Editor’s opinion: I’ve long been obsessed with taking something ordinary and making it as good as possible. Maybe that’s why I focused so much on PC hardware and overclocking for many years. The idea of leveraging low- or mid-range hardware to rival or even outperform a top-tier component has always been an enticing proposition, and one that starts with proper cooling. When I stumbled across this YouTube video about “fixing” PC cooling, I knew it would be right for me and maybe for you too.
A lot has changed in the desktop PC sector since I was heavily active in the scene many years ago. Optical drives actually no longer exist, leading case manufacturers to completely remove 5.25-inch drive bays from cases. Likewise, storage drive bays are no longer nearly as common or plentiful as they once were. These two changes alone freed up a lot of space and paved the way for further changes.
Aesthetically speaking, modern cases are far more pleasing to the eye than old steel towers full of drive bays and tangled cables. The airflow is also less restrictive, but as shown in a recent Optimum project, it can be a lot better.
To get to the point, the YouTuber optimized the airflow in his NZXT H5 case by directing the air directly from the source – the intake fans – to the targets – the CPU and GPU. This isn’t a wild new concept, as enthusiasts have been experimenting with fan shrouds, vents, ducts and side fans for decades. However, the difference between then and now is that we have far more advanced tools such as 3D printers.
Essentially, Optimum worked out the optimal way to get fresh air to its destination with minimal restrictions, using Fusion 360 CAD software and a 3D printer to spit out custom intake and exhaust ducts. He stuck with the stock RTX 4090 heatsink, but opted for the absolutely massive one Assassin IV from DeepCool for the CPU.
The end result is something you’ll either love or hate, aesthetically speaking. The pipes look like an abstract work of art and take up most of the interior space. If you’re the type of person who likes looking at bare circuit boards, this probably isn’t your thing.
The results speak for themselves. In the test, the GPU temperature in Cyberpunk 2077 dropped by around 8 °C, even with a lower fan speed. The temperature of the card’s onboard memory dropped by 10°C. After some optimizations (adjusting the inlet/exhaust orientation and playing with fan speeds), the CPU temperature also dropped by 10°C. The latter changes increased the GPU temperature by around two degrees, but is still 6 degrees C lower than stock.
As an optimal highlight, the biggest drawback is that the setup is unique to this particular hardware configuration. To use it in another system you would have to redesign everything from scratch. But that’s the great thing about PC building: the number of combinations possible when putting together your own PC rig is virtually endless, allowing you to choose exactly what you want based on a number of factors like price, compatibility, performance, etc. cooling etc.
Optimum’s work also shows that cooling the standard case still allows a lot of performance and that additional fans and mesh inserts are not always the best solution.