Journey to a Silent MicroATX Gamer

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Components: Same as Config 1, but Zotac GTX 970 now equipped with Accelero Hybrid II cooler.

The hope was that watercooling the Zotac GTX 970 would keep its heat from affecting the CPU and allow the whole system to be cooled better, more quietly. Mounting the Accelero Hybrid II on the GTX 970 was, again, a job requiring patience, good small tools and some manual dexterity. The large back heatsink would have to be used, as the pump/heatblock prevented the use of small aluminum heatsinks affixed earlier to the RAM chips on the VGA card. This meant the primary PCIe 16X slot could not be used; it would have to go into the 8X slot two spots down. Not a big deal as PCIe 3.0 8x is not a bottleneck for any games or applications in this single VGA card system. For more info, see Puget Systems' investigation of the Impact of PCI-E Speed on Gaming Performance.

The VGA card bends on the left. Clips are normally used to pull the board closer to the back heatsink. It is is tricky to get the 4-pin fan plug into the VGA card header next to the power sockets.

Clips affixed on underside. They're made of somewhat flexible plastic. Hard to find spots that don't interfere with motherboard mounting.

This L-bracket is supposed to strengthen and stabilize the card, but it cannot fit when the VGA card is put in the second PCIe 8X slot of a MicroATX case.

This is just a DIY building tip: Bamboo skewer used to stick-handle a fan plug into a hard-to-reach header.

Accelero Hybrid II on Zotac GTX 970, installed in lower PCIe 8X slot. The radiator is mounted on the lower front panel position, with its fan blowing out, same as the other front fan. The two top fans were later installed above the CPU, blowing down. The CPU fan is blowing in the same direction as the front fans.

After our experience reviewing the Accelero Hybrid II, hopes were high, and they were not dashed. Configuration 3 kept the GPU temperature well in hand, not allowing it to go beyond 70~75°C when its radiator fan was set to run as slowly as 700 RPM. The Arctic fan is quiet enough than even at 1000 RPM, its contribution is basically inaudible in the noise of the three Corsair case fans. Strangely, CPU cooling was still less than ideal, with temperature reaching close to 80°C under either full Prime95 load or Furmark + P95x2. The best high load SPL achieved was just under 27 [email protected]; at idle it was 19 [email protected] This is not quite up to the standard of the other Gaming PC Guides SPCR has run this season, but it's a quiet PC.

Still, annoyed at the CPU temperatures (and the noise level), I decided to try a CPU cooler change.


  • Intel Core i5-4690K
  • Gigabyte Z97MX Gaming 5 motherboard
  • Zotac GTX 970 w/ Arctic Accelero Hybrid II watercooling
  • Noctua NH-C14 14cm fan top-down cooler
  • Kingston HyperX Genesis 4GB x2 RAM
  • Crucial MX100 512GB SSD
  • Seasonic G 550W

This was a relatively painless change, as the Noctua heatsinks share the same base mounting hardware. One cooler was easily swapped for the other.

The Noctua NH-C14 was used only with one fan mounted under the fin stack, blowing down. It only fit with the Arctic Accelero Hybrid II because the VGA card was in a lower PCIe slot. Top fans blowing in, front fans blowing out.

This config finally produced results I'd been expecting long before, with both GPU and CPU temperatures at just 71°C after half an hour of Furmark + Prime95x2 pulling 270W AC. The final SPL: 25 [email protected] in full load; 18 [email protected] in idle.

A bit of Furmark captured with AIDA64 report.

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