It’s nice to have a cooler included in the package with your CPU, but is the one offered good enough?
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For a CPU cooler to be rated “excellent,” it must be both efficient at dissipating heat and quiet in operation. If you just want your CPU to function properly without overheating, any cooler will suffice. When it comes to overclocking, many stock coolers will be disappointing.
AMD Stock CPU Cooler vs Intel Stock CPU Cooler
Intel and AMD provide stock coolers with their various CPUs, and these are the most common. Within these, the most popular ones are Intel’s low-profile cooler and AMD’s Wraith Stealth cooler, both of which ship with a number of CPU and APU models by each company.
As a result, these coolers can be a little noisy when under heavy load, and their heatsinks are very small, resulting in temperatures exceeding 70 degrees Celsius at the best stock clock speeds. In terms of stock cooling, AMD’s Wraith Stealth is the best. It is significantly quieter, as its name implies, yet none of these coolers is suited for overclocking.
Intel’s massive stock cooler and AMD’s Wraith Spire, both of which are superior in terms of cooling efficiency since they feature much bulkier heatsinks, are two more popular coolers from each firm. If you’re not interested in or concerned about overclocking, these stock coolers should suffice. It’s worth noting that AMD’s Spire once again outperforms Intel in terms of performance.
The Wraith Max and the Wraith Prism – two larger and better variants of the Wraith Spire with their own RGB rings – are two larger and better versions of the Wraith Spire that AMD coolers are generally better, as we’ve established. However, AMD also offers more alternatives than Intel. AMD’s CPU coolers come in both full-featured and low-profile varieties. Although AMD cooling are superior to Intel, do they measure up to aftermarket coolers?
Stock Cooler vs Aftermarket Cooler
While the range of OEM coolers is very restricted, the aftermarket offers a wide range of choices.
Low-profile CPU coolers are readily available and inexpensive alternatives to the conventional CPU cooler. For tiny computers, however, there are pricier, more serious alternatives that can provide superior cooling without the need for big heatsinks.
A tower cooler, which has a much larger heatsink, is a viable option if you don’t mind the additional cost. These are the greatest desktop PC air coolers you can buy. As long as they aren’t overworked, they’re quite quiet and efficient at cooling.
Even a tower cooler can’t compare to a liquid cooler! They’re the priciest aftermarket coolers out there, hands down. Rather than using an aluminum heatsink, they employ a circulating liquid to transfer heat away from the CPU and into the case-mounted radiators, which are then cooled by several fans.
Aftermarket CPU coolers are available in a wide range of styles and price points, so there’s a solution for everyone.
The superior performance of aftermarket coolers is undeniable, but which one should you buy and do you really require one?
Do You Need An Aftermarket CPU Cooler?
“Need” can be a tough word to use in this situation because everyone has their own personal preferences and performance expectations. Overclocking your CPU and getting the most performance out of it is a goal for some, while others simply want a cooler that can keep the temperature low without being too noisy or intrusive.
In most cases, an aftermarket cooler is required if you plan to overclock your CPU. In terms of performance and cost, a tower cooler would be ideal. When it comes to getting maximum performance out of a processor, liquid is the best option, but it is also the most expensive.
You can get tower coolers that are both inexpensive and quiet if you’re fed up with your stock cooler constantly revving up or your case getting too hot to the touch. In addition, some Mini ITX or Micro ATX PCs, which are unable to accommodate a larger cooler, can benefit greatly from an outstanding low-profile cooler.
Finally, if your computer has a tendency to overheat, it’s worth mentioning that the CPU cooler itself may not be the problem. As a rule of thumb, if you’re experiencing frequent BSODs, restarts, or the beeper inside the case keeps going off, overheating is most likely to blame. Even so, it’s unlikely that the CPU cooler is to blame.
So, before you toss out the old cooler, give the following a shot:
- It’s time to wipe down the computer case. The coolers on the CPU, GPU, and power supply, as well as the case’s air intakes, all play a role in this. The most common cause of overheating in PCs with active cooling is dust buildup, which is a common problem.
- Invest in a case fan. Additionally, a lack of ventilation could be to blame for overheating. However, it is possible that there is not enough cold air coming into the CPU and GPU coolers from the outside. Not to mention how inexpensive and effective one or two case fans may be, you’d be astonished at the performance boost they can bring.
The Testing Setup
Thermaltake’s Core P3 ATX case is a suspended steel wall with open air on all four sides for our test bench. With the plexiglass pane removed, there is nothing but the RAM DIMMs and the graphics card below the CPU mounting location. Rather than using a closed case to test this, we’re testing it in open air. Because of this, our results shouldn’t be affected, but keep in mind that your results will vary based on the CPU, case, and individual coolers you use.
Core i7-7700K, Intel’s best-selling processor for gamers and other performance aficionados, is our test CPU. Since a large range of aftermarket coolers are compatible with the commonly used LGA1151 socket, this setup is a suitable candidate for testing. The 7700K is one of the few CPUs on the market that doesn’t come with its own cooling in the box, but we purchased two separate standard coolers for comparison purposes. However, the i7-7700 has a stock cooler.
Intel’s Old, Small Stock Cooler
The E97379 is the part number for this little heatsink with an 80mm fan installed on top. It’s a simple, Foxconn-supplied solution that has likely been installed on millions of computers. Intel heatsinks purchased in the last decade or so are likely to come with this model of heatsink.
Since this cooler is so widely used, we decided to include it in our comparison even though Intel itself has moved on to a slightly more robust design for its most current generation of stock coolers (see below).
As it turns out, Intel’s move to a more powerful architecture is a positive thing. This CPU’s “TJmax” value of 100 degrees (the point at which it actively begins limiting its own performance in order to safely compensate for heat) was reached almost quickly while using the modest stock cooler at an acceptable idle temperature of 31 degrees Celsius. It just took fourteen seconds of benchmark testing to reach the maximum temperature allowed by the manufacturer on one core of the machine. With a fully sealed case, the modest, high-RPM fan makes a perceptible noise, but it’s not enough to be distracting.
It’s possible that the processor might shut down the machine after an hour or so of gaming or other visual rendering with this setup. Again, Intel does not recommend this combination of a powerful CPU with a minimum CPU cooling, but it demonstrates how quickly an older stock cooler design can reach its performance limit. Indeed, my old home-built PC (with the same stock cooler on the CPU it was packaged with) frequently overheated and shut down during hard games, necessitating an upgrade. Consequently, this essay was actually inspired by this experience.
Intel’s New, Large Stock Cooler
It is likely that you obtained this improved Intel cooler for free with a Core-series processor using LGA 1151 in the past two years. Even while it has the same cylindrical design and top-mounted fan as its smaller cousin, the heatsink is three to four times larger and so provides a vastly enlarged cooling area. There is a noticeable difference in the fan’s RPM under load, even though it appears to be the same size as the smaller cooler’s fan. Also, the pre-applied thermal compound on the larger cooler is different; it is much more runny and spreadable.
The larger Intel cooler was able to keep the CPU at a more comfortable 27 degrees Celsius when it was idle. It reached a constant core temperature of 72 degrees Celsius in just 22 seconds when subjected to a CPU benchmark. Despite the fact that this is a long way from a world-class performance, it is far from the TJmax value and any cause for panic.
In an enclosed case with adequate airflow, the larger cooler should be able to run for long periods of time without throttling, even if it is overheating. An uncomfortable case (such as an ITX Mini-ITX build), inadequate airflow, or simply a hot environment can complicate matters.
An Inexpensive Cooler Master Aftermarket Cooler
Heat is dissipated through layers of thin metal on the heatsink and a massive 120mm fan on the cooler’s heatsink, as is customary for aftermarket CPU coolers. Six large, hefty copper heat pipes run from the CPU plate up to the heatsink. Similar to stock coolers, it uses thermodynamic principles to cool the CPU part of the motherboard and an ATX chassis, but it’s a lot bigger and can handle a lot more heat.
For those who prefer liquid cooling, there are even more sophisticated coolers available. Gamers can upgrade to this one, which costs just $35 and is well-reviewed, for a reasonable price.
Installation, on the other hand, is a bit of a challenge. This cooler requires a complex bracing around the CPU socket as well as a plastic retention plate, whereas the stock coolers can be screwed down at four locations with just your fingers if you’re quick with them. You’ll need to remove the back of your computer case and any cables or hard drives that may be obstructing the process. In order to accommodate a range of AMD and Intel CPU designs, you must carefully follow the instructions provided with this bracket.. When it comes to applying the accompanying Cooler Master-branded thermal compound, the ridged copper contact plate is left naked except for a protective layer, unlike the pre-applied thermal compound on both Intel coolers. Final step: if you need to remove any extra cables or surrounding components, like your RAM DIMMs, carefully reinstall them after you’re through.
So how much does it cost and how long does it take to install? At 28 degrees Celsius when idle, the Cooler Master allows the CPU to reach a temperature of 68 degrees Celsius swiftly under load. For the course of the test, the Cooler Master firmly refused to allow the CPU to get any hotter than it already was. Even while the real thermal advantage for the larger cooler is just approximately six percent, the stability is amazing. The Cooler Master, on the other hand, is substantially quieter than both the large and compact Intel coolers because of its larger fan.
Compared to Intel’s latest standard cooling, the Cooler Master is marginally better and significantly better than its smaller, older design. While it may not be worth it to switch from a smaller stock cooler to the larger Intel cooler, it is absolutely worth it if you want to overclock or minimize noise.
The question is whether or not you truly need an additional cooler. A little Intel cooler like the one shown above would be ideal if you have no other choice than to go with one. AMD and Dell’s freebies don’t look like they’d do any better, though, so we can’t test them for ourselves.
There are additional options available if you’re using a newer processor with a better cooler. An update is no longer necessary because of the larger Intel standard cooler’s enlarged heatsink, which keeps the CPU at a safe temperature. Newer Ryzen CPU designs include AMD’s “Wraith” cooler, which is a comparable updated version. When purchasing a new CPU, be sure to ask which stock cooling is included.
It’s a good idea for individuals who plan on overclocking, or who simply want more control over their thermal setup, to invest in an inexpensive update. As an added bonus, you’ll have a considerably greater margin of error for expanded performance, as well as reduced noise, for half the price of a new game. The size and compatibility of the aftermarket cooler you choose must match those of your CPU and your computer casing, for obvious reasons.
Is a Stock CPU Cooler Enough for Gaming or Should You Upgrade?
Gamers in particular should pay attention to this, as your PC’s cooler has a significant impact on your gaming experience. For this question, if your sole other option is an older and less capable design, such as the little Intel cooler we discussed earlier, then an upgrade is suggested.
If you have an older processor with an improved cooler design, an update may be unnecessary because you have more choices. Aftermarket replacements for older coolers, such as the AMD Wraith and the larger Intel stock coolers, would offer performance comparable to that of an aftermarket upgrade.
In the end, an upgrade, even a cheap one, would be beneficial if you are interested in overclocking or simply want more freedom in your thermal setup. This means that for half the price of purchasing a new game, you will get a highly dependable reduction in temperature and a far greater margin of error when it comes to increasing performance. It goes without saying that a reduction in noise is essential.
Is aftermarket CPU cooler worth it?
CPU overheating can be prevented by using any factory cooler. But an aftermarket cooler is usually always a good investment if you’re looking for a more efficient and quieter cooler for overclocking.
Is it okay to use stock CPU cooler?
The stock CPU cooler can still be securely used when gaming, but don’t anticipate much better results or lower temperatures.
Is a stock CPU cooler enough for gaming?
Reputable. As long as you’re not overclocking, you may use the stock cooler. The temperatures will be higher, but they will be safe, and there is a possibility that it could be quite noisy. It’s not a threat at all.
Is the stock AMD CPU cooler good enough?
As long as you don’t overclock your processor, you should be fine with the stock Wraith Spire Cooler.
When compared to the lowest, most basic stock coolers that come with inexpensive CPUs, aftermarket coolers will almost always be quieter and more efficient.
Overclocking, noise, the size of the case, and your budget all play a role in determining how much you should spend on an aftermarket cooler and which type of cooler you should acquire.
Keeping these things in mind when shopping for a new cooler, and if you go with a reputable brand, you can’t go wrong!