Quiet SLI Gaming PC Build Guide

Do-It-Yourself Systems | Silent PC Build Guides
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COMPONENT SELECTION (Con't)

CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K - US$225

Alternatives:

  • Intel Core i7-4790K - US$330
  • Intel Core i5-4590 - US$195


Intel Core i5-4690K.

Intel's superior energy efficiency has us coming back to their Haswell processors time and time again. Quad core LGA1150 chips also deliver excellent all-around performance, both in single and multi-threaded applications/games. An ideal choice is the Core i5-4690K, a quad core chip running at 3.4 GHz (up to 3.8 GHz with Turbo Boost). Only the most demanding games at very high resolutions can come close to bottlenecking this processor and even if this happens, it has an unlocked multiplier enabling easy overclocking to relieve any such limitations. A more expensive Core i7 probably isn't warranted but given the budget involved with this PC, it certainly wouldn't be out of place.

CPU Cooler: Scythe Kotetsu - US$40

Alternatives:

  • Scythe Mugen MAX - US$50
  • Scythe Mugen 4 - US$50
  • Be Quiet! Shadow Rock Slim - US$50
  • Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo - US$30


Scythe Kotetsu.

Haswell processors don't run particularly hot but the Intel stock cooler is woefully insufficient for a silent PC. One of SPCR's current favorite value cooling solutions is the Scythe Kotetsu, which delivers excellent performance at a low price. This modest tower cooler is equipped with a single 120 mm fan with an overall pleasant/smooth sound. The FT05's cables all emanate near the top/rear corner of the motherboard so you may want to avoid larger heatsinks that are difficult to install after the board is secured in the case.

Many gamers regard an AIO water cooling unit as a defacto choice for a high-end build but I have to disagree as they are neither cost or noise efficient. They also usually ship with acoustically poor fans, and the buzzing and gurgling sounds from the pump raises the noise floor, making it difficult to get the noise level down when the system is idle.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5 TH - US$230

Alternatives:

  • Asus Z97-PRO - US$190
  • Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2 - US$160
  • Asus Z97-A - US$140
  • Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI - US$115


The Gigabyte Z87X-UD5 TH.

The Gigabyte Z87X-UD5 TH is far from my first choice, but it is the only suitable model on hand for this build. A premier SKU from the previous generation, it's no longer being carried by most retailers and not worth buying at this point. There's nothing wrong with the Z87 chipset per se as all it's really missing is SATA Express (which some Z97 models dispense with anyway) and support for the upcoming generation of LGA1150 CPUs. However, unless there's a significant discount involved, you're better off with one of the many Z97 options available on the market.


A top-down view.

This model has an ample number of controllable fan headers but only three are needed, two for the case fans and one for the CPU fan (the GPU fans have fan control built-in). More importantly, it has two full-length PCI-E 3.0 slots with x8 bandwidth each and there are two slots in between them, creating ample separation between the two video cards. An ATX board is not a necessity either as some microATX models satisfy these requirements.

Power Supply: Be Quiet! Straight Power 10 600W - US$130

Alternatives:

  • Seasonic X-650 - US$115
  • Corsair RM650 - US$110
  • Corsair CS650M - US$90

Today's power supplies are highly efficient and most models don't produce much noise. This is especially true when they're placed on the opposite side of the CPU area and given direct access to cool intake air from the outside like in the FT05. From a thermal standpoint, it's essentially isolated from the rest of the components and only has to cool itself. While a passively cooled unit would be ideal for many quiet systems, this would produce extra heat compared to an actively cooled model. The GTX 970 isn't exactly a power hungry beast but two of them will produce a fairly substantial thermal load, so it would be silly to put even more strain on the cooling situation.


Fan and connectors.

Be Quiet! makes some of the quietest power supplies on the market and the Straight Power 10 is a fine example, remaining practically silent for much of its lower range, just like the Dark Power Pro 550W we reviewed awhile back. Be Quiet! products are sold by NCIX in the US and Canada. If you need an alternative, we generally recommend models manufactured by Seasonic (which includes some SKUs sold by Corsair, Antec, XFX, and others). We can attest to the quietness of the Seasonic X-series, and according to techPowerUp!, the Corsair CS650M and RM650 are fairly quiet at loads between 300~400W.


Label.

This build will require only about 350W DC, so the Straight Power 10 600W offers more than enough capacity. It's 80 Plus Gold certified for high efficiency; Compared to a Bronze unit, it will use a bit less power and run slightly cooler, but this may not be enough to actually lower the noise it produces in any meaningful way. The claimed baseline noise specification is 10.7 [email protected], which means it won't register on our sound level meter in our 10~11 dBA ambient chamber. It also has modular cables which means less clutter inside the case.

SSD: Samsung 850 Pro 256GB - US$170

Alternatives:

  • Samsung 840 EVO 1TB - US$430
  • Samsung 850 Pro 512GB - US$285
  • Crucial MX100 512GB - US$190
  • Crucial MX100 256GB - US$100


The Samsung 850 Pro.

Solid-state storage may be the most significant advance in the last decade for silent computing. With no moving parts, they generate zero noise, but also have ridiculously low latency, resulting in fast loading times. As games continue to grow in complexity, having an SSD becomes increasingly advantageous. A 240~256GB model should be considered a starting point; with Windows and a few triple-A gaming titles installed, a smaller drive could be filled close to capacity. Also, with ever increasing memory density, fewer dies are needed, which can mean fewer read/write channels being used and slower performance for SSDs of lower capacity.

This time around, the Samsung 850 Pro, the fastest SSD we've ever tested, gets put into action. Is it worth extra cost compared to a more mainstream model like the Crucial MX100? Probably not, but upgrading to a premium solid-state solution is a drop in bucket compared to a pair of GTX 970s, at least when we're talking about sub-300GB capacity models. A larger variant is probably warranted depending on the size of your gaming library and a mechanical hard drive is a pragmatic supplement for storing other mass media.

RAM: Kingston HyperX Genesis 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1866 - US$95

Alternatives:

  • Crucial Ballistix Tactical 8GB 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1866 - US$70
  • Kingston HyperX Savage 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-2133 - US$75


HyperX Genesis memory kit.

Precisely what RAM is used as system memory is not critical, although other web sites have identified DDR3-1600 to DDR3-1833 as the sweet spot, somewhat dependent on the particular game. Within this clock speed range, small variations in timing have minuscule effect on overall performance. 8GB is more than sufficient for any single game and general purpose multitasking. 16GB is a waste of money unless you have a specific need for it, and RAM is one of the easiest things to upgrade later in a system, if you really need it for some new application. We recommend choosing a brand with a good lifetime warranty and to avoid models with overly large heatspreaders as they can interfere with larger CPU coolers. Kingston HyperX RAM has been solid for us, and it sports lower profile heatspreaders.



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