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$4000 silent but small gaming pc

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February 22, 2010 2:30:33 PM

Hi

Thanks for any feedback on this post :)  I'm planning to buy/build a new computer:

Aproximate purchase date: next 4 months depending nvidia release
Budget range: $3 to $5000
Parts not required: none
Prefered website for parts: none
Overclocking: Probably not, silence is important and standard speed probably good enough
SLI: Maybe later I would prefer single GPU solution at first
Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200 24" probably 3D nvidia screen :D 
Additional comments:

Currently I have a Dell Xps 720 h2c with this hardware:
Core 2 quad cpu QX6800 8mb cache OC to 4 ghz water cooled
4 gb dual channel ddr2 800 mhz 4x1gb memory
2 x 1.5tb sata disks raid for safe storage
2 x 80gb intel x25-m gen2 ssd raid 0 for fast c: drive
2 x nvidia geforce 8800 gtx 768mb SLI
soundcard creative x-fi titanium fatal1ty champ

The xps works fine but I'm a bit dissapointed with the noise it makes (even when just
in 2d desktop mode) and the box is just too big. Also in addition to gaming I do a lot
of work in VMware so I would like to have more ram, usb3 for fast copying to portable
drives. Nvidia 3d looks cool so I'm kind of waiting for the next nvidia card but might
use the ATI HD5870 while waiting for it. Also I'm a bit tired of dell non standard
stuff so it would be nice to build something from scratch.

So what I want is a modern computer for gaming and vmware, that should be silent in 2d
mode and preferably not too loud in gaming 3d either. Ideally the box should not be
bigger than 240x500x500 mm. And I'm going to play all the new battlefield games on it
:D 

I did a lot of googling about how to water cool both the cpu and gpu cards but it seems
this is almost impossible without buying a full tower which I don't have space for :( 
Also all the maintenance looked boring. So maybe I just have to get the best case to
dampen the sounds from the grapics cards

Here is the hardware list I have found so far, please feel free to give tips about
parts that you would have chosen differently...?

cpu = Intel Core i7 Quad Processor i7-920
http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Memory = Crucial DDR3 Ballistix 1333MHz 6GB CL7 (CL7-7-7-24, 1.65v)
http://shopper.cnet.com/ram-random-access-memory/crucia...

Storage = Raid 0 2xIntel X25-M SSD 80gb gen2 250/70mb r/w
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Video = the new nvidia card when it comes or ATI HD5870 if it takes too long

Motherboard = need one with LGA1366 and USB3, these are the only two good ones I found:
ASUS P6X58D Premium X58
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU = need a quiet one with enough power and smart cables, this one looks good:
Corsair CMPSU-850HX 850W ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 2.91 80 plus silver certified modular
active pfc power supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Optical = blu-ray reader and dvd writer sounds ok, here is the only good one I found:
Lite-On iHES208 Combo Blue-Ray reader and DVD-writer with lightscribe 16x DVD+RW, 8x
BD, SATA
http://www.amazon.co.uk/LiteOn-IHES208-31-Internal-Blu-...

Cpu cooling = These seems to be the most quiet and simple but effective options in a
small case:
Corsair Hydro H50
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme w/1000rpm 16 db fan
http://www.amazon.com/Thermalright-U120E-RT-1366-eXtrem...

gpu water cooling = looks to be really difficult to achive in a small form factor
unfortunately, but maybe the best option is this one:
Koolance EXOS-2 LX External water cooling kit
http://www.xoxide.com/koolance-exos2-lx-black.html
but how much more quiet would that be on a new nvidia card compared to the stock card
and fan? my goal is not to overclock the card, just to make it quiet.

Midi tower case = I really want a smaller case than the XPS 720 h2c monster, so these
below looks kinda nice. However I'm not sure if they are quiet enough and have space
for the biggest graphics cards:
Zalman Z-Machine GT1000 Titanium
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Antec Nine hundred Two midi tower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Audio = Creative X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty champ (no choice since creative has monopoly on
EAX game sound)

Keyboard = Logitech G19 Gaming keyboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mouse = Logitech G9x Laser Mouse
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Monitor = some 120hz nvidia 3d supported monitor, didnt find a model yet

Thanks,

S













February 22, 2010 2:32:54 PM

Come back when your ready to buy. It's really hard to give advice when the whole landscape is likely to have changed by then. Since you're buying the very high end stuff, prices and products will be very different in 4 months.
February 22, 2010 2:33:58 PM

I forgot to add that I'm going to have also 2x 1.5 TB samsung disks in raid 1 for secure slow quiet storage. The ssd disks are used for fast OS booting and the most actively used games.

Related resources
February 22, 2010 2:40:41 PM

Here's about the highest end system you can get right now.

CPU: i7-920 $289
HSF: Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus $30
Mobo: Asus P6X58D Premium $310
RAM: 2x Mushkin Enhanced Redline 3x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 6 $470 after rebate
Boot Drive: Corsair 128 GB SSD $375. RAID 0 is overrated. Do you really want to double the chance of having to install everything again?
Data Drive: 3x Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $270. Faster than the 1.5 TB models
GPU: HD 5970 $650
Case: HAF 922 $90 after rebate
PSU: OCZ Z Series 850W 80+ Gold Certified $200
Optical: Pioneer Blu-ray Disc/DVD/CD Writer $220
OS (if needed): Windows 7 Pro 64-bit OEM $140

Total: $3,044. Add in the monitor(s) and keyboard/mouse. The sound card is unnecessary. Try the onboard sound first, and if you can actually tell that it's bad, get a sound card later.
February 23, 2010 2:33:38 AM

Thank you for the suggested hardware list. I might buy this hardware early and the graphics card later since I could use my existing cards while I wait for the nvidia release.

The most difficult things to choose in this build for me is the case, the memory and the cooling solution.

CPU

Intel i7-920 - this one seems to be a non-brainer, the more expensive ones doesn't seem to give any good value.
http://www.komplett.no/k/ki.aspx?sku=391447
2395 nok (1916 without tax)

CPU Cooling

Interresting CPU cooling fan solution, it looks very similar to the thermalright solution. Reviews indicate its both efficient and silent so thats excellent. It looks like some of these fan solutions are actually more quiet than some water cooling kits and still have a good performance so thats perfect, less maintenance and still silent. The cpu fan is also sold by a well known shop in Norway:
http://www.komplett.no/k/ki.aspx?sku=494649
315 nok (252 without tax)

Motherboard

Asus motherboards is known for quality so I guess that would be my personal favorite over the Gigabyte card also.
http://www.komplett.no/k/ki.aspx?sku=513211
2499 nok (1999 without tax)

Memory

The memory suggestion seems like an excellent choice, there seems to be only one store in Norway that sells them so they are a bit harder to purchase but thats the price of going bleeding edge I guess.
http://www.microplex.no/Avdelinger/Datakomponenter/Minn...
Mushkin DDR3 6Gb Redline PC3-12800 3x2048MB 1600MHz 6.8.6.24
I like the fact that these memory units seems to be automatically set to the right timings which many other memory sets have a problem with.
1675 nok (1340 without tax)
* 2 = 3350 nok (2680 without tax)

SSD

I was surprised to see that the Corsair SSD seems to outperform the intel disks, I thought intel had the best SSD. But the write cache on the corsair seems to make a big difference. I was thinking SSD disks fails less frequently than normal disks so running raid 0 was not such a big gamble (and everything important would be on the secure big disks with mirror or raid5). This corsair disk is also sold by a well known shop in Norway:
http://www.komplett.no/k/ki.aspx?sku=480644&view=detail...
Performance review:
http://www.hardwareheaven.com/reviews.php?reviewid=821&...
2950 nok (2360 without tax)

Safe storage

Having 3 1tb disks for safe storage I guess is okay if I run them in raid 5. I have no experience with intel disk controllers and raid 5 but I guess they work ok? I have only configured that on dell servers before with perc cards.
http://www.ps.no/ArtDtl.aspx?i=165775&model=
721 nok (577 without tax)
*3 = 2163 nok (1731 without tax)

GPU

The HD5970 card is nice but I'm hoping new nvidia cards are released soon. I'm a bit concerned about it being dual gpu card since I have had bad experiences with nivida dual gpu before (9800gx2 seemed to be worse than the SLI 8800gtx solution I am currently using). Many games still seem to have a problem with loading more than one gpu?
http://www.komplett.no/k/ki.aspx?sku=518528
4650 nok (3720 without tax)

Case

The case you suggested "HAF922" has some excellent functions and a nice size but I'm a bit concerned about the open design that does not seem to make it very quiet according to this test:
http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/CoolerMaster/HAF_922...
"fans are quite loud"
I guess it is possible to replace or turn off some of the fans, and it does have holes at the top so it could be used with the external Koolance solution. I guess if I used that I might be able to turn off all fans in the case but I'm not sure how efficient this solution is since its older than the new and very hot cpu's from Intel and hot new GPU cards. I'm not even sure if its quiet with a modern heat load (reviews indicate its only silent at very low fan speed setting). Also it would be better to have everything in the case. I'm not going to move it around bit it makes it more "wife friendly".
The case is sold by a well known shop in Norway:
http://www.komplett.no/k/ki.aspx?sku=461645
959 nok (767 without tax)

PSU

Very interresting CPU choice, gold certified and the brand OCZ seems to be well known. Too bad it's not modular but maybe that's not so important. This one seems to be efficent, powerfull and quiet so it's perfect.
This seems to be a new version of it that is modular?
http://www.ardata.no/PartDetail.aspx?q=p:2593058;c:36217;pl:1
OCZZ850M-UN
1897 nok (1518 without tax)

Optical

I have not been able to find a norwegian shop yet for the Pioneer BDR-205BKS unit, looks like a good choice though.

OS

Licensing I get from work for free so I will use Win7 x64 ultimate.

Soundcard

Yes I agree maybe it is not necessary, the only real reason to buy creative is because they own EAX environment sound system. I'm not really happy with creative hardware and driver quality so maybe I will skip it if new games dont use EAX so much.


Total build price in NOK:

Component Price Price without tax
Cpu 2395 1916
Cpu Cooling 315 252
Motherboard 2499 1999
Memory 3350 2680
SSD 2950 2360
SafeStorage 2163 1731
Gpu 4650 3720
Psu 1897 1518

Sum 20219 16176

Converted to USD:
3 427 usd inc tax
2 751 usd exl tax

(without blue-ray, mouse, keyboard, monitor, soundcard and OS)

Probably better than the Dell Xps 730?
February 23, 2010 4:59:09 AM

If you truly want a silent gaming machine, then you need to consider a passively cooled video card. The best for far is a passively cooled HD 5750. That's it.

You also need a to passively cool your CPU as well which means you need a CPU that does not generate too much heat. The i7-920 generate a decent amount of heat.


Are you seriously looking to build a silent PC or merely a quiet one????
February 23, 2010 11:58:56 AM

The HAF isn't too loud. That was mostly a build I copied from another high budget thread as an expample.

That PC would beat anything out there. A couple of notes on what you asked or commented:

PSU: Modular is becoming unnecessary. A lot of high end cases (and some low end) have move the PSU mount to the bottom of the case. In this setup, the extra cables sit at the bottom of the case, and are already out the way. Thus, you don't actually have to remove them anymore.

Optical: That was also an example. If you don't plan on burning BluRay discs, you don't need it. You can just get any SATA DVD burner instead.

A site you might want to check out on is SilentPCReview.com. It's a review site that focuses a lot on building quiet PCs. Look up a large, quiet case on there and substitute it for the HAF 922. I say large because the HD 5970 (and whatever nVidia release in an attempt to compete) is around 13" long. Not many smaller cases can fit it. The HAF is probably the only "mid-tower" that can...
February 25, 2010 9:32:02 PM

Thanks a lot.

Like I said earlier the goal here is a smaller more quiet computer than the current model Xps720 h2c with SLI nvidia 8800 gtx but with more modern features and better performance. A nice challenge I guess? :) 
I think it would be more interresting to build one than buy a new Xps 730, also gives more options.

However as you said it's not easy to fit todays cards in a midi tower which is maybe the biggest problem. I am going to build two computers and I might opt for a more quiet smaller graphics card in one of them, maybe I will give up midi tower for the other and go full size then I will also have space in future for a water cooling project or SLI cards.

The Antec P194 Advanced has gotten great reviews but it's really big at 590 x 205 x 514 mm - still smaller than the Xps 720 though (615x218x571 mm), or would you recommend another box if I go full size?

The placement of PSU in HAF and many other details looks very smart and tempting to have :)  Cables would be much easier to handle that way I guess. Before in my XPS 720 the hardisk slots were located directly below the 1000W psu with no air cooling (only water cooling for cpu, no other fans) and those are the hottest harddisks I have ever touched, not a good design.

Don't know if I really need a blue-ray burner but woud like to have dvd writer + blue-ray reader combo. Will use one of the computers for movie playback also.

Didn't know that site will check it out now. Before I always bought brand computers like Dell so I'm new to the scene :)  Most hardware I have worked on is dell servers.



March 8, 2010 1:20:44 PM

well after googling a lot and reading feedback from here and other forums I have ordered components for the first test build:

Motherboard: Asus p6x58d premium
CPU: Intel Core i7 930 2.8ghz
CPU cooler: Corsair H50 cwch50-1 (water cooler)
Memory: Corsair dominator 12 gb (6x2) cmd12gx3m6a1600c8 (could not find the muskhin memory in normal stores)
Case: Antec Performance One P183 Advanced
PSU: Antec CP850
Dvd: LiteOn iHES208-31
For storage I use my existing intel gen2 SSD and 2 x 1.5tb samsung disks. I also have a creative card that I might use or not use.

I also bought some extra fans in case I need to replace the Antec case fans to make it more quite, it was a bit hard to find these in normal shops here so I ended up buying some different ones then I can find out what works later:

Fans:
2 x Noctua NF-S12B ULN - case fan - 120
2x Nexus 120mm PWM Real Silent Case fan D12SL-12 PWM
2 x Nexus 120mm Real Silent Case fan D12SL-12 BW
2 x Scythe S-Flex SFF21D case fan

I think the Scythe S-flex is supposed to be a type that's better for top mounting (horizontal)? I'm not going to be using all these fans for this build, just want to find the best combination.

Also I have understood that there is basically 4 different ways to control fans and I'm not sure which one I will use yet:

1.static setting (like with the antec fans that follow the case with low/med/high setting)
2.static setting with volt regulators
3.software controlled (based on motherboard temperature readings?) speedfan?
4.hardware controlled with scythe kaze server or something like that

After reading about a lot of cases the Antec case seemed to be the only "small" case that has focus on noise dampening and still space for a long 13.5" graphics card (removing drive bay in middle). Most other cases seems to be focused on extreme overclocking or such. The Lian Li cases did not look like they were quiet to me? I also wanted something with good build quality.

The hardest choice was to go for Antec P183 or the cool silverstone fortress ft02. But since the silverstone was so much larger I chose the Antec for now, also I did not find any review that could tell me if one was on average more quiet/efficient cooling than the other (with a normal gamer setup with 3 harddisks, ATI/nvidia gamer card and battlefield running). In the future I might have more than one graphics card I'm still waiting to see what the new nvidia cards brings to the table, until they arrive I will use a single ATI HD5870.

In the end I chose the Corsair water cooler for the cpu, most review indicated this was as quiet as the best fan coolers (thermalright extreme or megahelms) but with better cooling performance. Also the size is much smaller than the big cooling towers of the other solutions. The incorrect direction of the fan on the H50 raditor might be a problem I guess but maybe the top fan in the case helps with that...

I'm not sure if I in the future will overclock the cpu or just buy a new one with 6 cores maybe... more cores might have a better effect on vmware usage but most games does not scale well on cores yet.

I have only received the case so far and it was funny to see how small it was compared to the old XPS 720 h2c since its basically going to be doing exactly the same thing as the old box does. I also did some performance testing on the XPS and in 3dmark06 the SLI vga cards reaches 85 degrees there and the cpu reaches all the way up to 101 degrees and smells like burning which cant be good (3,7 ghz oc). Without OC the dell water cooling manages to keep it quiet and cool at 60 degrees though (qx6800 cpu).
!