Liquid Cooling

Baby Gaming Rig gets Liquid Cooling and an 8-core brain

I did a couple of updates over the weekend and more than just video cards. The baby gaming rig I bought off a co-worker also went under the knife and came out with some new parts. A buddy helped me make some pretty hefty changes.

If you recall, that was a Phenom X4 965 Black Edition which had excellent speed and I stuffed it chock full of 32GB of ram. Well, everything was right with the world and I was having a fine time playing Call of Juarez … Until …

The AMD FX 8350 8 core processor went on sale. I’d already bought the liquid cooler for it and since we were going to be in there anyway, why not turn up the processor speed to 11? And so we did.

The old fan and processor came out and the 8-core and liquid cooling went in. We had far less trouble this time around. Everything made a lot more sense. We also managed to find a place for the fan we removed off the back of the case. It’s now on the side pulling in even more air. It wasn’t spinning very fast, but then again, it wasn’t under load.

My friend bought the Antec liquid cooling system which was a little easier to install and very quiet. However, now that we’ve messed around with both he would go for the Corsair H80i next time. The Corsair has thicker tubing, has dual fans instead of the single and comes with the Corsair link so you can monitor the temperature of devices. The price difference was only about $10. I would have to agree.

This is a relatively bare bones systems. It’s main goal in life is to play some games and *maybe* load some virtual machines if I need them. The board doesn’t support SLI and only USB 2 and SATA 2. But that’s fine with me. Even with that, it’s insanely fast. With 8-cores and 32GB it plows through calculations.

It was a budget rig, but it’s not really one anymore. It should have plenty of years of longevity.

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AMD FD8350FRHKBOX FX-8350 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition
Corsair Hydro Series Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler H80i
Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory (CMZ16GX3M2A1600C10)

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8 Cores, Liquid Cooling and now NVIDIA SLI

I’m still making some final adjustments to the 8-core machine I put together a few months ago. I recently added the liquid cooling to the AMD FX 8350 CPU that I put in and I also got my hands on another EVGA GeForce GTX 600 video card. Now, these aren’t the most powerful cards in the world, but they do support two-way SLI and are very affordable. They’re good gaming cards, at least for the stuff I play, they’ve got the CUDA cores which makes them good for encoding video and like I said, they’re a good price. So, I put two of them together on my Gigabyte motherboard.

Now, if you look at this picture closely, you can see my festive 32GB of ram, the Corsair liquid CPU cooler and that I committed one of the classic blunders when putting the cards in. The second card is in the wrong PCI Express slot. There are 4 – 2 PCIx16 and 2 PCIx4. That second card is in the x4 slow which means it works, Windows sees it, but it’s not enabled for SLI.

This of course is fixed by simply moving the card down one slot. And it gives much better airflow between the two cards. It’s a small thing, but considering the size of the cards, it’s easy to cover up the labeling for that slot.

So anyway, there it is. I now have an AMD FX 8350 8-core with liquid cooling and SLI, plus 6TB of hard drive space and 120GB SSD drive for my applications. I’m going to say that this rig is now complete.

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The first is a better picture of the cards, but they’re in the wrong slots. The second picture is a little blurry, but they’re in the right place now.
As an aside, some say the SLI bridge comes with the card, some say it comes with the motherboard. For me, it was part of the motherboard set up, but you can get the bridge from the manufacturer and from Amazon. A simple two-way bridge is about $9 from Amazon. It’s just a flexible ribbon like you can see at the top. If you want something more sturdy, you’ll need to get it from NVIDIA and it’s about $30+.

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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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