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Cutting back on fans in the name of less noise?

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  • Power Supplies
  • Cooling
  • Computers
  • Components
Last response: in Components
February 4, 2013 3:56:44 AM

Hey folks! So I'm hoping to put together my first gaming computer soon and I've been looking into cooling options. I've done plenty of research and understand the principles, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty details of individual systems, it always seems to come down to a matter of personal choice, preference, and opinion.

So as someone who's never really built before, I was hoping to get some advice on the matter :) 

I've been advised to invest in a heat pipe CPU cooler rather than an in-box cooling solution (even though I don't plan to overclock). But my understanding is that such a cooler would be best paired with an exhaust(?) fan mounted on the side of the case behind the motherboard. Now, I'm also thinking about bottom, front, and side intakes, plus top and rear exhausts.

That's at least 7 fans. Even with a fan controller, that's gonna be a really loud computer, and I'm not too keen on that. So where do you think I could afford to cut back? I plan to use the computer for fairly high-end gaming. It will probably be a roughly $1000 build (hopefully a little less) and I'm thinking about an i5-3570 or an AMD FX-8350 and probably the Radeon HD 7870 or 7870 LE. No SLI/Crossfire. Pretty basic system, really.

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February 4, 2013 4:13:24 AM

When it comes to fans, the number is less important than the speed, size and quality. For most fans, the noise to speed curve is nonlinear, which means that running it a little bit faster makes it a lot louder. To keep fan speeds low, get large fans wherever possible and run them at lower speeds. Also be sure to get decent quality fans, as far as your budget allows. If you have the time and money, buy a few different models and test them out side by side with a fan controller.

I would definitely go with a heat pipe CPU cooler, as it allows you to use larger diameter fans and run them at a slower speed. I have a large Thermaltake unit on my i5 with push-pull fans running very slowly, but still have it overclocked 25% with no problem.

Because fans are fairly easy to add on, why not build with a push-pull CPU cooler and one or two front case fans? Check your temps and noise levels, then add exhaust and top/side fans and benchmark the noise and sound levels again. A little experimentation shouldn't cost you much and will let you dial in your performance just the way you like it.
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February 5, 2013 2:21:55 AM

Gundy said:
I would definitely go with a heat pipe CPU cooler, as it allows you to use larger diameter fans and run them at a slower speed. I have a large Thermaltake unit on my i5 with push-pull fans running very slowly, but still have it overclocked 25% with no problem.

Because fans are fairly easy to add on, why not build with a push-pull CPU cooler and one or two front case fans? Check your temps and noise levels, then add exhaust and top/side fans and benchmark the noise and sound levels again. A little experimentation shouldn't cost you much and will let you dial in your performance just the way you like it.


Thanks, gundy :)  So it sounds like a heat pipe CPU cooler would be good for me because of noise reduction, but as far as cooling goes the stock cooler could still get the job done (but would be louder). And yes, the more I read into all this the more it seems I'm going to want to just dial in my cooling solution by monitoring temps via the BIOS or maybe some software. Thanks for the advice!

If I do get a heat pipe cooler, should I also set up an exhaust fan on the side of the case, behind the motherboard? Not many cases even have the option to do that, but there are a few... And what about that bottom intake? Any thoughts?
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Related resources
February 5, 2013 12:51:44 PM

Here's a few links that might help you make a decision.
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/coolers/display/120mm-...
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/coolers/display/140mm-...

For what it's worth I'll give you my opinion. I don't think you'll need 7 fans, not even close. I have 2 120mm fans (front ~900 rpm and back ~1200rpm) and a Thermalright Truespirit 120 cpu cooler (on a phenom II x3 720) and 2 radeon 4850 graphics cards. Running on stock settings inside a fairly large tower case under the table. I don't have any problems with temps. Only with noise since the second graphics card I bought cheaply on an internet auction site is single slot and the cooler spins up in some games but I'm having no artifacts or any kind of lockups. What I did was to cut out the restrictive fingerguard in the back and enlarged the front grill holes with a drill.

I think you could start with two fans front/back and cut out the fingerguards if they restrict the airflow excessively. That also eliminates the sound of rushing air through small holes. With those fans in place, play your favourite games and see if the CPU or GPU cooler starts to spin up too much for your taste. For a CPU cooler I would recommend either the afore mentioned Thermalright or a Coolermaster Hyper evo 212+ which ever is cheaper. They are excellent performers for the price and more than adequate for quiet operation on stock clocks.

As for a CPU choice the i5 uses less energy so that might suit your needs better. Also the regular 7870 would be better in performance/watt than the 7870LE and the actual performance difference is quite small.

The setup above should in all likelyhood be more than enough for quiet operation especially at stock settings. You don't really need to push for lowest possible temps in this situation since you're not trying to eke out every last bit of MHz out of your equipment.
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February 8, 2013 11:52:01 PM

Best answer selected by SyntaxSocialist.
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