The Chieftec Dragon full-tower ATX case I'd been using the last three years or so has been a great case, but it was a bit cramped inside there. The small internal area, compounded with a huge 1000w power supply, a CPU running at 3.0GHz, and two 8800 GTS video cards running in SLI full-time, resulted in a case that was handling far too much heat. Plus, the fact that I can't manage cabling to save my life meant that even though I had five 80mm fans running, not a lot of air was getting pushed around efficiently.
Enter the Lian-Li G70 case.
Lian-Li G70 Case
This case is enormous. It allows for the power supply to be mounted at the top or bottom of the case and I decided to change things up and put my PSU at the bottom. This is kind of a lose-lose situation as the PSU is either going to be right on top of the CPU or right beneath the 8800GTS cards, so either way, one area is going to be significantly warmer than the other. To help combat the CPU's heat, I installed a Zalman CNPS9500 heatsink and fan. For those not familiar with it, it's just over 1 pound of pure heat-fighting copper goodness.
This massive array of fins is arguably the best air-cooler on the market and I could not wait to see what it did to my ever-rising CPU temps. The Lian-Li has a built-in 120mm exhaust fan that lines up PERFECTLY with the CPU, so there is a nice air tunnel setup to keep air moving directly over the CPU.
Lian-Li G70 and Zalman CNPS9500 Installed
The increased size, three built-in 120mm fans (one intake in the front of the case, one exhaust right behind the CPU and another intake that blows directly onto the 8800GTS cards) and a monster heatsink resulted in idle temps 10°C lower than with the stock heatsink and old, smaller case. With spring in full swing here, temperatures have been rising and my apartment being on the third floor of a three-story building results in some VERY warm temperatures. Ambient temperatures change regularly, but with a box fan in my window, I can get my room down to about 60°F which results in the CPU running at about 38°C idle and around 48°C at full-load with Orthos running.
Armed with a better case and airflow along with enough copper on top of my CPU to start minting pennies at a profit, I pushed the overclocking envelope a bit further to see what could happen. Still at the same voltages I was achieving 3.0Ghz/1333MHz (CPU/FSB), I upped the FSB to 1422MHz (355.5MHz quad-pumped) to get to that magic 3.2GHz that I see so many others shooting for.
The computer POSTed, but BSODed and restarted when the initial Windows XP load screen started. I went back into the BIOS and forced a vcore of 1.35v and tried again. Success!
CPU-Z CPU at 3.2GHz
Windows XP booted just fine at 3199.5GHz (3.2GHz going forward) and I fired up Orthos again to test stability overnight. I went to bed after it had been running for over two hours with no problems whatsoever. Temps were up about 1°C idle and 2°C at full load. Again, it's somewhat difficult to guage because of my apartment's temperature being so whacky, but regardless: the Zalman and Lian-Li G70 were doing a phenomenal job of keeping the CPU cool.
Sunday (3/25), I woke up and checked to see how the CPU was faring only to find a BSOD waiting for me. At some point during the night, ntfs.sys had an error and I received a Page_Fault_In_Non_Paged_Area critical failure. I would hazard a guess that voltages need to be played with to insure a stable system at 3.2GHz and beyond and I will continue to play with this board to see what kind of results I can achieve. As it stands, time did not permit for me to get any definitive answers/results at speeds above 3.0GHz for this review.
On a side note, upon further examination of the BIOS while pushing the CPU to 3.2GHz, I discovered some handy options for thermal throttling. There are four mods: disabled, TM1, TM2 and TM1 + TM2. In TM1, active processing cycles are cut to reduce heat output and re-enabled as they become needed. TM2 reduces the CPU multiplier and vcore as the CPU idles and as soon as the system demands full power, the multiplier and vcore rise back to where they are set to be. TM1 + TM2 uses both of these to result in a CPU that runs slower and cooler when the demand for the CPU's full power is not present. By enabling TM1 and TM2, my CPU idles almost 5°C cooler (resulting in approximately a 15°C drop from where it was with the stock Intel cooler in the Chieftec case).
BIOS Thermals Screen
Up next are some synthetic benchmark results along with a look at performance in F.E.A.R. and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.