$20-$70 CPU air cooler


Oct 20, 2008
Hello, new to the forums here. Pleased to meet you all.

I'm fairly new to computer hardware in general though I've done a lot of reading online in the last week and I have played around inside computers a lot. I've had computers most of my life, but never built my own. This is my first build:

Intel E8500 Dual Core Processor
Antec Sonata designer case (500 watt psu)
Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L mobo (decided I didn't need extra features from DS3R)
2x1GB RAM - OCZ Gold 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM 800Mhz (PC2 6400)
EVGA 9800 GT Akimbo 512 DDR3 RAM

Long story short, I've got my system up and running but getting random reboots/BSofDeaths and other weird quirks. After 2 days of troubleshooting, I'm seriously suspecting the mobo. I'm wondering whether the stock heatsink/fan that comes with the E8500, which bends the mobo once installed, could have damaged it. Whether it did or not, I absolutely HATE the pushpin system - the pins pop out, and if I get them to stay, I feel like they don't have a good enough connection with the CPU.

So, I've read various reviews about CPU coolers but still haven't found one that suits my needs. So I appeal to you readers; I could really use a hand with this. I want a CPU heatsink/fan that:

doesn't use pushpins
is fairly quiet
up to $70, but prefer not to go over $50 (even cheaper is better)
cools at least as well as the stock cpu fan, preferably better
isn't going to bend the mobo from sheer weight

I'm considering the Noctua NH-U12P (review - http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.aspx?i=3268), but the weight of the thing scares me. Maybe one step down from that would be nice.

Also, Noctua isn't sold where I normally shop - newegg. I'm willing to shop elsewhere online, but don't know where to buy stuff like that.

Another thing that scares me is the 2008 Cooler roundup review I read here. Apparently 45% of the coolers failed to do their job. The last thing I want is to buy something that isn't going to work well. Any help is greatly appreciated.

PS - I'm a gamer, but don't plan on overclocking. Cool and quiet stability is what interests me.


Jun 4, 2007
Check out www.frostytech.com for their input. They even have a section on quiet, I believe.

Most suggest the Xigmatek with a retention bracket. Great performance and price. I think it's more for overclocking though.


Oct 13, 2006

Except it uses pushpins.


Mar 6, 2007
what's the model of the psu that came with your case??

I suspect PSU problem, you might need to change it to a better quality one.

To rule out the memory try running memtest, all stick and then one stick at a time.
If you don't overclock, you could get something cheaper than the $60 Noctua.

Sunbeam Core Contact, $25+$9 shipping

Here's a quote from a Newegg user:
Pros: Xtreme cooling. Big, but not overly huge. Has my E8500 idling at 22 degrees Celcius. Under stress it has never got to 50. Love the AMD latch type fastener instead of the Intel push pins. Not really heavy at all so no need for a back support.

Cons: I had a little trouble installing the ring for the Intell socket. It didn't seem to want to go in. I thought I was either gonna break it or the board. After much pushing and cursing under my breath it finally went in. Wish the fan was 4 pin for PWM, but I just let it run full blast and I can't even hear it. That is really something to be said for a 2000 rpm fan.

Other Thoughts: I think all companies should start adapting the HDT type of coolers. They really do what they say. The TX-2 wanted to set up on me before I got the cooler mounted so I just put a little extra on and hoped for the best. Really glad I put it on the bottom of the cooler and on the CPU itself. It does a better job than my old faithful AS-5.


Contributing Writer
I actually just installed the AC Freezer on a build I did for a guy on friday and it seemed to do pretty well. I would rather it had a bracket, but the pushpins seemed to hold it pretty well after I got them seated correctly. They were fun little suckers that kept popping the opposite side out during the initial 'push in'. Pretty simple to work around, though: just make sure you have even pressure to distribute the stress while you pop in the remaining pins.
Generally, the Earthwatts 500W is a good PSU. It's powerful enough for your system too. That being said, it is possible you got a bad one. Try with a different PSU if you can borrow one from somewhere.

But first, see what kind of temperatures your video card gets. Download GPU-Z and check. Are your crashes happening in games only? If yes, it's most likely an overheating issue, especially as the Sonata is not designed for gaming.


Oct 13, 2006
Dont misunderstand me, i own the AF7 and its keeping my E8400 frosty cool. But the pushpins are downright scary to install. Even with the mobo out of the case, I thought at onepoint i had snapped a corner off. I hope to not have to do it again for a long, LONG time
First off let's deal with your BSOD's. Though the stock cooler does flex the PCB, it is unlikely that it's damaged the motherboard, unless there's something else you haven't told us. I will agree that the retention design sucks though and I would always recommend something better than stock. Back to the troubleshooting of your lockups. Have you run Memtest? If not download it and run it. Let it run for 8+ hours, as some memory problems won't manifest on the first couple times through the tests. If this passes without errors, you may need look at the power supply.

Once you've run Memtest, update us on what you've found.


Oct 20, 2008
No, my crashes are not happening in only games.

I crash at the desktop right after booting up sometimes. Other times while I'm installing stuff from CDs (like my printer driver/software). Sometimes I'm doing nothing. It's usually accompanied with a quick flash of the blue screen of death, which I cannot read fast enough. Also, when it does this, it not only reboots, but gets stuck in a reboot loop where it won't even get a chance to post before rebooting again. I have to cut the switch on the back of the PSU to exit the loop.

I can usually get into windows and do some things. Sometimes I can use the computer for 10 minutes, other times, 30 seconds. I tried playing Knights of the Old Republic #1 and when I do the "hardware check for that game", it has the audacity to say my 9800 GT is doesn't meet system recommendations (but does meet requirements). When I got into the game and played a bit, the graphics seem okay but then get distorted for a half second whenever the ship that my character is in takes a blow and shakes. I know for a fact that's not normal.

So really, I'm teetering between mobo and graphics card. Problem is, the return process takes a while and I don't want to send the wrong part back. (not to mention the clock is ticking on those annoying mail-in-rebates and the 15% restock fee)
If you had trouble mounting the stock cooler, it is likely that it is not on properly.

It is a pain, but the ONLY way to mount the cooler is to do it outside of the case.
1) The pushpins are hard to get down. If you try to do it with the mobo in the case, you will bend the motherboard and possibly cause other problems. Just put the mobo on a piece of cardboard.
2) You need to be able to look at the back of the motherboard to be certain that all 4 pins are through and locked.

First, look at the cooler, and play with the pins, until you understand how they work. Read the Intel instructions that came with your cpu. The trick is to push in a diagonal pair of pins at the same time.

Still, an oem cooler will cool better, and be more quiet.
I suggest the Xigmatek s1283 $39.95:
Also get the optional backplate mount $6.99 to eliminate the pushpins:

If you need thermal grease, as5 or mx2 are good.

BTW, I love the designer-500 case!
--- good luck---
You can make the blue screen of death wait for you to reboot. Then you get a chance to read it and maybe see some details. for example if it's an nVidia driver issue you'd see a reference to nv4_disp.dll or something similar. To make it wait, do this:

Right click My Computer in the desktop, select Advanced, Startup and recovery, uncheck Automatically restart. BTW, this is for XP, but it's pretty similar for Vista IIRC.