So I just built my very first media center PC and man was it a pain! Most computer builds are simple but between heat and noise issues I found this build very frustrating.
First I had to find a case, not just any case but a case that would match or look good with my Harmon Kardon receiver, HD PVR, TV, etc. I also wanted to the case to lay flat rather then stand like a regular desktop, after all I wasn’t building a desktop! So shopping at my regular destination(s) Memory Express, Future Shop and Mushkin’s online website the fun began.
The parts I purchased are as follows:
- Case = Silverstone LC-13E
- Power Supply= Rocket Fish 700 watt (I work at Future Shop so the price was right!)
- Processor = Intel Quad Core 9300
- Memory/RAM = 8GB of Mushkin DDR3 10066
- Hard Drive(s) = Two Seagate 320GB (configured in RAID 0)
- Video Card = Passive Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 512 GB GDDR3
- LG Super Multi Combo Blue-ray/HD DVD-ROM
- ATI 550 Pro TV Tuner
- Zalman CNPS7500-CULED (CPU cooler)
- Microsoft Multimedia 7000 Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse
- Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (upgraded to SP2)
- Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (latest updates applied)
Now originally I started with the stock Intel heatsink and a Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 1GB GDDR3… but I soon found out that the Intel stock heatsink wasn’t going to cut it (big surprise) and that the 4850 produced to much heat for this case. To be perfectly honest this Media Center has some overkill parts in it! Parts like the Quad Core, 8 GB of memory/RAM and a 4850… So based on the initial build and results I swapped out the 4850 for the 4670, after all I am not going to be playing video games on my big screen as I prefer my desktop. I may eventually want to upgrade but I doubt it, I have to keep reminding myself that the media center is for movies, music and maybe some surfing.
Performance wise I am very happy, between Intel’s raw processing power and ATI’s graphic processing power this puppy flys. Thanks to the built in HDMI/7.1 on the HD 4670 both video and audio is amazing! I configured my hard drives in RAID 0 for ultimate read performance, after all I am streaming media from my server which is on a gigabyte LAN (home network) which means I don’t have to worry about data redundancy. The 320 GB hard drives configured in RAID 0 might be overkill for a media center but the speed and capacity is very appealing. As for the memory/ram well I figure that as everything starts going 64-bit it makes sense to buy all the same memory at the same speed.
Overall I am happy with the end results. I have a media center that looks and sounds wonderful on my Samsung 40″ 5 Series LCD and Klipcsh/Harmon Kardon 7.1 Surround Sound! If I were to build a media center again I would probably recommend doing more research on cases as I find the Silverston LC-13E cramped and doesn’t cool as well as I would like. I might be expecting to much in the way of cooling but the cooler you can keep the case the longer your hardware will last!
Well after trying the Scythe Shuriken I still find my self out of luck! On a positive note the Scythe Shuriken fit my SilverStone LC-13E perfectly but for some reason the fan didn’t work like a fan is supposed to… Before purchasing I read some reviews off of a whole sale website I usually shop at, Memory Express
. Two of the three reviews said that the fan stopped working within the first month of use, that deterred me. Well with advice from a good friend and based on the fact that Scythe is a great brand I tried it anyway… Thus leading to the fan problem… Basically while the temperatures were low the fan would throttle down, but it turned itself off and DIDN’T turn itself back on which concerned me as I watched my temps climb above 60 degrees! So I exchanged it for what I should have bought in the first place, a ZALMAN! Now most Zalmans are amazing but the problem with them is that you have to mount a back plate onto the back side of your mother board so that you can actually mount the heatsink. That basically means anytime you have to change it out you have to pull your whole mother board our of the case, not very conveniant.
As always the Zalman brand (my model: CNPS7500-CULED) lives up to the reputation of keeping a processor cool. I have other Zalman products in my other machines and they all do the job, bringing the temperature down an average of 10 degrees.
So all said and done I tried a Intel Stock heatsink, Scythe Ninja Mini, Scythe Shuriken and the Zalman CNPS7500-CULED… my results are still the same, Intel Stock Coolers aren’t good and its better to get an after market cooler. Some of you might say obviously but the fact remains when I buy ANY AMD processor I do NOT have to worry about the temperatures when I run my system with the stock heatsink. You don’t have to buy a crazy heatsink to replace the stock Intel just get a generic one but be sure to do a little research first.
All of my temperature data was collected by both Speedfan and Realtemp. It is worth noting that Intel tells you the “cool, safe, warm and hot” temperatures on their website. Technically their stock fans do the trick but I prefer to run cooler as to extend the longevity of my products.
Well after replacing my fourth Intel Stock Heatsink I think it is safe to say that the Heatsinks which Intel provides don’t actually provide sufficient cooling.
I started with an Intel Pentium D805 which actually ran fairly cool however once I replaced the stock heat sink with an after market Zalman the average temperature dropped almost 10 degrees C! I just recently upgraded the D805 to an E5200 which runs around 35 degrees C (same Zalman heatsink).
My main system runs a Intel Quad Core Extreme 6850. To be fair this chip runs hot period, no matter which heatsink you have this chip just runs hot! I did replace stock heatsink right off the bat as the Intel stock heatsink sounded like a hair blow dryer, man it was loud. I choose yet another Zalman CPU cooler which brought the CPU temperature down 10 plus degrees depending on the task, some temperatures dropped 15 degrees or more!
Now my final problem, to date… Is my new Media Center PC. I bought an Intel Quad Core 9300 which is encased in an Silverstone LC13. With the current stock Intel heatsink I am getting temperature readings up around 60 degrees. Way to hot for my liking so I purchased a Scythe Shuriken and plan to install it tonight, I will post back with results!
If anyone has anything to add please do! I should also mention that I am using Speed Fan to obtain the readings and that I DON’T RECOMMEND USING THE STOCK HEATSINK WHICH SHIPS WITH YOUR INTEL PROCESSOR.