Buying Tips : Cooling Bargains (Part 1)

11/29/2012 9:08:19 AM

We look at the best value products designed to keep your PC as cool as possible

Good cooling is essential for all PCs, and it's important to ensure your system has enough to keep it happy during intensive tasks. All too many PCs come with poorly ventilated micro-ATX chassis coupled to anaemic stock Intel or AMD coolers which can result in components running at close to their maximum allowable temperatures. Fortunately, you don't need to spend much money to remedy an overheating PC and there is a plethora of products available. If you are a gamer your PC will need substantially better cooling than a system designed solely for office tasks. Graphics cards dump a lot of heat into your PC while gaming so it's important that the heat be removed at a sufficient rate to stop it from building up in an uncontrolled manner. Many users now overclock their systems to achieve better performance. Overclocking increases temperatures almost linearly with clock speed and voltage, so the harder you push your chip, the more you need to invest in keeping it cool. The most fundamental component to system cooling is the case. If your case is unsuitable for your PC, it doesn't matter how much you spend augmenting its cooling, you'll never achieve adequate temperatures. We will therefore start by looking at cases designed for specific users.

Description: AMD coolers

AMD coolers

Gaming Cases

It's possible to spend a fortune on a gaming case, but the truth is you don't have to spend a lot to get a really attractive and well-cooled chassis for your high-end rig. One of our favorite bargain gaming cases is the newly released Zalman Z11 Plus. Available for $89.02 from Quiet PC, this stealth fighter-inspired chassis ships with a 120 mm intake, two side-pod 80mm intakes, a rear 120 mm exhaust and another blue-LED-equipped 120 mm top fan. Despite all of these moving parts the chassis is as quiet as you'd expect from a company like Zalman, and there are contemporary connectivity ports in the shape of dual USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports and jacks for your headphones and microphone. Should you decide to fit a dual GPU configuration, the chassis can be augmented with a total of fans for superlative cooling potential.

Description: Zalman Z11 Plus

Zalman Z11 Plus

Another new release that caught our eye is the BitFenix Merc Alpha. Available from Overclockers for $45.28 this case has handsome understated looks that are ideal for the gamer who doesn't want the typical boy-racer aesthetics. This case has heavy venting on the side and top panels and comes with the facility to accommodate two front 120 mm intakes, two top 120 mm exhausts, two 120 mm side fans and a rear 120 mm fan.

Description: BitFenix Merc Alpha

BitFenix Merc Alpha

It features four USB 2.0 ports as standard as well as the usual audio jacks. Its bottom-mounted PSU tray and capacious drive bays make it the perfect choice for even SLI based machines, despite relatively compact dimensions of 439 x 190 x 490 mm.

Description: Xigmatek Asgard Pro

Xigmatek Asgard Pro

Our final choice for gamers is the new Xigmatek Asgard Pro case. An evolution from the extremely popular original Asgard, this case has cooling capacities that outpunch its $56.63 price. It can accommodate no fewer than eight 120 m fans and has space in its motherboard tray to accommodate the largest of video cards. The build quality is excellent for such an affordable chassis and it has aesthetics that should appeal to those seeking a classy enclosure for their PC.

Low Noise Cases

If low noise is your priority rather than out-and-out cooling ability, you should seek a case that features sound dampening material on its internal surfaces. This will help the case to absorb sound from the components held within and also reduces the chance of resonance due to the larger mass of the internal panels. Finding a cheap low noise case is a tough challenge, but we have found a real beauty in the Ace Ecco 250. This Swedish-designed chassis has internal dampening material, quiet fans as standard and very compact dimensions. It's a micro-ATX chassis so you will need to choose your parts carefully, but for $54.15 from Scan this is a bargain that no other manufacturer can come close to.

Description: Fractal Define R4

Fractal Define R4

Although the Fractal Design Define R4 is not a cheap case at $132.72 from Ebuyer, it is actually excellent value when you factor in what you get for your money. The 140 mm case fans included are extremely high quality and quiet, there is an included rheostat (fan controller) and the case has contemporary features in the form of USB 3.0 ports on the front panel. The R4 is ideal if you use your PC to play optical DVDs and Blu-rays, as it has a door cladded with noise absorbent foam that can greatly reduce the impact noisy PC optical drives will have on your viewing pleasure. It supports a huge eight hard disk drives as standard as well, making it an ideal candidate for a home file server.

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