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To those who read through my entire journey, thanks for persevering; I hope
it was worth your time. To those who jumped straight to this page for the snapshot
conclusions, it's possible that some of what I write won't jibe fully till you
head back and read the article all the way through.
This Corsair Air 240 based Quiet Micro-ATX Gaming PC is a bit different from
the other gaming systems we've detailed this season. It's base SPL is several
decibels higher than the others, most of which approach the ambient levels of
the quietest homes. This one is more audible, especially as it is meant to be
placed atop the desk. The noise is mostly broadband, as you'll have heard in
the audio recording, and it hardly gets any louder even when subject to extended
artificially high load. My final measurements indicate just 1 [email protected] difference
between idle and load SPL. Some users will find this more constant noise preferable
to a machine that's quieter at idle but ramps up to a more audible level under
load. It's often the change many of us notice most.
The Zotac GTX 970 graphics card and the Intel i5-4690K make this a very capable
gaming rig. The performance of the GTX 970 is only a half step behind the much
pricier 980 and the quad-core CPU hardly imposes any limits with today's most
SPCR's Quiet MicroATX Gaming PC Component List
SPCR Build Components
|Corsair Carbide Air 240
Fractal Design Arc Mini R2
Corsair Obsidian 350D
Silverstone Sugo SG10
In Win / Nofan Dragon Slayer
|Zotac GTX 970
|Arctic Accelero Extreme III
| Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120
|Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5
| ASRock Z97M
|Intel Core i5-4690K
| Core i5-4690S
w/ 2nd NF-A9 PWM fan
| Noctua NH-U9S
|Crucial MX100 512GB SSD
| Samsung 850 EVO 512GB
Corsair Neutron XT 480GB
| Rosewill Fortress 450W
Enermax Revolution X't 430W
Seasonic G450 SSR-450RM
|Kingston HyperX Genesis 2x4GB 1866MHz
| Kingston HyperX Fury 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 1600MHz
Patriot Viper 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3
* The alternate GTX 970 cards listed all feature narrow
coolers and PCBs that should fit the confines of the Corsair Air 240.
* Noctua DH-U9S will work best with a second 92mm fan.
* Other case alternatives don't have the same VGA card size restriction.
Retail prices are subject to constant fluctuations.
Please use the shopping links to check on current pricing; don't rely
on the prices cited in non-linked text.
This quiet gaming rig would not have been possible without the power efficient
performance of the GTX 970 and the Intel Core i5-4690K. The peak power draw
of 267W AC is probably a hundred watts less than what a similar performing system
with a last gen video card would have required. The reduced heat is key in allowing
this system to be so quiet.
The other components all played their part, of course: The flexible and stable
Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5 motherboard, the quiet Seasonic G550 PSU, the Kingston
RAM, the Crucial MX100 512GB SSD. Most crucial in this build is the Arctic Accelero
Extreme II: Not only is it a highly effective VGA cooler, its footprint is narrow
enough to fit in the Air 240. The Noctua NH-D9L
with its extra fan for push-pull was also critical in keeping the CPU cooled
quietly enough, although the alternative options would probably done similarly
The most compromised component in this build turns out ironically to be the
one that inspired it. The Corsair Carbide Air 240 is a fascinating concept poorly
executed. There are three main issues:
- Basic build quality is mediocre at best. The side panels nay, all
the panels! are too thin and flexible and too many parts fit sloppily.
Make it better and charge a bit more!
- The dust filters built into the top, front and bottom panel vents are far
too restrictive of airflow. This might be less of an issue if you're running
case fans at full speed, but 50% less airflow has got to be significant for
anyone seeking good cooling, whether for an overclocked rig or a low-airflow
stealth machine. This flaw should be easy for Corsair to correct.
- The case probably should not be made much wider if it's going to fit comfortably
on many desks, but the internal width of the main compartment is unfortunately
The best and best cooler-equipped VGA cards are all too wide to fit in the
main compartment. You simply cannot fit any of the recent generation ASUS Strix
GTX 980/970 or MSI Gaming GTX 980/970 cards in the Air 240; these are reputedly
the quietest graphics cards on the market. If you want a GTX 980 in this case,
it must be one fitted with a narrower cooler, which almost assuredly will have
smaller fans and be too noisy for a quiet rig. All this could be avoided if
the main compartment of the Air 240 was 1.5 cm or maybe even just 1 cm wider.
Could the right side compartment have been squeezed one centimeter narrower
and the extra space given to the left side? Judging by the space on either side
of the vertically poisitioned PSU, I believe so. A half cm wider overall dimension
would have made no change desktop usability, either.
Lest this article end on a negative note, I draw your attention to the results
of the dust filter and fan airflow experiments conducted in the course of this
build. It's positive reinforcement of a basic tenet for PC silencing SPCR has
espoused for years: Minimize impedances for best airflow and low noise. Yes,
dust filters can be convenient and useful, but if you're seeking to eke out
the best airflow with the lowest noise, they're not in your best interest. Just
accept the need to be a bit more vigilant about dusting and know that you have
to clean dust filters just as often anyway.
* * *
This is certainly my last article for the week, so have a Merry Christmas!
(What? I dare mention the word? How un-PC! Mmmmm.... How commonsense! It's what
the day is called, OK?)
This concludes another SPCR Silent Gaming PC Build Guide. Please support SPCR
and help us present many more build guides by using our sponsor advertising
links for your shopping.
Many thanks to Intel,
and Noctua for sponsoring
the components in this build guide.
* * *
Articles of Related Interest
Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer
Quiet ATX Gamer, R5 Version
SPCR's Quiet ATX
Gaming Build Guide
Silent Mid Gaming PC Build Guide
Basics & Recommendations
* * *
this article in the SPCR Forums.
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