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Choosing the CPU Fan

As mentioned earlier, the default retail P4 fan just isn't going to work for a high-performance system. Besides being big and ugly, the retail box fan doesn't provide adequate P4 cooling for 3D games—not to mention some of the overclocking voltages you might use. Before you scorch your CPU, invest a little money in a high-performance fan.

Since we're building a visually stunning system as well as a fast one, we want to pick a fan that will make our friends drool at the LAN party. Enter the Cooler Master Jet 4 for socket 478 CPUs. This is the one part of our system that will make people's eyes pop out of their heads.

With a traditional rotary fan, there's a big problem with cooling that you might not think of at first. This problem is that the center of the fan (the hub) creates a "dead space" where the air doesn't blow down onto the heatsink. This cone-shaped dead space flares down from the fan hub. Worse, the dead space epicenter is right over the middle of the CPU die, which is the hottest part—and also the part that most desperately needs cooling. This problem is solved with blower fans; by blowing air directly over the entire heatsink, there's no dead space.

In addition, I don't like the Intel P4 retail box fan, because only the immediate area in contact with the die is made out of copper, while the rest is poorly conductive. Copper is a much better conductor, so I want a heatsink that's as close to 100% copper as possible.

The Cooler Master Jet 4 for socket 478 CPUs is a blower fan on a fine copper heatsink. And its incredible look just reaches out and grabs you. It's designed to look like a chrome airplane jet engine. It really has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Integrated front and rear LEDs also highlight the Jet, which quickly becomes the centerpiece of your case mod (see Figure 2).

Figure 2Figure 2 The Cooler Master Jet shown mounted in our system. This P4 CPU blower-style fan not only cools the system more efficiently by design, but becomes the centerpiece of our case mod. It's sure to make your friends drool at a LAN party.

When I switched to the Jet, my baseline CPU temperatures dropped by 5–7 degrees. This difference becomes even more pronounced under load, as the extra cooling becomes exponentially more evident. Note that you can measure CPU temperature by placing a thermistor near (but not directly on) the CPU die, or by using any number of software mainboard monitors. During 3D gaming, the Jet provides up to 10–15 degrees more CPU cooling that the default Intel P4 heatsink and fan. Thus, the Jet already keeps your system cooler, even before you start to overclock. And it does it with the same fan RPM and air pressure as a traditional heatsink and fan—it just does it more efficiently by design.

Remember that we're building this system not only for speed and aesthetics, but also for quietness. Here the Jet will be a problem, since the nature of the jet-like blower instantly becomes the loudest part of the system. Fortunately, Cooler Master provides a convenient rheobus, which allows you to regulate fan voltage, and hence speed, with an included PCI slot mount or 3.5-inch drive bay mount (see Figure 3). Simply spin up the dial, and people next door will know you're about to start gaming because they'll hear the wind blowing through your case. Turn it down, and you have a quiet system that still keeps its cool, thanks to the optimized design of the Jet.

Figure 3Figure 3 The Cooler Master Jet comes with a convenient rheobus, which allows you to regulate fan voltage, and hence speed; here we have mounted it with an included 3.5-inch drive bay mount. Simply turn it up for a cool CPU while 3D gaming, and then turn it down when you want peace and quiet.

Cooler Master Jet 4 for socket 478 CPU cost: $39.

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