Early PCs seldom had more than a tiny, weak fan on the back of the case to push out excess heat generated by the internal electronics. As transistors shrank and chips grew faster and more complex, CPUs began running hotter and reaching dangerous temperatures – so hot, in fact, that the little case fan couldn’t protect the delicate electronics from burning out.
To address this, PC manufacturers began adding fans dedicated to cooling this nerve center of the motherboard. Today, with high end gaming machines consuming up to 1000W or more, enormous heat is generated not just by the CPU, but by the memory, north and south bridges, and the graphics card. To expel this heat from inside the case, larger and faster case fans are needed to keep everything running at a safe, relatively cool temperature.
For the past few years, PC accessory vendors have been marketing liquid cooling systems. These products promise to cool more efficiently, and more quietly, than traditional fans – at the same time adding several hundred dollars to the total price tag of a new machine. The question is: is this just a pricey gimmick, or is this the next logical step in the progression of ever more powerful machines?