Hardware Guides

We briefly covered CPU cooler engineering in our Tuniq Tower 120 review, and in continuing that topic, this post will discuss various cooler designs that pervade the market and which are best for you.

Picking the best CPU cooler / heatsink for your gaming rig is important if you're planning to keep things quiet or overclock your system; we'll cover noise level, cooling efficiency, and top-level thermal dissipation strategies for aftermarket coolers in this article.

cpu-cooler-slider

In addition to our own research and benchmarking, we reached out to Edmund Li of Zalman for help understanding some cooler design elements, so a big thanks to him for his time and knowledge. Let's cover how a heatsink works before anything else.

From conception of design, to development, to evilly-scheming robots that (for now...) mount chips to PCBs, the process behind solid-state drive advancements can be months in the making. The controller alone can take a year (or more, in some cases) to finalize, and even then, it has to ship to manufacturers, get soldered to boards, and be tested, all prior to your consumption.

In this feature, we'll walk through the development of an SSD and its controller and explain how SSDs are made. Each major step of the process will be broken-down into core tasks and includes insight from industry experts. We also have some cool photos of SSD production facilities, found below.

ssd-lifecycle-slider

There's a bit of a trick to everything with computers. Things are relatively straight-forward in the assembly process, but as with any trade skill, we begin to pick up small tweaks and expeditious build methodologies that can aid in the overall process. The same goes with thermal compound / thermalpaste: It's easy to apply, but doing so correctly takes learning from someone else.

In this quick-reference guide, we'll provide a video tutorial of how to clean a CPU of thermalpaste and how to apply new thermal compound, but additionally, we'll cover how thermalpaste works and why it's recommended.

thermalpaste-gn

Before all else, here's the video guide for thermalpaste removal and application:

It's easy to get caught-up in the over-promotion of each generation's flagship hardware; as CPUs, chipsets, and GPUs iterate, there's a very predictable pattern of what will become the newest object of infatuation. To industry outsiders and novice/intermediate system builders, the i5-2500k might have seemed required for gaming rigs, given the amount of coverage and recommendations it received. The same goes for the previous Z68 chipset and current Z77 chipset, and on the AMD side, we see the 990FX recommended in far too many builds. These are undoubtedly powerful options with great life in them yet, and for enthusiasts, almost necessary. But for gaming? That's debatable.

chipset-slider

This article will cover the differences between Intel and AMD chipsets (Z77, Z75, H77, etc), their naming conventions, and chipset functionality. Hopefully this information will aid in your decision of whether or not the premiere products are necessary.

The goal here is to provide enough knowledge and insight so that you can apply these points to future purchases. This generation's hardware won't be around forever, so I've specifically written the article to include analytical methods that will help you ascertain benefits of each new gen.

Let's start at the top: What chipsets do.

Systems die. They get old, run slow, are plagued with dust-invoked disease, and are inevitably retired. It's not always necessary to retire a gaming rig, though, despite being a fun excuse to play with new components; given a strong enough core, it's often easy to troubleshoot bottlenecks and replace the limiting hardware, potentially luring out another year or two of use.

troubleshoot-performance

Ignoring OS bloat and software failures that amount over years, as long as interfaces remain relatively unchanged, hardware swapping is the cheapest way to extend the life of your PC. This guide will explore what should be upgraded first and how to troubleshoot PC performance, bottlenecks, gaming and professional applications, and general testing techniques.

No matter how many monitors get posted on retail websites, they all really seem much the same -- contrast ratios are largely-inflated marketing hype, latency differentials seem irrelevant, and really, the only solid demarcation of product differences is the screen size and panel type. That's what this guide is for.

monitor-specs-corners

There's a lot more to monitors than that - and although the choices may feel by-and-large identical, there are minute differences in terminology that can make a world of difference in your monitor purchase.

In this monitor specifications guide, we'll discuss whether or not contrast ratios matter, cover LCD vs. IPS vs. LED LCD differences, and explain important monitor specs.

For the most part, system building is incredibly straight-forward: Purchase components, just add screwdriver. Some cable management later and you're mostly done. Sometimes, though, things don't work out perfectly - as was the case with our once-famed Zalman CNPS 9700 LGA 775 cooler. It didn't quite fit on the newer LGA 1155 socket (specifically on an ASRock Extreme4 motherboard), and rather than waiting another agonizingly-long three days for an adapter bracket to arrive, we took it upon ourselves to mod the existing 775 mounting plate to fit the LGA1155 socket.

lga775-slider

For all of you who just enjoy case and system modding, here's a quick how-to guide for converting 775 bracketed coolers to 1155 sockets. As always, we'd suggest that you take care when working with low-voltage electronics and wear an ESD wrist strap (or even read our anti-ESD guide).

System building is an exercise in both education and enthusiasm -- as the core principles of system assembly become second nature, the enthusiast approach to commanding more power from hardware is the next fitting evolution. Overclocking is a part of this process.

overclocking-slider

In this primer to overclocking, we'll provide the fundamentals of overclocking, discuss the principles behind it, and cover what, exactly, overclocking is and what it nets you (and supply a brief tutorial). This is the ultimate in top-level guides, so those who have a firm grasp of the basics may not find any new information herein; with that said, the goal of this primer is to provide a solid foundation for your future overclocking exploits. You will not find CPU-specific OC advice in this guide, but can certainly ask for it below or in our forums!

Let's dive in.

Electrostatic Discharge is something that we actively take measures against to ensure no components are inadvertently 'fried' in our build videos; accumulate enough static electricity and discharge it into that shiny, $300 video card, and you've suddenly got a very expensive brick on your desk.

understanding-esd-slider

It's easy to prevent ESD, but understanding it is important. Whenever you hear someone refer to "frying" a component, although a generic term, it tends to imply overvoltage (through overclocking or other means) or ESD death. Non-conductive insulators, as the name would imply, can carry a charge (to include things like paper and cardboard), but some materials are safer than others. Properly grounding yourself (or your desk, for that matter) will reduce any concern of ESD when working with high-end components.

We'll keep this guide short and packed with info on how electrostatic discharges work.

If you're interested in this type of guide, you may also find our Preventative Maintenance guide useful for extending your system's usable lifespan.

Spending money on batteries never feels good. Never. What feels worse, though, is the feeling of dread that builds up as a battery's usable life decays to a mere ten, maybe twenty minutes of on-time; this inevitably results in one of two outcomes: A replacement (battery or laptop) is purchased, or the system turns into a smaller version of a desktop (granted, desktops can now be built in sizes that compete with laptops).

battery-slider

At upwards of $100 a pop, replacing laptop batteries every year or two is often tough to justify, especially in cheaper laptops -- luckily, though, a few tricks can be employed to extend the usable life of a laptop's Lithium-Ion battery.

After our Gaming Laptop Buyer's Guide was published last week, it seemed fitting to follow-up with a post that explains how to take care of Lithium-Ion laptop batteries and make them last longer.

We moderate comments on a ~24~48 hour cycle. There will be some delay after submitting a comment.

Advertisement:

  VigLink badge