Gaming/Home Server: HD 5780 + 9 HDDs

Silent PC Build Guides

In the SFF, we tried out a modest gaming card and found it perfectly viable as a silent Windows 7 gaming / file server box with four HDDs. What could be done with this mid-tower system? We went straight for the high end.

Some readers might recall that we reviewed a HIS HD Radeon 5870 iCooler V Turbo last spring. This is a HD 5870 variant overclocked to 875/1225 MHz, with increased performance and power draw over the stock-clocked models. We estimated its power consumption with Furmark to be around 215W. The 34 dBA@1m SPL of this card at full load would not be acceptable, so a quick swap of the cooler was made, to the GELID Icy Vision Dual Fan Cooler which did so well on the ~150W HD 4890 card we routinely use to test VGA coolers. The card + cooler installed easily with all that room inside the case. There was a bit of sag on the back end of the card due to the weight of the cooler, but this seems unavoidable. (For the total gaming performance fanatics, there is definitely no room for two of these cards and coolers, at least not on this motherboard.)


Mid-tower Gaming / File Server config: An overclocked Radeon HD5870 video card with Gelid Icy Vision cooler, still with nine WD Green hard drives and an OCZ Vertex SSD for Windows 7 and programs.

Windows 7 was installed on an OCZ Vertex 32GB SSD, which was mounted on the bottom panel of the NZXT Tempest EVO case. The top fans as well as back fan were all powered up to our external voltage controller, with each fan fed about 4V for ~700 RPM. After a couple of hours with updates and stability checks, the acoustic and thermal testing began. Here are the results after a full hour of 100% load on both CPU and GPU.

Mid Tower 9-HDD Silent Gamer / File Server
Activity State
CPU
HDD
GPU
AC Power
SPL@1m
Idle
39°C
34~41°C
not recorded
95W
21.3 dBA
CPUBurn x2 + Furmark
56°C
80°C
368W
CPU fan at 7V, back and two top case fans at 4V, GPU fans at 7V. Ambient conditions: 23~25°C, 11 dBA

That is not a typo. It really measured 21.3 dBA@1m with the system sucking a whopping 368W from the AC outlet. All component temperatures remained very modest. There was no impact on HDD temperatures with full load on CPU and GPU as they are far enough away, and the case fan do a good job of pulling air through the front vents across the drives. This airflow was undoubtedly helpful for both CPU and GPU cooling as well. The amount of room around the GPU surely helps as well.

It's safe to say this configuration is a success, and it is repeatable with any video card reasonably close in power consumption to the overclocked 5870. This includes the new HD 6870 (which runs cooler at 151W TDP) as well as the nVidia GTX 470 (215W TDP), although the GTX 480 (250W TDP) might require a bit higher fan speed. Whether it's a good idea to mix gaming and file storage is a whole 'nuther question. The answer is that anything which risks system crashes is not ideal for a file server... and games probably risk crashes more than any other type of computer application today. In our Mid Tower 9-HDD Silent Gamer / File Server, crashes due to hardware thermal overload is simply not going to happen unless your ambient temps are 20°C higher than ours. But whether to game on your file server is a choice for the individual user. We're simply showing you what can be done with silent computing.

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