow away the box coolers and should look a lot better, too. For a $30 investment, you could grab almost any of the Cooler Master Hyper 212 series coolers, SilverStone's Argon AR01, NZXT's Respire coolers, and plenty more. It's an easy upgrade that looks damn good and has a major functional advantage.
Other Aftermarket Coolers (GPU, Chipset/Bridge, Memory)
A little less known from the standard CPU coolers are the similarly-constructed GPU aftermarket coolers. Much like a box CPU cooler, the stock video card cooling units often underperform in comparison to a full, aftermarket copper cooling system. We previously wrote in more depth about GPU coolers over here.
GPU coolers are advantageous if you're doing more serious video card overclocking or are running into thermal issues in your environment. Just make sure you check that the cooler is compatible with your video card, as not all board partners use reference design. Some sample GPU coolers are Arctic Cooling's Twin Turbo cooler and Zalman's VF1000. Zalman's latest coolers can be found on their site.
Bridges and chipset coolers are largely obsolete at this point. Modern chipsets don't get very hot and don't require OCs to perform well, and on top of that, most motherboards have cooling pretty well figured out for the bridges/chipsets. If you've got a cheap board and are doing some entry-level chipset OCing, or your board runs hot, they could still prove useful. Run a temp monitoring program like HW Monitor to determine if your bridge is running warm.
No matter your intentions, some basic chipset heatsinks can be found over here.
Finally, memory coolers can make your system look a bit more aggressive and will aid in high frequency overclocks and memory overvolting. Corsair's RAM Airflow Fan mounts above the modules (will cover 6 slots) and pushes air directly onto the heatspreaders/memory sticks. Generally, RAM is pretty cool at stock clocks, so this is really only necessary if you're looking to do something more extreme.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas for what you can do post-build! If you've got questions about any of this hardware, or are curious about other add-on options, leave a comment below or post on our forums.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.