System Builder Marathon: Day Two

Power Supply: AeroCool Zerodba 620W

AeroCool's Zerodba reduces cable clutter through a modular design

AeroCool's Zerodba power supply has impressed such a large crowd of testers that editor Don Woligroski insisted upon nothing less for this mid-priced system. While I personally scoff at names that imply complete silence in products that aren't, I too have been convinced by the unit's low noise levels. And after all, the name "insignificantdba" doesn't appear nearly as attractive from a marketing perspective!

For around $125, AeroCool Zerodba 620 W buyers get solid and stable voltage levels across all rails, moderately high dual +12 V rail continuous load capacities of 20 and 17 A, and Aerocool's low-noise four-step fan cooling system. A slight bias toward the first +12 V rail will allow future processor upgrades, while the second rail has enough power for any single graphics card.

Optical Drive: Sony NEC Optiarc 7170 SATA

Sony NEC Optiarc 7170 SATA

Nearly everyone needs an optical drive, and tough competition has forced most companies to produce increasingly better products at decreasing prices. That tough competition may have fostered the optical drive merger between Sony and NEC, but both these companies have good quality reputations - Sony is trusted in retail markets, and NEC is known for its technical superiority.

"Typical" numbers for the latest drives from several manufacturers include DVD-R and +R writes of 18x, DVD+RW and -RW rewrites of 8x and 6x, DVD+R and -R Dual Layer disk writes of 8x, CD-R and -RW writes of 48x and 32x, and DVD-RAM writes of 12X. Optiarc pulls all of this off in an SATA drive for a surprisingly low $35.

The SATA interface eases cable management compared to Ultra ATA drives, and eliminates the need for add-in Ultra ATA controllers such as found in all P965 chipset motherboards. Many users will wish to disable such 3rd-party Ultra ATA controllers to decrease boot time and free up system resources.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.