CPU

Time to cool the engines – Liquid Cooling for my CPU

Not too long ago I put together a new machine complete with 8-Core AMD processor and quite a few terabytes worth of hard drive space. It’s quite the beast of machine, but there is one small problem. Throwing all those cores at the problem sort of makes things hot. Most of the time it’s no big deal as it chews through work without breaking a sweat. But, break out a large file to convert and things get a little toasty.

That brings me to the Corsair H80i Liquid CPU Cooler. To be honest, liquid cooling makes me a tiny bit nervous. All that liquid. All those electronics. Sounds like a recipe for electrocution. But, the technology has come a long way and it’s even broken down into parts. You don’t have to run tubing through the entire machine. For this project, I just wanted to cool down the processor. The Corsair has a large radiator and two 120mm fans that push air into the case and pull air across the radiator. A friend of mine with the same chip and the same cooler says he sees a pretty significant temperature drop. The price is pretty reasonable and if increases the longevity of the machine I’m all for it.

While the cooler isn’t technically that hard to install, it is a bit of a pain in the ass and is wrought with danger. If I’d done this when building the machine it would have been a lot easier. The first problem came in getting the CPU out. Yeah, we bent a couple of pins. Second, the processor didn’t break away from the heat sink like we wanted or expected so we had to use solvent to break the two apart. Luckily I planned ahead and bought some from Arctic Silver. It wasn’t a big deal, just time consuming.

Next, getting the fans in place and wrangling the tubing inside the case is a bit tricky. They don’t have a whole lot of give and they can’t be pinched. Plus, there is some finagling to be done to get the cooler in place and anchored down.

Finally, the wires are kind of short, so cable management can be sort of tricky. I’m not a fanatic about that sort of things, but I try to make sure things are out of the way and won’t get sucked into the fans. Again, if this had been done when the machine was first put together it might have been better. But I had no interest in pulling out the motherboard just to tuck some wires away. All in all, they got routed out of the way pretty well.

When all is said and done it worked out nicely. Although, when you first turn the machine on, the fans scream like banshee for 10 seconds or so. Then they settle back down.

So how does it cool? Well, I took multiple files and converted them to MP4 for the iPad. For the sake of argument I encoded a season of Burn Notice. Make no mistake, the fans do kick in and kick in hard. The RPMs are 2400+ when it gets going, but the CPU sits at 34C. This means you’ll damn good and well when the computer is running at full capacity. It’s about the same amount of noise as the regular fans going full bore, but the CPU stays a lot cooler. Corsair provides custom software that’s free to download so you can monitor all the temps inside your machine. It pulls back CPU, video card and hard drive temps.

It hasn’t been in there all that long, but overall I’m pretty happy. In fact, I have a second unit ready for another machine I put together. It’s only an AMD Phenom X4, but after running games for awhile it gets a little warm too. Considering the price I don’t see a reason not to put one in the other machine.

Now, both machines are in custom cases. I don’t think I could get a cooler onto either of my Dell machines. The larger cases have extra fan ports which the Dells don’t. Corsair says the cooler fits most cases, but I say you better double and even triple check before you try this on an OEM machine. I bet these will be standard fare in another year or two.

But for now, if you’ve built your own rig or plan to, I’d highly recommend putting a CPU cooler on the list. It’s a bit of a slow process, but worth it.

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Corsair Hydro Series Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler H80i

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Ashampoo Core Tuner – Manage All Your Cores – System Optimization Series

Who doesn’t want to go fast? Ok, who doesn’t want their computer to go fast? Even if you don’t have the need for speed on the highway, I’m sure you hate the idea of a sluggish machine. Wouldn’t it be great if you could tell Windows that certain programs should get more quality time with the processor than others?

Well, now it seems you can.

Ashampoo Core Tuner is a really neat idea and something that should be built into Windows itself. In a small way, it sort of is. Core Tuner takes the idea of running a process with a higher priority and gives it a whole new spin. You don’t just mess with the priority of a running process, you can build profiles that change the priority as well as the number of processors an application can use.

For example, if you have an 8-core machine, there really isn’t any reason why apps like Quicken, Dropbox, Index Your Files and other low priority background apps should be run as fast and across as many processors as AnyDVD, Xilisoft Media Converter or Rise of Nations. These are background apps and it’s ok for them to take a little longer to do their work. With Core Tuner you can lower the priority and dictate how many cores they actually use. I lowered the priority of these threads and assigned them to a single processor. It doesn’t matter if their response time is immediate. And it doesn’t matter if they take an extra minute to sync in the background. And, they shouldn’t interfere with my media encoding. I can now push these apps off to the side and onto a single processor so the others can run at full speed and handle programs that actually understand multithreading and multiple cores.

Another very cool feature of Core Tuner are "Rules". Unlike Task Manager which changes the priority for a process during that running instance, Rules allow you to change the behavior on a regular basis. You can always launch Quicken and Dropbox with a low priority. From then on, they will let other apps take priority.

Along with Rules you can make "Profiles". That means when you need all your processing power for media encoding you can shut down services, turn off programs and lower the priority of non-critical systems. You can kill off all your browsers, turn off Google Updates, turn off Defrag jobs, stop AV and malware scans, kill of that IM client so you don’t get popups in the middle of your game, kill off iTunes, disable background search, etc. You can strip Windows down to the bare minimum so you have as much memory and CPU at your disposal and get rid of any distracting programs before they cause a problem. Then when you’re done, click the button and everything starts back up again.

Core Tuner also offers the ability to make adjustment to the Core Windows Services. Nothing new here as it’s the same as what you get in the Snap-In.

There is also an AutoStart option where you can uncheck items that start when Windows starts. I found a couple of interesting Internet Explorer entries worth removing. I don’t use IE so why is this junk loading? Again, this feature is the same you see in dozens of other apps. They’ve just added it here for completeness.

Overall, this is actually a pretty neat program. Core Tuner makes it easy to control apps and build profiles so you can give higher priority to important tasks and slow down others to make them wait until it’s a more convenient time to run. It’s easy to understand, has a simple UI and has a pretty light memory footprint of it’s own.

Core Tuner has a regular price of $19.99, which isn’t too bad really. But, you can get the "upgrade" for a mere $5.99. You don’t actually have to have the previous version in order to grab the upgrade price. Let your conscience be your guide on that one.

However, here’s a bundle for you. If you think Uninstaller is pretty good and think adding Core Tuner wouldn’t be a bad idea, you can get both of these plus the Ashampoo WinOptimizer bundle for $14.99. You get all three system tools for less than cost of any single one of them actually retails for. WinOptimizer doesn’t come out on top as best in the optimization category, but at this price it’s a really good deal. If you put this hat trick together there is a lot of cleaning and application boosting you can do.

I like Uninstall and I like Core Tuner. Getting both of those is a pretty good idea. Throwing in WinOptimizer isn’t a bad little bonus.

Ashampoo Bundle System Utilities 9 – $14.99

CoreTuner01 CoreTuner02 CoreTuner03 CoreTuner04 CoreTuner05

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AMD 8-Core 5Ghz

AMD has belted out a new series of chips, the 9000 series (FX-9590 to be specific), which will clock in at the 5Ghz mark. That is insanely quick, especially since this is an 8-Core processor.

I’ve got the FX 8350 4Ghz Black Edition and that’s a blazingly fast chipset on it’s own. This will best me handily. It’s hard to think of what you can do with all that speed and power. This certainly goes beyond a couple of games or encoding a couple of DVDs. That is some big league gear right there.

The chip is scheduled for a "late summer" release and who knows how much the damn thing will cost. No matter what, it’ll be thousands cheaper than the Intel equivalent.

I have no plans to upgrade, but I do have a buddy who’s looking to build a new machine. I wonder if I can talk him into making a build with this new chipset at the heart of the build.

AMD Wins Race to 5GHz with FX-9000 Series Processor

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