IceGiant says its giant cooler can even tame AMD's giant Threadripper

An old technique could take it where no air cooler has gone before.

Credit: Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

CPUs may be getting smaller, but they’re not actually getting any cooler. Between AMD’s 32- and 64-core Threadripper CPUs, and Intel’s Core X chips, modern high-end desktop CPUs are producing more heat than ever dreamed of 10 years ago.

To address the heat, most high-end PCs use expensive and complex custom liquid cooling to hit peak performance, or self-contained all-in-one liquid coolers.

Enter IceGiant and its air cooler, based on the old concept of a thermosiphon. The company says it can outperform conventional air coolers and compete with liquid coolers. Before we dive deeper, though, we’ll review the current state of PC cooling.

digital storm aventum Brad Chacos

Digital Storm’s Aventum 3 uses custom liquid cooling to keep its GPUs and CPU cool. CLC’s are seen as the pinnacle of PC cooling today.

Custom Loop Cooling: The top of the food chain

At the top of the food chain (outside of exotic cooling for the overclocking sports) are custom loop cooling. Typically a copper water block is placed on the CPU or GPU and hooked up to inlet and and outlet tubes. Liquid (mostly water) is then pumped through the water block and through a radiator. The radiator is essentially a large aluminum or copper-finned box, which has fans attached to it to dissipate the heat. Most custom CLCs feature either very large distribution blocks or reservoirs to increase the volume of water in the system, which can help buffer high heat.

CLCs are typically the most effective, but also the most expensive and difficult to build with. For those who are averse to mixing water with electricity, they’re also the most risky due to the amount of water (even though it’s typically non-conductive) and the fact that you have to design and assemble it yourself.

thermaltake riing 280mm Thermaltake

All-in-one coolers such as ThermalTake’s Riing 280 are popular today due to the cost-effectiveness.

All-in-One Cooling: Cost-effective leader

While custom loop cooling works well, it’s been too expensive and too complex for most mainstream users. Instead, many DIYers and PC makers have turned to much simpler All-in-One cooler systems, which contain the water block, pump, and radiator in a sealed package that’s easy to install in any PC. On the performance front, a well-designed AiO can compete with some CLC setups up to a certain thermal limit.

In the vast majority of gaming and performance desktops, AiO coolers have become the prevalent method due to their cost and efficiency. The biggest negatives to AiO systems is still the risk of failure (typically the water pump), as well as leakage from a break in a joint, and the inability to be serviced. AiO are sealed, but over time (years typically), liquid levels can drop as the water molecules pass through the tubing.

Air coolers: Cheaper, more “reliable”

intel hsf 1 copy Gordon Mah Ung

An Intel heat sink fan comes with many mid-range to low-end CPUs. Although not high-performance, they are engineered to handle the stock performance under most circumstances.

Most basic consumer desktop PCs CPUs are cooled using blocks of aluminum with extruded fins to increase surface area. These simple coolers are sometimes beefed up when needed by using a copper center slug, which conducts heat better than aluminum. Air coolers all work the same way: The aluminum or copper bodies act as head conductors from the hot CPU to the fins, where a fan forces air through them to dissipate heat.

Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo v2 Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 uses direct contact heat pipes in a tower formation and is considered one of the best coolers in its class.

While the basic aluminum air cooler can work for a low-power CPU such as an Athlon or Core i3, higher-end CPUs need higher-end cooling. In air cooling, that’s typically meant moving from simple aluminum or copper conductors to heat pipes.

Heat pipes work by sealing a liquid—usually water—inside of a metal (usually copper) tube. The tube is typically pressed into a metal block or pressed flat to make direct contact with the CPU. As the water is heated up by its proximity to the hot CPU, it changes from liquid to steam and travels through the tube to the colder section, where fins and fans attached to the tube cool it off and it reverts or condenses back to its liquid state. Once cooled off, the liquid travels along a wick (which is typically fins), mesh, or a compacted or “sintered” powder that lines the inside of the heatpipe, back to the CPU. The liquid moves along the wick through a capillary process, which is similar to how water moves though a paper towel when you dab a corner of one into a cup of water.

Heat pipe-based coolers are so effective that they have replaced simple conduction air coolers in all but the cheapest PCs today. The very best air coolers can rival many All-in-One coolers in performance, too. Heat pipes do, however, have a limit, and that’s where IceGiant hopes to step in.

Got all that? Let’s finally dig into thermosiphons on the next page. 

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gordon Mah Ung

Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?