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 Post subject: Riok's Quiet ATX Gaming build 2017, inspired by SPCR
PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:42 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 07, 2017 4:01 pm
Posts: 28
Location: France
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The first time I built a computer was with the Antec Sonata. I tried modding my Radeon 8600 pro with a passive heatsink but I couldn't really call it "quiet". At the time the Eartwatts PSU provided 430Watts. SPCR judged it "Still pretty quiet, even to a fairly high power load".

During the following years there was the great blower period during which GPU size multiplied, PSU wattage increased and noise was going higher and higher. That was the dark age. For my second built, I am happy to see SPCR is still alive, wattage is going down and quiet components are more easily available.

My goal for this build is to have a computer capable of gaming at 1920*1080 (Full HD) that would be silent at idle and quiet during gaming. As an option it should be linux friendly.

Of course miniITX looks sexy but the motherboards are often more expansive, it is easier to have an overheating system or incompatible parts. As I wasn't into business for some time I choose the easy ATX way and follow a guide: SPCR's Quiet ATX Gaming Build Guide.
Let’s hear how it sounds !

COMPONENT SELECTION

MSI GTX 1060 GAMING X 3GB
Intel Core i3-4170 3.7Ghz
Scythe Kotetsu
Asus Z97-A
GSkill Trident 1600Mhz 2*2GB
Advantech SQFlash SSD 64GB
WD Caviar Green 650GB
Fractal Design R5
Corsair RM550x
Fractal Design Venturi HF14 140mm Fan

Total cost: < 1000€

GPU: MSI GTX 1060 GAMING X 3GB

"This result, combined with the temperature results, show that the card’s cooler is larger than it needs to be. Although the cooling performance is appreciated, everything comes at a price. The question whether that price is too high segues perfectly to our conclusions." - Igor Wallossek

"Gaming fan noise is also awesome! With only 29 dBA, the card is unbelievably quiet, especially considering the performance it provides. If you want quiet, this is the card to get for even a quiet media PC that can handle 1080p gaming. Temperatures are very good, too, with around 67°C under full load." - W1zzard

At the time of writing I can get that card for 200€ with a good deal. I buy the card new so I can send it back if there is any coil whine. It has very good reviews from a noise point of view. Some reviewer complain that the cooling system of that card is too expensive and that is very good news for the quiet build ! They appreciate the beefy cooler and low noise.

It is good to have such reviews. Not all cards go for silence and some still perpetuate the "crazy blower" tradition with noise levels up to 50db !
Radeon RX Vega 56's noise level is unacceptable as well.

As I am going the easy ATX way, I am not bothered with the larger size of this card but enjoys its cooling performance. The 1060 comes close to the 980 and can run most games at full settings on Full HD.

CPU: Intel Core i3-4170 3.7Ghz

"The real back-breaker in the Intel-AMD debate however is the superior energy efficiency of Intel's lineup." - Lawrence Lee

As I am on a budget, this CPU provides great gaming performances and I am sure it will produce even less heat than the i5. I didn't even bother looking at AMD processors as nobody wanting a quiet rig seems to use them, that choice was easy.

CPU Cooler: Scythe Kotetsu

"However, it was one of the best CPU coolers we've tested, thanks in no small part to an upgraded modern mounting system which we've been suggesting they switch to for years. Its modest composition also made it relatively light and more affordable than much of the high-end competition, and of course Scythe fans are renowned for their pleasant acoustics." - Lawrence Lee

There are so many coolers on the market... let's just follow the guide.

ATX Motherboard: Asus Z97-A

There is one more weird thing with ATX: The GPU is not detected by the bios, lol. So all your fans in the case cannot follow the GPU, they have to follow the CPU... which is quite useless for gaming. I also discovered that when your GPU is at 70°c, the VRM next to it can be around 20°C hotter. So your case fans won't help the GPU, it will have to ramp up his fans but that still won't guarantee a part of the card isn't overheating ! Interesting business.

So the cool thing with that motherboard is that you can plug a temperature sensor. But there is still one more mistery, it's to figure out what kind of sensor is needed. It is a 10k thermistor, You can get one for 1€ on ebay. Here is a link:
1M-NTC-Thermistor-Accuracy-Temperature-Sensor-10K-1-3950-Probe-Cable-Waterproof

RAM: GSkill Trident 1600Mhz

The i3 won't run RAM over 1600Mhz so that is perfect. Not too loud despite the wings.

SSD: Advantech SQFlash industrial SSD 64GB

This little SSD was cheap and has a read/write performance of 550MB/100MB. That's good for a system drive. Very quiet.

Hard Drive: WD Caviar Green 650GB

Since 2009, I guess hard drives have improved since then and I should upgrade that part but hey, it still works and is big enough for my needs. It has a read/write performance of 80MB/s and with an SSD system drive it performs well.

I guess it is similar to the WD Caviar Green 2TB from 2009 which was rated 8/10 for vibration and 13/15 dbA for airborne acoustics.

CASE: Fractal Design R5

"Given the modest price, it's a silent case for everyman" - SPCR

"That said, for a single gpu, with quiet computing in mind, i would recommend the Fractal Design Define R5" - Abula

The case is a mistery to me. Basically it is just a box. But wise Mike advises to choose the middle way for airflow: not too close, not too open. For sure the ATX is a very funny format and looks ridiculous from a cooling and noise reduction point of view (A heavy GPU is breaking your motherboard/ The number of PCI slots the GPU can use is limited so it cannot have a proper heatsink nor fan/ The GPU is not pushing its hot air out but somewhere in the case, heating both the PSU and CPU/ etc...).

There are some very interesting directions for the future:

At least someone smashes the ATX format for good (I love this built)
DIY Perks - DIY Computer Case - The Ultimate Silent PC (CLOUD UNIT)

The FT05 comes closer but is more expensive and managing the very large fans doesn’t seem to be for beginners:
Quiet SLI Gaming PC Build Guide (Featuring SilverStone Fortress FT05)

Some put everyhting in an itx or a shoebox:
The Silent Shoebox: An inaudible 6.88L VR-ready system

Some even get rid of the case and pretend to achieve silence with very good fans:
Completely Silent Gaming PC Build (2015): Open Air Edition

Some experimented builders use expensive parts but don't perform so good (14db idle, 24db load)
How to Build the ULTIMATE Silent Gaming or Workstation PC

All of that looks great but is either too expensive for me or too risky. People just telling how quiet is their build doesn't really feel like SPCR really measuring it. So I thought you cannot choose a case lightly and follow the guide with the classical R5.

Power Supply: Corsair RM550x

I went for "semi fanless". My total TDP is around 200W. For information the SPCR R5 rig is around 250W. Since the RM550x starts it fans at 330W, it should operate as a fanless PSU in my system, the PSU cooling itself only under hot temperatures. I am not sure it is the best choice for a gaming rig because under load the PSU will heat up other parts of the system. I don't know if that apply to my system and the only way to know would be to perform tests with another PSU or try to guess that effect by measuring the temps on the PSU block.

There is a nice discussion here about someone choosing a PSU and having the Corsair RM550x, Bequiet ! Pure Power 10 and BitFenix Whisper in his short list :
In search of a quiet PSU: Second Edition


ASSEMBLY

Really easy going with all thoose good parts and that great case. Yes the R5 is full of features I don't need and so certainly more expensive than it could be but it's really a pleasure to work with it. The heavy side panels and coating gives a good feeling for building a quiet rig.

SOFTWARE

Fan Xpert 3 detects all my fans and their range. It can stop them all except for the CPU fan. That's cool, Plug and Play :)

MSI Afterburner is great.

TESTING

Baseline noise

Since I have the same components as the guide, I can deduce that I have similar noise levels. The CPU fan emitting 11-12 dbA at 350RPM, 12dbA at 650 RPM and the case fan emitting <14dbA at 500RPM.

Stress Testing CPU-centric

System fans at 500 RPM (minimun), GPU fans off (auto)
Ambient temperature : 20°C
System State: Prime95 4 threads
Results: 60°C for 650 RPM, 69°C for 350RPM.

The fan speeds being the same, I guess the system performs like the one from the guide, being 15dbA @1m for a CPU fan speed of 650RPM which is very quiet. The only thing I hear is a very tiny sound from the hard drive. It is possible to reduce CPU fan speed to the minimun of 350 RPM and noise level should be around 12dbA.

Stress Testing : GPU-centric

« It's almost a shame to have such a versatile fan control system at our disposal when the case fans seem to work optimally at minimum speed all the time. »

Running Prime95*2 + FurMark with GPU/CPU fans at 875/650RPM temps are 62°C/63°C.
Running Prime95*2 + FurMark with GPU/CPU fans at 875/350 RPM temps are 67°C/69°C.
Running Prime95*2 + FurMark with GPU/CPU fans at 600/650RPM temps are 72°C/66°C.
Running Prime95*2 + FurMark with GPU/CPU fans at 600/350 RPM temps are 74°C/70°C.

3 case fans at 500 RPM (min) Ambient temperature : around 20°C
PSU Case temp is at 38°C by default and 44°c under load.

GPU temperature dependant fan control

I am still trying to find a proper fan curve that would detect when I am gaming. Starting at 60°C is way to high because the card cools down too quick and the fan start/stop all the time. You don’t notice it while gaming because the sounds are too low but I would just like my fan not to start/stop like that all the time.
For the moment when I don't game I just let the MSI card on "Auto" and the ASUS Motherboard on "Silent". While gaming I set a fixed speed. 800RPM or 35 % for the graphic card and 600RPM for all other fans. That's really low so I havn't experienced more with the thermal probe for now.

FINAL THOUGHTS

« The laudable fan control system built into the ASUS Z97-PRO was almost superfluous, the Scythe Kotetsu barely had to break a sweat, and we're pretty sure the be quiet! Straight Power 10's fan never ramped up from its minimum speed. All we really had to do was slow the CPU and case fans, suspend the hard drive, and relax the GPU's automated fan control. » - SPCR

Well that’s even more true with a lower TDP configuration and a next generation (Pascal) GPU. With all fans off at idle and CPU fan around 350RPM, the temps are around 45°C. While gaming, setting the fans to 800/600 RPM temps will go down around 30°C ! That’s amazing and I couldn’t expect better results. The dark blower age is well finished !

I am confident this build achieves a result as good as SPCR’s R5 build and qualifies for a SPCR Certified Silent PC, with the required noise levels of 15 dBA at 1m or lower at idle, and 20 dBA at 1m or lower on full load.

Thank you very much to Mike and all the SPCR community !!


Last edited by Riok on Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Riok's Quiet ATX Gaming build 2017, inspired by SPCR
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 8:29 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:04 pm
Posts: 47
Location: Brasil
Congrats for the build :) . Is not always easy to follow SPCR recommendations, one because the list is getting older/oudated ant two because some parts are not available worldwide.
It seems for me you did a really good job. Concerning the GPU temps I would expect a lot less in such "cold" ambient temperature, however the fan design (open air) does seem to be as effective as the blower so its ok.

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