Quiet Mini-ITX Gaming Build Guide #2: NCASE M1 Edition

Do-It-Yourself Systems | Silent PC Build Guides
Viewing page 5 of 6 pages. Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 Next

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Stress Testing: CPU-centric

Sitting idle with only the Accelero Hybrid II-120's pump and the power supply fan turned on, the system measured 15~16 [email protected] and this increased to 17 [email protected] once the remaining fans were set to modest speeds. The noise level is low but could be quieter by utilizing a video card with a stock heatsink with the ability to shut its fans down completely when the GPU isn't being stressed. A higher idle noise level is unavoidable when an closed-loop cooler is employed in a fairly open case like the M1, but the benefit will become clear later on.

System Measurements
System State
Idle
x264 Playback
Video Encoding
Prime95x4
CPU Temp
34°C
34°C
57°C
69°C
MB Temp
33°C
34°C
44°C
50°C
GPU Temp
31°C
31°C
33°C
35°C
System Power (AC)
43W
48W
99W
118W
CPU and system fans at 550 RPM.
Radiator fan at 700 RPM.
System noise level: 17 [email protected]
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

We begin by testing the system with CPU-centric applications to see how it performs with non-gaming tasks. Of course the machine runs quite cool under light load, with CPU, motherboard, and GPU temperatures under 35°C. Video encoding with TMPGEnc heats up the CPU by an additional 23°C, but surprisingly, the motherboard temperature increases by 10°C as well. This isn't something we typically see in larger cases so we speculate that it's simply a matter of proximity. Everything inside the M1 is so close together so the heat put out by the processor more greatly affects everything around it. The GPU is liquid cooled but the chipset doesn't receive any direct help, so it bears the brunt of it. A full run of Prime95 pushes the CPU to 69°C, a mark we really don't want to exceed as our i5-4690K begins to throttle at 72~73°C.

Stress Testing: GPU-centric

For our GPU-intensive states, we use the Resident Evil 6 Benchmark Tool which benchmarks for a couple of minutes, displays the result, pauses for a short interval, and repeats. We tried a few other games but this one seemed to put the most demand on the GPU. The other test is a more demanding combination of Prime95 and FurMark, an incredibly stressful utility that pushes the GPU to its limit. For this state, we run Prime95 with only two threads instead of the maximum four, as most games run with less than 50% CPU utilization. The two combined still produces much more heat than any PC game title. When we torture-tested the ASUS STRIX GTX 980, a fan override activated at a GPU temperature of about 90°C so we settled on 85°C as a target, and we'll do the same here for the GTX 970.

System Measurements
System State
Resident Evil 6 Benchmark
Prime95x2 + FurMark
CPU Fan Speed
550 RPM
800 RPM
Radiator Fan Speed
700 RPM
900 RPM
CPU Temp
65°C
72°C
66°C
65°C
MB Temp
51°C
54°C
53°C
52°C
GPU Temp
79°C
84°C
84°C
75°C
21 dBA
20~21 dBA
20~21 dBA
22 dBA
System Power (AC)
~230W
260W
259W
259W
System fan at 550 RPM.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Despite almost doubling the system power draw compared to a full blast of Prime95, the Resident Evil 6 test doesn't prove to be much of a challenge. The same modest fan speeds result in acceptable CPU and GPU temperatures but the noise increases by 4 dB to 21 [email protected] As the fan speeds are identical, the cause can be attributed to the power supply fan ramping up and a considerable amount of coil whine emanating from the graphics card. When the benchmark is running, the GPU produces a steady, moderately high-pitched buzzed which is easily audible over the rest of the components. However, this effect only becomes annoying between runs and while sitting at the loading screen, when the buzzing turns into a full-on screech.

More consistent stress on the GPU actually makes the whine go away completely, as is the case when Prime95 and FurMark are run concurrently. This higher load state actually lowers the noise level slightly despite a 5°C spike in GPU temperature. Unfortunately, the extra demand is too much for the CPU which hits 72°C, so it begins to throttle off and on. Increasing the CPU fan speed quickly solves the problem, dropping the temperature back to the mid-60's. Speeding up the radiator fan by just 200 RPM results in a 9°C GPU temperature drop in exchange for a modest SPL increase. If you can tolerate a noisier system, there's plenty of headroom available if you prefer lower temperatures or want to try your hand at video card overclocking.

Unfortunately our GTX 970 lacks a VRM temperature sensor so we can't be certain how well the 120 mm equipped on the case floor helps in that regard, but our system is completely stable without any odd behavior or artifacting so it can be assumed the VRMs are adequately cool.

The sound of water sloshing inside the Accelero Hybrid II is audible when the PC is first turned on, but after a few minutes of warming up, it calms down. At idle, the system we built has a pleasant acoustic profile with a mostly broadband frequency distribution. On full load, the machine mostly sounds the same except for some tonality at ~160 and ~200 Hz but it's not really audible.

The Prime95+FurMark test puts more stress on the whole system, producing more low frequency noise (probably caused by the power supply fan), while the Resident Evil 6 causes high frequency coil whine in the 2~20 KHz range — the difference is plain as day.

Editor's Note Upon reading about the buzzing video card in a final proof of this article before posting, SPCR contributor & forum mod CA Steve had this comment:

I'll bet if you run FRAPS or similar FPS indicator, you'll find that the Resident Evil coil whine is due to the damn GPU running at >>60fps. See if you can turn V-Sync on or some other frame rate limiting option, and the coil whine should reduce, along with power use, thermals, noise...

Naturally we have had no chance to try this yet but will report back after we do.



Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 Next

Silent PC Build Guides - Article Index
Help support this site, buy from one of our affiliate retailers!
Search: