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How To: Properly Plan And Pick Parts For An Air-Cooled PC, Part 1

Our Test System

Basic Idea and Test Setup

To compare results as comprehensively as possible, and on an equal basis, we resurrected an older test platform that admirably simulates CPU power dissipation between 90 and 140 W.

Test System:

CPUAMD Athlon 64 FX-62 (Windsor)2.8 GHz, Dual-Core, 2 x 1 MB L2 Cache, Socket AM2, 125 W TDP@ 2.2 GHz, 89 W TDP@ 2.8 GHz, 125 W TDP@ 3.0 GHz, 140 W TDP
MotherboardMSI K9A2 Platinum, 790FX Chipset, Socket AM2/AM2+
RAM2 x 2 GB DDR2-800
Cooler 1Original AMD Boxed Cooler for Athlon 64 FX-62
Cooler 2Xigmatek Aegir High-Performance Tower Cooler with 12 cm Fan

Using Xigmatek's Aegir, we tested the various power levels and cooling results for each installation option. The cooler is large enough to cool even the 140 W of an old overloaded FX processor. Although installation proves more challenging that the smaller, louder boxed cooler provided by AMD, most folks only need to do this once, making the effort invested worthwhile. We took our measurements in an environment kept at a constant 22°C via climate control.

Xigmatek Aegir

Measurements (total) 130 x 95 x 159 mm (L x H x W)Weight670 g without fan MaterialCopper/AluminiumHeat PipesSix total (2 x 8 mm, 4 x 6 mm)TechnologyDual-Layer Heatpipe-Direct-Touch (D.L.H.D.T.), Four heat pipes with direct contact to CPUFan120 x 120 x 25 mmBearingLong-Life BearingSpeed Range1100-2200 RPMAirflowmax. 89.45 CFM (150 m³/h)Noise Levelmax. 20 dB(A)ColorTransparent black, 4 x white LEDConnection4-pin PWMSocket Compatibility   Socket 764/939/940/AM2/AM3,  LGA 775/1156/1366     

We conducted most of the tests with this high-performance cooler because tower-coolers are currently the most popular built-in coolers. There’s an extra chapter on so-called down blowers.

  • compton
    After reading the charts of PSU placement and the GPU cooling diagrams, I'm even more convinced that my Lian Li PCA05-NB is a great solution. The motherboard is upside down, so that GPUs (In my case an axial fan gpu) faces towards the top. The CPU is now at the bottom back of the case and with the rear fan acting as an intake and not exhaust, you get great CPU cooling. The PSU mounts in the bottome front as well. The great part of this design is all the heat ends up in the top. As an option, you can vent the top to release the heat rising from the GPUs, but I like the case because it has very little venting. Through unusual case design and careful component selection I have an almost silent system - but with overclocked CPU and GPUs. The front fan is the exhaust, but has a bezel over it. With a few bucks worth of acoustic dampening material I can even hear myself think sometimes. I regard low temps and low noise output to be two sides of the same coin, but I know that many seem to not mind loud systems and mainly just care about temps. It's never been easier to build a near-silent system, even with high performance gear.

    If you plan ahead of time, you can make a super quiet and cool running system. It's easier to build a cool and quiet system from the start than retroactively go back and try to make a noisy (and/or hot) system quiet with great temps.

    I'll be waiting for article 2.
    Reply
  • Mark Heath
    Good timing as the Australian summer approaches. You guys in the US think you have it hot :S
    Reply
  • buzznut
    Guten hunger YAH!
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    I want my next PC to be able to play Crysis AND make me hot dogs and Iced Frappuccinos.

    All kidding aside...curious though, the test setup is on AMD CPUs. What about Intel CPUs? I would assume many of the concepts are similar.
    Reply
  • 100100
    Finally! A definitive article on how to air cool effectively! :D
    Reply
  • frostmachine
    Great guide. I live in a perpetually hot n dusty place. This will come in handy.

    Would be better if there's some tips on dust management.
    Reply
  • beetlejuicegr
    heh i am just showing you a pic from my pc that the airflow is totally different because there is a watercooling system on the cpu, i hope that the picture is self explanatory for all.

    Reply
  • amirp
    Hey I have a question... for the PSU you say to not put it in upside down (ie. with it's opening facing up into the chassis..) but this is how I have mine in my ANTEC300 case since there is little room between bottom of case and the PSU if mounted right-side up. So what should I do?!!
    Reply
  • BulkZerker
    amirpHey I have a question... for the PSU you say to not put it in upside down (ie. with it's opening facing up into the chassis..) but this is how I have mine in my ANTEC300 case since there is little room between bottom of case and the PSU if mounted right-side up. So what should I do?!!
    PSU's don't pull that much air, normally. So unless your Unit kicks it's fan speed way up there then don't royy abotu it and do as suggested. If it doesn't work then you can always just flip it back to where it was.
    Reply
  • darkrydr3
    BeetlejuiceGr, your cpu core temps are pushing 70 or 90 degrees C... thats hot!
    Reply