4th February 2008

Noctua NF-P12 120mm Fan – Review (Page 2 – Testing & Conclusion)

It is obvious that Noctua has put a lot of effort into making the NF-P12 as silent as possible, while providing optimal pressure. You can check out all the detailed information over at Noctua’s website, but here we are going to install the fan and see if it delivers as promised. I don’t have fancy lab equipment to measure pressure or sound levels, but I have dealt with a lot of 120mm fans and this really is the cream of the crop. I installed the NF-P12 in the massive fan mounting bracket in my Cooler Master Stacker 830 SE and readied for some testing.

NF-P12 Installed

I first plugged the fan in with no adapters present to see how it sounded at the full 1300 RPM. The fan was barely audible right near my ear and when compared to the rest of the fans running in my computer, I couldn’t even tell that the NF-P12 was added overall because it runs so much quieter than my other 120mm fans that came with the case. I then hooked up the fan with the L.N.A. At this point the fan seemed to make no noise whatsoever and when the U.L.N.A. was used the only difference I could tell was that the fan was pushing slightly less air. The fan was already so quiet that I could not discern any audible difference. Using SpeedFan, it was verified that the fan was running at the given RPM speeds listed by Noctua (1300RPM, 1100RPM, and 900RPM).

Just for fun I hooked up the fan with both the L.N.A. and the U.L.N.A. daisy-chained together and the fan spun even slower at 750 RPM, but it still pushed a respectable amount of air through for as slow as it was spinning. The fan is already so quiet with the L.N.A. I doubt a majority of users will opt for the U.L.N.A. but those that want absolute quiet may use it, such as those with a home theater PC (HTPC).

The NF-P12 is no doubt at the top of its class as far as silent 120mm fans go. The only drawback of the product is the price. Searching various sites the NF-P12 retails anywhere between $19 and $21 which makes it a bit pricey, but with a 150,000+ hour expected lifetime and a 6 year warranty you won’t have to buy a new fan to replace it for a very long time. If you are looking for a top of the line 120mm fan for your radiator, CPU heatsink, or just plain ol’ cooling in a tight case, you can’t go wrong with the NF-P12 fan from Noctua. If pressure is of no concern to you and you just want some high quality cooling fans than you can choose between either the NF-P12 or the NF-S12 depending on how much airflow you need and just how quiet you want the system to be.

Pros:

  • Extremely quiet
  • Great airflow
  • A lot of included extras for customization
  • 6 year warranty

Cons:

  • A bit expensive
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22nd January 2008

Cooler Master Stacker 830 SE Case w/ Real Power Pro 1000w SLI – Review (Page 3 / Mounting Hardware & Conclusion)

Though the power supply does need screws to be mounted, much of the rest of the case is completely tool-less. The side panels are held in place by solid plastic brackets that snap it into place. The optical drives are held in place by sliding pressure brackets along side the drive once it is aligned in the case. By the way, inserting an optical drive has never been easier. On the front of the case you open the main door which is held shut by a magnet. Then you open up two small silver brackets that run up the entire length of the front of the case and cover the sides of the 5.25″ bays. Then you just pop out one of the mesh faceplates, slide in your drive, slide the pressure brackets tight, and close front brackets. It took me about 30 seconds to do the entire process and most of that was just trying to make sure the front of the DVD drive was flush with the front of the case.

case front closeup hard drive cage closeup hard drive cage out

Adding a hard drive was slightly more complicated, but the extra hassle is well worth it. The Stacker 830 comes with a hard drive cage which holds 4 hard drives in the space of three 5.25″ bays. This drive cage can be placed anywhere in the case as long as you have three 5.25″ bays clear that are next to each other. The drive cage is held in place by screws, but I have a feeling that the pressure brackets could be used if you didnt need the added security of the screws. Anyways, you undo a few screws and slide the cage out. It has two separate mounting plates which connect to the main part of the cage through rubber grommets. This makes sure that the vibrations of the drives are deadened and does not cause the rest of your case to make noise from amplified vibrations. You just add in whatever drives you want, reattach the mounting plates and slide the entire cage back into the case.

mobo tray half mobo tray out power supply back

Now, we get to the most convenient part of the case’s design. The removable motherboard tray. This isn’t the first case I’ve used with a removable tray, but this one is by far the most solid and convenient. The hole in the back of the case that the tray slides out through is large enough that you probably won’t have to remove most larger aftermarket CPU coolers. The tray is held in place by a well designed locking mechanism which allows you to switch open and just slide the tray out. Along the sides of the tray are two plastic guides for the rails so the tray slides out smoothly and doesn’t make that terrible metal-on-metal screech that plagues many other removable tray setups. You have to screw in the standoffs/risers into the motherboard tray’s mounting holes yourself. This adds great flexibility to only add the mounting holes that you want. I currently only have a mATX motherboard, so I decided to only add the necessary holes to mount that motherboard. Obviously, I will add more later when I upgrade to a full ATX motherboard.

To fully test the functionality of the case, I installed the following components:

- Abit Fatal1ty F-I90HD mATX Motherboard
- Intel Core 2 Duo E4500 CPU
- Crucial 2GB (2x1GB) DDR2
- 250GB Hitachi SATA Hard Drive
- Generic IDE Combo Optical Drive

motherboard installed

Right now I am in the process of ordering a new video card, so unfortunately that was left out of the test. Mounting the motherboard and CPU couldn’t have been easier due to the removable tray. The DVD drive went in smoothly without a hitch. The hard drive took a little more time than I had anticipated due to the fact that I had to pull out the entire cage and then try to put it back in. A note of advice to anyone that is lucky enough to get one of these cases, remove the motherboard tray while trying to work on the hard drive cage. The board gets in the way a bit and makes it much harder to maneuver your hands in the case. Once everything was mounted, connecting the power cables was incredibly easy since they are long enough to reach anywhere in the case. I can’t remember the last time it was so easy to build a full PC. Any add-on cards I want to install later will be a simple task with the included thumb screws for all the mounting brackets. A nice feature that I did not even think about until I was all done installing the components and organizing the cables is that never once did I cut myself or hurt my arms on the case. All of the edges are either rounded or have at least been machined so that they offer very little risk to injuring yourself on them.

The two 120mm fans provided and the fan in the power supply make almost no sound at all. The only way I know that the PC is on is by the glow of the blue LEDs that are mounted on the front 120mm fan.

Pros:

  • Tool-less, Easy to assemble and maintain
  • Allows configuration options for even the most diehard enthusiast
  • 1000W PSU with connectors for everything
  • Ample room for liquid cooling
  • Great air flow/ventilation
  • All aluminum design

Cons:

  • Metal mesh does not help with sound proofing
  • Front door does not stay open
  • PSU is not modular
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22nd January 2008

Cooler Master Stacker 830 SE Case w/ Real Power Pro 1000w SLI – Review (Page 2 / PSU & Cooling)

The Stacker 830 is made completely of aluminum, which is the metal of choice when getting a case this big as it’s much lighter than steel. It feels relatively light for its gigantic size and has plenty of room for ventilation. Speaking of ventilation, there are spots to hold a crazy amount of 120mm fans. There is a position in the back for one 120mm fan, as well as one in the front, one in the top, as well as four on the side in the provided bracket which takes up the entire side of the case. This giant multi-fan bracket is quite amazing and when coupled with the fact that much of the side panel has metal mesh, it allows any user to amp up their airflow if needed. Also, you should be able to use very quiet low CFM fans if you want and still have very good cooling because of the sheer amount of fans you can mount in this case. Besides the fan mounts, a portion of the bottom of the case has metal mesh as well. This, I assume, is so that cool air can be pulled up past the components and expelled through the top or back of the case.

case left side case back inside case left open

The top fan bracket can be replaced with a hard drive bracket that would be ideal for a Raptor X 150GB hard drive, which has a window so you can see the drive mechanics. Its apparent that the bracket is designed mainly for enthusiasts who own such a drive, but its nice for those that just want to add another drive to the case.

case top

For anyone who wants to go with water cooling, the case also has two holes on the back to route your tubes outside of the case to your reservoir or any other component that you would have externally. From my past experience with water cooling, I would think that you could easily fit an entire water cooling setup inside this case with the proper placement of all of your components.

case back

Like I mentioned earlier, the provided power supply is a full 1kW. A quick search of the UL number on the power supplies sticker, which is E166947, shows that Enhance is the company that manufactured it for Cooler Master. I haven’t seen a Cooler Master power supply made by a poor quality OEM and this is no different, Enhance has been making high quality power supplies for a long time now. Also shown on the sticker on the PSU are the amperages for all the different rails, note that it has six separate 12V rails. Four of them have 18A and the remaining two have 28A each. This is more than enough to power the best SLI rig, so if you buy this kit you won’t have to worry about having to upgrade to a better PSU. It also has a crazy amount of cables, as you saw in the specs and picture above. You shouldn’t need any power adapter cable when plugging in any of your hardware. The only exception might be Three-Way SLI or Quad-Crossfire, you may need an adapter or two to power more than two cards. Unfortunately, I don’t have a high-end SLI rig or elaborate power supply load tester to fully test the power supply. One of the most genius features about this case is that the power supply is connected to the case via a special bracket. The power supply can be removed from the case by taking the screws out that holds the bracket to the case and then you can just pull the entire unit out of the back of the chassis. This makes it much easier than laying the case down and trying to reach up past all of your components to remove the power supply. As if that wasn’t convenient enough, the bracket has extra mounting holes for the PSU, so you can mount the PSU the normal way (fan facing down) or reverse (fan facing up). This is just one more option to the many cooling solutions this case offers.

power supply out power supply closeup img_0417.jpg img_0420.jpg main power plug psu bay

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VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware
28th November 2007

NVousPC Mercury Laptop with Custom Paint Job – Review (Page 5 / Review Supplement & Conclusion)

During the process of running all these tests I kept the laptop plugged into the wall and used a Kill-A-Watt to monitor how much power it used. The laptop’s wattage usage maxed out at 57W during a run of 3DMark06 and only used 26W sitting idle. This is pretty remarkable when you consider how much performance you get out of these low power laptop components.

I would easily recommend the Mercury for anyone that needs a laptop for basic office applications, web browsing, DVD watching, and casual gaming. It’s a great mid-level machine that you can have customized in just about any possible way. This specific unit is $1,511.98 including the paint job and the shipping cost. Feel free to travel over to NVousPC now and check out the Mercury, as well as their other two models, the 15.4″ Ether and the recently announced 12.1″ Carbon.

Pros:

  • Fully customizable hardware and paint job/engraving
  • Powerful enough for multimedia and minor gaming
  • Paint job looks utterly fantastic
  • Almost 3 hour battery life playing a DVD

Cons:

  • Not for gaming enthusiasts, No dedicated graphics card
  • No HDMI or DVI video ports
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28th November 2007

NVousPC Mercury Laptop with Custom Paint Job – Review (Page 4 / Gaming)

My final two tests have nothing to do with numbers or comparison. This model isn’t really marketed for gamers as it is more for general productivity, but I thought that it would be worth looking into to see just what this laptop could play. In my past experience, I have ran Counter Strike: Source and Unreal Tournament 2004 on less powerful machines than this, so I took it up a notch. The two games that I decided to use for the gaming tests were Condemned: Criminal Origins and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl. Honestly, I didn’t think either game was going to run, at least beyond the point of being pretty rendered slideshows. Condemned came out on the original Xbox and then was ported to PC, but it is one of the hidden gems of PC gaming. The game is more atmospheric and scary than F.E.A.R. (also developed by Monolith) and actually requires a little brain power. Combined with a knock-out paranormal crime story, this game should be on your list of games to play. Anyways, after installing Condemned I set the resolution to 1280×800 and set all the details to the minimum levels. I figured the game would run, but not very well, but I was proved wrong. The game ran smooth and never really stuttered throughout the first level. The game wasn’t the prettiest it could be, but on a 14.1″ LCD, you aren’t going to really notice some of the fancier effects anyways.S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is also a fairly tense game as well, but has better graphics and huge open outdoor levels. I remember playing this when it was first released and it took a pretty powerful computer to run it reasonably well. I figured this game wouldn’t run at all, but gave it a chance for the sake of testing. I set the resolution to 1280×800 to maintain the correct aspect ratio and set everything to the lowest settings. I then went on to the first mission and waited for the level to load. It took a while for it to load since S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has some fairly expansive outdoor levels, but when it finally took me to the first level it had some unexpected results. It was obvious all the textures were turned low, but the first room you are in had great framerates and never stuttered. Once I walked out into the open world, it stuttered a bit as it was still loading the world, but after that it ran very consistent and was playable. Unfortunately, the very short draw distance required to keep up reasonable framerates was distracting as many trees that are slightly farther in the distance turn into blurry blobs that barely resemble trees. Everything else in the game looks great and I ran around the first mission shooting the enemy with zero issues. I tried increasing the draw distance a bit, but the hit to framerates was too severe to play comfortably. Still, to play a game like this with integrated graphics was way beyond my expectations.

While it did play slightly old games without a problem, you aren’t going to be able to play Crysis or Quake Wars or the like on this laptop. To give you some idea how it stacks up against the newest of games I decided to test it with 3DMark06 which is also distributed by Futuremark.

nvouspc-mercury-3dmark06.png

nvouspc-mercury-3dmark06-detailed-results.png

So, in short, even though the Mercury does not have a dedicated graphics card, it still performs very well in older games but chokes on new releases. Their is a trade off though, as integrated graphics tend to have longer battery life and run cooler over all, meaning less noise from fans and less searing heat on your lap.

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28th November 2007

NVousPC Mercury Laptop with Custom Paint Job – Review (Page 3 / Benchmarks)

The first test I ran was very simple. Windows Vista includes a basic benchmarking program which analyzes the computer and grades it on a scale of 0 through 6. The one strange thing about the Windows Experience Index (WEI) that I have an issue with is that the overall score is based off of the lowest subscore that you receive. So, a very high powered capable computer is humbled by its weakest component, even if that particular component is of little value to the user. Someone’s grandmother probably isn’t going to notice the difference between a 1 and a 6 on the gaming score. I guess it is a great way to make people feel like they need to upgrade.

nvouspc-mercury-wei-bench.png

As you can see, the NVousPC Mercury outperformed my capable mini-ITX rig in both Processor and Memory, but fell behind in graphics. Obviously, the hard drives cannot really compete as they have two different rotational speeds and interfaces. Surprisingly though, the laptop hard drive received a higher score than I had anticipated.

Next I moved onto PCMark Vantage, a general benchmarking suite developed and distributed by Futuremark to test out performance in various areas of computing.

nvouspc-mercury-pcmark-vantage-bench.png

The PCMark Vantage results are pretty much what I expected, except for the memory score. It would appear that PCMark weighs dual chanel heavily in it’s memory score, since the main difference between the memory in the laptop versus the memory in the mini-ITX rig is that the memory in the mini-ITX rig is in dual channel. It could also be the amount of memory, as the mini-ITX rig has 2GB versus 1GB on the laptop. Gaming was of course low, since it uses Intel embedded graphics. Everything that was based on the CPU was faster on the NVousPC laptop, since it is a faster CPU and a Core 2 Duo instead of the original Core Duo. Also, the desktop 7200RPM hard drive of course bested the Laptop 5400RPM drive, but not by as much as you might expect.

I then ran all the Memory and CPU benchmarks available in Everest Ultimate Edition 4.20 by Lavalys.

nvouspc-mercury-everest-ultimate-edition.png

In Everest Ultimate Edition’s memory benchmarks, it actually shows the NVousPC Mercury slightly beating the mini-ITX system. This is surprising since the mini-ITX system’s memory is running in Dual Channel. As was to be expected, the NVousPC Mercury beat the mini-ITX system in most of the CPU benchmarks.

nvouspc-mercury-everest-ultimate-edition-memory-latency.png

The memory latency test in Everest Ultimate Edition may explain why the NVousPC got a higher score on the memory benchmarks. The NVousPC has a slightly lower latency than the mini-ITX system.

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