If you ask me, the cooling solutions on most motherboards are nothing but gimmicks. Why? Most of them don't even have proper thermal contact with the chips they are supposed to cool! It's always good to cool hot chips down, but a line should be drawn between having an extra feature and wasting money. Maybe I'm just an old traditionalist, one who is happy with just the old-fashioned fan and heatsink combination. I just don't understand the new fancy schmancy cooling solutions they think up for motherboards, like PCB cooling, heatpipes and super exhaust fans.
Most of these special coolers are just a waste of money, because motherboard chips don't really produce so much heat that they would actually require such extreme measures. Besides, most of these coolers are designed to impress the buyer visually, than actually provide significant cooling because most don't even exhaust the heat properly. At the end of the day, I would take my traditional heatsink and fan cooler any day.
Now, the most important components of the motherboard that should be cooled are the north bridge chip, the south bridge chip and the Voltage Regulator Modules (VRMs). However, you do not be excessive about cooling them. You only need to keep them from overheating. Generally, a simple fan and heatsink cooler will do the job just fine. Just make sure there is sufficient air flow to the coolers. Cooling them further will not benefit you much. My rule of thumb is that as long as you can keep them at around 50°C, that's good enough.
What irks me most about all those fancy cooling solutions is the extra heft and bulk they add to the motherboard. The additional weight also stress the motherboard during installation. In addition, the extra mountings for these coolers take up space on the motherboard that can not only reduce your expansion options, they can also get in the way of your cables, CPU heatsink and other components in your system. It's all marketing bullshit, I tell you.
This is an often forgotten aspect in motherboard selection - the lowly fan header. What is so important about fan headers anyway? Well, they are important because they determine the number of fans directly supported by the motherboard as well as the locations you can install them.
Any fan that uses less than 1 amp of current can be hooked up to the fan headers directly. You do not need to use any of the limited number of power cables from your power supply. Best of all, these fan headers allow you to monitor and control your fans' spin speed.
To summarize , the more fan headers the motherboard has, the better. They allow you to install more fans and make it easier to install them without using power cable extensions.
All motherboards have some form of thermal management system, but never underestimate the importance of a BIOS with good thermal management features. They make it easy for you to manage your system's thermal control devices (like fans, thermal throttling, etc.), and indirectly reduce fan noise by automatically adjusting the fan speeds according to the temperature. Most users will agree that silence is golden.
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