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Golden Orb Heatsink/fan

by Drew Dunn

Golden Orb
Heat Sink/Fan Combo
[ a product review ]

Plycon Computers

by Drew Dunn

NOSPIN Group Excellence Award Winner

A long time ago (in computer time), some enterprising soul took a look inside a high performance Hewlett Packard workstation and discovered a most amazing sight…a shiny silver heat sink and fan that was just about the size of his fist. As an enterprising soul, he pulled the heat sink and slapped it on his toasty, overclocked Intel CPU and discovered what physicists and computer geeks have known for a long time…the more surface area you have, the more heat you can dissipate.

I don't think that HP makes the Turbo Coolers anymore, or if they do, you and I can't run out and buy them. Now and then, a few show up for sale here and there, but they suffer from a major problem: They were designed to work with large workstation CPUs, not small PC CPUs, so attaching them was a little problematic.

But those heat sinks worked so well, that it was just a matter of time before somebody came up with something just as good, but scaled for personal computers. Somebody did, and it's called the Golden Orb.

I ordered two Golden Orbs from Plycon Computers. Plycon sells some very interesting gear suited for enthusiasts and speed freaks. The Orbs are just the tip of the iceberg. They were shipped Priority Mail and arrived in about a week. Plycon has since switched to FedEx, so delivery times should be a bit speedier.

What did I get for my 32 bucks? Two very large heat sinks with equally large fans installed. Plycon's web page abounds with warnings about measuring motherboards and cases for fit, and they aren't kidding. I'm not sure if "large" does justice to these babies.

I decided to replace the old heatsinks in my Celeron 333-powered Abit BP6 motherboard. This system is on all the time and definitely runs hot. Although it's not overclocked, the minitower case is fairly crowded, so I usually see CPU temperatures of 100-104 degrees and ambient temperatures around the same.

The existing fan/heat sink combinations were GlobalWin and OEM Intel models. Neither heat sink was really large, but they were doing the job. They also fit the tight confines of the case and motherboard.

Plycon was right about measuring. The heat sinks didn't quite fit on the BP6 because some capacitors were in the way. Fortunately, the fins are made from aluminum, which was no match for my handy steel file. As you can see from the picture, Abit put several capacitors right next to the sockets. Some judicious filing on the heat sink provided the necessary clearance. There was only about 3 or 4 millimeters of interference, so it only took a few minutes to fix.

If you have to modify your Golden Orb, be sure to take care with the square white patch of thermal grease on the bottom. It's good stuff. Made by Bergquist. Don't rub it off. Also, if you're scraping and filing on the heat sinks, be VERY sure to dust them off completely. Aluminum filings are great electrical conductors…and have no place in a computer!

OK, so with the filing and hammering finished, I attached the heat sinks to the sockets. You can see in the picture above that there is a silver mounting bracket that clamps onto the socket. The heat sink sort of twists and snaps into it. You might need to get your buddy Mongo to do the job for you though. It takes a LOT of oomph to get the Orb to snap in place. I almost scared myself that I was going to break something, but in the end, everything was just fine.

Two Golden Orbs is a tight fit. The BP6 is a spacious motherboard, but nonetheless…tight. Also, the power cords are amazingly short. In this installation, that wasn't a problem, but if your motherboard places the fan power socket more than a few inches from the CPU socket, you may be in the market for an extension cord.

As I mentioned before, the fans are quite large. The heat sinks themselves measure 69mm in diameter and 44mm high. The fans are just a bit smaller than the heat sink diameter. As you can see, they draw air through the fins and out the top of the assembly. What may be hard to make out (go back to the first picture) is the very chunky base that makes contact with the CPU. There is plenty of metal to radiate heat.

I keep making an issue about size. You absolutely MUST measure your motherboard and case if you plan on ordering these. Once everything was reinstalled in the case, it was crowded. I took extra pains to route all of the cables and wires away from the Orbs to maximize their performance, but they still sit fairly close to the power supply.

Once installed, I buttoned up the system and turned everything on. The first indication that something was happening inside was the turbine-sounding whirring of the two fans. Although they were clearly audible over the ambient noise of the system (which is fairly high…it has several 7500 RPM SCSI hard drives in an external case), the sound was kind of soothing.

But the real test was in the temperatures. After several hours of computing tasks, including two processes of SETI, some math calculations using Maple and Matlab, as well as general web browsing and the odds and ends of network services that the system provides, the CPUs were running at 93 degrees and the ambient temperature in the system was 98 degrees. That's a big drop, and one that seems worthwhile to me.

Overall, the installation of the Golden Orbs was somewhat difficult due to the unique situation that the Abit BP6 motherboard presents. On a standard Socket 7, Socket 370 or Flip-Chip socket, the installation should be much more straightforward. The Golden Orbs not only performed well, they look pretty slick too. The only drawbacks that I could find were the amount of muscle necessary to install them and the volume of noise that they make. Those issues aside, the Golden Orbs are well worth the price. The bottom line is that they work, and work well.

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