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

Do-It-Yourself Systems | Silent PC Build Guides
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SOFTWARE

As the Accelero Hybrid II-120's stock fan is swapped out with a regular case fan, there is little need for a GPU utility like GPU Tweak or MSI Afterburner unless overclocking is on the table. The ASUS Fan Xpert 3 can control all the fans and monitor temperatures but the version that ships with our ASUS Z97I-PLUS has a previously unknown fault.

After about five minutes on the full load test, all the connected fans inexplicably ramp up. In this state, according to Fan Xpert, all the fans should be running at their designated reduced speeds, but in actuality, they kick up to full speed. While no such option is available in the utility or in the UEFI BIOS, there seems to be built-in fail-safe that kicks in when the temperatures reached a certain point. Closing Fan Xpert before loading the system prevented this from happening. This is very odd as we did not encounter this type of behavior with the Z97-PRO or with the older versions of the ASUS software.


SpeedFan main screen with the sensors and fan speed controls properly renamed.

As a result, we go back to old standby, SpeedFan. It takes some extra time to setup properly but it offers most of the same functionality, only in a less attractive (though also less complicated) form. For some odd reason the only sensor missing is the speed of CHA_FAN1, which is powering the fan on the bottom of the case used to help cool the VRMs on the graphics card. If you're new to this application, our SpeedFan article will guide you through the configuration process and how to setup dynamic temperature-based control.


AIDA64.

AIDA64 is more reliable in the sensor department, displaying all the relevant information including a more detailed breakdown of CPU temperatures. Unfortunately it lacks SpeedFan's fan controls and charting feature, so there isn't one comprehensive replacement for the ASUS utility.

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 5~10 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

SPCR's Silent Mini-ITX Gaming PC #2 Component List
SPCR Build Components
Street Price
Alternatives
$220
Noctua NH-D9L
$57*
Noctua NH-L12 - $65
ASUS Z97I-PLUS
$150
$95
Zotac GeForce GTX 970
$330
$115
NZXT Kraken X31 + NZXT Kraken G10 Adapter - $100
$160
NCASE M1
$215
 
SilverStone SX600-G 600W
$120
 
Noctua NF-A9 PWM
$18
Scythe Kama PWM 92mm - $7
Scythe GlideStream 120-MP
$12
Noiseblocker M12-S1 - £16
Nexus Real Silent - $12
Scythe GlideStream 120-LM - $12
Scythe Slip Stream 120-M - $10
Noiseblocker B12-2
£14
TOTAL
~$1514
 
*MSRP
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.

Building a high performance compact gaming PC isn't a cheap endeavor, especially if you're shooting for something both supremely small and quiet. Our total cost comes out to ~US$1514 which is actually slightly more expensive than our earlier, more powerful build with the Rosewill Legacy W1-S and GTX 980. You can cut the budget a bit by opting for cheaper alternatives but a few of the components are indispensable.

While overpriced for what you physically get, nothing compares to NCASE M1 when you take into account its super compact form. Of all the cases we've looked at, only the SilverStone RVZ01 comes close in volume, but its cooling options are comparably limited. The Accelero Hybrid II-120 is also critical to the success of our build, preventing all the heat produced by the GPU from lingering inside creating extra thermal stress on all the other components while emitting a limited amount of noise. CPU cooling can't be ignore either and the Noctua NH-D9L gets the job done with quite modest fan speeds.

Overall we are quite pleased with the final result. The noise levels we achieved aren't quite as low as previous builds but they're pretty darn good for a system of this size, and perfectly acceptable even by our lofty standards. Compared to an average gaming tower, this box is in an entirely different league, coming very close to meeting the requirements of an SPCR Certified Silent PC (noise levels of 15/20 [email protected] or lower at idle/load).

Many thanks to Zotac, NCASE, Intel, ASUS, Kingston, SilverStone, Noctua, Arctic, Scythe, and Noiseblocker sponsoring the components in this build guide.

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Articles of Related Interest
Journey to a Silent MicroATX Gamer
Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120 Liquid GPU Cooler
Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide
Quiet ATX Gamer, R5 Version
SPCR's Quiet ATX Gaming Build Guide
Case Basics & Recommendations

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Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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