Review – GELID GX-7 CPU Cooler

GELID got into the custom cooling late in the game, 2008 was the first experience to the world while everyone was already pursuing the next trend to come in cooling tech. It hasn’t taken the company long to come forward from that point, today we have a unique setup with their GX-7 CPU cooler. A 7 stage heat-pipe design that directs heat not only using near flush connected heat-pipes but a stacked system as well. The stacked part is where things get sketchy, normally the idea is to spread your pipes equally and maximize the surface absorption and distribution, you’re still getting that in the GX-7 design though. The change is the 5 pipes handle the surface contact while the upper 2 remove excess heat over the center of the cooler as that’s where the silicon and primary heat rest.

With that breakdown said, let’s get into the details of what we’re running and jump into testing.

Test system:

  • AMD Phenom 9750 B3
  • Jetway 790GX HA08 ComboL
  • ASUS EAH 6850 DirectCU
  • 4GB Crucial DDR2 800 (5-5-5-12)
  • Hitachi 1TB 7200RPM
  • Seagate 300GB 7200RPM
  • Cooler Master Real Power Pro 650W
  • NZXT Phantom Case (extra NZXT 200mm on top)

Coolers:

  • AMD OEM Cooler – Standard Phenom
  • AMD Black Edition Cooler (2 Heat-pipe design)
  • Cooler Master Hyper 612 PWM
  • GELID GX-7
  • GELID GX-7 (2-fan w/Wing 12PL PWM)

Thermal Paste:

  • GELID GC-Extreme Thermal Compound

Monitoring:

  • Core Temp 1.0
  • AMD OverDrive 3.1.0
Synthetic bench:
  • HyperPI 0.99b (12M calculation for stress testing)
  • SiSoft Sandra 2011 (Arithmetic)
Gaming bench:
  • Battlefield 3
  • Saints Row: The Third

With all the details out-of-the-way let’s get rolling!

Bundle

The GX-7 packs everything you need in a slim case, the packing is enough to protect it from shipping trauma and they make sure to keep the extra screws and panels isolated to their own box to prevent confusion.

As a special case with this review we have an extra 120mm GELID fan to attach so we’ll be using those extra wire tension bands for the rear. What will not go into use is the default cooling paste as we’ll be using the GELID GC-Extreme compound instead so we can max this out.

Supported AMD Platforms: AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+/FM1
Supported Intel Platforms:  775/1155/1156/1366

  

Design

Out of the box the GX-7 is conservative looking for a cooler for this market, the pipes on top are capped off with a plastic cover, the side fins are extremely tight together allowing for little turbulence to develop as wind passes through. Speaking of which, the frosted finish on the back of the blades gives the cooler a dull appearance when it’s not running, crank up the power and the and the glow fills the blades and the case itself.

From an external viewpoint the design comes off like a sleeper until it goes live, once the juice hits the fan all bets are off.

  

From a technical standpoint, the design of the GX-7 is unique, the finish is competitive with current generation offerings, nothing too smooth for the finish but it’s not unpolished either and leaves a slight mirror effect. The pipes are welded with care and in touch testing there was a noticeable level of heat gathering in those pipes that would normally fall to rogue currents or a basic heat sink. Copper pipes to aluminium fins channel the main power and the PWM fan takes up airflow duty from 800 – 2000 RPM depending on your workload. If you plan to run dual fans I would say try to get the same model fan so you’re not suffering with turbulence in the fins as one pushes harder than the other.

Installation

Installation is a snap with the GX-7, by that I mean it’s about as hard as any other performance cooler on the market and that in itself is incredibly hard the first time around. Fortunately GELID has heard the cries of the fallen and has attempted to help with their setup this time around.

How it works:

  • Remove your old CPU cooler (remember to clean the top and re-apply paste)
  • If you have an access port big enough to remove the back plate for the cpu bracket then do so
  • If not, remove the motherboard and remove the bracket and plate
  • Install the included washers over the mounting holes for the bolts and then slide the bolts through as shown in the diagram.
  • Tighten the nuts down to the motherboard base so you have all 4 exposed
  • After that, lower the cpu cooler on the 4 posts and use the special twist caps with springs to tighten the cooler down on each point, move in an X pattern to give equal pressure to each side.
  • Once tightened plug-in the PWM fan to the port and you’re ready to roll!

How it really worked:

  • Everything went relatively well until it came to installing the cooler on the posts, I had to remove the clips holding the fan on the heat sink to get my hand in to tighten the posts on that side.
  • The clips are actually easy to use, just remember to keep tension and equal pressure on them or they will pop off during fan installation.

Comparing this to the Hyper 612 is tough, if you’re scared about supporting the cooler while sideways or you’re not a fan of having your board upside down to mount and tighten the screws the GX-7 starts to step in as your cooler. If you’re fine with that it’s really a toss-up that our performance area will help you decide with.

Performance

The GX-7 took no mercy just like the rest of the lineup, I did go ahead and split coverage up with the 2 fan and single fan setups though for fair representation. Idle measurements were made after 30 minutes in Windows 7 with no active applications running (Steam/Origin/etc). Load was taken with HyperPi running all 4 cores to 12M at normal priority once temps reached an average plateau. Load was verified again against Battlefield 3 in-game and Saints Row: The Third as they’re both CPU intense especially on mid-range models.

bamfas.com

 

The results are interesting, 2 fans do make an impact on the GX-7 results, high does bring a bit more noise into the scenario but leaving it at auto for the PWM to work seems the best choice for those who have no wish to constantly adjust the fan speed by hand. The most interesting area was the configuration differences with the GX-7 and Hyper 612, the idle temps were higher than the 612 but the performance of the cooler at higher temps held low, it’s a trade that users will have weigh on their own. Lower idle temps vs roughly equal load performance once the real use goes into effect. In game, average temps between high load often left the cooler in the high 30’s most of the time.

Noise

Given the setup of this review it’s a unique situation to discuss loudness of this cooler, I’ll break it down based on the type of user you might be.

Power User: Using manual control to force the fan to 100% load will bring some extra noise, no more than the Cooler Master variant in real world application. When using a dual fan setup there is a bit of extra noise created and the trade-off versus auto mode is questionable.

Casual User: Using auto control leaves the GX-7 to manage itself and the noise level is able to stay at the bottom end of the spectrum. If you’re gaming you’ll rarely ever notice the fan kicking up in speed and in dual fan mode the same will stay true as the cooler rarely brings itself to 100% fan speed by default.

Over a stock cooler the GX-7 makes the time for installation well worth the effort, no tiny fans spinning up to high dB levels creating annoying sounds. Instead the 120mm just hums along cranking out high cfm through the cooler and you rarely ever notice it speeding up during games.

Conclusion

At $69.99 the GELID GX-7 is a solid performer, at idle temps the cooler runs a little higher than the competition but when then the pressure is on it matches up against top coolers in the field around the same price. The perk with the GX-7 is the gamer focus of the cooler with the LED PWM fan that really is super bright in the case, it saves users from having to invest in a new fan for another brand and essentially shelve the packaged fan.

If you’re a modder looking for an all-in-one CPU cooler that delivers performance and lighting then look no further than the GELID GX-7. You get a bit of everything with the cooler, design, lighting, performance and a simpler installation system. I do feel that some might find the design of the mounting system itself to be a huge plus over other installations, be sure to follow the guidelines packaged with the cooler so you don’t install the washers on the wrong side though.

With GELID looking to expand in 2012 the enthusiast market certainly has something to look forward to. If you plan on investing in the GX-7 I would say do yourself a favor and get the Wing 12PL to go with it and take up those 3-4c off in temps.

Performance:★★★★★★★★½☆ 
Design:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Weight:★★★★★★★★★½ 
Overall:★★★★★★★★★☆ 

 

GELID GX-7 Gallery:

The AMD HD 7970 leaks to the internet with more goodies

Maximum PC caught a nice photo leak this weekend for the new 7970 arriving soon. The card seems to have a solid rumor date of December 22nd for the official unveiling and a few key slides of the card and the changes have leaked out already to the public. Honestly I’m liking the design shift and hoping the new vapor chamber really helps bring the temps down, AMD has claimed in the past with Bulldozer they can get things to run ice-cold, if they can do the same on their high-end cards without a performance hit I’ll be happy.

Check out the gallery for some details.

The changes are many, over 2000 stream processors and 1GHz clock speed and above on the stock cooler. You have 3GB of onboard memory and AMD stepping out of the classic ring bus that served them well for a 384-bit bus to take the memory bandwidth through the roof. The whole thing will still run under 300W in single card mode which is a relief for a juggernaut in the next generation race.

We’ll have to wait until Thursday to see if the rumors of the announcement are true, makes me wish I didn’t just upgrade to a 6800 series this weekend though.

The $500 budget gaming PC – Part 2

A few years back I brought the DIY PC Guide for a $500 gaming PC to Bamfas, back then it was a stretch to get performance and value balanced to produce a safe reliable rig. Today I’m here to do it again with a few options given the advances in tech since that point in hardware evolution.

The goals

  • CPU Power
  • Video Power
  • Reliability
Prices taken from Newegg.com December 12, 2011

In this situation we’re going for what works not what wins the beauty pageant. With that said lets jump forward with our suggestions and price quotes. For kicks I’ll attempt to produce Intel and AMD builds but without monitor, as that throws the price into the stratosphere.

$500 AMD

  • AMD Phenom II X4 960T – $109.99
  • ASRock 870 Extreme3 R2.0 AM3+- $79.99
  • Kingston HyperX Blu 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 – $36.99
  • Sapphire 100338L Radeon HD 6770 1GB – $109.99
  • Hitachi HDS721050CLA362 (0F10381) 500GB 7200 RPM – $79.99
  • Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus RS500 – $44.99
  • Samsung CD/DVD Burner 22X – $16.99
  • APEX PC-389-C – $19.99

Total: $493.93

Performance upgrades:

  1. Change 6770 to either NVIDIA GTX 560 or ATI HD 6790
  2. Upgrade Phenom II 960 to 970, 1055 or 1075

With the increase in prices for HDD’s we did have to eat out of the case budget, normally an NZXT, Cooler Master or Antec case would be superb to compliment a gaming setup like that. Unfortunately with a cap of $500 we can’t go that extra mile. The system can run modern games like Battlefield 3, Saints Row The Third and others without much sacrifice to the settings, the ASRock motherboard even allows for a second 6770 to join the existing card.

$500 Intel… not really

  • Intel Core i5-2400 Sandy Bridge – $189.99
  • ASRock H61DE/S3 LGA 1155 – $67.99
  • Corsair 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 – $34.99
  • Sapphire 100338L Radeon HD 6770 1GB – $109.99
  • Hitachi HDS721050CLA362 (0F10381) 500GB 7200 RPM – $79.99
  • Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus RS500 – $44.99
  • Samsung CD/DVD Burner 22X – $16.99
  • APEX PC-389-C – $19.99

Total: $564.92

Performance upgrades:

  1. Change i5 2400 for i5 2500
  2. Change 6770 to NVIDIA GTX 560 or ATI HD 6790

Points to make, the i5 2400 is a stronger upgrade over the 2300 series and well worth it in the long run and not being a K series chip it doesn’t need the most high performance board out there for overclocking as it’s already a bit insane for automated potential. Optionally for AMD users they could try to combat this with the 970 series to gain back some extra Hz.

Sadly, both of these systems would be sub $500 if the current flood situation in Thailand had not come up, as a result many prices are rising across the board. Both builds are focused around being good base systems to carry you at least a year in use, AMD says the 7000 series should be coming at the end of this year or the start of 2012 so it might be wise to hold out for what the new series brings up.

If you’re looking to swing a new gaming system for yourself or a special someone let these be a guide to hopefully give them the gift of PC gaming this year. Hopefully the HDD prices stabilize or return back to normal soon. We’ll have a feature this week highlighting higher end components to surprise that special pc gamer in your life as well.

AMD and NVIDIA Launch new 7000m and 600m lines… kinda

Anandtech has a reveal today on the new 7000m and 600m lines from AMD and NVIDIA, if you’re thinking about getting a new notebook in the next few months this will be a read you don’t want to miss.

Today AMD brings news of their 7600m, 7500m and 7400m series chips to market, for budget users hoping for a little entertainment this is your average chip you might see, the new line has one problem, it’s based on the 6000m series of the same rank. If you’re eyeballing notebooks at Best Buy and hung up on the 7650 vs the 6750 you’ll only have to worry about the CPU pairing not the video as they’re the same base chip with a possible bump in core speed. As it turns out, AMD is having issues getting their new 28nm based line into production which is what has sparked this shift.

NVIDIA is no better, we get news from the same piece that NVIDIA is doing a paper launch of the 600m series chips. In this case the full specs are available showing each spec is identical in performance and features. The 635m, 630m and 610m are all rebadged from the 500 series. If you’re looking for a reason to upgrade now, these will give absolutely no benefit if you already have a similar numbered model.

Anandtech has detailed charts for each product line and the news is disappointing for any hardware fan. While it’s nice for them to keep the number system limited, a rebadge tends to act as a trap for the consumers that don’t do the research. We would recommend anyone to just get the model that strikes them the best for the better price point. Why waste money on a 635m when the 555 might be $150 cheaper in a similar or better system, we can’t give you a reason really.

Anandtech: Introducing AMD’s Radeon 7000M and NVIDIA’s GeForce 600M Mobile GPUs

Review: Cooler Master Hyper 612 PWM CPU Cooler

Cooler Master has been in the game for ages, my first cooler for my AMD XP 1800+ was by CM, a 60mm fan spinning at an RPM so high it was crazy. They’ve come a long way though, today we have a 120mm powered Hyper 612 PWM by the company, packing low-speed fan power with efficient blade design to hurl large volumes of air across the 6 copper heat-pipe design. We’re pitting this against OEM solutions for those of you coming off Black Edition chips or even standard CPU’s, hopefully it gives you guys a taste of what there is out in the world of performance components.

Test system:

  • AMD Phenom 9750 B3
  • Jetway 790GX HA08 ComboL
  • Sapphire HD 4850 512
  • Crucial DDR2 800 (5-5-5-12)
  • Hitachi 1TB 7200RPM
  • Seagate 300GB 7200RPM
  • Cooler Master Real Power Pro 650W
  • NZXT Phantom Case (extra 200mm on top)

Coolers:

  • AMD OEM Cooler – Standard Phenom
  • AMD Black Edition Cooler (2 Heat-pipe design)
  • Cooler Master Hyper 612 PWM

Thermal Paste:

  • Cooler Master bundled paste

Software is another area that would be nice obviously, I used these for the benchmark though and for overclocking.

  • Core Temp 1.0
  • AMD OverDrive 3.1.0
  • HyperPI 0.99b (12M calculation for stress testing)

With all the details out-of-the-way let’s get rolling!

Bundle

The Hyper 612 PWM is massive, you get the box and realize its not your average cooler and it might take a bit of work to get started on installing it. Packaged are fasteners for AMD platforms and all the Intel platforms minus the newly released 2011 socket although there’s no doubt there will be a refresh for it soon. Click below to get the full spec sheet on the size and details, if you’d rather skip then let us move on.

Show Specs »

CPU Socket Intel Socket:
LGA 1366 / 1156 / 1155 / 775 *AMD Socket:
FM1 / AM3+ / AM3 / AM2+ / AM2
CPU Support Intel:
Core™ i7 Extreme / Core™ i7 / Core™ i5 / Core™ i3 / Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Quad / Core™2 Duo / Pentium / CeleronAMD:
FX-Series / A-Series / Phenom™ II X4 / Phenom™ II X3 / Phenom™ II X2 / Phenom™ X4 / Phenom™ X3 / Athlon™ II X4 / Athlon™ II X3 / Athlon™ II X2 / Athlon™ X2 / Athlon™ / Sempron™
Dimension 140 x 128 x 163 mm (5.5 x 5.5 x 6.4 inch)
Heat Sink Material Copper Base / 6 Heat Pipes / Aluminum Fins
Heat Sink Weight 806g (1.78 lb)
Fan Dimension 120 x 120 x 25 mm (4.7 x 4.7 x 1 inch)
Fan Speed 600 – 2000 RPM (PWM) ± 10%
Fan Airflow 24.9 – 82.9 CFM ± 10%
Fan Air Pressure 0.3 – 2.7 mmH2O ± 10%
Bearing Type Long Life Sleeve Bearing
Fan Life Expectancy 40,000 hours
Fan Noise Level (dB-A) 9 – 36 dBA
Connector 4-Pin
Fan Weight 104g (0.23 lb)
Note * Supplied accessories may differ by country or area. Please check with your local distributor for further details.

Going past that and opening the box we get a massive cooler, the 612 PWM dwarfs the Phenom Black Edition cooler in every way, it’s wider, it’s taller, the fan is gigantic and it has triple the pipes of the Black Edition. It’s also surprisingly light minus the base which keeps concern about it ripping the board apart to a minimum thanks to a low center of gravity just over the chip and the anchors connect directly off that base. Many new builders fear that something this big will just rip the socket off the board, thanks to the aluminum fins this becomes a non-issue.

Design

The 612 packs a unique setup, 6 heat-pipes run down the fins to the base, instead of just having a copper base that connects to the pipes, the base is essentially the pipes as they maintain a tight field together to pick up heat. Using copper in this zone allows for superb conduction while making sure not to go overboard, the aluminum fins (all 42 of them) pick up the heat from the pipes and help pull it away, the 120mm fan finishes the job by pushing it out so the cycle continues. It’s a solid design that has proven itself, the U design of the pipes allows for extra distribution through the fins as opposed to a single J style that pulls heat from the base and runs a single row through an upper row of fins. The Black Edition AMD heatsink relies on direct fins across the base of the heatsink with two pipes running overtime to push the heat out of the system, the stock cooler offers nothing of the sort with a machined aluminum body and a fan plopped on top. If we’re going in order of technical efficiency the 612 leaves both of them for dead.

Installation
If you don’t have a newer enthusiast level case you might be positioned to remove the motherboard for installation, even the NZXT Phantom doesn’t have as big of an opening as you would need to install this in the case. With that said, I’ll walk through how I installed the Hyper 612 PWM into the case.

Removing the expansion cards (video, sound, network) and essential  cables I took the HA08 out of the case, I used a standard philips head screwdriver to remove the 4 screws holding the plastic tension frame to the board and back plate. After this I cleaned the top of the CPU surface using rubbing alcohol to strip off the old paste, after that I let it evaporate and applied the new coating. Installing the Hyper 612 PWM requires filling those holes with the 4 rubber spacers included, allowing for just enough cushion for the 4 posts to pass through. With the spacer set, I lowered the motherboard down on the cooler, doing this allowed me to better manage the 4 nuts that needed tightening with equal force across the chip and keep control of the new back plate. The screwdriver adapter made tightening nuts down easy and allowed me to avoid damaging the board with a regular socket. Users installing something like this for the first time might want to use an X pattern to tighten each side down a little at a time, I went diagonal to tweak them all down with equal pressure on the chip.

  

As you can see in the picture, there’s an issue here for my board at least, the fins of the Hyper 612 PWM actually float over the RAM which makes installation or removal a task in itself. While this might not apply to all boards, it does mean a full removal and installation job again for any upgrades. It’s a small sacrifice for something this large and powerful, let’s look over at the performance charts to see how well it held up, also note that if you have a side fan on your panel hovering over the CPU, that will need to go or be externally mounted. The cooler actually comes to the end of the case in the Phantom making it impossible to  internally mount a large fan and the 612, I had a 250mm fan from a Skeleton mounted inside the case originally which was removed for testing.

Performance

Benchmarking ran with a specific set of rules, HyperPI to 12M to measure load peak under the stress of the program. Fan control managed with the AMD internal controller at 26% to 100% forced fan load for each unit and in overclocking. Idle temps were taken after letting the system sit for 90 minutes between tests to let the CPU cool between uses and reach a temp that did not fluctuate.

bamfas.com

What you can see in the charts is a pretty nice leap, there’s a sharp decline from the OEM to the Black Edition at low performance use  but the gap widens as load hits. For those gaming it’s a bigger jump as the Stock Cooler jumped all the way to 59c at low-speed and struggled at 55c at high-speed, the Black Edition brings the temps lower but we’re measuring with a room controlled at about 19c, in the summer or well insulated rooms it could jump even higher. We see the Hyper 612 PWM step in against the stock chip with hard cooling even with the VCore up .150 and a 400MHz increase during overclocking. Granted the 9750 isn’t the best chip to compare with, it was difficult getting the core stable for benchmarking so I we would see better results on a newer Deneb, Thuban or Zambezi chip. The point though is taking it to extremes on that chip still couldn’t break 55c in a cold room.

I will note the chart doesn’t include the OC results for the stock cooler and Black Edition as the heat output was too high to test with for stability. With the stock cooler clearing 60c under load it was unsafe to proceed.

Noise

The 612 rarely gets above the mid-30’s while in regular use, as a result the noise factor isn’t really a factor at all. When cranking the Phantom fan controllers to low, the system comes to a hum with the GPU actually making the most noise in the case. At idle, the 612 sits at 1300 RPM according to the readings and when pushed at max speed I peaked at 1880 RPM and even then it was just a deep hum in the case. Because the fan is so thirsty, it does demand that some cooling is present in the case, I do advise at least having 1 fan push in air for the case to keep the pressure coming in, depending on the choice, it may raise case noise slightly depending on your situation.

  

Conclusion

For new consumers wanting something more out of their system or the ability to shut up those loud 60mm/70mm/80mm fans whizzing about in the computer case, the Hyper 612 PWM is a solution that gets the job done. The 612 also allows for overclocking without costing an arm and a leg, you can find it online now for about $49.99 before tax and shipping which competes with a range of known and unknown brands but bests them with quiet performance and future support. The copper and aluminum design keeps weight down and placement of weight focused close to the motherboard which lessens the worry on the users, the fins off of the heatpipes at the base offer little additional weight but do allow for venting. The 6 pipe design allows for older users to appreciate it but also have future use for it with larger silicon upgrades, for those with newer chips it’s possible to make 100% use of the cooler right out of the gate. It’s a design tailored for the generation arriving right now instead of exclusively to the generations past. Those with APU chips and planning on Sandy Bridge setups should find this design a great pairing for the hardware.

For those who want to gain an extra 3-4 degrees off of the cooler, adding another fan to pull the heat out faster would work wonders but it does require an extra investment. For those who don’t want the quiet factor of the 612, there’s the option to upgrade it to a high flow push-pull configuration to probably knock even more than that off. For modders though, the 612 can’t be done justice in these photos, it ‘s a raw beast you’ll want to showcase. Instead of having covers surrounding it you just have bare metal and a huge fan. Strap on a few LED fans for extra light and you’ll really have a showcase going with this setup, the stock fan is great but there’s always room to improve.

Performance:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Design:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Weight:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Overall:★★★★★★★★★☆ 

The NZXT HAVIK 120 arrives

That is a lot of capital letters, the NZXT HAVIK 120 is here though and aiming to fit into some extra markets out there, with a smaller profile design and smaller fans it aims to tackle areas that they couldn’t reach with the 140 series. As someone who has an Antec Skeleton in their lineup I can say that sometimes you really do need something a little lower profile. Even my NZXT Phantom requires a bit of extra space due to the 250mm Antec fan mounted to the side panel opening. Coolers like the V10 and such tend to a little too tall for that setup.

NZXT uses their long-life 13 blade 120mm fan in push-pull configuration to cool the nickel-plated copper beast down at a steady 75cfm, the 8mm heatpipes cool and pump heat out of the socket base to keep things regulated and efficient. Overall it’s sleek and the nickel has a great finish to it. Given my impressions from the Phantom review I can only hold high hopes for this latest release. If we get lucky and catch a review of it I’ll go through the full details of the cooler and how it stacks up. In the meantime just check out the specs listed from NZXT and a nice gallery about the HAVIK 120.

MODEL HAVIK 120
MATERIALS Aluminum / Copper Nickel-Plated
DIMENSIONS 125(W) x 160(H) x 112(D) mm
125(W) x 160(H) x 58(D) mm (heatsink)
WEIGHT 680g (excluding fans and mounting kit)
980g (with dual 120mm fans)
MOUNTING PRESSURE
55-60 lbs
FAN SIZE Dual 120(W) x 140(H) x 25(D) mm
FAN BEARING Long Life (Oil-Leaking Prevention)
FAN SPEED 1200 +/- 10% RPM (low); 1500 +/- 10% RPM (high)
NOISE LEVEL 18-22 dBA
AIR FLOW 61.5-75.8 CFM
CONNECTOR 3-Pin
Y-SPLIT CABLE White connector for low speed; black connector for high speed
INPUT POWER 3.6 W
LIFE 30,000 Hours
COMPATIBILITY Intel Socket: 2011, 1366, 1155, 1156, 775 CPUs
AMD Socket: AM3, AM2+, AM2 CPUs

Review – NZXT Phantom

The computer case market is thriving with creativity again, one of the lead companies to emerge in the market is NZXT, lately the company has been on a roll as they combine contemporary style with gamer aesthetics. The result in this case is the mighty Phantom line, packing high airflow, incredible space and sleek design that can appeal to new builders and veteran builders looking for something not as extreme as a plexiglass case.

Opening the box up, it became clear this wasn’t just a looker but it was there for function as well. The stock unit contains sufficient cooling from the start and a box full of goodies for mounting and stealth cabling. I’ll go ahead and include the spec sheet below to give the full impressions.

MODEL Phantom Series
CASE TYPE Full Tower Steel
FRONT PANEL MATERIAL Plastic/Steel
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D) 222 x 540 X 623 mm
VGA Clearance Maximum
350mm
COOLING SYSTEM FRONT, 1 X 140mm
REAR, 1 X 120mm (included)
SIDE, 2 x 120mm, 1 x 200/230 (2 x 120mm included)
TOP, 2 X 200mm (1 x LED 200mm included)
DRIVE BAYS 5 EXTERNAL 5.25″ DRIVE BAYS
7 INTERNAL 3.5″/2.5″ Slots
Screwless Rail Design
MATERIAL(S) Steel with black finish
EXPANSION SLOTS 7
WEIGHT 11 kg
MOTHERBOARD SUPPORT E-ATX, ATX, MICRO-ATX, BABY AT

Sample build used:

AMD Phenom 9750 AM2+
Jetway 790GX (HA08)
Crucial 4GB DDR2 PC6400
Sapphire HD 4850 512
Creative X-Fi Xtrememusic
Hitachi Deskstar 1TB HDD
Maxtor 320GB HDD

Before jumping into the fray, I had to test a few areas first. The current configuration works fine if you have a high flow fan on the side and coming from the front, the case pressure goes pretty much positive at that point. If you lack that, you may want to consider flipping the top 200mm fan and throw air in. Often systems will tend to choke to some degree when the box is simply dumping air and pulling little if any fresh air in.

Fortunately the top panel removes easily, place your hand under the front panel grip and tug out, the clips will release and reveal another hand hold for the top panel. Unscrew the 200mm fan and reverse mount it to generate some positive pressure in the case.  I lacked a 140mm fan to place in the front so I mounted a 250mm fan to the side panel from an Antec Skeleton. Odd enough, with a bit of boring out the fan mounts without much issue and generates essential airflow for the GPU and CPU zones.

Moving into installation there isn’t much trouble, the Phantom is for the most part tool-less where it counts, the PCI  brackets use thumb screws instead of regular mounts to save on tools. Unfortunately you still need a screwdriver to break the initial torque after being mounted. Installation of components went down in roughly 20 minutes, cabling took a bit longer just for the sake of being stealth about it, the Phantom offers room for most mountings and even my aging Cooler Master Real Power Pro was able to reach high enough for the 8-pin power connector by the CPU. After years of building systems I can say this was most likely the most painless installation yet, also it left me cut free thanks to rolled edges on the case.

For window fans, there is a lot to miss with the mesh on the side of the case, honestly, the white finish is one of the cleanest and most pure colors I’ve seen in quite a while. With a blueish glow it reflects color perfectly inside. Not being able to see it does hurt, if you are insistent, you could always mount your own panel and remove the mesh, or just pop open the front door on the case and watch from there. It really is worth the show, the Tri-Color light show from the Antec really made it an amazing sight to see. For the hardcore modder that wants a little more, cutting the case and custom mounting acrylic would be really rewarding.

Functionally, the Phantom is up there with the best of them, the fans all connect to a single fan bus that gets controlled on top of the case, the inputs and power buttons are also on the top in sleek form. There’s an aspect of this design which takes me back to the era of Tron, super sleek but hard lines everywhere, a blue glow from the stock fans, power sources and fan bus that snares anyone who watches. It’s sleek but deadly and awesome as a centerpiece. Going from the Antec Skeleton to this is a huge jump, even comparing it to the Antec P193 has me still leaning in favor to the excessive attention to detail that NZXT took with this model.

To start closing this up, I have this to say about the NZXT Phantom.

  • Simple installation
  • Room for cable stealthing
  • Tons of air-flow
  • Integrated fan bus controller
  • Extra parts to last a lifetime
  • Sleek design, ultra contemporary feel
  • Low case noise, even with all fans running it remains tolerable
  • Excellent cooling on system
  • Plenty of room for larger video cards (6900 series, etc)
  • Tool-less design for drive mounting works, needs a little extra force to pop pins back in
  Low Speed High Speed
CPU Idle 41c 39c
CPU Load 47c 44.5c
GPU Idle 45.5c 44c
GPU Load 73c 70c

Things I might change are few really, this is a gaming case and if I wanted true silence I would opt for the H2, we don’t have that case to review so… just try to look around and get some other impressions if you’re not sure. The sound insulation and other features seem to be well worth the price.

Closing up, the Phantom is probably the easiest case I’ve been able to work with, because I’m extra paranoid I actually decided to also wax the finish for extra scratch protection because this is a busy desk.

Kudos to NZXT for bringing home a heavy hitter like the Phantom, for those interested, it comes in a few variants and honestly that pure black model looks quite awesome. For gamers it’s a new piece of kit to mod out, for older builders it still has some show with a Tron inspired design but not too much to make it feel like you’re pounding Redline and skipping out on studying for your finals all over again.

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NVIDIA strikes back – GTX 590 arrives!

AMD launched the first punch with the HD 6990, bringing impressive performance in an extreme package. Shortly after we heard about the GTX 460X2 coming into the battlefield to return fire, NVIDIA was not content with just that and instead released the 590 upon the world.

It’s a 1024 CUDA Core beast packing 3GB of GDDR5, the company claims a pair of GTX 580 chips are running on a single board thanks to refined cooling technology under the cover. Unfortunately all of this performance does come at a cost to make it functional in the real world.

GPU core speed is cut to 607MHz
Shader speeds are 1.2GHz
Memory speed is 3.4GHz

While many may look and say “that’s a ton of power!” it is true but it is also scaled down from the glory that the 580 was living in. It can swing the best of blows with the 6990 in every app while coming in about $10 cheaper, many reviewers seem to feel that the money still might be best spent on the AMD card.

Unfortunately extreme power comes with equal cost, a few reports have come in from reviewers that note the card is able to overclock but that it requires extreme patience and many BSOD screens to get to a stable speed. When considering the idea of more extreme overclocking the card has been known to pop fuses as a security measure while rendering the card inoperable.

In a sense it’s like a poorly cooled supercar, it hauls like no other but it likes to overheat and leave you stranded while the competition blows past.

If you’re still up for getting the latest from NVIDIA though check out the links below and maybe see who is still offering a lifetime warranty on their cards so you can get back into action fast without too much hassle.

Read – AnandTech
Read – HardOCP
Read – X-bit labs
Read – techPowerUp!
Read – Neoseeker

EVGA throws down, GTX 460 2WIN coming soon

EVGA rarely ever holds back in anything they do, today is no exception as the company announces a dual GTX 460 powered video card that is set to spank even the latest NVIDIA has to offer. The GTX 460 2WIN is slated to offer support for 4 montitors, 3D and performance besting the GTX 580 for a lower price. With the same formula working well for ATI/AMD it’s no shock that someone finally started to clone it.

Specs on the GTX 460 2WIN

  • Dual 700MHz GPU (GTX460)
  • 672 CUDA cores
  • 400MHz RAMDAC (aren’t most?)
  • 2GB 512-bit GDDR5
  • 3600MHz memory
  • 230.4GB memory bandwidth

Also as usual I’ve included a few teaser shots as EVGA already has the card and packaging setup to go, it would only be a perfect match if they had some PCB color choices going on like the white dual 460 floating around the net.

When I get a final price on this monster value card I’ll be sure to post it, this might become the next cornerstone of any budget build if it lands just right.

A new era arrives – The AMD HD 6990

It’s here, the HD 6990 4GB and there’s not much to say to describe this moment. ATI / AMD has been coming up with dual-GPU solutions for years now, I’m not unenthusiastic though, in fact I’m still beside myself days after this thing hit review sites across the world. The speed of the card is so fast that even the most demanding games just give up when it comes to opposing the 6990 in any benchmark or play through.

Coming in with a 375W base requirement for juice puts this card well above the competition but it goes even further when the AUSUM mode is turned to overclocked settings, eating up 450W in a lump and begging for more. Benchmark games of Crysis and Metro 2033 are spat out with a laugh at most resolutions to the point where anything less than a dual 580 or 6970 setup is completely shadowed. We’re on the verge of something more as AMD pushes this beast out, the graphic world will shift again and plow forward with new power to support it at playable rates.

For those with about $710 to spare it’s sold out in most major outlets such as Newegg, Tigerdirect, Frys and Amazon. If you do dare to try and tame the beast I would highly suggest evaluating your current system from the PSU to the CPU. Anything less than the most high speed chip will most likely fail to maximize the power and a struggling PSU may put your entire system at risk. [AMD certified PSU list]

So while I’ve talked about the latest beast on the block, I still have no words to describe it, if we’re ever lucky enough for AMD to loan us one I promise to try and find something in any language to best describe the experience.