Damage's first heatsink review

— 12:00 AM on February 19, 2002

OK, so we don't tend to review cooling devices around here much. I figure if we were going to do it, we'd have to develop a bunch of fancy testing procedures and do a big round-up, because, well, that's what we would do—like at Dan's Data or the cold, HardOCP. With that in mind, I was a little bit surprised when Antec, purveyor of some of the best PC cases on the planet, sent out its "Reference" heatsink along with some review hardware I'd requested.

I'm not going to do a full review, but I will give you my impressions in a nutshell. This puppy is a monstrous contraption; it looks like this:

It's a very impressive design if you're after maximum cooling. However, it's crazy loud, and it will crush your CPU core if you're not A) super-careful and B) magic. I was perplexed about how I could explain all this to you adequately, when—lo and behold—I find out that Mikhail Gorbachev turned to PC hardware reviews after he left politics. Not only that, but Gorby has produced a nicely done review of the Antec "Reference" cooler. The quality of the review is what you'd expect from a former world leader with a thing on his head.

Better, even.

Mikhail tells you what exactly to watch out for, including this:

The area that comes into contact with the core of the processor is a simple protrusion from the rest of the base. The reason this is so bad has to do with safety. A square that small will not reside on a CPU's foam feet and careless installation can easily lead to a cracked core.
Not only that, but the unit is secured to the processor with springs, and those springs are way too stiff. Gorby writes:
I'm hoping that it's just my particular sample, but the springs that came along were extremely rigid and I had quite a time installing the unit without cracking my CPU. If it sounds a bit harsh, well, it is. At first it looked simple enough, but in practice it was a bit nerve-wracking. Looks like Antec needs to seriously improve their clip. I get chills when I think of how I'm going to remove the unit *shudders*.
It wasn't just your particular sample, Mikhail. The springs on mine were stiffer than Al Gore reading from a teleprompter. And lemme tell you what will happen when you do remove that puppy: I shaved two edges off the core of an Athlon MP 1800+. Trust me. It was worse than that thing with Yeltsin and the tanks. No, the CPU isn't dead, but I nearly burst a vein in my forehead.

In short, the author of Glasnost has it nailed. The Antec "Reference" cooler is a good effort from Antec, a company that's relatively new to this game. I hope they keep trying. But in the end, the "Reference" cooler is scary as heck. I have worked with a lot of Socket A CPUs, and I've gotten pretty good at removing HSFs without causing silicon-copper carnage. This cooler unnerved me. If I were going to make a mad run at the top of the "Fastest Webmasters" list, I might turn to this cooler to help me wring that last bit of overclocking goodness out of a sacrificial CPU, because it does do one heckuva job cooling a processor. Otherwise, I won't use it again.

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