A friend recently asked me to build a computer to be used primarily for Photoshop. After some assistance from members of these forums (thanks everyone!), we finally decided on an i7 based system. I tried to choose components that represented good value, rather than getting all high-end gear. The video card is overkill for Photoshop, but at least it's fanless. Here's the list:
Intel Core i7 920
Thermalright HR-01 Plus, with LGA1366 Bolt-thru kit
Kingston DDR3-1333 (2GB x 6)
Gigabyte 9800GT 1GB Silent Cell
Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB HDD
OCZ Vertex 60GB SSD
Liteon DVD burner
Antec NSK4000BII Case
Seasonic S12II 430W PSU
Welland ME-240 Dual Bay Mobile Rack
Scythe Slipstream 1200 case fan
Windows 7 RC 64-bit
The build went fairly smoothly, and Windows 7 installed without any problems. This is how it looked initially; the cables to the eSATA backplate tend to dominate the picture:
Here you can get a closer look at the bolt-through arrangement. Temperatures at idle were reasonable, and the system was very quiet. Although not perfect, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the rubber grommets worked with the HDD. The Scythe Slipstream was connected to the CPU fan header on the motherboard. The BIOS allowed selection of either PWM or voltage control for the fan.
Prime95 (64-bit version, 8 instances, small FFTs) and Furmark were used for stress testing, Realtemp for measuring temperatures, and Speedfan for checking the fan speed. With the system under full load, temperatures were climbing into the high 80s, and the PSU fan sounded like it was ramping up to the max. Not a great result, but I had been expecting something like this. I was, however, pleased with the performance of the PSU. It ramped up smoothly only when both Prime95 and Furmark were running at the same time. The PSU fan made a feint whine when working hard, but this was mostly drowned out by the sound of air movement. In future I would choose a modular PSU, as there were a lot of unused cables that needed to be jammed here and there, and because they are good quality, they're quite stiff and bulky.
I installed this simple duct over the heatsink. It's just a piece of folded cardboard with some bits cut out of the bottom corner for clearance around the motherboard's heatpipe. It's wedged in firmly around the case fan, with just two pieces of adhesive tape holding it in place. Temperatures at full load dropped by 12degC.
The case seemed a bit too restrictive on airflow, so I removed the slot cover below the video card. Temperatures dropped 4degC for the video card and 3degC for the CPU. Also, the PSU fan doesn't spin up quite as much at full load.
A two-bay mobile rack was used to house the SSD, which contains the OS and applications. The other bay is for future expansion, or can be used to make backups onto a laptop drive from the internal 640GB HDD. Kind of reminds me of the old days when I backed up my company's minicomputer onto tape cartridges (only a lot faster!).
Mysteriously, although it's covered with the usual advertising hype, there is no brand name on the box that the mobile rack came in, it's just marked as "ME-240" in tiny letters. Here's the verbatim description on the back of the box:
The dual bay mobile rack features the Trayless HDD installation , Tool-Free HDD Hot-Swap & the patented Scratch-Proof SATA connector , you can just integrate it easily and perfectly in the 3.5" bay of Mini PC or Desktop PC. Saving your pocket to support 2 units of 2.5" SATA drives simultaneously !
ME-240 supports safe and "REAL" Hot-Swap by using the up-to-day Scratch-Proof SATA connector. This patented connector is particular about the reliable "Anti-Scratch" when connecting HDD to the mobile rack. Without damaging or scratching the gold pin of HDD , now you don't have to worry the frequency of HDD exchange anymore !
Gotta love that (sorry, couldn't resist)! I just hope it lives up to all its promises. I also put one in my own system. I quite like it so far.
Anyway, final temperature results at 25degC ambient were:
CPU GPU Case Fan (max)
Idle 38 52 1000
Prime95 69 50 1283
Prime95+Furmark 70 84 1283
It's not the absolute quietest system I've ever built, but I'm very satisfied with the result nonetheless. The i7 is a fairly hot processor at load. I tried enabling Turbo Boost
in BIOS, but found that it increased temperatures dramatically when stress testing, with an insignificant increase in performance. However, considering the intended use for this system, the kind of load placed on the system during stress testing would never be reached in real world operation, so Turbo Boost could probably be enabled without any fear of high temperatures.