Itís no secret that the motherboard business is extremely competitive, with dozens of manufacturers offering products based on the same chipset. Differentiating yourself from others in this market can be tough, regardless of how many additional features you add. Margins are tight, as consumers are always concerned about price.
As a result, Gigabyte, already well known for its line of motherboards and video cards, is now expanding into new areas just like other motherboard manufacturers. Shuttle made a name for itself with its XPC line of small form factor systems, but now that market is beginning to become crowded, with an increasing number of motherboard manufacturers releasing competitive products. In addition, with small form factor systems, thereís always the need to update your product lineup to support new system chipsets, which now seem to be replaced at a rate similar to the 6-month product cycles ATI and NVIDIA are known for in the graphics business.
Instead, Gigabyte has moved into another competitive, yet slightly more stable market: processor cooling. Specifically, Gigabyte has introduced a new line of high-end CPU coolers for the Pentium 4 and Athlon XP/Athlon 64 that are tailored towards gamers and hardware enthusiasts. These products are the GH-PCU21-FD and GH-PCU21-VG, better known as the Gigabyte 3D Cooler and Gigabyte 3D Cooler Pro respectively.
By supporting both processor platforms in one product line, Gigabyte is able to keep better control of its overall inventory (not to mention that the added volume helps to lower component prices). This strategy also simplifies things for retailers, who donít have to keep up with separate stocks for AMD versus Intel products.
Of course, itís also helpful for end users as well: those of you with Pentium 4 2.4C or 3.2GHz processors that have been thinking about moving over to AMDís Athlon 64 platform wonít have to purchase a new heatsink/fan unit. Simply swap out the Pentium 4 kit for the Athlon 64 parts that ship with your 3D Cooler and youíre good to go. And while Gigabyte is new to the CPU cooler market, they didnít half-step with the 3D Cooler Pro either.
Gigabyte 3D Cooler Pro in action
Tall, Orb design
Whereas most reference coolers from AMD and Intel are copper-slugged, aluminum designs that rely on good Ďol air, Gigabyteís 3D Cooler line are heat pipe solutions, with dual blower-style fans and an eye-catching blue LED in the case of the 3D Cooler Pro. Gigabyte is even working on a second-generation 3D Cooler design that is composed entirely of copper for maximum thermal transfer.
Heat pipe cooling really took off last year, with ABIT introducing its OTES line and Sapphire the silent ULTIMATE Editions. But the heat pipe was made famous with the debut of GeForce FX 5800 Ultraís FX Flow cooler. The NV30 chip GeForce FX 5800 Ultra was built on needed a heat pipe solution to hit the high clock speeds NVIDIA had intended for it. Other NV30 chips that were used in NVIDIAís desktop and Quadro lines ran at slower clock speeds, and thus were able to get by with more conventional aluminum heatsink-based cooling.
With this in mind, we were curious to see how Gigabyteís heat pipe cooler fared. Would it allow us to hit all new clock speeds with our processors?