The right case & cooling


Caught up with work – I have a regular job that takes my whole day and then some more – I almost forgot that I am yet to close this blog. It's bad and I feel sorry for it. I should have finished this stuff months ago.

But I feel I will be able to take out some time this week. The hardware part is already covered. Only the cooling and case is remaining on this front. So, there will be a post on it. Apart from that, I will do two more posts: ‘From where I got all these parts’ and ‘Things to do once you start using your new computer for the first time’.

Ok, let’s go. Cooling and the case first.

It is nice to spend some time picking right parts for cooling and a decent case. The cooling part is particularly important if you are picking high-performance components like gaming-grade graphics cards or are going to overclock CPU.

Primarily there are two ways in which you can cool down your computer parts. One way is to use Air + Water cooling set-up. This gives best results but is expensive. Another is all air cooling. This is cheaper and pretty good, if you get the right parts. I don’t want to go into too many details here as they are not terribly important for average computer users. But it is good to spell out some broad points, which I am going to do while I discuss why I bought the following parts.

The right case for me

After spending countless of hours reading about cases online and making tens of calls across to hardware dealers in India, I decided to buy Corsair 550D. It was not a perfect choice but there was no other option. Essentially, I wanted the following things in my computer case:

-- It should not be a dirt magnet. I live in Delhi and in summer it can get pretty dusty here. My last cabinet – Cooler Master 690 – had a meshed design. This means it was good at cooling components but also attracted dust. This time I wanted a chassis that has as few vents as possible and even if there are vents, they should have dust filter on them.

 -- I wanted the case to have a clean design. Some people like bling but I don’t.

 -- I wanted the case to have solid build quality with impeccable finish.

 -- I wanted the case to have slots for cable management so that I can maximize airflow inside it. Though all contemporary cases come with lots of cable management options.

 -- I wanted the case to have at least two front fan slots and one back fan slot. This creates the classic front-to-back airflow in a case, which helps in cooling parts.

Barring one criteria (build quality) Corsair 550D has everything. This case has been designed for silent computing and hence features minimum vents. At the same time, it has slots for 8 fans. Four of these slots – two on left side and two on top – are covered by a removable lid, making them optional. This is something that I like because it gives me additional flexibility in how I configure the cooling in this system.

550D is also a great case for cable management and it looks great with its extremely simple and clean design. The only problem with the case is that the lids that cover four fan slots are made of plastic. Then, the side panels are too thin. But I had to make a compromise. There was simply no better option. 

But what about other cooling components? 

Yes, I am coming to it. Case is just one aspect. To make sure that all parts are cooled as best as possible, I also bought:

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO:
This is a CPU cooler. If you have read my other posts here, you will see that I bought an unlocked CPU and a motherboard that allows for full overclocking. Needless to say, when overclocking was my aim, I could not have relied on the puny cooler that Intel bundles with its CPUs. So, to cool the modestly overclocked CPU, I got EVO. It costs half of entry-level water coolers but matches them in cooling the chips. It is also light and compact given its performance (some air coolers are massive).

Gentle Typhoons:
These are cooling fans. While 550D comes with its own set of fans, they are not really good. One, they are tuned for silence at the cost of their cooling performance. Two, they don’t really pull in or push out much air. Gentle Typhoon is considered one of the finest 120mm fans ever made and is now pretty difficult to find. The fan moves a lot air, even if the vents are filtered, has a long life and doesn’t make much noise. I got two for the front slots.

Thermaltake TY140: This one is also a very nice case fan. Moves decent amount of air, doesn’t make much noise. This I bought for the rear slot.

Thermalright Chill Factor III: This is a thermal paste. While Intel CPU or any air cooler you are likely to buy comes with a thermal paste, it is good idea to spend a few hundred bucks and get something better. The good thermal paste, which basically squeezes out any air trapped between the cooler and chip you are trying to cool, can make a difference of up to 5-10 degree Celsius when the chip is at full load.

How did I set up the cooling?

This is the optional part. Though I believe it is important to talk about it. To get the best possible cooling, as far as I know, I set-up the computer in following manner.

-- Tight cable management. I tried to make sure that all cables are neatly tucked in places where they are supposed to be. The fact that I selected a modular power supply unit helped me here. In this way I tried to make sure that airflow inside the cabinet is not hampered by loose cables.

-- I removed the front fans that came with 550D. Put Gentle Typhoons there.

-- I put one of the default fans in the slot near power supply unit on the bottom of case.

-- Both Gentle Typhoons and the bottom fan were positioned to pull air from outside.

-- TY140 went into the rear fan slot. It was positioned to exhaust hot air.

-- I remove one of the hard drive cages (I didn’t need it) so that one of the Gentle Typhoon can push air directly to CPU cooler.

-- By putting two high performance + one low performance fans to pull in air and only one fan to push air out, I created a positive-pressure air cooling.

This means, I am pulling more air inside the case than what the exhaust fan is capable of pushing out. This is good to keep dust away from the case as the positive pressure inside the case means air is pushed out of any vent or opening it can find in the case. If air is getting pushed out, dust can't enter.

If dust is not issue, you can also set negative-pressure cooling in the computer chassis. That has its own set of benefits.

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