Choosing the CPU and Heat Sink
We are trying to build a dual-core machine in order to future-proof this box. As time goes on, more applications and games will be designed to take care of dual-core multitasking. AMD is now the CPU manufacturer of choice. In general, Intel chips are simply hotter and slower; the majority of enthusiasts have completely changed over to AMD. We chose the Athlon AMD 64 4200+ X2 with a 939P slot. Anything higher (like a 4800+) would only add hundreds of dollars, without a perceptible improvement in speed. This processor has more than enough horsepower, and at a good price point. The 64-bit architecture helps to future-proof it, while remaining backwards-compatible with 32-bit apps. It is likely to keep us happy for another five years.
The big question is whether or not to go fanless on the CPU heat sink. For example, the Ninja Scythe is a heavy, gigantic tower of aluminum plates. The manufacturer states that it can be used on slower CPUs without a fan. However, it is so big that we worry that it might break off in transit to a LAN party.
Another problem is that when you have a CPU this fast, you really need a fan of some sort. You can try to go fanless, and you probably won’t burn your CPU. However, you may notice some lockups and crashes at higher temperature loads. This is not acceptable in a performance machine. How, then, can we achieve high-quality cooling while remaining quiet?
Enter Zallman. Its model CNPS 9500 LED heat sink is a masterpiece of design. It is a solid copper work of art. It uses a series of heat pipes to increase heat flux towards the fins. The massive surface area of the fins is unbelievable; a rheobus-controlled fan blows air right through this forest of copper (see Figure 2). Fortunately, it is so well designed that we can run the fan near its lowest temperature. That means that the CPU fan is nearly inaudible, thus eliminating a major source of system noise.
When you affix the heat sink to the CPU, we recommend upgrading from the stock thermal paste. Arctic Silver Ceramique (see Figure 3) is a highly conductive paste that will lower your core temperatures by up to several degrees. It is worth the extra five bucks. As an alternative, a lot of people use Arctic Silver’s metal-based compounds. These are made, in part, with pure silver. However, on moral grounds, we are opposed to using metal paste; silver is highly conductive, so why smear it around your delicate mainboard electronics? Instead, the Ceramique blend is essentially non-conductive and non-capacitive.