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Following in the footsteps of the 3D Rocket and 3D Cooler before it, the Gigabyte 3D Rocket II GH-PCU23-VE heatsink takes a similar approach to cooling the full spectrum of processors - but with an aim towards reduced temperatures and noise output. Based upon a cylindrical cooling tower design with four heatpipes joining to the CPU block below, the 3D Rocket II almost appears to be suspended over the processor. Yet unlike the previous iterations Gigabyte produced, namely the 3D Cooler-Ultra (PCU31-VH) 3D Rocket Cooler (PCU22-SE), 3D Cooler-Pro (PCU21-VG), and 3D Rocket Cooler-Pro heatsinks, the 3D Rocket II does away with the single embedded squirrel cage fan. Rather the 3D Rocket II relies on two small vaneaxial fans, both of which exhaust outward from the body of the heatsink. This creates an airflow situation which is pretty unique for heatsinks of this class. Apart from these features which we'll touch upon in greater detail in a moment, the Gigabyte 3D Rocket II also has couple superfluous adjustments to add case-mod appeal and reduce noise.
The Gigabyte 3D Rocket II GH-PCU23-VE heatsink FrostyTech is testing in this review can cool quietly when needed, and also ramps up for major heat loads. The heatsink comes with a fan speed controller that can adjusted installed in any 3.5" bay or by a rear mounted PCI bracket. At full speed the GH-PCU23-VE heatsink puts out close to 65 dBA, so it's great to be able to tune things toward the quieter side.
A set of blue LEDs illuminate the translucent blue fan blades of the upper fin as they spin, and a set of four insertable fluorescent rubber rings are included for that personal touch. At the top of the heatsink is a second fan duct which can be used to focus the exhaust airflow towards the rear of the case, or removed if height is an issue. The bright blue LEDs make Gigabyte's 3D Rocket II cooler a great candidate for windowed chassis. The GH-PCU23-VE is compatible with socket 478 & 775 Intel Pentium 4, and socket 754/940/939 & AM2 AMD Athlon64 processors.
This copper base plate has been reduced from the solid forged copper part we knew in the previous models, and now the upper half is injection molded aluminum. The four nickel plated 6mm diameter copper heatpipes are soldered to a 5mm thick copper pad directly, and the switching of copper for aluminum for the remainder of the mounting plate just cuts down on unnecessary weight. The four 6mm diameter copper heatpipes thread their way up through 50 donut shaped aluminum fins, in two loose groups of four.
The aluminum structure which caps off the CPU mounting plate has a small series of cooling fins built right in, which is a nice improvement on the previous design. The same mounting clip is used for all K8 processors, socket 939 and AM2 included. The aluminum cap is in turn riveted into position on the copper base plate, so when clamping forces are applied they are transmitted evenly across the entire surface area.
The Low Down on Heatpipes
Heatpipes are making their way into seemingly ever bit of computer hardware this year, and four of them used in the Gigabyte 3D Rocket II heatsink we're testing in this report. It's easy to get confused about the impact heatpipes have in a heatsink, since they actually don't "cool" a thing. Basically, heatpipes just transfer heat from one location to another.
The process works like this: as heat energy enters into the heatpipe, liquid inside the tube (generally water) is converted into vapour. You'll recall that water boils at a lower temperature when there is less atmospheric pressure, and the inside of a heatpipe is a vacuum. This water vapour is what transfers the heat it has absorbed to the other end of the heatpipe.
As the heated vapour reaches the cooler side of the tube it condenses, and returns back to liquid form. As it does this, the energy which caused the water to turn to vapour is dumped into the surrounding metal of the heatpipe, which impart transfers it to cooling fins.
A physical property known as capillary action then takes hold and draws the freshly condensed liquid back along an internal wick structure to the hotter end of the heatpipe, where the entire process repeats. The important bit to remember is that it doesn't matter how many heatpipes a cooler has, it's where they are positioned, and how the cooling fins interact with airflow that is critically important.
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