System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $2000 PC

CPU Cooling and Case

CPU Cooler: Prolimatech Megahalems with Delta 3400 RPM Fan

Our previous build ran far too hot to support a high overclock, even though we’d used the same case with far greater success in June. This month we decided to go overkill on cooling, first by using June’s superb CPU heat sink.

Read Customer Reviews of Prolimatech's Megahalems

Next, we kicked up the cooler’s capabilities with a high-flow PWM fan from Delta.

Read Customer Reviews of Delta's AFC1212D Fan

Sold as part number AFC1212D-PWM, we’ll rely on the motherboard’s fan controller to reduce noise at moderate to low thermal loads.

Case: SilverStone Fortress 2 FT02B

The other half of our previous build’s heat problem was two graphics cards that ventilated into the case, as opposed to the June build that vented externally. We already added the same graphics card type as used in the June build, so we could have used its high-value case, right?

Read Customer Reviews of SilverStone's FT02B

We could have used a high-value case, but our cooling “upgrade” increased the noise ceiling. In order to reach our highest possible CPU overclock without completely compromising usability, we instead decided to shoot for the best combination of high performance and low noise in our case selection.

Three 180 mm intake fans draw air from the sides of the Fortess 2’s base, keeping the noise far away from a user’s ears. Silverstone also lines this case with acoustic foam to dampen internal component noise, making this the only high-airflow case we’ve tested to also be given the silent treatment.

Overkill? Why yes, it probably is. Our second choice, the Lian-Li PC-8FIB, surely would have operated at low-enough temperatures in combination with our externally-venting graphics cards. Yet, while that case would have saved us $120, it would have also forced further consideration of the CPU fan’s peak noise level.