Journey to a Silent MicroATX Gamer

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Components: Same as Config 1, except Zotac GTX 970 now equipped with Accelero Extreme III heatsink

The first recipient of a bigger gun was naturally the Zotac GTX 970 card. Removing the stock heatsink and fans was a tedious job, but not difficult if you're reasonably handy and have a good collection of small screwdrivers.

Arctic's image showing Accelero Extreme IV mounted on a VGA card.

Same backside heatsink is used on the Accelero Hybrid II.

I mentioned earlier that both of the Arctic Accelero coolers on hand — Hybrid 2-120 and Extreme IV — are equipped with big intrusive heatsinks that mount on the backside of the VGA card. It's their way of cooling non-GPU components on the VGA card and seems effective enough. The backside heatsinks were not welcome in this build, but they are integral to the mounting system for both, so I had to find an alternative solution. That solution came in the form of a backplate from a Scythe Musashi VGA cooler, which is long discontinued and not compatible with the newer graphics cards. It allowed the back heatsink to be left off, but the long thumbscrews still had to be used, sticking out nearly an inch from the backside of the VGA card.

I wanted to avoid the potential added noise of the water pump in the Hybrid, so the Extreme IV was tried first. Mounting the Accelero Extreme IV on the Zotac GTX 970 was not exactly difficult, but requires patience and a good collection of small tools. Long needle nose pliers, several small screwdrivers (including a long one), and bright working lights were all used for the job. Because the Accelero coolers are designed to fit on a wide variety of VGA cards, the hardware doesn't always fit perfectly. You do have to use your eyes and your sense of feel to figure out just how far to tighten each of the four bolts that clamp the cooler to the GPU. This is the most critical part of the process, and putting too much tension in one corner could have nasty consequences, so I took my time to ensure even pressure all around. The long L-bracket was not used, of course, as it needs the back heatsink to be installed. Not using the back heatsink basically turned the Extreme IV into an Extreme III.

The result again were better, especially GPU temperature, but the CPU continued to run quite hot. The best balance of cooling and noise never got much better than 27 [email protected]

I tried changing up the fans:

  • Original fan config: Two front fans blowing in, one top fan blowing out.
  • Fan config b: One front fan blowing in, two top fans blowing out.
  • Fan config c: One front fan blowing out, two top fans blowing in.
  • Fan config d: Two front fans blowing out, one top fan blowing in.

As you might imagine, this was a fair bit of work. Unfortunately, while there were changes in temperature balance, but none of these changed the overall picture much.

On a hunch, I tried using a simple baffle of cardboard to keep the GPU heat from getting to the CPU. This didn't work either.

The cardboard baffle was a reasonably close fit to separate VGA and CPU thermal zones. Bottom front fan blew out, and the top two fans above CPU blew in. This didn't work well.

AIDA64 sensor screen capture of one result with Config 2 + thermal separation baffle. Increasing the case fan speeds to 8~900 RPM cools the CPU better with slightly slower fan speed, but the overall SPL does not improve.

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