$1,200 Quiet, reliable work horse.

I'm looking to build a new system that will be on all the time. I need it to be quiet (30db or so) and not too power hungry. I don't game often so that's a lower priority.

Approximate Purchase Date: December 2012

Budget Range: $1,200

System Usage from Most to Least Important: file serving, email, office apps, flash games, older DX9 and DX10 games, newer DX11 games

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS

Preferred Website(s) for Parts:

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: by brand or type : no preference

Overclocking: Maybe. I've always overclocked in the past, but I need to know the power impact.

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200

Additional Comments: I don't plan to ever crossfire. I do plan to add more storage later when prices get more sane.

Here's what I'm thinking:

$200 Intel i5-2500k CPU
$35 Hyper 212 EVO CPU cooler
$125 ASRock extreme3 Gen3 Z68 motherboard
$50 8GB PC1600 RAM (whatever is on sale that will fit)
$110 Fractal Design Define R3 case
$125 Seasonic SS-560KM 560W 80Plus gold power supply
$240 Radeon 6950 1GB card
$210 Crucial m4 120GB SSD

$1,095 total. Less with rebates

Can you overclock the 2500k so that it can still use the power saving states when idle? The guides I've seen say to disable power saving and I'd like to keep that on. If I can't overclock without screwing up the power management, I'd probably go with a i5-2400 and the stock cooler.

Is there a quieter cooler I should go with?

Any recommendations on RAM? I was just going to look for low profile RAM on sale over the next month.

I'm not sure which card is best. I think the 6950 is what I want and based on Tom's review of the 5 1GB cards, the HIS IceQ X would suit me. Any reason to go team green here? Have there been any benchmarks for GPU flash acceleration?

There are cheaper SSDs, though reliability is important here. The egg usually has a Sandforce 120GB drive for $150. That might be too good to pass up.

Thanks for your help.
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More about quiet reliable work horse
  1. Dealing with the CPU noise is easy. The loudest part of the system will be the GPU. Powercooler has a passive cooled 6850. Another option would be to wait for 28nm cards to come out...Is your Dec 2012 Build date accurate or do you mean 2011?
  2. Best answer
    pdxtai said:
    Can you overclock the 2500k so that it can still use the power saving states when idle? The guides I've seen say to disable power saving and I'd like to keep that on. If I can't overclock without screwing up the power management, I'd probably go with a i5-2400 and the stock cooler.

    Turning the power features off is optional. I did not and OCed my 2500K to 4.8GHz and when it is idle it is running at ~ 1.6GHz on speedstep. OCing does screw up speedstep a bit as it seems it will only be in idle state or full on state (4.8GHz), nothing inbetween. Normal speestep will ramp it up or down by around 100MHz increments depending on the load from what I saw through CPU-Z when setting up my rig.

    pdxtai said:

    Is there a quieter cooler I should go with?

    The noise level of the cooler will be dependent on the fan it's paired with. These 2 should be pretty quiet out of the box with the scythe most likely being the quieter solution.

    Gelid Tranquillo -
    Scythe SCMG-3000 -

    pdxtai said:

    Any recommendations on RAM?

    Since you are trying to get it to consume as little power as possible go for low voltage DDR3 G.Skill sniper series

    pdxtai said:

    the HIS IceQ X would suit me

    Built my roommate a PC with the His IceQ X Turbo X 6950 1GB and I cannot hear it at all. Going for the passively cooled yet lower powered GPU is also a great option, especially if gaming isn't high on the TO DO list.

    A huge factor in deciding the quietness of your PC however is the case. You want thicker steel 0.8mm-1mm, front intake & rear exhaust fans ONLY, no side window, 120mm-140mm case fans to move more air with less RPMs and fans designed to move more with less decibels & a case with sound damping inside.

    ATX mid-tower cases to consider:

    Antec Solo (I use this and it is very quiet only drawback is the intake fans are 2x92mm instead of one 120m) -

    Antec Solo II (has 120mm fans all around) -

    The antec's also have mounting systems for hard drives that do not transfer any mechanical vibration through the case.

    COOLER MASTER Sileo 500 -

    COOLER MASTER Silencio 450 -

    The one I built my roommate is in the Sileo 500 and I'd say my antec solo is a little quieter but I got him higher performance case fans.

    For case fans I would recommend:

    Scythe slipstream (this is a full list they come in different speeds hence different noise levels, 800-1,600RPM being optimal for CFM/noise ratio) -

    Antec tri-cool (3 speed settings) -

    Aerocool shark -

    and the Scythe Gentle Typhoon which is currently unavailable at newegg but can be found on various sites around the net for about $15 a pop.

    EDIT: Don't forget a good quality 500W-600W PSU. Something Seasonic, Antec, XFX, Thermaltake or Corsair should do nicely and not be noisy.
  3. Thanks etk and domiyon,

    I do intend to buy Dec 2011. Just getting ahead of myself. I'd rather not wait.

    I've been trying to get a clear answer about how speedstep works with overclocking. Yours is the first that explained it. Does speedstep change the CPU voltage when you OC?

    Any issue with the Fractal define R3 case? The Solos are good cases, but I though a bottom mounted PSU was better for noise. I'll have to take another look at the Solo II.

    Is there any way to be sure that these huge heat sinks will fit in a particular case?
  4. At least in my case I didn't have to give it more than stock voltage to achieve 4.8GHz, you can either let the board monitor voltage as poart of speedstep or just set it manually in the UEFI and it should adjust at idle for the lower clock speed.

    As far as the case I haven't heard anything poor about it.

    As for huge heatsinks they will fit practically any ATX tower as they are usually pretty wide due to 5.25" drives being horizontal. If you were trying to get something space saving that mounted it veritcally and was slim that can be a problem. The only other time you might run into an issue is if you have a fan duct on the side door over where the CPU socket is.
  5. Best answer selected by pdxtai.
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