The Ultimate Linux Desktop
Everyone has heard about things like people being able to cook inside modern computers. If you've run into problems with intermittent crashes while playing high-end games, you also know the pain of video cards and other components that overheat. Although we would have loved a liquid-cooled box, and they will build you one, it can add more than $1,000 US to the price. Without liquid cooling, however, Puget Custom Systems still provides a machine where much thought was put into how to keep it from overheating (Figure 2).
First, there's the Swiftech MCX159-CU Chipset Cooler. It's a small heat sink and fan that is sandwiched, in this case, between the two video cards (top left). Then, there's the monster Thermalright XP-90 Heatsink with 92mm Papst Fan, which is attached to the CPU (bottom middle). This particular solution is a combination fan, a set of radiating fins and a set of heat-conducting pipes that can radiate as well. There's another fan bolted into a metal frame (upper right) to help cool the video cards as well, and there's a heat exhaust fan (bottom right) to blow hot air out of the case. Not shown in Figure 2 is another fan for air intake at the front of the case.
The case's design also helps keep the system cool (Figure 3). This Lian-Li V1000B Mid-Tower case is broken into three compartments: one for the hard drives (lower left), one for the power supply (bottom right) and then the upper compartment for the rest of the system. This breakdown creates three separate cooling zones, using small slots to pass cables through without letting too much heat travel within the machine as well.
Many spots on the outside of the case are made of a metallic mesh, allowing heat to pass through easily. You would think that such a setup would make the machine noisy, but in fact, this is a fairly quiet system, mostly because the fans are so large. The bigger the fan, the quieter it tends to be.
Within the case, as you can see in Figure 3, the cables are wonderfully managed so that the computer doesn't look like someone dropped a bunch of spaghetti into it. The hard drive is installed in the lower left, sideways so you can easily access the important areas—not to mention making it far simpler to pull a drive out or push it in without banging it against other important components.
The front panel (Figure 4) offers a power button (the big silver disc), audio jacks, two USB ports and a FireWire port. If you've ever had to crawl around under desks to get to the back of a machine just to plug in your USB thumbdrive, you know what a pain that can be. Of course, if you keep this case on the floor, you'll still have to get onto the floor to access these controls, but it's better than having to go around to the back.
On the back panel (Figure 5), you can see at the top the connectors for both video cards. Below and on the right are the 5.1 analog audio connectors, the two Gigabit Ethernet jacks, four USB ports, a FireWire port, a parallel port, PS/2 mouse and keyboard jacks, and both coaxial and optical S/PDIF jacks for digital audio and features, such as 5.1 surround sound.
One of the perhaps smallest, but most wonderful features of the case is the single screw lock mechanism for removing the side panel. You simply have to twist one large screw by hand (no tools needed) to unlock the panel and pull the panel off. That's it. Then to put it back, slide the panel into place and re-lock the screw.
You also receive a box containing all of the unused parts and bits that came with the hardware included in the machine. There's a sheet that shows where many of the components plug in to the back. There's also a sheet showing you the warranty information for any components that offer them, and this particular box came with a one-year warranty as well. In the box, I also found all of the manuals and CDs involved in the process, including a DVD of Fedora Core 5 (more about that in a moment).
This is ultimately a practical machine for today, and today's games in particular, hitting all of the best price points. However, if you are especially into games, you might prefer to push further into the bleeding edge and higher costs so you won't have to upgrade any time soon. The flexibility of Puget's customization interface—and the fact that if you ask them to add something to the machine that isn't available on their official list, they'll do so—should take care of those users.
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