ANOTHER ALL-IN-ONE liquid-cooling loop! Hooray! Corsair’s H100 is its fifth liquid cooler; after two with Asetek, the company has put out three with CoolIT. The H60 is your standard 120mm radiator-with-single-fan, the H80 is the double-thick double-fan version, and the H100, the first Corsair liquid-cooler to support LGA2011, is its first cooler with a 240mm radiator.
The H100’s radiator is around an inch thick and 10.8 inches long and fits in any case that can accommodate a 240mm radiator, though some cases may not have the vertical clearance to mount the fans inside the case. The pump/heat exchange unit is square, and very slightly taller than Asetek’s. It contains four 4-pin PWM headers to control the radiator fans, as well as a connector for Corsair’s Link system control software/hardware combo (sold separately). There’s also a three-speed fan-control button on top of the pump. The pump unit itself has a 3-pin motherboard fan connector and a 2-pin Molex for power. The cooler unit mount is simple; four double-sided thumbscrews mount to the unified backplate, the brackets at the corners of the pump unit slide onto those, and more thumbscrews secure them in place.
Intel isn’t shipping stock heatsinks with Sandy Bridge-E CPUs, perhaps assuming that consumers of $600 and $1,000 CPUs are going to want performance a little better than Intel’s stock coolers have typically provided. Instead, Intel is offering a branded liquid-cooling loop as an optional accessory. The Asetek-built cooling loop features a glowing blue Intel logo and a bright blue LED on its single 12cm fan, but otherwise looks nearly identical to the Antec Kuhler 620, which was also built by Asetek (which also built AMD’s Bulldozer-branded liquid cooling loop).
WHEN WE REVIEWED the first-edition Noctua NH-D14 back in April 2010, we praised its quiet performance, but our then-current test bed didn’t put out enough heat to best showcase its cooling chops. Fortunately, our new one does. This coincides nicely with Noctua’s release of the NH-D14 SE2011, which includes (gasp) LGA2011 support and updates the D14’s two fans to include PWM, or pulse-width modulation.
SOMETIMES WHEN we use the Hyper 212 Plus in a build we get comments to the effect of, “Why don’t you use Xigmatek’s Gaia? It’s just as good and just as cheap!” Just as cheap? Definitely. Just as good? We’ll see!
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Gaia is a skyscraper-style stack of aluminum cooling fins on top of three direct-contact copper heat pipes. The Gaia is 6.5 inches high by 2.9 inches thick (with the fan) and 4.9 inches wide. At one pound, 4.7 ounces, it’s practically the same weight as the Hyper 212 Evo. Aside from the slightly narrower cooling fins and the fact that it has three heat pipes rather than four, and its 12cm PWM fan is held on by rubber pegs rather than a plastic clip, the Gaia looks a lot like the Evo.
We just realized that the Xigmatek Gaia’s cooling fins resemble the letter X.
NZXT’s second air cooler, and they still can’t spell ‘havoc’
NZXT DIDN’T ENTER the CPU cooling game until quite recently. We reviewed its first cooler, the skyscraper Havik 140, in December 2011. The Havik 140’s dual 14cm fans helped it power to the top of our air-cooling charts, though the slightly cheap-feeling mounting bracket kept it from Kick Ass Award status. NZXT’s second air cooler is the smaller, less expensive Havik 120.
What, this old thing? Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo is the new‑and‑improved version of our standby CPU cooler. It’s just $35 and offers performance far exceeding other coolers in its price range, so it’s the first thing we reach for when we build a new budget-conscious rig. Given that LGA2011 CPUs don’t come with heatsinks, the Evo is the closest thing we have to a stock cooler, and it will be the standard against which all other Sandy Bridge-E coolers are judged.
We used to say that iBuypower should really be named iStealpower, because we’ve never understood how the company can sell such well-configured systems for such low prices. With its new Erebus line, iBuypower is maintaining its low-price strategy while stepping upmarket to compete with boutique vendors. Is the Erebus priced low enough to purchase on a whim? No, but considering what iBuypower packs into the rig, it’s a pretty good deal.
First up: The Erebus uses a custom NZXT-built case that takes its cues from Corsair’s groundbreaking 800D. Not to be upstaged, the Erebus case is almost an inch or two bigger in all dimensions, and it’s designed to be jam-packed with rads. The Erebus we reviewed had a massive quad radiator plus two dual radiators—with room for more. The Erebus case is designed for water cooling, and that quad radiator is integrated into the top of the unit with a plug you can use to top off its reservoir. It’s an impressive case, with the only major ding against it being its pass-through USB 3.0 cables—that’s so 2011. You’ll be hard pressed to find a new motherboard that doesn’t use internal USB 3.0 headers.
THE DISPLAYS IN HP’s TouchSmart series top out at 23 inches. To get anything bigger, you must move over to HP’s Omni all-in-one lineup. The upper limit here is a ginormous 27 inches, but you won’t get that slick touch user interface, and you’ll need to sacrifice performance to keep the price tag in the same $1,250 neighborhood occupied by the TouchSmart 520-1070 we reviewed in March. We’re not convinced those are good trade-offs.
Both models feature an HDMI input that allows you to use the display independent of the computer, and that’s easily one of their best features. Plug in a set-top box or a gaming console, and the machines can serve double duty as a computer and a 1080p display for watching TV or playing games. There’s just one problem: You can’t use the wireless keyboard to control or mute the volume when the computer is being used solely as a display. Instead, you must push the PC/Game mode button to bring up an onscreen control panel, press the minus button three times to select the volume control function, and then repeatedly press the plus or minus buttons to adjust the volume. To mute the volume, you must turn it to zero—which takes 14 button presses from full volume—or switch the display back into PC mode. That will drive you nuts at every commercial break and every time the phone rings.
A straightforward, rock-solid keyboard for FPS gamers
CORSAIR IS aiming at the very top of the gaming keyboard market with its Vengeance line—two boards with exquisite build quality and luxury price tags. The FPS-oriented K60 may be the cheaper of the two, but it still comes in at more than $100 MSRP, and will never be accused of feeling cheap.
In fact, the primary draw of the K60 is its elegant, simple design. The keyboard’s thin, heavy foundation has a brushed-aluminum face, and houses the mechanical Cherry MX Red switches in a unique non-recessed configuration that leaves no place for dust and crumbs to collect. The nicely spaced keycaps are rugged-feeling with a very light texture. We prefer the clicky Cherry MX Blue switches for typing, but the smooth Reds only require a light touch and provide an excellent, highly responsive gaming experience. Interestingly, Corsair seems to have opted to save money by using membrane switches for the function and navigation keys, giving the keys a non-uniform feel.
IF THEY HAVE first-person shooters in martial arts Valhalla, we’re pretty sure Tribes: Ascend is the one Bruce Lee plays. First and foremost, it’s a game about movement. In a split second, you have to judge where your jetpack-propelled, lightning-quick opponent is, where they’re going to be, and what you should do about it. You have to instinctively go with the flow, all the while never missing a beat. You must, well, be as water. Water with a jetpack. As a result, Tribes simply feels wonderful—not to mention unlike anything else on the market. Sure, it’s basically a shinier Tribes 2, but you won’t hear any dismayed cries of “Shazbot” coming from us.
What worked in previous Tribes games is in top form here. Footing it from place to place is—as you’d expect in a game subtitled “Ascend”—suicidal, so forward motion is all about deftly mixing aerial acrobatics and inertia-based “skiing.” In short, your jetpack can only play little-engine-that-could-defy-physics for a few seconds, at which point gravity rudely yanks you into free fall. Combined with Tribes’ trademark hilly terrain, however, that velocity can be transformed into your best friend instead of transforming you into paste. Simply hold the space bar to ski—typically at speeds in excess of 100 mph—in whatever direction you were headed. Shouting “wheeeeee” while going down ultra-steep inclines is optional, but encouraged.