PC enthusiasts already know how important proper cooling is in order to squeeze the most performance out of your rig, to the extent that they buy or build elaborately liquid-cooled setups and the hardest of hardcore overclockers try setting records with liquid nitrogen. One of the latest trends in air-based cooling (i.e., using fans to move hot air out of the chassis) is vertical cooling, which is what a couple of boutique system builders are hyping in their newest performance desktops.
The trend was introduced through cases like the Raven RV and Fortress from Silverstone, which have three huge 180mm fans at the bottom of the unit and the motherboard mounted at a 90-degree angle. These fans take in cool air and blow it upward across hot parts like the CPU and graphics cards, then that heated air is exited out of the case via a top-mounted fan.
Maingear used that approach with its Shift desktop that it introduced at the end of last year, and now Digital Storm is keeping the trend going with its Black|OPS Assassin gaming PC (pictured). In fact, the Bright Side of News goes as so far as to imply that the Assassin is a rip-off of the Shift.
Rip-off or not, the Assassin's three configurations are in the same price range as the Shift's $2,399 version. For that price, Maingear gives you an Intel Core i7-930 CPU, 6GB of DDR3 RAM, 750GB hard drive, and an ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card. For $2,387 you get a similarly configured Assassin with a smaller hard drive (500GB) but a newer graphics card (Nvidia GeForce GTX 470). Each company throws in free liquid cooling in addition to the vertical air cooling. Digital Storm claims its config can be overclocked safely to 4.4GHz.
The $2,535 Enthusiast config of the Assassin changes the graphics to the Radeon HD 5870, which is about $130 less than a similarly configured Shift (albeit with a bigger hard drive), while the Extreme version jumps up to the brand-new GeForce GTX 480 graphics card for $2,693—again, less than Maingear's Shift equivalent.
Whether the difference in price is worth it is obviously open to debate, but we can probably all agree that other gaming PC builders will be seriously considering going vertical with their next systems as well.