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INSTALLING A SYSTEM
SPCR's case review procedure is not just to take photos and describe the case, but also to install a system and assess its performance in the case. Cooling and acoustics are the key aspect we test for, and the results can be useful whether you're a minimal-noise seeker or a gamer with insatiable cooling needs.
Usually we try to push the thermal envelope, using components considered too hot by most silencers. The approach is simple: If we can make it quiet with all this hot gear, it should do better with cooler gear... or higher airflow, if you're a performance enthusiast. Of course, these days, lots of enthusiasts want both quiet and bleeding edge performance.
For this micro-ATX case, we decided to use a system that's pretty hot, and quite well known to regular SPCR visitors. It's our heatsink testing platform.
The heatsink testbed was installed into the for this review.
Pentium D 950 Presler core. Rated TDP is 130W. Under CPUBurn x2 load, we measured 78W DC draw through the AUX12V socket, which includes
efficiency losses in the VRMs.
P5LD2-VM motherboard. A basic microATX board with integrated graphics
and plenty of room around the CPU socket.
- Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000KS) 500GB 7200RPM HDD. It replace the notebook drive that's been used for heatsink testing, because a desktop 7200rpm drive is typical for most users.
GB stick of Corsair XMS2 DDR2 memory. Two gigs would be nicer, but makes no difference for our testing.
- Enermax Modu82+ 625W power supply, the review of which was posted a few days ago. It replaced a FSP Zen 300W
fanless power supply normally used for the HS test platform. The Modu82+ had not powered a real system yet, so this seemed a perfect opportunity.
- Arctic Silver
Lumière: Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
specifically for test labs.
- Scythe Ninja Plus Rev. B heatsink, mounted with thermalright spring-loaded bolt-through kit. This is a sample that was recently tested in the context of the Ninja Copper review. It didn't fare nearly as well as expected, but the thing was already installed on the motherboard, and it would still tell us what we want to know about the thermal performance of the case.
- ATI X1950XTX graphics card with Artic Cooling Accelero S1 passive heatsink. The heatsink is probably the most effective GPU cooler available today, and the ATI, while a bit "old" (at just ~18 months!), is still one of the hottest graphics cards. X-bit Labs measured 125W max on an X1950XTX, compared to 131.5W on an 8800GTX.
No fans were mounted on either the CPU or GPU heatsinks. The point was to find out whether the airflow created by the fans in the Mini P180 would be enough to cool everything without additional fans. Towards the end of the testing, a 120mm Scythe Slipstream 800RPM fan was added. More on that later.
Overall assembly went smoothly. With good planning, it should be possible for an experienced builder to put a system together in this case in about an hour, perhaps less. All the exposed metal edges are rolled in order to reduce the risk of cuts and scrapes during assembly. What follows is a photojournal of various points in assembly.
Near the start, after installation of PSU. Any 120mm fan PSU must be mounted upside down to ensure space for airflow; there's one inch of space between the fan and the partition wall above it. Note Ninja-installed motherboard on left.
Screws and misc parts including drive rails on the left box, and a handy flip storage box for screws on the far side of the lower HDD cage (like in the P180~P190).
After the motherboard was installed, getting the AUX12V plug into the connector on the motherboard (where the red arrow points) proved to be nearly impossible with the Ninja in place. Removing the big fan made it possible.
The HDD was mounted in the top bay. Note that the grommets fit thicker on one side than the other; the HDD should rest on the thicker portion.
The shortest optical drive on hand, just under 7" long, did not fit in the top slot.
The big fan limits the top bay to devices not longer than about 6.75".
An optical drive was unnecessary for testing anyway.
EDIT - March 10/08
In response to feedback from some readers, a double-check was made of the optical drive depth needed to use the top bay. I found this LG, which fits. It measures 170mm, just under 6.75". There are others of the same size from other brands; in other words, an optical drive this size is not that difficult to find. The back end of the drive touches the big fan, but the cable connections clear the fan.
All done except the ATI X1950XTX VGA card. (Note ATI card with Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 already mounted visible on the right, awaiting installation.) Some tests were run with the integrated video at this point, to establish some baselines. With the lower HDD bay left off, even with a fan mounted at the front intake vent, the graphics card can be ~14" long. This is enough space to accommodate any VGA card we know of. Even the biggest ones don't exceed ~11" length.
Here's the maze of cables hidden on the other side. It required some effort to close the cover on this side; you have to make sure the cables aren't overlapping too much.
ATI card was installed, tests were run with just the two stock case fans. Later, a Scythe Slipstream 120x25mm 800 RPM fan was added as an intake as shown here, and further testing was done. Note: Either front vent can accommodate a 120mm fan, but not with the HDD bay in place. Also, since the sliding door between upper and lower chambers was not used to route any cables, there was a bit of air gap. It was closed up with black electrical tape.
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