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

Hard Choices: Motherboard And CPU

Choosing a Motherboard and CPU

We narrowed our choices down to two AMD Trinity-based APUs and a Socket FM2 motherboard. The APUs proved to give us the best balance between an all-around build intended to handle a variety of tasks, including light gaming. We did try an Ivy Bridge-based Pentium on one of Zotac's motherboards, expecting efficiency to seal the deal. However, graphics performance simply wasn't ample for what we wanted to do.

Thus, APUs were our only remaining option, so we picked the A6-5400K and A10-5700. According to AMD's specifications, both chips have 66 W thermal ceilings. In reality, though, the A6-5400K never reaches 66 W. The A10-5700 does, making a noticeable difference in trying to keep our system cooled passively. In the end, we're able to get both APUs cooled without a fan, but the A10-5700 cuts it close.

You may decide the A10 isn't the best choice, particularly in a warmer climate. If you do want one, we recommend adding a fan that kicks in when it's needed (we'll talk more about that shortly). First, though, let’s see how our two picks slot into AMD’s current line-up of desktop APUs:

APU
Cores
Base Clock Frequency
Max. Turbo Core  Frequency
GPU
Shaders
GPU Clock Frequency
L2 Cache
TDP
A10-5800K
4
3.8 GHz
4.2 GHz
HD 7660D
384
800 MHz
4 MB
100 W
A10-5700
4
3.4 GHz
4.0 GHz
HD 7660D
384
760 MHz
4 MB
65 W
A8-5600K
4
3.6 GHz
3.9 GHz
HD 7560D
256
760 MHz
4 MB
100 W
A8-5500
4
3.2 GHz
3.7 GHz
HD 7560D
256
760 MHz
4 MB
65 W
A6-5400K
2
3.6 GHz
3.8 GHz
HD 7540D
192
760 MHz
1 MB
65 W
A4-5300
2
3.4 GHz
3.6 GHz
HD 7480D
128
723 MHz
1 MB
65 W


Motherboard: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53

We picked a mini-ITX motherboard instead of an mATX board on purpose. Mainly, a smaller form factor keeps the case's insides as open as possible.

The enormous CPU cooler we're using makes connecting all of the cables somewhat of a challenge, though. In a couple of pages, we'll give you a brief guide for installing the motherboard; doing this in the right order is important.

MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 Technical Specifications
Socket
FM2
CPU (Maximum Supported)
AMD A10/A8/A6/A4 Series
Chipset
AMD A75
DDR3 Memory
DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866/2133
Memory Channels
2
DIMM Slots
2
Memory (Maximum Supported)
32 GB
PCIe x16
1
PCIe Generation
Second-Gen (1x16)
SATA 6Gb/s
4
RAID
0/1/10
LAN
10/100/1000
Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
1
USB 3.0 Ports (Rear Panel)
2
USB 2.0 Ports (Read Panel)
4
Audio Ports (Rear Panel)
3+Optical SPDIF
eSATA
1
VGA
1
HDMI
1
VGA Maximum Shared Memory (MB)
2 GB
DirectX
11
Form Factor
Mini-ITX
Dual Graphics Support
Yes (HD 6570, 6670)
Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
136 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • Great PC !, but if it was mine I would be scared... "no fan noise .. is it burning?"
    25
  • Great article! Much more DIY than the usual articles on Toms.
    Much appreciated.
    19
  • 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
    16
  • Other Comments
  • great article !!!
    7
  • 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.
    2
  • Great article! Much more DIY than the usual articles on Toms.
    Much appreciated.
    19
  • Great PC !, but if it was mine I would be scared... "no fan noise .. is it burning?"
    25
  • 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
    16
  • no love for sapphire's passive ultimate HD 7770?
    12
  • 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
  • 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.
    -10
  • ivyanev said:
    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...
    0
  • 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.
    1
  • I don't like auto-start fans. They tend to turn off/on at weird times and become annoying...
    4
  • 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.
    0
  • ... awesome media pc...
    -1
  • It has a fan. A FAN. It isn't zero dB.
    -7
  • 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
  • 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.
    0
  • did i told you definition of insanity?
    great article toms
    -5
  • pity they put the bluray in it would be much louder than most actively cooled cases anyway
    3
  • 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. :)
    2
  • They failed to mention how loud it was when both the fan and blu-ray drive had spun up
    1