scottburgess wrote:I build my own computers, and all the housings I use have good, removable dust filters on them. Saves a lot of time and trouble.
Scott, I build computers, too (about six per year, on average), and consider removable dust filters a double-edged sword. Even when the filters are clean, they can reduce air flow, so you may have to turn the fans up a bit to keep the system cool, which can increase noise. And the filters can get clogged with dust very quickly, which reduces air flow even more. Also, in my experience, filters don’t prevent all dust from entering the computer, so the computer still needs occasional internal cleaning—though not as frequently as if the filters were not in use.
For my own computers, I choose not to use dust filters. For the computers I build for others, this is one of the issues we discuss beforehand. If the user prefers to do frequent cleaning of filters and occasional internal cleaning, I use a case with dust filters; if the user does not want to perform frequent filter cleaning, but is OK with internal cleaning being needed somewhat more often, I use a case without filters. Most people I deal with have gone the “no filter” route. This is, I think, a TANSTAAFL
situation--we can't eliminate the dust issue, but can exercise some choice over how we prefer to deal with it.
Rylee Isitt wrote:. . . I've also found that the conductive pads placed between the CPU or GPU and heat sinks are often not very good. In some cases I've replaced them with arctic silver thermal paste and noticed, at least anecdotally, a fairly large improvement.
Rylee, I think that the paste included with at least the Intel-brand CPU fans has improved a lot in recent years. Back when it was "pad-like," replacing it with Arctic Silver thermal paste seemed to make a difference, but I’m not so sure this is true anymore (the Intel CPU fans I’ve installed in the past few years have had something more like paste, rather than a meltable pad). About four years ago, I built a pair of computers out of precisely the same components, but replaced the Intel heat sink paste in one with Arctic Silver. Testing the two machines, there was no noticeable difference. Of course, there are many brands of CPU fan other than Intel, and their heat-sink paste may or may not be as good.
It would be nice to see a feature like that in a laptop... but I expect it would be a rare feature, and there are many other considerations to make when buying a laptop for an intensive process like stacking that you may not be able to justify buying a particular model just to get an air filter in it.
Perhaps sadly, I’ve never seen a removable air filter on a laptop, and have serviced a lot of laptops. What one may be able to do (though with difficulty), when buying a laptop, is to try to purchase a model whose heat sink is easy to clean. Unfortunately, this information is not commonly found in reviews, marketing materials, or official support documentation. If the laptop model has been out for a while, a Web search on the model name and a term such as "disassembly" may bring up somebody showing how to do a tear-down. If you find that, you can look at how many steps it takes to get to the heat sink, and how difficult those steps are.
A number of Lenovo Thinkpads (once known as “IBM Thinkpads”) have impressed me over the years with their build quality, and attention to issues that most buyers wouldn’t think of. Kind of a “we do it right even where nobody looks” approach, which is singular among laptop makers, in my experience. (And the diametric opposite of Dell, which seems to have “cutting corners where people don’t look” down to a science.) A few years ago, I purchased a Lenovo Thinkpad on behalf of a client, and when I was preconfiguring it, noted that it had one more access panel than most laptops on the bottom. There is, of course, generally an access panel for installing additional RAM, and one for replacing the hard drive (which may be on the side, not the bottom). I wondered what the additional panel was for, and removed its single holding screw to find out. Good heavens, it provided instant access to the heat sink, allowing easy dust removal! Wow, somebody appeared to have engineered the machine to be easily maintained. I have since purchased several more Lenovo Thinkpads on behalf of clients, and one for myself. Not all have this access panel, but some do. Whether a particular model has it or not is difficult to determine, until one has a specimen in hand.
BTW, the absolute worst laptops I’ve seen for internal cleaning have been Toshibas. I don’t know whether their current engineering is as maintenance-unfriendly as the models I’ve seen, because my nightmarish experiences have made me refuse to consider recommending their products. Imagine a car where you need to disassemble every single component, from glovebox to engine, to change the oil—you will not be far off.