SilverStone FTZ01: Mini-ITX Fortress

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System Configuration:

  • Intel Core i5-4690K processor - 3.4 GHz (3.8 GHz with Turbo Boost), 22nm, 84W
  • Noctua NH-L12 CPU cooler - 92 mm fan only
  • ASUS Z97I-PLUS motherboard - Intel Z97 chipset, mini-ITX
  • ASUS Strix GeForce GTX 980 graphics card - 2048 CUDA cores, 1178 MHz clock (1279 MHz with GPU Boost), 7010 MHz memory
  • Kingston HyperX Genesis memory - 2x4GB, DDR3-1600, C10
  • Seagate Desktop SSHD hybrid drive - 2TB, 7200 RPM, 8GB NAND Flash, SATA 6 Gbps
  • SilverStone SX500-LG power supply - 500W, modular, SFX-L
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate operating system, 64-bit

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95 processor stress software.
  • FurMark stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer: SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed in two states: idle, and load using Prime95 (2/4 instances, large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 85°C (at an ambient temperature of 22°C).

Baseline Noise

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU fan is set to its minimum speed under PWM control (400 RPM), and the GPU fans are off by default. The system fan(s) are connected to controllable fan header(s) and are set to a variety of speeds using SpeedFan. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fan(s) sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, GPU fans off)
Fan Setting
Avg. Fan Speed
SPL @1m
15~16 dBA
880 RPM
17~18 dBA
1040 RPM
20 dBA
1170 RPM
22~23 dBA
1320 RPM
25 dBA
1550 RPM
29~30 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front of case in vertical orientation (top fan facing mic).
Ambient noise level: 10~11 [email protected]

The stock fans are thin models with slimmer blades so they don't produce as much noise as standard 25 mm thick fans, but their relatively high nominal speed makes up for this. As a result, they should satisfy both the quiet conscious and the noise tolerant. At idle, the rest of the system measures 15~16 [email protected] and the system fans start to make an acoustic impact at about 800 RPM. At full speed, they're fairly loud, generating 29~30 [email protected]

The quality of noise output is high. There is a bit of drive vibration but the effects are not noticeable from a nominal distance, and the stock fans have a pleasant sound. They have a mostly broadband profile with a notable lack of tonality. This is rather surprising as the RVZ01, which is equipped with the same fan, was plagued with buzzing and clicking, and one of its fans was faulty and had to be replaced. After hearing the fans in this case, it now seems possible that the second fan in the RVZ01 was also faulty.

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