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.amazon.co.uk, 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