Phenom II X4 945 and Lian Li PC-A05NB Cooling Problems

So back when I got my new computer recently, I picked up a Phenom II X4 945 chip (quad core, hence the “X4”) and a Lian Li PC-A05NB case. The case is a mini-tower that can fit ATX or microATX (my board is a micro). I’ve left in the stock fans and heatsink.

The case is weird, because the air flow is the opposite of most conventional cases (back to front):
(Image from Lian Li.)

The stock fans don’t move much air, and when you toss in power cables and a power supply, it’s (apparently) time for trouble. My idle temperatures are around 44 C, and 50-60% load (running Minecraft Server and Client, plus Firefox with my usual 20 tabs) gets up to 58-61 C very quickly.

AMD says the max temp is 62 C on the chip.

In looking to fix the problem, I’m bombarded by overclockers and outdated heatsink reviews. I don’t see anyone with this specific chip/case combo, which doesn’t surprise me, but I also don’t see a very good guide to step-by-step fixing of a heat problem like this.

Should I replace the fans first (these GentleTyphoons seem amazing) and focus on the airflow? Should I go straight for replacing the heatsink with some monstrosity? I’m not even sure something like the Noctua NH-D14 would fit in my case, but it’s awfully pretty.

It seems like the airflow is the way to start–even with a ridiculous heatsink, the heat being sunk has to go somewhere. Given the case image above, I could replace the two stock fans in the bottom-front and bottom-back, and if that’s not enough, replace the top panel with one with a fan.

My video card (an ATI Radeon 4350) has no heatsink of its own (neither does my RAM), and the airflow as it stands now in the case pushes all that hot air onto my hard drive and power supply. Exhausting into the case front seems silly–the front case cover isn’t going to be great for letting the air out, and the front-mounted power supply is probably collecting a tidy amount of heat.

Aside from the heat problems, I love the case–easy to work in, small and discrete in my bedroom-office. Is the heat problem solvable in this case?

I know a couple of folks who buy higher-end systems, but want to open this up for advice at large.


  • Hillary

    I had cooling issues with my Antec Sonata II case as well and ended up punching holes in the side panel to mount two 80mm fans (one each direction of airflow) by the gpu and cpu. I recently got a Corsair A50 cpu cooler that has done a lot to lower the core temp and stabilize my system.

    I’ve been fairly disappointed with the air flow capabilities of stock case fans – for the noise level, you can get a lot higher air flow. I can’t find the specific brand I found, but I got some Japanese fans that have 2-3 times the air flow for roughly the same dB noise output, at about $3-8/fan (by size).

    The only down side for the case-mod route is that it requires some fairly large tools – either a hole saw or a tap/die punch (I think) in a fairly large size – to make a clean cut.

    Have you tried running the system with the side off (and possibly with another room fan pointing at it)?

    • Melissa

      Running with the side off definitely helps the temperature problem. I’m running Core Temp and have a BIOS temperature warning on (so obnoxious), and opening the side (even without a fan) almost immediately stops the buzzing and drops the temperature by a few degrees. Unfortunately, the stock heatsink fan and case fans are absurdly loud (especially given the bad air flow, as you said).

      I don’t have the tools to do case mods myself, but I’m pretty sure at least one of my Boy Scout friends is likely to. When you say, “one each direction of airflow”, did you end up putting the side intake fan near your normal (back?) intake fan and the exhaust one near your normal exhaust? I figure any other way would just end up with unhelpful turbulence, but aerodynamics have never been my forté.

      • Hillary

        The two fans are roughly centered horizontally on the side panel and are in line with each other. The “top” one pulls cool room air onto the cpu cooler and the “bottom” one exhausts warm air from my graphics card out.

        Now that I’ve changed cpu coolers, I may have to rethink my setup because now the cpu cooler is moving air horizontally in regards to the mobo instead of vertically (my stock one).

        My graphics card is rather abysmally large – there’s almost not enough room in the case for it – so the reason for the exhaust fan is to extract the hot air from the cavity underneath the graphics card. I have additional front/back air flow through the case.

        I can take pictures at some point if that’d help with the diagramming. I don’t feel like I’m being very clear with directions because it’s hard to specify what the directions are in reference to. Let me know if I can clarify!

        • Melissa

          Ah, the fan configuration makes sense. Do you keep track of temperatures of your video card?

          I’ve ordered a couple of new fans to replace the existing ones. ^_^ I couldn’t find the air flow specs on the stock case fans I have, but hopefully these will be better. They’ll almost certainly be quieter.

          • Hillary

            Before I got the Corsair A50, my cpu was (normal usage) around 40-45C; since, it’s been holding steady about 30-35C.

            I don’t have the normal temps for my gpu off the top of my head; I’ll try to remember to look those up tonight when I get home.

            I used the FurMark stability test and gpu temp asymptotically approached 80C (at ~40% fan, set via RivaTuner). I don’t know if I mentioned, but I have an aftermarket cooler for my gpu (the stock one made it reboot from overheating very often) and the initial fan voltage doesn’t make the fans spin, so I have RivaTuner set them at about 50% on startup. I manually set it higher when running 3D intensive games as a precautionary measure.

  • Michael

    Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d be the best person to ask. I got sick of the heat problem which I blamed on the case ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E16811233062 ) so I made a radical change to a Cooler Master ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119160 ). I have to say that I have never had a case this large. while you know I had one that was taller, it certainly wasn’t anything like this. Oh yeah, you saw this crazy case. Well, while the new case is overkill, the temps dropped by like 25% or more of their pre-case change temps, and equally importantly, my components did not have ot go in the case one PRECISELY one order. that is, if i forgot to put the RAM in after the hard drive, but before the graphics cards, i can still fit it in there. While the Gigabyte case certainly did not purport to support 3 double graphics cards (mwah-ha-ha-ha), it did say it was atx, and i think that’s a stretch.

    Did the new fans come in? did they solve the problem?

    • Michael

      doh, i also meant to point out that this seems to be the kind of question that might have success on twitter or aardvark.

    • Melissa Avery

      The new fans did come in! I went ahead and shelled out for the Gentle Typhoons I mentioned in my post, and my temps dropped by 12 degrees across the board. The air coming out the front is cold enough that I have have to stretch my legs out to avoid the draft, because it’s cold (esp. with my house’s heater down low). The noise level is no worse, but the air flow is way up.

      Best $50 (damn shipping!) I could have spent, and I don’t need a new heatsink or case.