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How Are Laptops So Quiet?

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  • Laptops
  • Desktops
  • Product
Last response: in Laptop Tech Support
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April 8, 2012 3:16:39 AM

Hello,

I know that this is probably a pretty low-level question, but I couldn't (easily) find the answer through some Googling. So I'll pose it to you guys:

I've been researching to build a gaming desktop. I went from a lenovo thinkpad laptop. Looking at noise levels for my desktop, I started wondering about how laptops could be so quiet... I mean, I know there's no chassis to speak of, so no case fans... but there's only one fan anyway (that I know of). Is that the CPU fan? If it is, how does everything else stay cool? This is just personal interest, by the way.

Thanks!

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April 8, 2012 3:34:17 AM

Some laptops are very loud. My primary laptop, for instance, has at least 2 fans evacuating heat from a dedicated GPU, CPU, storage devices and memory all of which can get very HOT when I am performaing heavy processing like playing a game.

On the other hand, if I switch to the very low power integrated GPU in the laptop (via software) and perform normal office tasks, web browsing, even watching a movie the laptop is SILENT since it is not doing enough work to generate a large amount of heat that needs to be handled mechanically (noisy fans). The number of fans, fan speed and noise generated depends on how much mechanical intervention is needed to dissipate the heat generated by internal components.

In general, laptops use lower power components in order to minimize generated heat and maximize battery life. This allows many laptops to remain cool without (or with minimal) mechanical intervention (noisy fans). The less power used by the component the cooler it will operate, in general. Use more power = generate more heat.

Laptops also need to leverage lower power (less heat) components because all that stuff is crammed in to such a confined space, increasing the impact of generated heat, as well.

Tablet computers and phones are great examples of low power devices that have no mechanical intervention to dissipate the heat they generate.
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April 8, 2012 3:37:37 AM

They use weaker lower power consuming CPU and no dedicated graphic card. In my laptop the fan still sounds like a small storm in order to cope with a 4 core sandybridge.

Also they only have one fan. Actually desktop are pretty quiet if you built it out of the right component. Steady case, Large low rev fan. Passive cooling, SSD.
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April 8, 2012 3:58:01 AM

po1nted said:
Some laptops are very loud. My primary laptop, for instance, has at least 2 fans evacuating heat from a dedicated GPU, CPU, storage devices and memory all of which can get very HOT when I am performaing heavy processing like playing a game.

On the other hand, if I switch to the very low power integrated GPU in the laptop (via software) and perform normal office tasks, web browsing, even watching a movie the laptop is SILENT since it is not doing enough work to generate a large amount of heat that needs to be handled mechanically (noisy fans). The number of fans, fan speed and noise generated depends on how much mechanical intervention is needed to dissipate the heat generated by internal components.

In general, laptops use lower power components in order to minimize generated heat and maximize battery life. This allows many laptops to remain cool without (or with minimal) mechanical intervention (noisy fans). The less power used by the component the cooler it will operate, in general. Use more power = generate more heat.

Laptops also need to leverage lower power (less heat) components because all that stuff is crammed in to such a confined space, increasing the impact of generated heat, as well.

Tablet computers and phones are great examples of low power devices that have no mechanical intervention to dissipate the heat they generate.



this is all true but i wanted to add that a laptop has a lot less things to rattle and also doesnt have a huge open area for sound to be magnified.

lower power components in laptops is becoming a thing of the past though. look at intel cpus now in the new laptops. an mid level i7 clocked at 2.5 is faster then any stock desktop amd cpu.


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April 8, 2012 4:24:12 AM

Hmmm.... true, true. I guess that solves it :) 

I forgot I don't have a dedicated GPU. By the way, could any of you suggest a program to manually make the fan work harder? I've got a terrible system anyway, but if I can cool it better, maybe it'll work faster...

By the way, in case you wanted to know, I AM building a quiet/silent desktop. For example...

MSI Twin Frozr GPU (Great cooling + low noise)
SSD
Fractal R3 as a case (do any of you guys think that if you shrank the case down, it would look like a Macbook?)
Hyper 212 CPU cooler (meh... it's cheap, and quieter than some)

I don't think you can get much more silent than that! I'll buy one more quiet case fan...

I know this is the laptop section, but if any of you guys have experience, how would that compare to a laptop? In terms of noise

Thanks, by the way!
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April 8, 2012 4:45:57 AM

cbrunnem said:
lower power components in laptops is becoming a thing of the past though. look at intel cpus now in the new laptops. an mid level i7 clocked at 2.5 is faster then any stock desktop amd cpu.


I would like to respectfully disagree. Note that the all mobile CPUs and GPUs in laptops are lower power equivalents to their desktop counterparts. The GPUs, HDDs, CPUs, even memory designed for mobile use consume less power than a desktop equivalent. I have a beast of a Core i7 mobile CPU in my laptop (i7-2720QM). It operates at a lower clockspeed and TDP than a Core i7 desktop CPU and generates a similar PassMark score to the Core i5-2550. While it carries the i7 moniker, it does not draw the same amount of power, nor is the power consumption or heat output equivalent to a Core i7 desktop CPU. A core i7 desktop CPU would drain my battery in nothing flat with a TDP of 95 watts or greater, all the way up to 130. Not too mention the amount of heat it would generate, yikes! For reference:

Core i7 Desktop Family:

Core i7-2700K -> 95 Watts TDP

Core i7 Mobile Family:

Core i7-2720QM -> 45 Watts TDP

For a good rundown of the TDP for desktop and mobile processors:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_CPU_power_dissipat...

Notice that all mobile CPUs (even bleeding edge models) have about half the TDP requirement of the desktop equivalent.

There are some boutique manufactures that put the actual desktop versions of CPU in a laptop frame, but these consume massive amounts of power, have very short run time on battery and generate significantly more heat, limiting their potential customer base and usefulness. This is not a mainstream approach.

Conponents designed for mobility are not going away. In the future you will see exactly the opposite of what you mention. You will see even more processing power (greater performance) drawn from lower power consumption (less energy consumed), i.e. more efficient components designed for mobile (and desktop) use.

I would even argue that you will see more "mobile" designed components making their way into desktop computers. We are already seeing that with integrated GPUs, HTPCs and small form factor (all in one) desktops. The iMac has a mobile graphics card in it, for instance, and users of thsoe systems are normally very happy. Including those that game. These "mobile" components can do more and are definitely going to see more duty outside of the laptop arena.
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April 8, 2012 4:52:29 AM

po1nted said:
I would like to respectfully disagree. Note that the all mobile CPUs and GPUs in laptops are lower power equivalents to their desktop counterparts. The GPUs, HDDs, CPUs, even memory designed for mobile use consume less power than a desktop equivalent. I have a beast of a Core i7 mobile CPU in my laptop (i7-2720QM). It operates at a lower clockspeed and TDP than a Core i7 desktop CPU and generates a similar PassMark score to the Core i5-2550. While it carries the i7 moniker, it does not draw the same amount of power, nor is the power consumption or heat output equivalent to a Core i7 desktop CPU. A core i7 desktop CPU would drain my battery in nothing flat with a TDP of 95 watts or greater, all the way up to 130. Not too mention the amount of heat it would generate, yikes! For reference:

Core i7 Desktop Family:

Core i7-2700K -> 95 Watts TDP

Core i7 Mobile Family:

Core i7-2720QM -> 45 Watts TDP

For a good rundown of the TDP for desktop and mobile processors:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_CPU_power_dissipat...

Notice that all mobile CPUs (even bleeding edge models) have about half the TDP requirement of the desktop equivalent.

There are some boutique manufactures that put the actual desktop versions of CPU in a laptop frame, but these consume massive amounts of power, have very short run time on battery and generate significantly more heat, limiting their potential customer base and usefulness. This is not a mainstream approach.

Conponents designed for mobility are not going away. In the future you will see exactly the opposite of what you mention. You will see even more processing power (greater performance) drawn from lower power consumption (less energy consumed), i.e. more efficient components designed for mobile (and desktop) use.

I would even argue that you will see more "mobile" designed components making their way into desktop computers. We are already seeing that with integrated GPUs, HTPCs and small form factor (all in one) desktops. The iMac has a mobile graphics card in it, for instance, and users of thsoe systems are normally very happy. Including those that game. These "mobile" components can do more and are definitely going to see more duty outside of the laptop arena.


i never talked about power as in energy. talked about power as in computing power hence why i compared laptop i7s to amd desktop cpus....


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April 8, 2012 4:57:28 AM

ddan49 said:
I don't think you can get much more silent than that! I'll buy one more quiet case fan..


Stock GPU fans, even special ones like Twin Frozr, aren't especially quiet. They're more optimized for airflow. I have good experience with Arctic Cooling products, but they may be too expensive to add to a midrange card.

You need to consider money, performance and noise.
If you want good performance and low noise, you have to spend a lot of money.
If you want low noise and don't have a lot of money, you can get away with some low power parts that are still ok for gaming.
If you want good performance and don't have a lot of money, you'll probably want to wear headphones while gaming because the stock cooling is really loud.
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April 8, 2012 4:57:33 AM

po1nted said:

I would even argue that you will see more "mobile" designed components making their way into desktop computers. We are already seeing that with integrated GPUs, HTPCs and small form factor (all in one) desktops. The iMac has a mobile graphics card in it, for instance, and users of thsoe systems are normally very happy. Including those that game. These "mobile" components can do more and are definitely going to see more duty outside of the laptop arena.



...which is exactly why I'm a little mad that Intel's IB release is going to be geared towards mobile chips (I mean... a 20W difference is not going to do ANYTHING to the spirits of a desktop user). Maybe not a little. Maybe a lot.

Every single tick has been performance increase! What do we get this time? 20W less power usage and better integrated graphics. Better. Integrated. Graphics. If you're on a budget, just get an AMD chip and a dedicated GPU!

Grrr...

Also, killerclick, I don't have a lot of money, I want good performance, and I want quiet. :kaola:  I am what you may call a "cheapskate" :whistle: 

No, but seriously. I was hoping the Fractal R3's foam padding (I'm leaving the padding on the side panel and hoping front intake takes care of the GPU) would stop some of the noise, and Twin Frozr was only like 40dB at max load (ONLY... right :pfff:  ).

EDIT: Had to change the quote twice... kept quoting the wrong people

Do you mean that to replace stock GPU fans, you would get... third party GPU fans? Is that even possible?
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April 8, 2012 4:59:57 AM

cbrunnem said:
i never talked about power as in energy. talked about power as in computing power hence why i compared laptop i7s to amd desktop cpus....


Ah, the original post was about quiet laptops, heat buildup and dissipation. My bad. Thanks!
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April 8, 2012 5:05:51 AM

ddan49 said:
...which is exactly why I'm a little mad that Intel's IB release is going to be geared towards mobile chips (I mean... a 20W difference is not going to do ANYTHING to the spirits of a desktop user). Maybe not a little. Maybe a lot.

Every single tick has been performance increase! What do we get this time? 20W less power usage and better integrated graphics. Better. Integrated. Graphics. If you're on a budget, just get an AMD chip and a dedicated GPU!

Grrr...


Yeah, it is interesting. GPUs are going the same route, look at the recent desktop offerings from both AMD and Nvidia. Similar performance to the previous generation but less power draw.

As primarily a mobile user I LOVE the direction. But when I stop moving around and plant my a$$ at a desk I would definitely worry less about the power consumption and lean more towards maxing out performance ceiling.
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April 8, 2012 12:26:36 PM

ddan49 said:
Do you mean that to replace stock GPU fans, you would get... third party GPU fans? Is that even possible?


Of course, fans and hetsink, and they're really quiet, but could be like an extra $100 - just to make your graphics card quiet under load. Check it out:
http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/cooling/vga/376/accelero-xtre...


Btw, here's something awesome to try to reduce the noise of your system - really made a difference with me:
http://www.silentpcreview.com/article8-page2.html
I was amazed at how much noise my HDD made when it's just idle, I always assumed it was the fans until I installed silent ones everywhere. Now I got my HDD suspended in the 5.25" cage and I can't tell whether my computer is on or not based on the noise.

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April 8, 2012 1:22:21 PM

^That would help, but I have an SSD :) 

Also, I can't believe I forgot about that Accelero! Every time I typed in a graphics card in newegg, that was the first thing that came up!

Yeah, you're right... it is quite an "investment". Either way, I would never replace anything (like case fans) BEFORE I got to try them out. It may be that the noise level isn't a problem... I couldn't really find any other brands. Are any competing with Arctic Cooler?

Thanks for all of your help! All of you really helped, but I have to pick the solution to the original question.
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April 8, 2012 1:24:24 PM

Best answer selected by ddan49.
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April 8, 2012 5:30:29 PM

thats what comes on gigabyte cards. or atleast the non reference ones.
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April 8, 2012 6:10:07 PM

Accelero? Are you sure?
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April 8, 2012 8:02:21 PM

3 fans! 0.0

I dunno... I'll look around. Thanks!
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April 8, 2012 10:50:55 PM

ddan49 said:
3 fans! 0.0

I dunno... I'll look around. Thanks!


yeah my 6950 that has that fan design never exceeds 55*c
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