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Silent non-gaming WQXGA build

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April 24, 2012 5:56:40 AM

Greetings!

I'm trying to put together a very quiet home computer to be used with my 30" Apple Cinema Display, but not for gaming. My first build, after always buying prebuilt machines. It doesn't have to be perfectly silent, but I want it as quiet as possible without it being a production environment-type rig. Any good natured advice is welcome - thanks in advance! ~adam

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Approximate Purchase Date: this week

Budget Range: $800-$1000 Before Rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: surfing the internet, writing, watching HD movies, office applications, programming

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS, webcam, 1 TB storage 7200 RPM HD

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: Low power CPU and cooler, fanless PSUs and GPUs, quiet fans, quiet cases, RAID 0 SSDs, future upgrade-ability, Mushkin out of interest to keep at least some computer money in the US

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 2560x1600

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Newegg Wishlist:
http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx...

I have a total 2 combo deals and 1 promotional code for a total of $32 off that ends in 3 days (factored into prices below). With the additional discounts in mind, the subtotal is $914.45 pre shipping and tax, $999.17 with shipping and tax. There are $30 worth of rebates as well.

Notes: The two additional fans are to replace the one in the CPU cooler and be a second for the cooler for push/pull, as I read of noise complaints about the stock fan on the Cooler Master heatsink. The SSDs would be in a RAID 0.

LITE-ON DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model iHAS124-04 - OEM
Item #: N82E16827106289
$17.99

2 OKGEAR 18" SATA 6 Gbps Cable, Straight to Left Angle W/ Metal Latch, Black, Backward Compatible 3 Gbps and 1.5 Gbps
Item #: N82E16812123282
$9.58
($4.79 each)

Corsair Obsidian Series 550D Black Aluminum / Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Item #: N82E16811139012
$15.00 Mail-in Rebate Card
$129.99 (with $10 off promotion)

SAPPHIRE Ultimate 100326UL Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card
Item #: N82E16814102950
$15.00 Mail-in Rebate Card
$99.99

KINGWIN STR-500 500W ATX 12V v2.2, EPS 12V v2.91 and SSI EPS 12V v2.92 SLI Ready 80 PLUS PLATINUM Certified Modular Active ...
Item #: N82E16817121083
$159.99

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM
Item #: N82E16835100007
$9.99

2 GELID Solutions FN-PX12-15 120mm Case Fan with Intelligent PWM control
Item #: N82E16835426015
$26.98
($13.49 each)

2 Mushkin Enhanced Chronos MKNSSDCR60GB 2.5" 60GB SATA III Asynchronous MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Item #: N82E16820226247)
$159.98
($79.99 each)

ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Item #: N82E16813157271
+
Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model 996995
Item #: N82E16820226191
$156.98 combo (including $12 off for combo)

Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I32120
Item #: N82E16819115077
+
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel ...
Item #: N82E16835103065
$142.98 combo (including $10 off for combo)
April 24, 2012 9:59:45 AM

In a non-gaming rig the two largest sources of noise are always going to be the CPU cooling and PSU. here is a good reference site for info:
http://www.silentpcreview.com/

I think the 6670 is a bit overkill for what you are going to do.

Rather than pick apart the build I'll present another build. I like a quiet computer as well, but I game and so the best way for me to achieve that is water cooling. You might benefit from some simple water cooling, and it looks like we can squeeze it in.


I haven't compiled a program in 19 years, but I'm guessing it's not a computational challenge on modern hardware, and not something you are doing a lot of anyway.


Here's a video of a similar but noisier rig... if you pay attention as the camera moves around you will discover much of the noise is coming from the GPU.
Fractal Arc mini with H100 push/pull
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp6r4QRmIXE

With the quiet fans you would get with this build this would be very quiet indeed.

  • Fractal Design Arc Mini Black High Performance PC Computer Case w/ USB 3.0 and 3 Fractal Design Silent Fans
  • ZALMAN MFC1 Plus-B Black 6 Channel Multi Fan Controller
    Control the 4 PWM fans on the radiator.
  • XFX HD-645X-ZQH2 Radeon HD 6450 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready Low Profile Ready Video Card
    Fanless video card that will do everything you need.
  • XFX Gift
  • SeaSonic X series SS-400FL Active PFC F3 400W ATX12V Fanless 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
    More than enough power for this build. No fan. Seasonic quality.
  • Arctic Silver CMQ2-2.7G Céramique 2 Tri-Linear Ceramic Thermal Compound - OEM
    AS5 is old school :)  It is still good, but it has a 200+ hour cure time and ceramique has none, and is electrically non-conductive, and lasts longer... with the same temps.
  • G.SKILL Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-1600C9D-8GAB
  • ASRock H77M LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
  • Intel Core i5-2400S Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz (3.3GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 65W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 ...
    A little more CPU than you planned, but see the note after.
  • 4x ARCTIC COOLING AF12PWM 120mm Case Fan
  • CORSAIR H100 (CWCH100) Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler
    This is a safe, hassle-free way to get great quiet cooling. Place 4 fans in a push/pull config, at 800 RPM, and it's dead quiet.
  • Intel 520 Series Cherryville SSDSC2CW120A310 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - OEM Don't use two SSD where one will do. Pick a high reliability one and have peace of mind.
    TOTAL: $953.86

    OK so here's the thing. You really should wait for an Ivy bridge CPU if possible... it will plug right into this build as I have configured it. They were officially released yesterday but not on the shelf yet. i5 3550S perhaps:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ivy-bridge-benchmar...
    April 24, 2012 7:13:22 PM

    recon-uk - Thanks, hadn't seen that one yet!

    Proximon,

    Wow, thank you so much!! I've been scouring much of silentpcreview.com although I find they don't seem to have the latest reviews in some of the departments which has been frustrating. The Fractal Arc Mini case is much quieter than the 550D? I do like the smaller form factor. Also, any reason not to get the quieter Define Mini? I like the clean look to it, and with the components I'm looking at the less optimized airflow shouldn't be a huge problem I imagine in keeping things quiet, right?

    Is there any way to avoid having to use a fan controller, and have a system that automatically adjusts and is pretty consistently quiet? I was hoping to have a system I wouldn't have to adjust much after the initial creation, but since this will be my first system I don't know if any automatic fan controller are necessary. I'd be paranoid that I'd turn the fans down too low and the system might overheat. But if it's something I can set pretty much once and then ignore, I'd be interested.

    In regards to the 4 fans, do they replace the case fans or the fans that come with the H100?

    The cut to the GPU is awesome, thanks! I'll take your word that a cheaper and lower powered PSU will work, the other one is out of stock anyway. Using the newer/cheaper/smaller MB works for me - less DIMM slots, but I imagine when I need to upgrade past 8GB of RAM, that two 8GB sticks will be pretty cheap. And thanks for the thermal compound tip!!

    I understand in regards to the CPU that that i5s are amazing... but there really is nothing I'll be doing that will be drawing that much of the CPU. Very very little encoding, graphic work, or anything with a lot of number crunching (the programming will be extremely hobbiest/minimal) or anything optimized for multiple cores. The i3 2100 benchmarks against the i5 2400 I've seen don't really justify the extra $75 - but I do like the idea of upgrading to the 2014 chips if it still fits in the MB. And I'd have to wait several months for the Ivy Bridge i3s, most likely. Does that make sense, or do you see it truly as a missed opportunity? Will the prices on Sandy Bridge i3s or I5s go down significantly if I wait a few weeks? $150 for a processor is about all I'd want to spend, but I'd prefer closer to $115 for an i3 on sale as I've got going through combo deals.

    As for the cooling - liquid cooling interests me, but could I get away with the H40 or H60 if I keep the i3 chip? The H100 seems excessive for the low powered and relatively cool CPU system. I read that the H60 works real nicely in the Define Mini.

    After looking at the Mushkin SSD reviews more closely, there were quite a few duds, and the Intel one seems much more reliable. But would there be no 60GB SSDs for a RAID 0 that you might recommend for $160ish? A quick boot and the quick load times for apps that a RAIDed fast SSD setup would afford would be significant over a single SSD, wouldn't it? I also noticed that Intel has the tech built into these lastest MBs that I can use part of an SSD to optimize the use of a traditional HDD, but I'm wary of that as I'd rather my 1 TB HDD just be used for storage/backup.

    Also, any red flags on using Mushkin RAM over G.skill? Supposed to have a lifetime warranty and be pretty well rated

    I appreciate all of your assistance (to you and whoever else might chime in)!!
    Related resources
    April 24, 2012 9:52:17 PM

    I find the Arc mini has better reviews over all. Honestly, I haven't had my hands on either, something I like to do before recommending. Antec had a very nice little case, very expensive, not sure if it's still around...

    Antec Mini P180
    http://www.axiontech.com/prdt.php?item=83617
    It has no USB 3.0 ports though. And this seller, I have no idea about.

    I will say that any case that will fit the right cooling will work. You don't need a quiet case if the parts are already silent. I just sold my old Tj09 that was in perfect condition and set up for a dual rad on top... It was beautiful and very quiet, but cases like that are out of your price range.

    Any fan controller can be ignored after the initial adjustments. It's as much about cable management as it is control. You can buy 800 or 1200 RPM fans that don't need adjusting... but most of them are cheap. I have used these extensively. They are cheap and completely silent BUT they get noisy after a year or two and must be replaced:
    http://www.jab-tech.com/YATE-LOON-120mm-Case-Fan-D12SL-...

    Yes, the fans are to replace the fans on the radiator. You might also use these
    http://www.xoxide.com/scythe-gentle-typhoon-120mmfan.ht...

    Skipping a fan controller? Then use this:
    http://www.performance-pcs.com/catalog/index.php?main_p...

    On the CPU and GPU, I had considered a Llano for you, but they really aren't very efficient with the power. There IS one IB dual core supposedly coming out... VERY low power, called I think 3470T or some such. yes, most sites aren't reporting it, but a few are... look at the chart midway here
    http://www.techspot.com/review/523-ivy-bridge-intel-cor...

    I realize you don't need more processor now, but you will at some point. After building PCs for 20 years, I'm very certain that more CPU than you need is never a bad thing. Wasting money on an overpriced CPU is of course bad, but that's not the case here.

    Unless something has changed, you cannot have TRIM and raid 0. This means that your raid 0 will degrade over time until it becomes too slow.

    The idea behind the H100 is to spread the cooling surface out so that you use lower RPM fans to the same result. Single enclosed liquid rads like the H60 cool no better than air coolers and are just as loud while doing it.

    My second recommendation would be the Noctua air cooler:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    But it's so big and there are a lot of complications with RAM heatsinks and such.

    I'm good with Mushkin or Corsair RAM for support. Just get 1.5V.
    April 25, 2012 6:36:29 AM

    I've checked around all the micro ATX cases I could find, and in regards to style and (reported) function the Fractal Mini series wins, even over the beautiful mid tower ATX Corsair Obsidian 550D. Thanks for finding that for me!

    I think what I'll try cooling wise is to buy the case with the two fans, the cheaper but highly rated Cooler Master 212 Evo CPU air cooler (ditching the loud fan it comes with for a quiet PWM), and one or two other fans and see how it sounds without any management of the fans. My problem with the fan controller you recommended is that it would prevent me from closing the Define Mini door... do you know of any good fan controls if I end up needing them that would fit elsewhere?

    Also, would replacing the stock fans, and all other fans, with PWM fans work as an alternative to the 1-2 year lifespan ones you mentioned? Such as this one:

    GELID Solutions FN-PX12-15 120mm Case Fan with Intelligent PWM control
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    From what I could tell, I'd have to plug all such fans into the motherboard directly for them to benefit from intelligent speed adjustments... as far as I could tell there are three fan ports on the MB. Is this accurate? Would I be able to plug more than that in, or is there a device I'd have to purchase to use multiple "smart" fans?

    The case itself comes with a PCI fan controller that can manage up to three... so the stock two and then one more. If I had two on the heatsink plugged into the MB and then three into the PCI fan controller, might that work? If I turn the fans down too low, will the system crank the fans up to a higher setting before things overheat? Sorry for the simple questions - I don't have my brain fully wrapped around cooling options.

    I almost choose the highest end Llano, but I was just so disappointed in their processor performance. A discrete GPU just seemed to make so much more sense. I think I'll wait until I hear what processors are available at the end of the month IB-wise, but I'm still leaning towards the i3 considering my low CPU requirements. Although an extra $50-$75 now instead of $150 to $200 in a couple years does sound appealing - but I'll probably want to spend that much in a couple years anyway with the latest and greatest technology available. Something to think on, certainly.

    Thanks for the note on the RAID - I read up on it, and you're absolutely right. Saved me a headache there!
    April 25, 2012 8:25:26 AM

    That's probably a good fan for the usage. Pushing air through a radiator is different than pushing air through a case. Hydro Dynamic bearings seem good, but the fin design seems a bit old school.

    Bitfenix has some interesting fans out, as does Enermax.

    I'm going to dump my personal shopping links for you. I have dealt with most or all of these at one time or another, and they are good. Sometimes they have better fan prices than newegg.


    http://www.frozencpu.com/ Huge selection, poor prices.
    http://www.newegg.com/
    http://www.performance-pcs.com/catalog/index.php?main_p... A favorite of many
    http://www.jab-tech.com/ Often cheap fans here and other things, not a large selection
    http://www.petrastechshop.com/ A small shop good for Swiftech stuff.
    http://www.koolertek.com/ Some good parts not found elsewhere.
    http://www.amazon.com/
    http://www.xoxide.com/index.html?location=topnav Lots of case modding stuff

    There are internal fan controls. There are even PCI cards that power fans and controlled with software. Or you can get a touch screen fan controller with no knobs... Or there is even a slider controller!
    http://www.performance-pcs.com/catalog/index.php?main_p...

    Example of an in-line controller
    http://www.performance-pcs.com/catalog/index.php?main_p...

    Between the case and the MB you may well have enough controllers, since you aren't doing the H100 thing to start.
    April 25, 2012 10:58:37 PM

    Thanks again Proximon! I appreciate the links!! And recon-uk, thanks for the recommendation!

    I think I've settled on getting 5 Nexus BASIC D12SL-12 120mm Case Fans, and not even using the Fractal Design ones that come with the case, and two of the PWM Arctic Cooling fans you recommended for the heatsync. Any red flags I raise by doing so?

    Could I please get some feedback on my proposed fan arrangement? Please excuse my poor "illustration" below, it is an attempt to depict the case open looking in, with the front of the case on the right and the back to the left.

    |---4-------|
    |............C|
    |5..6........|
    |....7......1|
    |............2|
    |---3------|

    Two Nexus fans will be at position 1 and 2, pulling air in from the front of the case through the side vents (the door will be closed 99% of the time). One Nexus fan would be at position 3, pulling air in from the bottom of the case. Two nexus Fans will be in position 4 and 5, pushing air out the back and top.

    Two PWM Arctic Cooling fans would be attached to the CM 212 Evo, 7 pulling in air from the bottom, and 6 pushing air towards the top. (Edit: Realized I could orient the heatsink fans up/down instead of front/back to save myself a hassle of my RAM potentially not fitting, so I plan to do so.)

    The NZXT Sentry Mesh Fan Controller (on my "map", it's labeled C) would control fans 1 through 5, and the motherboard would control 6 and 7 through the BIOS.

    This is my first time designing such a layout (and it will be my first PC build), so please excuse any mistakes. For those coming into this discussion late, the setup will be in a Fractal Define Mini case with an Micro ATX Asrock H77M mobo, CPU is a i3 2120 (or possibly an IB i5, waiting until they are sold in stores before purchasing anything), the SeaSonic 400W Gold rated PSU is fanless, the XFS 6450 GPU is fanless, it's got 8GB of 1600 RAM, running off of a 120 GB Sandforce SSD (with a single 7200RPM HDD for backup/storage), and it'll have a DVD burner.
    April 26, 2012 6:32:51 AM

    Quote:
    Proximon, would you recommend Arctic Silver Ceramique or MASSCOOL G751 Shin-Etsu?

    Don't hijack threads, but I'll answer one question. Ceramique for beginners because it's more forgiving. Shin-etsu if you are a serious overclocker that needs every .5C you can get. If you are in between, whatever you like.


    Adama, the cooling is perfect and probably way overkill :)  You'll probably end up disabling a few fans and saving them.
    April 26, 2012 6:53:54 AM

    That's fine. I had forgot I made any TIM recommendation in the thread ;) 
    April 26, 2012 8:30:52 AM

    Excellent - thanks Proximon!! Out of curiosity, which fans are less necessary? Considering I'll have the two Fractal Design 120mm as spares (they should be perfectly good, but I thought I'd be consistent with the non PWM fans), which ones do you think I could get away with disabling? Not having to buy the extra ones does sound appealing if you think I won't use them.

    Diagram A:

    |---2------|
    |..............|
    |....3........|
    |....4........|
    |..............|
    |---1------|

    In this up/down setup, do you think I might have enough cooling, and could just have 4 Arctic Cooling PWM fans (two four pin fan connectors on the mobo, each split with a PWM Y cable? Fans 3 and 4 would be attached to the heatsink.

    Or an front/back setup, as so:

    Diagram B:

    |-----------|
    |..............|
    |2..34......|
    |............1|
    |..............|
    |-----------|

    Same as above, with 3 and 4 being attached to the heatsink (and running front to back instead of up and down).

    Lastly, a combination of the two:

    Diagram C:

    |-----------|
    |..............|
    |2..3........|
    |....4......1|
    |..............|
    |-----------|

    1 and 2 pushing and pulling front/back, and the heatsink fans pushing and pulling up/down.


    Of course, there's no harm in going overboard I suppose as my original idea...
    April 26, 2012 9:40:02 AM

    I'm thinking you are going to want B, but with that bottom fan added. Play around with it. Keep an eye on CPU temps with Real Temp or Hardware Monitor, and if you have a cheap little infrared gun measure the exhaust temp from the PSU grill.

    If you were only going to use 4 total fans, A would be best.

    I think the second fan in the front is the least needed, as they are somewhat restricted by the drive cages.
    April 27, 2012 12:54:27 AM

    Thanks again Proximon!! I really appreciate all your time on this! I'm confident that these will be my last questions on this build for you... all that's left otherwise is to buy and try it all out!

    I was reading on airflow, and that it's good to have a stronger fan/weaker fan combination in regards to pulling in/out air. Is that is true, setting certain fans higher than other through a controller should accomplish that, right? And for a single fan attached to a heatsink, is it better to be pushing air through or pulling air through?

    Whatever fan arrangement I choose, I'll be watching the temps closely. I think I might even be obsessive and try all of the configs, check the stats, and then implement the one that stays the coolest. Also, the upper drive cage can (and will) be removed, so I can pull in air through there without obstructions.

    If you can recommend a good 3pin quiet 120mm fan between $10-$15 (as I'll be buying 5 of em) that doesn't have any LEDs and is either all black or black and white, please do. I'm not so sure about the Nexus ones, but I'll use them in a pinch if I don't find anything better.

    All of your help has been astounding, and I feel like I really have a good feeling about my first computer build! But otherwise I think I'm good to go here... I'll see if any deals pop up between now and next week with IB, but otherwise I think I'm pretty much ready to purchase. It's a tweaked version of all of your recommendations. The case is the same (albeit the version with a door), I got the "Pro" model of the same mobo (4 DIMM/SATA3 slots), I chose Mushkin products out of a stubborn attempt at doing some "Made in the USA" shopping, and I picked the i3 over the i5.

    http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx... (plus 5 fan slider controller from Amazon)
    April 27, 2012 7:47:39 AM

    I don't have any monopoly on air flow knowledge, I can only give you my own opinions.

    If all your air flow was controlled by fans, having one more intake fan than exhaust would be ideal. However, this rarely happens as there are normally other grills or empty fan spots in a case that also let air out.

    There have been a few tests recently regarding various fan configurations in a few popular cases... but I don't recall where those might be now.

    Let's keep things in perspective. You are running a low TDP CPU and a small GPU in a case that could easily handle far more heat. Even a pair of GTX 680s would be fine in there. Your biggest concern is keeping things quiet, which is the ONLY reason you are using all those fans. ONE fan plus the CPU cooler would cool everything fine, as long as you were willing to put up with the extra noise of a higher CFM fan.

    On the fans, let's look at some tests. These aren't complete but if you study them you can come to conclusions... or since I have done so much looking over the last few years go with my best guess:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/331629-28-cooling-rou...
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?2617...
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?1378...

    Gelid
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Not great air flow but should be very quiet. I think you know already but I'll tell you. Decibels is NOT everything. Scythe Slipstreams are supposedly low db but they absolutely suck subjectively.

    This Titan looks to be a cheap Scythe GT knockoff
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    Might be very nice but not long lived.

    So I think it's a toss-up between the Nexus and Gelid, and I would probably go with the Gelid.
    April 27, 2012 2:33:37 PM

    A final thanks! Those three review links are amazing... I was stuck in the past from the one from silentpcreview!
    April 27, 2012 5:20:59 PM

    Thanks for the suggestion KitchenTel - if I had a hotter running machine, or if I were overclocking, I'd be more inclined to do the water cooling. But with quiet fans and fanless hardware, along with the extremely low power requirements of the build, water seems a bit overkill (along with the Hyper 212 Evo + quiet replacement fan being way cheaper than a good liquid rig). Besides, air cooling is safer than water - a faulty liquid cable and my machine can be ruined with water, whereas a faulty fan cable means my machine runs a bit hotter.
    April 27, 2012 8:15:17 PM

    Kitchentel was a spammer that copied and pasted something I wrote earlier, then added a little hidden .gif at the end, ultimately for malware reasons.
    April 27, 2012 9:11:26 PM

    Interesting - thanks for the vigilance!
    April 29, 2012 7:40:39 PM

    Yikes - cheap knockoff indeed. The Scythe GT AP-15 seem pretty stellar though... a little pricey if I were to buy 5 of them, but not so bad if I mixed those with the ones that come with the case. Thanks for sharing!
    !