Fanless Power Supply PC Build Guide

Cases|Damping | Do-It-Yourself Systems | Power | Silent PC Build Guides
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AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product at various states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our sample build may not be the quietest system you can build with a fanless PSU; after all, there were six fans in the mix, even if we did run them at very low speeds. We could have thrown together an even quieter system with integrated graphics or lower powered, passively cooled VGA card and just a single case fan. But not only would it have been boring — that kind of minimalist system is bread-and-butter at SPCR — it would have posed little challenge for the power supply.

The Seasonic X-400 proved its worth, effortlessly driving our powerful system with an Intel Core i5-2500K processor and a Radeon HD 6870 graphics card in a case with very low speed fans. An important aspect of its performance is that because there is no thermally fan controlled fan in the PSU, the system never changes its acoustic character, regardless of load; there is no fan speeding up or slowing down to attract your attention.

It should also be noted that the Seasonic's current US$90 price-tag isn't far off from an ultra quiet actively cooled model like the Nexus NX-5000. The amount is just a drop in the bucket in the context of the total cost of our system, about US$1,160.

Build Cost
Component
Model
Approx. Price (USD)
CPU
Intel Core i5-2500K
$205
CPU Cooler
Thermalright Venomous X
$60
Motherboard
Asus P8P67
$150
Memory
Kingston HyperX LoVo 4GB DDR3-1600
$45
Graphics Card
Radeon HD 6870
$160
GPU Cooler
GELID Icy Vision
$50
Solid State Drive
Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB
$130
Hard Drive
WD Caviar Green 2TB
$65
Optical Drive
Asus BC-12B1ST (BC-08B1ST discontinued)
$60
Power Supply
Seasonic X-400FL
$90*
Case
Antec Solo II
$120
Additional Cooling
3 x Scythe Slip Stream 120mm, Zalman Fan Mate
$25
TOTAL
$1,160
*after mail-in rebate

We hope this guide helps those considering a PC build with a fanless PSU. The machine we assembled can be used as a blueprint for a general silent PC with varying degrees of horsepower. Just remember to experiment thermally using stress testing and temperature monitoring software before finalizing settings.

Our choice of case, the Antec Solo II, is ideal for a passively-cooled machine but it works just as well with a regular power supply. Like its predecessor, the Solo II has some nice silent-oriented features. It you're looking for something smaller, the SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E is a good microATX alternative, better for a power system than the more cramped Antec NSK-3480 (a 5-year old MATX design that happens to have a top vent for a top-mounted PSU). Many of the other parts we've chosen (CPU, motherboard, RAM, optical drive) can be substituted with parts that meet your individual needs without significant acoustic impact.

Our thanks to Seasonic, Antec, and the other manufacturers who provided samples for this build.

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Articles of Related Interest
Silent Mid Gaming PC Build Guide
Silent SFF Gaming PC Build Guide
HTPC Home Server
Gaming/Home Server: HD 5780 + 9 HDDs
Mid-Tower Home Server Configurations
SFF Gamer/File Server V2
Seasonic X-400
Kingwin Stryker STR-500
Fanless PSU Torture Test Roundup

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