Lian Li PC-V354B: Small is the New Big

April 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

As a computer enthousiast, I have live the most part of my life dreaming of big computer rigs. Gigantic cases with massive airflow, push-pull fan setups on everything, LED-lit this and that, all that jazz. After owning progessively bigger and bigger cases, from a Thermaltake Armor Jr (standard ATX mid-tower) to a Rocketfish RF-FULLTWR (E-ATX compatible behemoth of a full tower), I have lost my interest in blingy modified cases, and have started to build my computers with minimalism in mind. For pragmatism’s sake, I traded big for small, and loud, in-your face styling for a more discrete, clean and timeless look. The form-factor of choice for my latest build being micro-ATX (mATX), I found that the Lian-Li PC-V354B fit the bill perfectly.

Read the full review at epinions.

ThermalTake V1 CPU Cooler Review

November 16, 2007 § Leave a comment

If your looking for a high end air cooler that performs abnormally well, even when compared to some of the lower end liquid cooling systems, look no further. I bought this mostly for the looks, and because I absolutely wanted something from Thermaltake, but I got way more than what I expected. The all copper V shapped heatpipe design, coupled with a stylish yet efficient fan that can push up to 86 CFM is the way to go for Thermaltake: the result is a silent and powerful cooler.

Packaging

Considering the fragility of the heat sink fins which are very thin for greater surface area, Thermaltake did a nice job of packing this cooler. Inside the cardboard box, the plastic clamshell holds the V1 and it’s accessories very well, maybe even a little too well: I had to tug at the base of the cooler to get it out, and seeing the fragility of the fins, I had to be very careful. The contents of the box were the following:

  • 1 cooler
  • 1 set of LGA775 mount fixtures
  • 1 set of socket AM2, 939 and 754 mounts
  • 4 ever so tiny mount screws. They should have included more, those things can be lots too easily.
  • Bag ‘o’ thermal compound, the crappy kind. Through it to the bin or feed it to your dogs or something.

Product Quality

Although at first glance the V1 looks perfect, a few minor defects, most of them having little to no impact on product performance. The biggest one is the use of something that looks like thermal adhesive to join the heapipes and the fins instead of soldering the two together. This sounds like a horrible ripoff when you first hear it, but just thinking about it a bit more will clarify things: soldering the 4 heatpipes to all 110 + fins would have skyrocketed the production prices, and resulted in a cooler than nobody can afford. In my opinion, we really can’t blame Thermaltake for letting go on something like this. The second little fault is the quality of the base’s contact surface. Us overclockers, when shopping for a cooler, look mainly for a quality base, dense and machine to perfection. Although Thermaltake’s product page says the V1 has a “mirror coating base”, what I got wasn’t exactly that: the surface was a tad unequal, and milling marks were pretty clear. Still, considering that I have not yet to this day seen a cooler with a perfect base out of the box, it isn’t bad. If you want a perfect base, grab a 5$ sanding kit and lap it yourself.

Installation

Installation was quick and painless. The LGA775 push-pin mounts that I have used fit just like the Intel stock cooler on my motherboard, contact between base and CPU is superb. Although I can’t recall the amount of sleepless nights I’ve spent wondering if the V1 would fit my case, I can now confirm that this cooler does fit the EVGA 680i SE SLI in a Thermaltake Armor Jr. with no interference from either the power supply up above of the abnormally high northbridge cooler right below. This cooler is a big one, so don’t be thinking that you could be stuffing this in a Micro-ATX case. I would say that 85 % of mid tower can potentially house this cooler, the other deterministic factor being the position of the CPU on your motherboard, which shouldn’t a problem in most cases, and even less if you have one of those almost center-mounted CPU DFI boards. I’ve seen some people run out of space in smaller cases and mount it so that the air is shot up, but I think that it just defeats the purpose of having a flow-through cooler.

Performance

During all the tests, the conditions were the following: 20 C ambient temperature, in my basement. I define Idle as 0% CPU usage with the only thing running being the OS desktop. Full load is 100% CPU usage, attained with the Gromacs test of Orthos dual core edition. The test rig is my Thermaltake Armor Jr, with EVGA 680i SE SLI, Core 2 Duo e6750 G0 stepping, 2 gigs of Corsair XMS2-PC2-6400C4, and an EVGA 8800 GTS SC 320 mb.

First, the stock Intel cooler. I installed the cooler with it’s stock thermal wax (?), and all temperatures were taken with 100 % fan speed.

Stock clocks, idle: 40 C
Stock clocks, load: 67 C
3.2 ghz @ 1.4 Vcore, idle: 43 C
3.2 ghz @ 1.4 Vcore, load: 69 C

Now, the same rig, but outfitted with the V1 and a super slick application of Arctic Silver 5. All temperatures were recored with the cooler at minimum speed. I would have love to try it out at higher speeds, but unfortunately due to a bad fan configuration (high pressure between V1 and extract fan caused by insufficient extraction fan), I only got higher temperatures from increasing the fan speed. Remember, the V1 pushes some 90 CFM at top speed, so a 50 CFM fan just can’t hold up.

Stock clocks, idle: 28 C
Stock clocks, load: 52 C
3.2 ghz @ 1.4 Vcore, idle: 30 C
3.2 ghz @ 1.4 Vcore, load: 56 C

Considering the less than perfect case fan setup, the 13 degrees drop at full load is something that I think is very good, specially at minimum speed.

My tips

  • Check your airflow before buying this. You should have more CFM going out than in, and if you current setup doesn’t, you should be considering the purchase of high speed case fans, with high CFM output. This will avoid creating that same situation that I am in, with the high pressure between V1 and case fan. Good case fans include Thermaltake Smart Case Fan (~100 CFM at full speed), Yate Loons, and Panaflows.
  • Always manipulate the cooler by holding the heatpipes or the base. Even a slight pressure from the fingers is enough to ben the fins near the top.
  • Always use a high quality thermal compound. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link, and don’t let your TIC be that link. Artic Silver 5 is the most popular choice, at 10$ per tube of 3.5 grams. If you’re feeling rich, you might want to check out Shin-Etsu, the ultra thick, high performance compound, which sells for about 10$ also, but for a 1 gram tube: almost 3 times as expensive. Apparently, from the dudes back OCN, it’s worth it.
  • Thespeed controller that comes with the cooler is too small, not mountable in any kind of way, and just generally bad. How do you want to control your cooler speed when you case is closed? It’s just impractical. To be able to control the V1 on a closed case, I paid a visit to a local electronics store and showed the guy the stock speed controller, which can be removed from the cooler without cutting anything up anything. The dude gave me a pot which could do the same thing, and most importantly that could be mounted on my case. 2$ for the pot and a knob, then 5 minutes of drilling, soldering and mounting, and I had a practical way to control the V1′s speed. Pictures here!

What more is there to be said? Sure, if you want to save a couple of additional degrees, you might want to go with the super coolers like the Tuniq Tower, or also from Thermaltake the Big Typhoon, but if you want a nice balance of style and performance, the V1 is for you. At 70$, it isn’t cheap, but compare it to the lower end water cooling systems, both price wise and performance wise and it becomes much appealing.

Thermaltake product page.

Fr0stByte, It's Complete.

October 27, 2007 § 4 Comments

Take a look at this baby. After countless hours of messing around drawing crappy schematics in class and buying crap off ebay, it’s finally finished…. the aesthetical part at least. All stock fans are replaced by blue LED 120mm, that push about 60 CFM each, with the Thermaltake V1 cooler pushing 86 cfm.

From the front, 3/4 shot. Notice the window fan which extrudes from the panel: a Thermaltake 120mm mounted on a 90 to 120mm adaptor, with the cables cleanly routed inside the adaptor, for maximum sexiness. On the front, I have the stock 120mm, plus an iCage holding another 120mm.

IPB Image

I swore to myself that this was the absolute last time that I was taking my motherboard out, so I put lots of effort to clean up my cable routing, which need some adjustments. The 8 pin 12v motherboard line, the USB and sound pinnings as well as the PCI-E six pin are all routed in back, using holes I drilled myself. Despite the only tools I had were a drill, a file and some wood drill bits, they turned out to be pretty clean. I also chopped off the Firewire pinnings for the top panel, Firewire sucks mah ballz. Turns out pretty clean.

IPB Image

IPB Image

On the back, I drilled and modded some stuff for the whole thing to be a bit more practical. The V1 came with a speed adjustment knob, but couldn’t be mounted on a panel, and the cable on it was really short. I went out and bought a pot, mounted it straight to the back of my case, and now I can control the speed of my cooler from the back. Also since leaving a 1230819023 foot molex cable for the side panel fan is not exactly my definition of clean, I mounted a 3.5 mm jack on the back, which is hook up to 12v. The fan on the side window has the plug, so I just shut my door, then plug in the jack to get some juice, and the fan runs.

IPB Image

With some appropriate cooling, I started overclocking this thing a bit, and the results were the following:

Core: 8 x FSB1650 (412.5 mhz), that’s 3.3 ghz. 35 idle, 65 load. It handled everything fine, including Orthos but then I started iTunes and the shit just crashed. FSB and RAM speed/ timings not getting along? Lameass eXX50 series Core 2 Duos have lower multipliers and higher FSB out of the box, so overclocking is limited. At 3.4, FSB 1700, even my CMOS misbehaved. Voltages wrong? Anyways, Running at 3.2 for everyday use, idle 31, 100% Orthos load at under 60.

Memory: 950 mhz @ 4-3-4-10-16-2T with a pair of XMS2 PC6400C4. Even at a stock 800 mhz, they had some trouble handling 1T, so I figured f it, I’ll just OC then to hell’s gates. Honestly, didn’t think I could hold up so high with tight lats like I did at 2.25 V. Corsair is my new lover.

GPU: EVGA 8800 GTS 320M SC. Core @ 622, Memory @ 917, everything stable. With my card, the max is supposed to be 650 – 950, but I kept crashing at anything past 630-930.

Benchmarks are good too:

3dMark06: 10 868
SuperPI Mod 1.5 (1M): 15.422
FutureMark CPU score: 2994

Not bad for something under 2000$. Running FEAR, Farcry, NFS Carbon, CS:S, every game I own, on full AA and AF, under 1240 x 1024, everything maxxed out, with frames greater than 60 every time. Crysis ready? Nah… I need some SLI to play everything maxxed out.

Evil plans for upgrade? Another 2 gigs of the Corsair jank, which is unusually cheap at Tiger these days, and another 8800. Since everybody is getting the newer 8800 GT models are getting release with more VRAM, and that everybody wants more VRAM, I should be able to either buy one through OCN, or buy one from all those that will eventually get processed through EVGA’s Step-Up program for really cheap…. relatively.

Cable Management Saves the Day!

October 12, 2007 § Leave a comment

After lots of hesitation on if I should or not give another shot at what I used to proudly call a “cable optimization job”, I finally got off my chair to crawl under my desk and get the damned thing done. After some 2 hours of  messing around my case in a spine-bending posture, it’s done.

BEFORE! 

AFTER! 

Turns out it was pretty easy too. Thermaltake, being the best cooling product company that they are, design the left side panel on the Armor JR so that there is a good ~10mm of clearance between the motherboard tray, and ideal place for stuffing the overly long power cables that my X-finity has. Appropriately bundled and tied to the mobo tray with electrical tape, it’s a zero cable clutter solution. For the extra long cables, I could even bundle them up and stick them next to the powersupply, which gave me a clearance of something like 30 mm. Not a cable escapes the routing: the SATA power cables and molex are placed beneath the side panel and come out from the bottom slot of the hard drive bay, the top bezel pinning connectors are also routed the same way, and even the bigass 24 pin connector was butted against the MB plate, to then come out from the thin gap between the 5.25 drive bay rack and the motherboard. As for the molex which used to spoil the entire bottom right corner of my window, I have hidden them in the bottom 5.25″ bay below the blue fan, and after carefully having routed all the fan cables, connected all the fan molex under there. It’s a tight fit, but it does the job.

Results? 4C off my idle temperatures, thanks to an almost perfectly cable free path from the front panel to the back fan, which also includes my CPU cooler. That and a presentation grade PC. With the window on, the only cables really visible are the ugly stock, uber long SATA cable, the PCI-e power connection going to my 8800 GTS SC that I am getting next Tuesday, and the USB pinning for the bezel at the top of my case, which I don’t want to pin up because that means looking through the motherboard manual.

 Now that the 8800 is purchased, the to-do list on this build is getting shorter and shorter.

  • Install the side panel fan assembly, with the removable, clutter free powering system.
  • Install another blue 120 mm fan in the 3 available 5.25 slots, with the custom machined bracket
  • Change the CPU cooler to a Thermaltake V1, make it machine lapped
  • Install aftermarket Tt 8800 series GPU cooler
  • Change the back case fan to a blue one
  • Install some active RAM cooling with lighting
  • Add another 2 gigs of RAM
  • (Probably) Add another 8800 GTS.

This thing is gonna be worthy of magazines, I tell ya!

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