Cold case - PC Retail

Cold case

An overview of the case and cooling segments
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At the end of 2009, Intel unveiled its prototype ‘single-chip cloud computer’, a 48-core processor that made a few jaws drop as well as reinforcing the company’s ongoing commitment to fulfilling Moore’s Law.

Aside from impressing journalists, the prototype also indicated that the development of more powerful components is still at the forefront of the agenda for many vendors. As these products become more powerful – using higher volumes of power and generating more heat – users increasingly have to consider advanced cases and cooling solutions to ensure that their hardware operates at maximum efficiency.

“The benefit of a high-end case is that it gives users more cooling options,” says Realtime product manager, Mark Holdich. “They often come with preinstalled fans and give you the option to add several more fans – all of which enables enthusiasts to optimise the air flow throughout their system.

“On the other hand, a good quality cooling solution will increase the reliability, performance and longevity of a PC. This becomes vitally important for enthusiasts who are looking to overclock their systems.”

The regulation of temperature is one of the most important variables that a PC enthusiast can face. As Holdich notes, overclocking is almost standard among those who wish to squeeze a little extra performance out of their machines, but to do so without any kind of cooling is a risky business as heat rises exponentially beyond a certain point.

“Heat has a direct impact on the efficiency and life of a computer component – this is proven fact,” notes CoolIT’s sales manager Chris Elt. “By keeping components cool with advanced liquid cooling, such as the solutions provided by CoolIT Systems, components function at a higher performance, with a longer lifespan and increased reliability. Moore’s Law, which still stands true today, shows that the number of transistors in a computer will double every two years. With this increase in transistor count comes additional heat, and there is no getting away from that.”

While a good case and efficient cooling offer prolonged life for components, another benefit that they bring is the versatility that only the desktop segment can offer.

“First of all these high-end cases are engineered to last as well as providing an infrastructure that is conducive to system building and upgrading,” says Akasa’s marketing director, Adrian Young. “Most high-end cases feature low noise cooling that provides good airflow, this enables the PC to run at relatively low temperatures, thereby ensuring processing stability.”

This kind of stability and versatility is not just for the niche PC enthusiast segment, although they do represent a strong buying market. Young notes that these benefits appeal to a wider range of vertical niches.

“Gaming is only one of the markets that prefers quality cases and cooling,” he observes. “They appeal to CAD, graphic design, video editing, music, medical and many other segments where high performance is essential. Several suppliers now ship overclocked PCs, and Scan and Mesh computers supply with our performance coolers as standard.”

Elt notes that water cooling solutions, which were once the exclusive preserve of extreme enthusiasts, have been brought in to the mass market, vastly increasing their potential user-base. “Liquid cooling used to be restricted to enthusiasts who have the time, money and expertise to build custom designed water systems inside their PCs,” he states.

Despite the increasing capabilities offered by a desktop PC, it should be noted that the desktop segment is in decline when compared to mobile PC sales. However, the majority of these sales account for light PC users who most often just want internet access; the real workhorse of the IT world remains the desktop PC and while there are a few high performance laptops out there, most performance PCs are desktop machines.

“Gamers, and particularly overclockers, have typically been the pioneers of cutting edge thermal solutions,” notes Matthew Parrish, product manager at VIP Computers. “Whilst this segment will invariably continue to lead the way in terms of innovation, all users, irrelevant of their skill level, will benefit from improved heat management. The classic example here is that of the laptop user who demands good performance from components crammed in to an incredibly tiny, poorly ventilated space but isn’t aware that by using a simple laptop cooler thay can noticably increase the performance on their device.”

Holdich has also observed the prevalence of desktop machines in the high performance bracket, but notes that small scale systems are the last thing on the mind of their users.

“High-end cases and cooling solutions predominantly appeal to enthusiast PC gamers, the market segment that spends the most on PCs the most frequently. PC enthusiasts take great pride in building their own machines. This is not a market segment that looks to build the smallest PC they can; in fact, the opposite is true – they want to build a large computer with a glass side panel so that they are able to show their friends the components that they have put in their rig.”

As development continues, the odds are that we will continue to see a growing number of processor cores within our PCs, users will no longer be able to rely on basic convection current cooling solutions, and systems we now consider to be high-end will become standard.

“There will be more die shrinks,” predicts Young. “The CPU guys are constantly working on this as it enables them to pump up the megahertz without producing more heat. The direction has been fixed, more cores is the answer, and with six core CPUs already in the marketplace, this path towards multi-core technology will continue. Also, the GPU will be on board with the main chip; this has thermal issues that will need addressing before the combined chip becomes mainstream. Life is full of surprises, expect the unexpected.”

THERMALTAKE FRIO
SRP:
£49.99
Distributor: VIP Computers

They say: The ultimate overclocking thermal structure design with an ultra powerful dual 120mm VR fan and eye-catching cover

Specs:
Supports Intel 6-coreprocessors, 0.5mm aluminium cooling fins, five copper heat pipes, two 120mm VR fans, 1200-2500 RPM fan speed

XIGMATEK UTGARD
SRP:
£65.99
Distributor: Realtime Distribution

They say:
Design and features such as coated SECC and steel mesh are spotlighting your chassis when your system is built

Specs: Nine 5.25-inch external drive bays, seven VGA expansion slots, ATX and micro ATX motherboard compatible, ATX/EPS power supply, three pre-installed fans on top, front and rear with an additional six optional fans, includes infrastructure for water cooling

AKASA VIPER
SRP:
£16.00
Distributor: Bluepoint, Spire Technology

They say: The Viper fan creates more focused airflow, providing blind-spot cooling, which makes it an ideal solution for a case or heatsink fan

Specs: 12cm case or heatsink fan, S-Flow blades, supplies 30 per cent more airflow than a standard fan, 600-1900 RPM speed

AKASA FREEDOM XONE
SRP:
£51.50
Distributor: Bluepoint, Spire Technology

They say: Uses zoned thermal management including base-mounted PSU and smart cable management giving that clean, tidy system. All-round easy access including rear entry to the motherboard for heatsink backplate fitting and tool freeHDD installation makes system-building a breeze

Specs: Compatible with ATX and micro ATX motherboards, four 5.25-inch external bays, one 3.5- inch external bay, five 3.5-inch internal bays, two integrated fans with mountings for five more, supports ATX and EPS power supplies, seven expansion slots

AKASA VENOM
SRP: £44.50
Distributor: Bluepoint, Spire Technology

They say: Venom delivers ultra high performance enabling serious system overclocking. The 12cm killer Viper yellow fan uses S-Flow blades providing 30% more airflow than a standard fan at the same speed

Specs: Fits Intel LGA775, LGA1156, LGA1366 and AMD 939, AM2, AM2+, AM3 socket types, high grade aluminium fins, copper heatpipes, 600-1900 RPM fan speed

THERMALTAKE ARMOR A90
SRP: £84.99
Distributor: VIP Computers

They say: A modern design with high performance cooling, designed for the latest hardware. The case is optimised for both liquid and air cooling.

Specs: Black ‘bulletproof’ design with metal mesh elements, top and front backlit fans, large front door for drive access, bottom-based PSU, side panel window with 120mm side cooling panel, includes infrastructure for liquid cooling

EVO LABS E-S601
SRP: £42.99
Distributor: Target Components

They say:
Excellent EMI protection design with shiny gloss front panel and refined design, plus folded metal edges for safe assembly

Specs: Pre-fitted with micro ATX standard PSU, supports Intel and AMD motherboards, two front USB 2.0 ports, 3-in-1card reader, one 5.25-inch internal bat, two 3.5-inch expansion slots, four free fan spaces

EVO LABS E-802DR
SRP: £27.99
Distributor: Target Components

They say: ATX form factor case with piano black and red front panel

Specs: Front HD audio USB, 80mm rear side panel fan, 450W real power supply, one SATA connector

COOLIT ECO ALC
SRP: £74.99
Distributor: Realtime Distribution

They say: An elegantly engineered ultra-low profile thermal solution positioned at an economical price point

Specs: Pre-assembled closed liquid cooling system comprised of copper micro-channel fluid heat exchanger, long life CFF1 pump, custom engineered radiator, low toxicity coolant, support for Intel 775, 1156, 1366 and AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3 sockets

CONTACTS

Bluepoint:
0844 571 8001

Spire Technology:
01202 828 444

Realtime:
01480 435 881

VIP Computers:
0871 622 7500

Target Components:

01977 739 300

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