Carnal Self-Knowledge, A DIY Multimedia PC

Page 6

The Zalman CNPS9500 fan ($49, on-line) for the AMD2 CPU series is like nothing you have ever seen. If you have looked inside a PC case you might have noticed a squarish, flat fan sitting on top of the CPU, keeping things cool.  Sometimes the CPU fan is pretty hefty in size. 

But with the Zalman big guy on top, size truly matters. This South Korean mammoth momma is 3.3” long, 4.4” wide, and almost 5” high. And it lights up! It features a way cool day-glo green LED.

Essentially, the Zalman is a round skyscraper heatsink with 3-piece copper tubing carrying the heat up and away from the CPU. It also comes with an adjustable fan control. For easy access, I routed the small rotary fan control through the front panel of the Antec P182 case that I am using for this DIY multimedia PC series.

Not only does the Zalman cool down all the CPU’s rampaging bits, it’s also very quiet. At its maximum speed of 2600 RPM, it registers only 27dB, while at its lowest setting of 1350 RPM it barely moves the sound level meter at just 18dB. If you can hear that, sign up today as a ghost whisperer. With the Zalman on the job, safely overclocking your CPU will be a breeze, and provide a big one at that.

The Biostar TF7050-M2 can accommodate up to 4GB of memory, and like the CPU, you can also overclock your DRAM. Enter the Dominator line (from $176, on-line) from Corsair. The Dominator family of DDR2 memory from Corsair is expressly designed with serious overclockers in mind. Crank up the memory voltage and you won’t electrocute the bits.

The Dominator is also available with an optional AirFlow fan ($20) unit that contains three small 40mm tachometer controlled fans that provide a highly focused flow of air to the memory subsystem.  There is no special mounting procedure involved.  The fan unit just clamps down onto the RAM retention levers on the motherboard. As with the CPU, I merrily overclocked a matched pair (2GB) of DDR2 SDRAM Corsair Dominators, and the dreaded system Terminator never once showed its killjoy face.

But whoa, no more fans!  We don’t need no more stinkin’ fans! If you have been following the computer gaming news lately, you know there is a knock down, gouge the eyes out fight going for graphics card dominance between Nvidia and ATI (now owned by AMD). 

The fact that Windows Vista has upped the ante with DirectX 10 for better-looking graphics has only added fuel to the highly graphical flames. You can also run two big graphics cards in the same computer if the motherboard supports the configuration (the Biostar TF7050-M2 only supports one PCIe graphics card).

You can also plan on spending a whopping $1,000 or more for an ultimate, 2-card rig that will shut up all those whiny nerds in your neighborhood. These new high performance cards are big, hairy, and use lots and lots of watts.  So they come with their own massive fans to keep the gaming action hot and the system from self-immolating. The result is that these high performance graphics cards are killer loud.

However, this DIY project is all about building a whisper quiet PC that can do heavy home theater lifting, as well offer decent gaming performance. So for a great HTPC solution, we introduce the Asus EN8600 GT Silent in the next page of this DIY story.

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