Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Operation, Benchmark, And Bottom Line

Silent, But Deadly: Build Your Own Gaming-Ready 0 dB PC
By

Operation and Benchmark

The system is completely quiet. Once you push its power button, the only thing telling you if the installation was successful is a picture on your monitor.

We benchmarked the machine's power consumption and temperatures after burning in the APU for two hours. Power was measured with a current clamp on the 12 V line. Interestingly, the temperatures for the CPU and GPU, especially under load, were so close after two hours that the remaining difference was probably just due to the benchmark procedure. Because of this, we rounded all the numbers to the next full number. The ambient temperature was 22 degrees Celsius.

The outcome of the benchmarks was somewhat surprising. AMD's A6-5400K managed to stay within its thermal limit, but the A10-5700 exceeded it by 4 W in games and 11 W under a full load. This is still within reason, but needs to be taken into account when deciding the final system specs.

Under full load, the AMD A10-5700’s temperature jumps to 69 degrees Celsius if the ambient temperature increases to 30 degrees, which we simulated with an improvised hotbox. Even though 69 degrees is still within the APU's recommended range, and we didn’t see it throttle after four hours of testing, we still wouldn’t recommend running it at such a high temperature for long periods of time.

Case Evaluation: SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E

The reverse-mounted motherboard and the unusual PSU placement work out perfectly. SilverStone took a risk when it strayed from conventional wisdom as it placed this case's internals, and the gamble paid off. The advantages for our passive build are plain to see.

The quality of the case construction and materials is high. This includes an aluminum front that puts all of those plastic-faced panels out there to shame. On the inside, the CPU cooler holder is a nice and very practical addition, and the ability to easily remove a lot of parts gives you enough flexibility to utilize the TJ08-E for completely different builds. Even the one thing that annoyed us about this case is fairly minor. The supplied silver screws just don’t look good in the otherwise completely black case. Nonetheless, the Temjin TJ08-E and its included accessories are certainly worth the $110 price of admission.

Motherboard Evaluation: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53

Mini-ITX motherboards can be hard to find. MSI's FM2-A75IA-E53 FM2 mini-ITX board offers onboard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a very good firmware that hosts a nice variety of interesting settings and overclocking features. All of this sells for $90, which is about par for the course in the mini-ITX market.

APU Evaluation: AMD A6-5400K and AMD A10-5700

Our game performance numbers, along with integrated versus discrete benchmarks, are spread across the following pages. Suffice it to say, we already know that the x86 cores in AMD's APUs are adequate. Fortunately, the faster A10 doesn't seem to slow down mainstream GPUs like AMD's Radeon HD 7750. In fact, the A10-5700 is quick enough for a quick game break after work, and it’s certainly fast enough for the productivity work while you're on the clock.

We have a harder time recommending the A6-5400K. It’s a reasonable choice for HTPCs, but that’s about it. The APU’s graphics engine just isn’t good enough for gaming. Performance comparable to a Radeon HD 5450 doesn’t cut it anymore, even when you take low power consumption into account. If you're building without a discrete GPU in mind, AMD's A10-5700 is the clear winner between the two APUs.

Cooler Evaluation: SilverStone Heligon HE02

Weighing in at more than two pounds, the Heligon HE02 is no lightweight. Neither is its $65 price tag. However, the cooler's passive cooling performance and installation flexibility (due to its asymmetrical design) help us get over the one-two punch of weight and price. There are few, if any, equal or better alternatives in this price range.

Installation can be a bit of a challenge if the cooler sits on top of connectors, but this can be overcome with some thought and planning. Overall, the SilverStone Heligon HE02 is a choice we're glad we made.

Thermal Paste Evaluation: Cooler Master X1

In the end, even the Cooler Master X1 can’t overcome physics. But it offers excellent performance after the proper burn-in period. Its viscosity could be a bit more toward the liquid side of the spectrum, but the blob application method yields a good outcome without resorting to a putty knife. The brand-new Cooler Master X1 is a nice addition to the market.

PSU Evaluation: SilverStone Nightjar 400 Watt Zero dBA

The SilverStone Nightjar 400 Watt Zero dBA offers passive cooling, 80 PLUS Bronze certification, and an ErP off-mode power consumption that’s a little under the mandatory 0.5 W. Its $160 price is a bit on the high side, but the ST40NF, and its larger sibling, the ST50NF, are built by Seventeam. This technology is tried and true, and these new versions are a good replacement for Etasis’ ST30NF. It would have been nice if modular cable management had been included at this price, which would have made the SilverStone Nightjar 400 Watt Zero dBA a better value. Nevertheless, cable lengths and build quality are good.

Bottom Line

As long as you aren't expecting high-end performance, it's possible to build a decent passively-cooled system powerful enough for light gaming. And you don't need to mount everything in a massive chassis, either. The A10-5700’s graphics performance is about on par with that of a discrete AMD Radeon HD 6570, which isn’t bad for this kind of build. It can compete with the inexpensive Nvidia GeForce GT 520-, 630-, or 640-based systems offered by the big-box stores, and it does so without making a sound. I actually use this PC in my office. It’s on 24/7, and I even wrote this story on it.

But That’s Not All…

You thought that was it? Not so fast! Read on to find out what happens if a passively-cooled Radeon HD 6670 is added, yielding a Dual Graphics configuration in conjunction with AMD's APU. We're even able to compare that setup to a passively-cooled Radeon HD 7750. Of course, as thermal output increases, we want to have a backup plan for evacuating heat from the case. We round out the build with a switch that controls an extremely quiet Noiseblocker Multiframe fan running at a barely-audible 750 RPM.

Display all 136 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    _Pez_ , March 31, 2013 9:58 PM
    Great PC !, but if it was mine I would be scared... "no fan noise .. is it burning?"
  • 19 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , March 31, 2013 9:56 PM
    Great article! Much more DIY than the usual articles on Toms.
    Much appreciated.
  • 16 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , March 31, 2013 10:32 PM
    As someone that also uses a semi-passive PC (fan only turns on when needed), I'm disappointed that you guys left out a few big things:

    1. undervolting the CPU and GPU

    2. underclocking and farther undervolting the GPU for 2D mode

    3. hybrid cooling setup for GPUs where the fan only turns on at a high temperature (may require GPU BIOS editing depending on GPU model)

    OPTIONAL (due to risk): removal of CPU IHS
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    ASHISH65 , March 31, 2013 9:54 PM
    great article !!!
  • 2 Hide
    azathoth , March 31, 2013 9:54 PM
    I was disappointed there wasn't actual stress test temperature results of the APU for the passive cooling solution.

    But otherwise it's a neat article, personally I would sacrifice dead silence to use a cheaper HDD and perhaps more of those silent fans if I were to build one myself.
  • 19 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , March 31, 2013 9:56 PM
    Great article! Much more DIY than the usual articles on Toms.
    Much appreciated.
  • 25 Hide
    _Pez_ , March 31, 2013 9:58 PM
    Great PC !, but if it was mine I would be scared... "no fan noise .. is it burning?"
  • 16 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , March 31, 2013 10:32 PM
    As someone that also uses a semi-passive PC (fan only turns on when needed), I'm disappointed that you guys left out a few big things:

    1. undervolting the CPU and GPU

    2. underclocking and farther undervolting the GPU for 2D mode

    3. hybrid cooling setup for GPUs where the fan only turns on at a high temperature (may require GPU BIOS editing depending on GPU model)

    OPTIONAL (due to risk): removal of CPU IHS
  • 12 Hide
    dudewitbow , March 31, 2013 10:49 PM
    no love for sapphire's passive ultimate HD 7770?
  • 0 Hide
    Madn3ss795 , March 31, 2013 10:56 PM
    Pentium G2120 + Sapphire Ultimate HD7750 would have been a better choice. And you can pay extra for a low-power Core i5 instead since it's not that expensive compared to the rest of this build.
  • 0 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , March 31, 2013 11:13 PM
    Quote:
    When i hear gaming from the TH I really expect to see something in the realm of 500$ SBM machine or at least something close. What I see here is realy nice office pc.

    The main issue is the GPU, and that would require a hybrid passive-active cooling solution much like was done for the CPU, but for some reason they didn't even try such a thing...
  • 1 Hide
    twelve25 , March 31, 2013 11:21 PM
    I wonder about an i5 or i7 S or T model and crossfire 7750's. You might need a bigger case and a longer motherboard that allows gaps between cards.

  • 4 Hide
    memadmax , March 31, 2013 11:57 PM
    I don't like auto-start fans. They tend to turn off/on at weird times and become annoying...
  • 0 Hide
    abbadon_34 , April 1, 2013 12:30 AM
    Silent PC (Gaming) is simple. Large passive water cooling such as the Zalman Resevator on the CPU and GPU, and anyother components needing heat dissipation. I've done this for the last 8 years, not for the silence, but because it's nice to see the temp never stray from 40-45, and never worry about cooling again.
  • -1 Hide
    DjEaZy , April 1, 2013 12:48 AM
    ... awesome media pc...
  • -8 Hide
    JonnyDough , April 1, 2013 12:50 AM
    It has a fan. A FAN. It isn't zero dB.
  • 0 Hide
    JonnyDough , April 1, 2013 12:59 AM
    I'm a fan! (and I make a LOT of noise) :D 

    By the way, I own two of those Samsung Blu-Ray drives and the blue LED in the button is overly bright. I would NOT want to set that case on my desk.
  • 0 Hide
    JonnyDough , April 1, 2013 1:01 AM
    One more thing. I like bottom mounted power supplies because I like a low center of gravity on my builds. However, I prefer the top mounted PCI slots. The video cards not only look better with their coolers on top, but the heat rises off the video card and into the video card cooler making it more effective, especially in a build without air movement.
  • -5 Hide
    ankit0x1 , April 1, 2013 1:06 AM
    did i told you definition of insanity?
    great article toms
  • 2 Hide
    jasont78 , April 1, 2013 1:33 AM
    pity they put the bluray in it would be much louder than most actively cooled cases anyway
  • 2 Hide
    FormatC , April 1, 2013 1:39 AM
    Quote:
    1. undervolting the CPU and GPU
    This is always possible but each CPU/APU and GPU is a unique piece. Undervolting 10 APUs can can give you 10 different results. If it works with higher voltage it works also with undervolting. But I must check the worst case and only 100% stable settings. :) 
  • 1 Hide
    trumpeter1994 , April 1, 2013 2:53 AM
    They failed to mention how loud it was when both the fan and blu-ray drive had spun up
Display more comments