Hardware reviewer and modding messiahAsus Maximus VI Impact
I nearly needed a change of underwear when I first saw images of Asus Maximus VI Impact. Micro-ATX got the ROG treatment many years ago with the Gene series and now the form factor that’s closest to my heart finally got the recognition it deserves. The Impact is the ultimate in small form factor hardware – something enthusiasts can only have dreamed about just two or three years ago. Its discrete sound card, awesome overclocking performance and the fact that Bitspower now offers a full-cover waterblock for it too, means that if you’re looking for the ultimate mini-ITX system, this is the motherboard to buy.
The only reason I don’t own one is that I’ve already got a Core i5-3570K making an upgrade to a LGA1150 CPU plus the Impact’s asking price not really worthwhile. Of course, if one landed in my stocking, that might all change…
Lamptron CW611 fan controller
I’ve used countless manual and automatic fan controllers over the years but Lampton’s CW611 is not only ideal for water-cooled systems – it’s undoubtedly the best I’ve ever used. Part of what makes it so good is that it’s simple – of course if you want to delve into fan profile curves and oodles of detail and granularity then it might not be for you. However, as a simple button and dial device that can tie-in your fan and pump voltage based on air or coolant temperature it’s superb.
It comes with everything you need, bar adaptor cables to hook up a 4-pin molex pump to one of its 3-pin fan power headers, but the screen is great with excellent viewing angles and you can even set a target temperature with maximum and minimum voltages along with alarms for flow rate and temperatures. It has everything you need to automate your cooling system to keep it quiet whilst watching videos, working or web browsing, but ramp up your fans to deal with gaming, editing or mining sessions.
Corsair Air 540
Despite everything I wrote in my first item here, there was one full-size case we looked at this year that made me think about ditching mini-ITX and going big again. Corsair’s Air 540 is so radically different and unique-looking not to mention cheap (this is a wishlist, who cares about cheap - Ed.) and water-cooling friendly, that my mini-ITX home PC was probably quaking in its boots.
Turning up to a LAN party with one of these would turn every head in the room and building a PC into the Air 540 was an absolute dream as it was to make things tidy too. It has great air-cooling potential and the fact it costs less than £110 means that Santa can’t complain too much either.