'Cause Breaking Stuff is Hard to Do


Being the resident editor of " breaking stuff " at Maximum PC, I feel it's my duty to inform our readers whenever a new bit of breathtaking news happens on this most-important-of beats.  To be fair, I don't create the news; I just tend to always be around whenever something goes wonkers in the Labs.  Seriously.  I'm not accident-prone, minus that one fruit punch incident .  I just happen to have fairly destruction-inducing beats here at the magazine.  It's nearly mathematical -- the closer any kind of liquid gets to electronics, the greater the chance for utter disaster.

Prior to last week, my running tally was still fairly low: a motherboard or two, one CPU, one video card, one or two coolers, and a camera (happened at home, so that doesn't count for work-related dark side points ).  Working on the dream machine added an additional motherboard to the graveyard.  You can thank a leaky fitting in our water cooling setup for that one.

But I swear, I must have some kind of magnetic repulsion to motherboards in general, because I managed to nuke another one just the other day.  Thankfully, it wasn't another Asus Striker Extreme board (they're pricy), but unfortunately, it was the last Asus A8N32-SLI motherboard we have for use in our FX-60 test beds.  This now presents a bit of a problem, as the last many months of cooling reviews have transpired on an identical setup.  Like an experiment, I like to keep external variables identical when I review products.  And this is especially true when it comes to the finicky world of CPU cooling .

Having slapped a FX-60 CPU onto my new motherboard, I've already noticed quite the substantial difference in baseline temperatures using the stock cooler (which gives me reason to believe that my A8N32-SLI was on its last legs anyway, but I digress).  Thus, the dilemma:  should I re-run all the coolers I've reviewed to establish new scores, which I can subsequently use to review new coolers?  Or should I throw caution to the wind, and use my grand intelligence and excellent skills as a writer to best navigate these tricky waters?

Well, that question was rhetorical, as I've already decided on a good way to deal with this craziness.  I'm sticking with the new motherboard, but I'm going to begin running benchmarks of other coolers in addition to the specific cooler I'm reviewing.  For example, if I'm reviewing New Air Cooler A, then I'm also going to strap one of our heftier coolers to the CPU.  This should give a better sense of comparison as to the true cooling power of a reviewed device, because it's difficult to tell exactly how well something cools (we're talking just a few degrees' difference) when the starting temperature points of the CPU are ever-changing as a result of the ambient air temperature in the Labs.  It's mildly frustrating, as right now, our AMD stock cooler is registering idle temperatures at least 10 to 15 degrees warmer than in the benchmarks I ran earlier this year.

Believe me, I wish I could flex some Zeus -like power over the Labs and ultimately leave the temperature of the room -- and the components in the room -- at a perfect constant.  But that's impossible.  I can usually tell pretty quickly whether a CPU cooler is going to fall into the "rock solid," "feh," or " firestorm " category.  Trying to give a specific review score to a cooler requires a sense of precision, however, and hopefully this new testing methodology will better that. At the very least, all the coolers I'll be tossing on and off will surely increase my chances at destroying yet another motherboard (be careful when taking off those coolers, folks!), which will itself decrease the time between now and the next "breaking stuff" blog post.  Awesome!

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