With the wide range of CPU platforms available these days itâ€™s not surprising to see coolers that are compatible with multiple processors. However, the one size fits all approach isnâ€™t always the best way to do things and in the past there have been complications when motherboard manufactures have deviated from reference designs.
But this doesnâ€™t seem to have stopped the cooler manufacturers and by now you can buy a CPU cooler that will fit at least three or four different platforms if not more. That said, itâ€™s worth checking with the manufacturer first to make sure the cooler that youâ€™re considering will fit your motherboard. This is especially important if you have a board with an unusual layout like some of the Athlon 64 motherboards where the CPU socket has been moved slightly.
However, with the inclusion of all kinds of exotic cooling solutions like heatpipes and fancy extractor fans you might still have problems. Having used the ABIT Fatal1ty AA8XE as the test platform due to its rather unusual MOSFET cooling solution, Iâ€™m happy to report that none of these coolers caused any real issues. The CPU used was a 3.46GHz Pentium 4 EE which might not be the hottest running CPU now, but the Extreme Edition processor does run hotter than the normal Pentium 4 due to the increased transistor count.
There are of course always minor problems with the multi CPU coolers and the main one tends to be poor instructions. Thankfully, none of the coolers on test had terrible manuals, but more on that in the specific reviews. What I do find frustrating is how few of the cooler manufacturers take advantage of the AMD Athlon 64 mounting mechanism and rely on some sprung loaded screw in type of mounting instead. These are awkward to fit and itâ€™s easy to scratch your board if you slip while pressing the screws into the rear mounting bracket.
The biggest problem seems to be that Intel moved away from a cooler retention mechanism and adopted four holes on the board instead. This has caused some real issues in terms of securing the increasingly heavy coolers. The heaviest of the three coolers on test weighs no less than 795g without the fan fitted and when the motherboard has to carry all this weight Iâ€™d like to have a more secure fitting mechanism.
The problem with LGA775 based boards is that unless the board is bent the right way, the processor looses contact with the pins in the CPU socket. Certain CPU coolers that feature a back plate to help hold the cooler in place stop this bend from happening and results in your PC not working properly. None of the coolers on test produced such a problem, although only one of them used a rear plate.
I would imagine that this is a growing market, since even though it takes some more planning from the manufacturers side, a single cooler with different mounting mechanisms is cheaper to produce than a wide range of products tailored for a specific CPU type. The other advantage is that when a new CPU retention mechanism comes out, the cooler manufacturer can adapt its current coolers to work with it.