Cus­tomised PC

Case mods, tools, tech­niques, wa­ter-cool­ing gear and every­thing to do with PC mod­ding


Who needs power but­tons?

Last month, Sil­ver­Stone for­warded me a few of its lat­est press re­leases. Most of them cov­ered the usual plethora of PCI-E cards and other ac­ces­sories, such as SATA ca­bles, that ended up in my deleted items folder fairly quickly. How­ever, a cou­ple of items caught my eye. The first one was an M.2 ther­mal pad, which I’ll dis­cuss in a minute.

The other was its ES02-USB wire­less com­puter con­troller.

If your PC is hid­den un­der a desk, or sev­eral feet away from your chair – you’ll know that reach­ing for the power but­ton can be a right pain. If you’ve mod­ded your case, there’s an­other rea­son the power but­ton might be an is­sue; you might not want it at all, as it sticks out in the mid­dle of your awe­some paint job. Power but­tons can also in­ter­fere with ra­di­a­tors and limit the size of ra­di­a­tor you can in­stall, es­pe­cially near the front of the case.

In most cases, it’s im­pos­si­ble to mod­ify a power but­ton too; plus, even if you did re­move it, you’d be left with a gap­ing hole where it used to sit. Thank­fully, the ES02-USB can give you a way to re­move the power but­ton com­pletely, with­out los­ing its cru­cial func­tion, while also giv­ing you a much more con­ve­nient way of turn­ing on your PC. In fact, it also has a re­set con­trol as well as a power but­ton, so if you don’t need your case’s USB ports, you could do away with the whole front panel. In fact, you might not ever never need to go near your PC again.

The ES02 uses a 2.4GHz trans­mit­ter and re­ceiver that work as far as 20m away. What im­pressed me is that Sil­ver­Stone has clearly spent some time work­ing out ev­ery con­ceiv­able re­quire­ment for the ES02. It works by draw­ing power from a spare USB 2 header on your motherboard, and then con­nect­ing to your motherboard’s stan­dard power and re­set front panel pins. There’s a PCI-E op­tion too. Us­ing the ES02 doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that your case’s own power and re­set but­tons no longer work ei­ther. The ES02 has pass-through con­nec­tors that al­low both the re­ceiver and case con­nec­tors to hook up to your motherboard’s front panel pins at the same time.

One pos­si­ble is­sue is that your USB 2 header might sit next to a bunch of other com­po­nents, but Sil­ver­Stone

has thought of an idea around this is­sue, and pro­vided a multi-port adap­tor, al­low­ing you to an­gle the re­ceiver away from any com­po­nents that would other­wise pre­vent you from in­stalling it.

If you’ve built a PC be­fore then the in­stal­la­tion will be very easy. You just have to con­nect the re­ceiver to the motherboard, in­stall the in­cluded bat­tery into the trans­mit­ter and away you go. It’s a very use­ful de­vice what­ever your rea­son for ditch­ing your PC’s power and re­set but­tons, and on p106, you can see how to in­stall the ES02, as well as how to use filler to cover up your case’s front panel holes.

Can ther­mal pads make M.2 SSDs run cooler?

Sil­ver­Stone was also kind enough to send me its TP01-M2 ther­mal pad. With their su­per-fast op­er­a­tion and com­pact size, we’ve seen some PCI-E NVMe M.2 SSDs run pretty hot. In fact, West­ern Dig­i­tal re­cently told me that its new WD Black M.2 SSD’s stated per­for­mance fig­ures are very con­ser­va­tive, sim­ply be­cause the com­pany claims the drive can meet its stated speeds all the time. The drive may well hit faster peak speeds for short pe­ri­ods, but it will then get hot and be­gin to throt­tle.

Mean­while, Sam­sung’s 900-se­ries M.2 SSDs in­clude their own heatsinkbacked la­bels, and MSI and Asus have in­cluded M.2 heatsinks on se­lect moth­er­boards that make a no­table dif­fer­ence. We’ve re­cently also looked at other ways to keep your M.2 SSD cool, such as Al­pha­cool’s M.2 heatsink.

How­ever, a sim­ple ther­mal pad could of­fer a way to keep your M.2 SSD run­ning cool if Sil­ver­Stone’s M.2 ther­mal pad lives up to ex­pec­ta­tions. It works by sit­ting be­tween the SSD and your motherboard or PCI-E adap­tor card, help­ing to dis­si­pate heat away from the SSD. There are two ther­mal pads in the box, and you just need to cut them to length to suit your SSD, with sup­port for up to 110mm mod­els (for ref­er­ence, Sam­sung’s 960 Evo drives are 80mm).

There’s one small snag, though, which is that only 4mm high M.2 slots are sup­ported, which sadly rules out many moth­er­boards, es­pe­cially those with M.2 slots mounted on the top of the PCB. How­ever, Sil­ver­Stone sells com­pat­i­ble PCI-E M.2 adap­tor cards from £15, which of­fer a slot with the right height. I man­aged to find one motherboard that had a low enough slot too – Gi­ga­byte’s Z270N-Gam­ing 5, and in­deed, most moth­er­boards that mount the SSD on the rear of the PCB ap­pear to have these low-rid­ing slots too.

With the bare SSD in the slot, I fired up a com­plete run of Crys­talDiskMark and used HWiNFO64 to get a real-time mea­sure­ment of the SSD’s tem­per­a­ture. Sure enough, the tem­per­a­ture started to rise once the bench­mark started and the SSD reached a rather toasty peak of 53°C, fall­ing back to around 35°C af­ter a few mo­ments of sit­ting idle.

I then mounted the ther­mal pad, and found that even the slot on the miniITX motherboard was a lit­tle too high, but thank­fully, adding the sec­ond ther­mal pad to the equa­tion fixed that is­sue and the two pads then made fairly good con­tact be­tween the PCB and SSD.

Load­ing up Crys­talDiskMark again, this time the tem­per­a­ture peaked at just 44°C – a full 9°C cooler, de­spite the fact that the sys­tem was now warmed up. I was hon­estly sur­prised at the re­sult from such a short bench­mark that runs for less than five min­utes.

If you sus­pect that your PCI-E M.2 SSD might be throt­tling, or you plan to use it for sus­tained heavy work­loads and want to get the quick­est per­for­mance pos­si­ble, the Sil­ver­Stone TP01-M2 ther­mal pad, which re­tails for just £8 inc VAT on

www.ama­, is worth a look, es­pe­cially if your motherboard uses a rear-mounted M.2 slot.

Bear in mind that these ther­mal pads ef­fec­tively move the heat to your motherboard, though, and while we didn’t no­tice any ad­verse ef­fects on our test sys­tem, we rec­om­mend mak­ing sure there’s a rea­son­able amount of air­flow go­ing over your motherboard, just in case.

The ES02’s wire­less re­mote fea­tures both power and re­set but­tons

Power is drawn from a spare USB 2 header on your motherboard

The ES02’s ca­bles sim­ply con­nect to your motherboard’s front panel pins

They might not look like much, but these sim­ple ther­mal pads could en­able you to run a fast M.2 SSD much cooler

Up to 110mm mod­els of M.2 SSD are sup­ported, which was fine for our 80mm Sam­sung 960 Evo

In­stalling these sim­ple ther­mal pads knocked 9°C off the tem­per­a­ture of our Sam­sung 960 Evo test drive at peak load

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