I've recently built an AMD Athlon II 425-based computer (a certain regional electronics retailer well-known for their CPU/motherboard combos made an offer I could not refuse. What I paid for the CPU works out to less than forty dollars.) Naturally, and like most other people who choose to assemble their own PCs, I could not resist the allure of overclocking. Of course, stock cooling solutions are adequate for... well, cooling the CPU at stock settings. Since all modern CPUs have great overclocking potential but get quite hot when doing so, I wanted to upgrade my cooler.
After some searching, I found the Cooler Master Hyper TX3. In keeping with the philosophy of my build (buy the product at the point where performance just about stops increasing linearly with the price), I made the purchase, and the product arrived at my doorstep a few days later.
Cooler Master has elected to use plastic blister packaging for the Hyper TX3. It was easy to open, and required no scissors, which is a refreshing change from most packaging of this type. I received the universal version of the cooler, meaning my version of the TX3 supports Core 2 as well as Core i5, along with pretty much all Athlon 64s and above (Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2, Athlon II, Phenom, Phenom II.) The cooler does not require installation of a motherboard backplate for use. Since this is a smaller cooler, it uses Intel's standard push-pins or AMD's clips to remain secure. Cooler Master has apparently revised the TX3 recently; previous versions used a clip to secure the 92 mm fan to the heatsink. This clip received VERY mixed reviews (Yes, I do mean VERY - some reviews were absolutely glowing while others had the deepest contempt I have ever seen. Okay, maybe the reviews were not that extreme, but I did see a lot of love and a lot of hate.) The new fan retention mechanism is made of plastic. The fan is secured to the plastic mount with screws, and the mount itself snaps onto the cooler. Rubber pads are used to dampen fan vibrations. Also, this revision apparently makes the gap in between the heatpipes and aluminum smaller, which is always a welcome change.
The TX3 comes with one 92 mm fan, but comes with all the necessary accessories required for attaching a second 92 mm fan for a push-pull configuration. Cooler Master also included a tube of thermal paste, which is a nice touch, though I elected to use Arctic Silver 5 instead. I did search online to see how good Cooler Master paste is, and although it is not as good as AS5, it does easily beat the thermal pads that come default with many heatsinks.
Now, as for installation... I can only comment on AMD. Installing the TX3 was not as easy as the stock heatsink, as the TX3 is larger, leaving less room for your hands to maneuver. Additionally, I chose to go with a micro ATX case and motherboard, leaving me even less room. Whereas the push-pins for Intel are attached solidly to the heatsink by screws, the clips for installation into AMD-based systems are only secured when you finish installing the heatsink. Before installation, the clips are kept in place mostly by gravity. They're also two pieces, so when you're fumbling around in a small space trying to install the TX3, you might bump a clip off the heatsink.
This cooler is about 140 mm tall, according to my measurements, so it'll fit into any standard ATX-width case with millimeters to spare.
I've seen some comments (complaints?) about the TX3 using a 92 mm fan as opposed to a 120 mm fan. For a cooler in this price range, I am not sure if those complaints are valid. Remember, the stock AMD fan uses a 60 mm fan and spins at over 3000 RPM. I'm going to guess Intel uses something very similar. This cooler is 92 mm and spins at 2800 RPM maximum. Beats stock, yeah?
As for the part everyone cares about. Performance beats stock, of course. Keep in mind I am using a micro ATX case. Also, I'm providing CPU temperatures, not core temperatures. The diodes used for monitoring core temperatures are not accurate at lower temperatures. They're built into the CPU for throttling (they save your CPU from becoming an expensive key chain holder.) Idle temp stock is 38 to 40 degrees Celsius, depending on time of day. TX3 is able to do 32 to 35 degrees Celsius. Full burn from Prime95, stock reaches 71 degrees Celsius, while the TX3 keeps it under 53. I've since overclocked my CPU from 2.7 GHz to 3.41 GHz. Max temp I've seen in Prime95 is now 58. Not bad for $20. Your results will vary depending on what thermal paste you use, how well you've installed the cooler, whether or not you overclock and how much you overclock, how well air flows in your case, what else you have in your case (buff graphics card? =) and so on.
Well, I'm happy. Great cooler. You can buy this and be unhappy at the small stuff like how the part of the heatsink that makes contact with the CPU isn't perfectly flat, but you have to remember this is a budget cooler, and also a perfectly flat heatsink is just a means to an end. You buy a heatsink because it cools better than stock, not because it has a perfectly flat surface. A perfectly flat surface might cool better, but then again, how much better? Remember, this cooler has direct contact heatpipes, so there is going to be some gaps. The heatpipes and the aluminum also have different coefficients of thermal expansion, so maybe the surface does get more flat when it's in use ;p. Also, does a "nonsmooth" direct contact cooler beat a mirror-finish non-direct-contact cooler? Think about it!