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TJ06 Vs. SPCR PSU INTAKE DUCT
One question that arises for regular SPCR readers is whether the TJ06's reversed motherboard position and CPU-dedicated duct is better than the PSU intake duct we've been espousing in the forums for a while. This is not a simple question, and it is unlikely to be adequately answered without many users trying various things with both the TJ06 and the PSU duct idea.
Our PSU intake duct idea is simple:
- Use an 80mm fan PSU in a conventional case.
- Create a duct or tunnel from the intake side of the PSU to the top one or two optical drive bays.
- The duct separates the PC into two thermal zones, one for just the PSU, and another for the rest. The main benefit is to keep the PSU's thermally controlled fan from ramping up in speed as a result of heat from the rest of the components being sucked in through the PSU.
The best documentation of the PSU duct idea is in Leo Quan's article Quiet MP Dual-CPU Workstation and a reader's site (which I hope can take the traffic this link will generate): Lilla's first homebuilt computer - with PSU intake duct
Having been a PSU intake duct user for years now, and encouraged both of the above-mentioned silent PCers in their quest, I know firsthand how well it works to keep the PSU cool and quiet. A well designed quiet PSU hardly ever ramps up under any kind of load in this setup. However, CPU cooling still needs to be treated separately.
The Silverstone TJ06 reverses our PSU duct concept. It's the CPU that gets its own dedicated duct, and the rest of the system is fairly well isolated from both the airflow and the heat within the CPU thermal zone. So the CPU gets the benefit of the dedicated airflow tunnel rather than the PSU. The big difference is that in the TJ06, the only exhaust vent for the rest of the case is through the PSU. This lack of another exhaust vent for the upper chamber seems like the most serious thermal management flaw in the TJ06. It's too bad that they did not find a better arrangement for the hard drives so that a 120mm exhaust fan could be incorporated on the back panel below the PSU.
Still, ventilation in the upper half of the case will not be an issue until you get a seriously hot combination of VGA cards and hard drives. At that point, there are probably several options:
- Open up one or more of the front optical drive bay covers and create an intake duct to increase airflow through this area and the PSU. Yes, you could still install a PSU intake duct in here!
- Open up on or more of the floppy drive bay covers to create an intake duct closer to the VGA card
- Remove all the PCI slot covers above the VGA card to create an exhaust path; you could even rig up an 80mm or maybe even a 120mm exhaust fan here. This assumes you have at least 3-4 slots free.
- Cut a 120mm hole on the back panel behind the HDD bay and use a 120mm exhaust fan.
This area could actually accommodate two fans for the modder.
Is the Duct Necessary?
This is not a trivial question. If a HSF that blows towards the back exhaust fan is used, and the back exhaust fan is left on, then you have much of the push/pull effect of duct + dual 120mm fan setup. While the incoming air to the CPU HS might not be as cool as if the duct was used, the pressure and air velocity across the fins might benefit from the close placement of the HS fan and so compensate for the absence of the duct.
This might cause more of the CPU heat to rise up into the rest of the case, obviating the upside down motherboard placement, but with the HSF and back 120mm exhaust fan working in tandem, it probably would be a very small thermal change. There would also be the added benefit of the incoming 120mm fan airflow now spreading throughout the case rather than just through the duct.
For the modder, another possibility is to shorten the duct so that it falls short of the front fan by a few inches. This would retain much of the benefit of the full duct but allow more of the intake air to flow up to the rest of the case. Some effort would have to be made to secure the duct, however.
The answer to this question, like with so many questions about thermals in cases, probably depends on your particular setup. Some experimentation is well worthwhile with this case.
The Silverstone TJ06 is certainly not the first to incorporate upside down mounting for the motherboard. The recently released V series cases by Lian Li (including the PC-V2000 reviewed here by Charles Gilliatt) come to mind. Those are also large cases with unusual layouts, but they position the PSU in a rear chamber blocked off fromt the rest of the case, and position the CPU almost smack dab in the middle of the case, heightwise. They are all aluminum (much more prone to translating HDD and fan vibration into noise), and everything I know about them suggests that both acoustically and thermally, the TJ06 is probably superior.
There appears to be some connection between the Silverstone TJ06 and the Avance Terminator case we reported being shown at the Computex show last June. The front bezel is obviously different, but the interior looks identical. Given the absence of promotional info or reviews of the Avance, it's probably not available in the US or Canada at this time.
Few cases are truly optimized for low noise computing, and even the best mid-towers have some flaws and compromises in this regard. The keys for a silent computer are:
- unobstructed, generous airflow potential,
- solid, non-resonant design and construction.
- no direct path between noise source and the operator's ears, and
- hard drive decoupling ¬ó either built in or ease of employing it.
In the first parameter, the Silverstone Temjin TJ06 achieves excellence for the CPU. The airflow potential for this CPU is very strong. The fan grills are probably good for blocking EMI emission, yet are about as open as a grill can be. The intake side could have been a tad more open; still, the airflow this duct + dual push-pull 120mm fans provides is excellent.
Their NT01 heatsink works well but only with a socket 478 motherboard that has the heatsink retention bracket going in the right direction. (Up/down for length). Any number of good heatsinks could probably be used fanlessly here with those dual 120mm fans. Just choose one with well-spaced fins that allows airflow in the right direction when installed on the motherboard of your choice in this case.
Airflow for the upper chamber is more restricted and could pose a potential problem for a system with a very hot VGA card and/or multiple drives. This issue, and the hard drive bay seem less than ideal.
For the test system, a low airflow 80mm intake fan, a 120mm fan PSU and the heat-exhaust cooling fan we employed for the ATI9800 Pro, which is quite a hot card, there was no issue with cooling in the upper chamber. The use of many hard drives -- say more than two or three -- would probably increase the temperatures in this area, but there is plenty of headroom for systems hotter than the test rig.
Suspending the hard drive to lower the noise floor further (down under 20 dBA/1m) might pose a bit of a challenge. The only available space is in the external 5.25" bays, which in most cases are rather hot places. However, the main chamber is insulated from the heat around the CPU, and fresh air can come in through the front panel vent and rise up to the optical bay, so chances are, hard drives suspended in the lower optical drive bays will remain at reasonable temperatures. There is certainly room to experiment.
The very sturdy steel case and elegant hinged aluminum facia are studies in the concept of form follows function.
The acoustic and bearing quality of the 120mm fans provided is about the best we've seen for any stock case-included fans. An excellent balance of generous airflow and low noise. We've already covered the nasty 80mm fan; that is a mistake but easily corrected by the user. And just as easily corrected by Silverstone; we hope they read this and take action.
The case is tall enough that its natural position is the floor, so even though the front vent has a direct path between noise source and the user, this aspect of noise insulation is not bad at all. It's the only opening at the front or sides of the case, and it is about as far from the seated user as it can be.
The Temjin TJ06 is a unique design that's mostly successful. It is good both for a thermally excessive overclocked system of the type still favored by many gamers, as well as for a super quiet, powerful system that many readers of SPCR seek to build or own. The size of the case eliminates it from the running in tight spaces, but for floor placement, it's usually the footprint, not the height that's usually the restricting factor. It's a good case for enthusiasts and modders who will never be happy with a stock case. Our kudos to Silverstone for this thoughtful provacative product.
* Excellent intake vents and airflow pathways.
* Great cooling for CPU area.
* Sturdy construction and design minimizes panel vibration.
* Lots of room for drives.
* Tasteful understated looks.
* Many exposed drive bays. A multifan controller in one would be very useful.
* Excellent 120mm fans included.
* Back panel behind HDD bay might be good for a radiator for watercooling... although that seems highly unnecessary in this case.
* No exhaust fan in upper chamber. An optional fan vent behind the HDD bay could be useful.
* Area behind low front intake fan can't be used for HDD suspension.
* The case is a bit too big?
Our thanks to SilverStone Technology for the TJ06 case and NT01 heatsink samples.
Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.
NOTE: Readers have responded strongly to the unusualy desgn of this case; there is something of a controversial discussion in the thread linked above.
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A quick note from Silverstone: They now offer a windowed side panel version of this case, as pictured below.
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