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Adding Some Graphics Power

Silent, But Deadly: Build Your Own Gaming-Ready 0 dB PC
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It’s hard to run several passively-cooled components in a small case like SilverStone's Temjin TJ08-E. Nevertheless, in addition to the build you just read about, we're benchmarking three different graphics setups: a HIS Radeon HD 7750 iSilence 5, Sparkle's GeForce GTX 650 OC that we modified for passive cooling, and a dual-GPU setup with CrossFire consisting of AMD's A10-5700 APU and a passive HIS Radeon HD 6670 iSilence 5. 

Let's be clear: a small, enclosed system like this does reach its limits pretty quickly when an APU and discrete graphics card are taxed at the same time, dissipating 100 W+ of heat (particularly in the warmer summer months). But we think we have a solution for maintaining the integrity of our silent system for the most part. With a bit of tinkering, we added a quiet fan that only kicks on when it's needed. A good motherboard can control the blower through its firmware. Or, alternatively, a thermal switch does the same job. We’ll show you how to install a switch like this later in the story. For now, though, let’s get back to the build.

Silent and Efficient GCN

We’ve talked about HIS' Radeon HD 7750 iSilence 5 before. It features one of the most powerful GPUs you can find that can still be cooled passively. While Sapphire and PowerColor offer similar cards, all of them should function comparably.

The graphics card sits above our CPU cooler, obstructing some of its airflow and reducing its cooling performance a bit. The hit isn't massive, but it's certainly obvious when the system is pushed to its limit. If you already know going into this project that you'll be using discrete graphics, then an Ivy Bridge-based platform is almost certainly the way to go. That'll bring your temperature down about five degrees Celsius compared to the APU-based config.

Graphics Benchmarks

The Radeon HD 7750 easily competes with the other graphics solutions we're testing, and it offers the highest efficiency by offering the best performance for the power it uses. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 650 is roughly as fast.

But before we get into the details of that little project, let's have a look at the cumulative benchmark numbers with a Core i7, a Pentium G2120, and AMD's A10-5700. The performance index and benchmarks come from our 2012 graphics charts, and we used that machine's image for the AMD A10-5700-based build.

Bottom Line So Far

For a passively-cooled system, this thing's gaming performance isn't bad. It gives us high-enough frame rates for 1920x1080 in many cases, so long as graphics details are turned way down. Temperatures are also acceptable, though anyone building this PC should check them out anyway, just to be on the safe side.

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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
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