Juha's PC Noise Insulation Case

Go to Juha's web siteOne of the most elaborate noise insulation case for a computer built by an enthusiast is explained in great detail with text and a bazillion photos on Juha's personal web page. As impressive as the case is, the author's final conclusions are telling: The system still makes noise. It suggests the system could be quieter still if more effort was put into making it quieter before enclosing it. (Suspending the HDDs, getting rid of the plastic fan mounts and using soft mouting for the fans, replacing the stock CPU cooler with something better, improving the overall case airflow, and so on.)

Antec's new P180: Ultimate Silent Case?

One of the most exciting things not to be shown at CES is a new case that will soon be coming from Antec. Rather than a booth at the CES, Antec have a hotel suite nearby where press and customers are invited for a private gander at new products. The P180, a big mid-tower case that's a bit shorter than the Silverstone TJ06, appears to feature everything a silent PC enthusiast or performance nut would want. It is also a great looker in the best minimalist tradition.

Biostar's unusual iDEQ 300G SFF PC

Biostar's new iDEQ 300G is based on the Intel 915G chipset. Low noise level is claimed for use in the living room. This SFF has a unique mechanical design for a new level of ease for the barebones buyer: Entire hardware installation in just two minutes. "Not a single screw is needed; the chassis can open upward together with the front panel, looks like a shark stretches out its big jaw." This comment is certainly worth a photo. Click on the next link...

Intel BTX releases analyzed by Anandtech

Intel finally released some BTX products today (ie, they will actually be on the market some time soon), and Anantech posted an article about the Intel BTX release. They compare an Intel 915G microBTX board in an AOpen B300 microBTX case against ATX and microATX systems using the same CPU. Anandtech finds the microBTX quieter (but they are comparing against very standard ATX solutions) but a bit hotter. An interesting opening round for BTX.

AOpen i855 desktop Pentium-M board reviewed!

GamePC publishes the first AOpen i855GMEm-LFS M-ATX motherboard and Pentium M review in North America, with a slew of benchmarks as might be expected from a web site of that name. No details on power dissipation, but enough thermal notes to show how coolly the combo runs. It also turns out to be a great gaming rig.

Anand's PC Industry Update from Taipei

An industry overview article by none other than Anantech's founder Anand Lal Shimpi. Subtitled Industry Update - Q4-2004: AMD adds SSE3 Support, Intel's 925/915 not selling and more, the focus is entirely on PC component makers, with whom Anand personally met "for three days straight, usually from 8AM until as late as 11PM every night." It's a good newsy piece with interesting insights and tidbits on many topics of interest to hardware development watchers.

mCubed T-Balancer: The Ultimate Fan Controller

mCubed offers a multiple fan control system called the T-Balancer which is sophisticated enough for even the most demanding users. The T-Balancer is a small microprocessor-controlled external hardware unit that can reside inside the PC and connects via USB. Control is via Windows-based software. We have had a model in the lab for weeks; in lieu of a full review, here's a quick preview. The feature set is so rich that only a few key elements can be touched on here:

  • 4 separate configurable fan output channels, each with independent tach signal output to mainboard
  • Accurate speed control in manual or automatic mode via editable response curves
  • Fans can be slowed to an absolute speed minimum of 2% depending on model
  • Adaptive PWM allows adjustment of frequency for every fan model, with analog smoothing and filtering for quiet smooth operation
  • Definable hysteresis allow smooth operation even at steep response curves, no "up and down"
  • 0 rpm possible: if temperature rises, the controller speeds up the fan according to the response curve
  • Up to 8 temperature sensors

AMD A64 90nm power consumption measured

The Tech Report gives us a quick comparison of power consumption between a new 90nm core A64-3500+ against a current 130nm version and a P4 Prescott 90nm at 3.4GHz.. The quick & dirty: "Our die-shrunk Athlon 64 came out looking pretty darned good." Under load on three different apps, the total system AC power draw ranged 146W~151W for the 90nm core vs 175~179W for the 130nm core. 19-28W in AC is a very sizeable difference, suggesting at least 12~19W less power draw between the CPUs. These numbers translate to cooler measured CPU temps as well. The P4-3.4 is not even in the running, efficiency-wise, with total system AC power draw at 23-236W.

Apple iMac G5: Super Small & Very Quiet

Apple's new iMac G5 unveiled today is built into the back of 17" and 20" LCD monitors just 2" and 2.2" in depth and feature a 1.6 or 1.8 GHz G5 processor. Although Apple have not claimed this, it qualifies for the world's smallest desktop computer: The PC portion of the iMac has no footprint to speak of, and the monitor is only marginally deeper than some LCD monitors. The iMac G5 is considerably smaller and sleeker than similar LCD monitor + computer integrations from the PC world. The features and connectivity offered compete well with the very best SFF PCs offer.

All of this would be moot for SPCR if it was noisy, but Apple claims to have paid close attention to acoustics once again:

"The speaker grill [at the bottom edge of the monitor/pc] lets a trio of ultra-quiet blowers draw cool air into the system. These custom heat dissipaters can rotate at speeds as low as a few hundred RPM. Advanced thermal software spins them as fast or slow as needed... the iMac G5 measures less than 25dB when idle (at the same distance of 50cm, a whisper in a quiet room measures more than 30dB). A slit in the back of the case allows heat to rise out the top."

If true, this is quieter than any SFF PC except fanless units such as those from Hush, NiveusMedia, etc. The iMac G5 seems like a clever adaptation and application of notebook technology; surely PC makers could do similar? Now for a review sample. .. Discuss this news in the SPCR forum.

X-bit Labs examines power consumption of current VGA cards

A follow-up to an earlier piece on ATI cards' power consumption, this new X-bit Labs article examines current nVidia cards and compares them with ATI cards for power consumption. Detailed analysis of heat sources in a PC is of interest to anyone concerned about thermal and noise management, which is at the core of silent computing. Actually measuring VGA cards' power is a challenge that few web sites have attempted in the past. Definitely worth a read.

New Arctic Cooling VGA coolers at InsaneTek

Internet News

A new site called InsaneTek has just posted a review of the entire line of new VGA coolers from Arctic Cooling. As regular visitors are probably aware, Arctic Cooling's VGA Silencer is strongly recommended by SPCR. Its prime innovations are a big waterwheel style fan combined with a large cooling fins and a design that pushes the hot air from the VGA card out of the case instead of spewing it all around the case. It is not too noisy at standard speed and has a switch to slow the fan to a whisper quiet mode. The downside is that the original fits only certain models of the ATI 9000 series and nVidia GF3s.

The new AC VGA cooler line maintains the same key features in a somewhat more streamlined design, adds clever cooling for the VGA RAM, uses copper in many models, and is divided into two series: NV silencer 1 through 5, and ATI Silencer, 1 through 4. The nine models cover just about every current mainstream VGA card. One change is that most models now feature temperature control for the fan with different top speeds for various models. InsaneTek's review is quite good in most ways and surprisingly complete despite its brevity, but does little more than just touch upon the acoustics. Still definitely worth a read.

Intel's Plans for 478 & T Socket processors

An X-bit Labs article posted last week says Intel will offer 90nm products for socket 478, and also introduce some 130nm (Northwood core) processors for socket 775 (socket-T). To summarize,

For socket 478, well get more high end P4s -- P4EE-3.6 (NW), P4E-3.6 & 3.8 (Prescott), and Celerons (w/256Kb cache) up to 3.46GHz. There's also new slower P4-2.26 & 2.4 (533MHz / 512KB cache Prescott w/o Hyperthreading).

For socket-T, there's low end NW: 2.8C, 3.0C & 3.2C (800MHz / 512Kb cache). And high end NW: P4EE 3.2 & 3.46 (1066MHz / 2Mb cache).

None of these models have been in previous processor roadmaps but were revealed to Intel's partners in an announcement about new packaging for tray processors. Finally, "It is not clear whether the “unexpected” central processing units will be supplied into retail market, or will be available in limited quantities to selected computer makers."

From our PoV, the expansion of "low end" (read: cooler) processors on both 478 and 775 platforms is a good thing, allowing for quieter systems, especially in SFF where the thermal challenges of the Prescott virtually eliminated 775 from the quiet race.

SPCR Database Transfer Complete

SPCR's able admins moved SPCR to the new server during last night's scheduled shutdown. This does not mean that you are now looking at this site from the new server. The domain name server change request will become effective for some starting today; for others it will take longer. By the end of the 31st, all visitors will be at the new site.

Sunbeam Hard Drive Silencer

It has been ages since we examined the NoVibesIII, which still remains the best commercially made 3.5" hard disk decouple-mounting device. Recently, we came across an absolute knock-off that looks like it comes from the same factory. Called the Hard Disk Silencer, it's marketed by Sunbeam, whose simple yet effective multi-fan controller we reviewed a while ago.

FrontierPC and ADPMods, an online Canadian store in Windsor, Ontario, both submitted samples recently. After examining and using the samples for a couple of weeks, I can say the Hard Disk Silencer is so close to the NoVibesIII that they are interchangeable. The best thing is the price: Just CA$16~17.

Samsung's New Silent Notebook Drives

A quick preview of an item in the review queue: Samsung recently released their first notebook drives, the “SpinPoint M” Series: 5400 RPM and 8MB cache in 30G, 40G, 60G and 80G capacities.

I obtained a 40G model (MP0402H) and have been working with it for a couple of weeks. In a nutshell, this sample is about as quiet as the quietest 4200 RPM notebook drives (~16 dBA/1m) with super quiet seeks and vanishingly low vibration, and performance close enough to desktop 7200 RPM drives that in normal desktop apps, any difference is not noticeable. It generates 2.4W max and runs utterly cool. The retail price paid was just under US$100, which is only a modest price penalty compared with desktop drives.One of these notebook drives for the PC with 250~400 GB desktop drives in one or more external USB 2.0 boxes placed remotely would make for a silent computing solution without any serious penalties in performance, storage capacity or price. It's a great storage option for a silent computer. (The new Samsung notebook drive was used in the recent review of the YY Mars case.)

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