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Continuing with coolers, it is time to consider GPU coolers. It's almost certain
the little cooler on the Zotac GTX 970 will not be able to cool the GPU quietly
enough in our tight space. A search through our own sample shelves turned up
a dozen or more VGA coolers that we've reviewed over the years. Alas, the vast
majority are incompatible with the latest VGA cards, and an even larger percentage
have simply disappeared from the market. There's no point for us to transform
some old product into a cooling marvel when you can't get one.
Arctic still offers VGA coolers in many sizes, with mutiple or single or no
fans, in a wide price range. They are very clearly focused on achieving better
cooling and lower noise. Virtually no one else is offering any VGA coolers at
all. The few that do only offer one or two models, generally "dreadnoughts"
that introduce their own size and shape constraints (yes, they make the VGA
card too big to fit in our Corsair Air 240).
So let's examine some Arctic options, then:
Arctic Accelero coolers, clockwise from top left: Hybrid 2-120, Twin
Turbo 2, Extreme IV and Extreme 3
The above photo was taken long after the system was finalized and tested. The
Accelero Extreme 3 and Accelero Twin Turbo 2 only arrived the day before this
article was posted. Only the Hybrid 2-120 and Extreme IV were on hand when this
system was first being developed. The Twin Turbo II would have been excluded
anyway because its unnecessarily tall dimension does not allow it to fit in
the Air 240.
- Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120 - AIO watercooler with 120mm fan and
big passive backplate heatsink
- Arctic Accelero Twin Turbo II - Dual-fan cooler
- Arctic Accelero Extreme IV - Long 3-fan cooler with big passive backplate
- Arctic Accelero Extreme III - Long 3-fan cooler
Our first choice among these would have been the Extreme III, as it has the
benefit of a huge heatsink and triple fans without the big passive back heatsink
on the Extreme 4 that intrudes into the space for the CPU cooler. It's also
only a bit wider than the Zotac 970 PCB.
Both Hybrid II-120 and Accelero Extreme IV sport a 1" tall, large heatsink
that fits on the trace (back) side of the PCB. It is meant to priovide good
cooling for VRM and RAM components on the graphics card, and to add additional
stiffness so the card doesn't bend under the weight of the heatsink. But the
backside heatsink intrudes into valuable CPU cooler space. You'll see that we
jumped some hoops to ensure this backside heatsink did not interfere with CPU
This is a pure gaming rig; we're not even going to consider high capacity storage,
you know a NAS works great. Instead, we'll stay with a half terabyte 2.5 inch
SSD, which is plenty of room for the OS and a handful of even the most space-hogging
games. They start at just $200, so...
- Samsung 850 EVO 512GB
- Corsair Neutron XT 480GB
There are probably a few others which could go on the short list. We opted
for the high value, excellent performing CRUCIAL MX100 512GB.
showed the Crucial MX100 512GB to be a great value.
The Corsair Carbide Air 240 has a separate compartment for the power supply
which usually means a fanless PSU is a viable option. But because the PSU is
positioned sideways, which is not as convection-cooling friendly, a fan-cooled
PSU would be a better option. Knowing that our Silent Mini-ITX Gaming system
with a GTX 980 drew just 270W AC at full load, we knew a quiet 500W model would
suffice, but PSUs under 500W are scarce these days. As usual, the highest efficiency
80+ Gold or Platinum are preferred for their lower thermal contribution as well
as energy savings. Among the models considered:
- Enermax Revolution X't ERX430AWT 430W - Looks like a nice 80+ Gold
unit, despite the bleh name/number. Partially modular output cables.
- Rosewill Fortress 450W - Possibly a fan-cooled version of the Platinum
80+ 500W passive I reviewed very positively. All cables attached.
- Seasonic SSR-450RM - Otherwise known as G450, a higher power
version of the nice G360 I reviewed a while back. Partially modular cables.
We went with a sample already on hand: A SEASONIC SSR-550RM (G550),
somewhat higher power than really needed but close enough.
Seasonic G Series 550W semi-modular 80+ Gold PSU was used.
Precisely what RAM is used as system memory is not critical, although other
web sites have identified DDR1600 to DDR1866 as the sweet spot, somewhat dependent
on the particular game. Within this clock speed range, small variations in timing
have minuscule effect on overall performance. 8GB is more than sufficient for
any single game and general purpose multitasking. 16GB is a waste unless you
have a specific need, and RAM is one of the easiest things to add later to a
system, if you need more for some new application. Two DIMMs are ideal as it
allows for dual-channel operation, while limiting the chances of getting a bad
stick. Memory is one of the most common components to fail over time, so the
fewer the better. We also recommend choosing a brand with a good lifetime warranty
and to avoid models with overly large heatspreaders as they can interfere with
larger CPU coolers. The Kingston HyperX Genesis 2x4GB 1866MHz DDR3
has been solid for us, and it sports lower profile heatspreaders that don't
get in the way of big heatsinks.
- Kingston HyperX Fury 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3
- Patriot Viper 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3
HyperX Genesis memory kit.
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