Antec NSK2400 / Fusion Media PC Case

Cases|Damping
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System Configuration #5

We went over the top with an older video card that still has lots of gaming power, and generates plenty of heat. An AOpen Aeolus PCX6800GT-DVD256 is one of the workhorses around the SPCR lab. It's gone through more torture and heatsink swaps than any vidcard should ever be subject to. This time, we strapped on a Zalman VF900 VGA cooler with fan to it, and ran the fan at 5V. The SPL of this HSF at 5V measures 20 dBA@1m. It sounds a bit like a whispery rubbing of paper.


Zalman VF900 HSF on AOpen 6800GT PCIe vidcard.

This configuration was by far the most powerful and the most demanding, thermally. We also pushed it the hardest. One nicety: The AOpen card has a thermal sensor which the nVidia driver can access.

Config #5 (AOpen 6800GT vidcard, both stock 120 fans @ low)
Load
AC
CPU
GPU
Board
HDD
SPL
Idle
85W
33°C
49°C
35°C
28°C
29 dBA
@1m
Rthdribl
133W
35°C
64°C
38°C
28°C
CPUBurn x2
159W
52°C
49°C
38°C
28°C
Rthdribl + CPUBurn x2
200W
55°C
66°C
41°C
28°C

It's a reasonable estimate that this GPU draws some 30W at idle and at least 55W under full load. Its temperatures stayed modest throughout testing. We've never observed any misbehavior from this card till well over 80°C. The CPU and board temperatures went up a bit, but again, they were well within safe limits.

Even with long term steady 200W AC power input, the power supply fan never ramped up. The separate chamber and closely positioned intake vents worked very well.

The noise between this config and the last was really too small to measure. It may have been higher, but from a meter away, you could not hear the increase.

System Configuration #6

The final configuration was an attempt to drop the noise level down to a much lower level, swapping out any components necessary to do so. Here's what we did:

>>Remove both stock fans, block the front fan vent again, and put in a Scythe 120mm fan at 5~6V on the back position. This fan has a Fluid Dynamic Bearing, much like the ones used in quiet hard drives, is very smooth and quiet, and moves a bit more air than the Nexus 120.

>>Go back to the fanless Asus EAX1600XT Silent/TVD/256M video card. There's no need for a hot gaming card in this media PC machine.

>>Use a Zalman 7700AlCu heatsink modded with a Nexus 120 fan, run at ~7V. The cooling performance not really improved, but it is smoother sounding, and slightly quieter.

>>Replace the stock Antec PSU for a Seasonic S12-330. The three lower powered S12 models are still quiet champs among fan-cooled PSUs, over two years after their introduction. The Antec NeoHE might be slightly quieter at start, but the S12 has a proven reliable record and its fan usually stays at lower speed up to higher temperatures. 20 dBA@1m is about as good as it gets.


Quietest config: A Scythe 120mm fan @6V and a Seasonic S12-330.

The results?

The noise level dropped to level that's just about competitive with fanless systems. Except when the selected HDD was seeking long and hard, this system is quiet enough that most people would be happy to have it on their desk (to their right). Use a quiet notebook drive and suspend it, and you wouldn't even have HDD seek noise issues.

FYI, using clothing elastic to suspend two notebook drives vertically exactly where the 3.5" drives are supposed to go is so easy that we'll leave it up to you to try and report back in our forums. (There's lots of information about HDD suspensions all over SPCR.) With perpendicular recording technology starting to come on stream, notebook drive capacity is rising at the same rate as standard 3.5" drives, and we'll see drops in price soon.

The CPU temperature was higher than in any other configuration, but still within spec. Again there was no sign of any misbehavior from the video card. As expected, the PSU fan never changed speed or noise.

Config #6 (Asus 1600XT vidcard, one Scythe 120 fan @ low)
Load
AC
CPU
Board
HDD
SPL
Idle
68W
33°C
36°C
32°C
21~22 dBA
@1m
Rthdribl
142W
55°C
40°C
32°C
CPUBurn x2
161W
59°C
43°C
32°C

It's worth considering the cost of this configuration:

  • The Antec NSK2400 is currently being sold for an average for about US$80, according to the SPCR/Pricegrabber information on these pages.
  • A Scythe 120mm fan sells for under $10.
  • A Zalman 7700 + Nexus 120 fan runs perhaps $45.
  • A Seasonic S12-430 can be had for ~$80, but it's overkill, and the S12-330 is acoustically very similar and has plenty of power enough to do the same job. The S12-330 can be found for ~$50.

So the total is $80 for the case, plus $105 in additional parts, or $185. An unused Antec SU380 PSU probably has some resale value, however. It's highly efficient, and fairly quiet. Perhaps you could get $30~40 for it. Which brings the outlay down to $145~155 for a HTPC case, PSU and CPU cooler you can leave running all the time and not be bothered by the noise (unless you live in a tomb).

You could also just swap out the Antec stock 120mm fan for a quieter one and swap out the fan in the SU380 PSU for a quieter 80mm fan. Of course, this would void the warranty on the PSU, and expose you to some risk of damage and/or injury.

Is this configuration over the top? Yes, for most folks. As soon as you start watching TV, movies, or playing music, the sound from the speakers will drown out even 30 dBA@1m noise from the media PC. Some people have 30 dBA as normal ambient background noise! So 22 dBA@1m is nice, but not necessary except if you like leave your PC on all the time in a room you sleep in (an energy no-no!) or press the mute button then sit there and listen for the computer noise.



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