This is just a pitch for Medion's PCs which are extremely quiet.
Medion's home page
ALDI International home page
ALDI's Special Purchases this week
I have a 2.6 gHz PC purchased about 6 months ago from ALDI's. Very nicely equipped for not a lot of money, and virtually silent.
First, the general system specs, then the silence specs....
2.6 gHz Pentium-IV
256 meg PC333/2700
120gig Seagate ATA V FDB
GEforce4 TI-4200 AGP 8X
Built-in 5.1 audio on motherboard (sub,center,front stereo,rear stereo)
Firewire / IEEE-1394
100 mbit LAN
56k v92 modem
Front-panel with SanDisk, Memory Stick, Compact Flash, Smart Media, 6-pin firewire, 3 USB 2.0, Joystick, front-stereo out, line-in, mic-in, composite video out, S-Video out
....no floppy, but room for one which I stuck in there
keyboard, optical mouse with scrollbutton
Win XP Home, Works Suite / Word 2000, Nero, PowerDVD, etc..
TI-4200 has composite video-in/out for capture, and two 15-pin VGA ports. (no DVI port for 2nd monitor)
1 yr warranty
All for $700
Now for the system silence design. This is a rather interesting system that has only two fans in the entire system. One on the TI-4200, and one on the CPU. There is no power supply fan.
The system uses a combination of convection and forced air to cool the system. The front case is 80% covered with about 4mm holes, so air can easily flow in through the case. The power supply is the same, with a fine mesh of holes across the entire back, just making room for the power socket. The back of the case has a hole which I believe could fit a 92mm fan but nothing is installed so air can flow out there, too.
The CPU fan is ducted, with the fan sitting on a riser about 6-8 inches above the CPU, and the fan very close (within 1/4") of the case cover on the left side. Over the fan, the cover has a mesh hole, with a decorative plastic cap. This way when on high speed the fan pulls fresh cool air into the case through that cose hole, blowing straight down onto the CPU thru the duct. This air then flows up and out the back of the power supply or the fan hole on the back of the case.
The TI-4200 fan is basically silent, and the CPU fan is speed-controlled by the motherboard based on what you are doing, as with a laptop fan.
So, when the system is sitting at the desktop, or when running some non-power-app like Word, the CPU fan speed drops way down, so that just your breathing is louder than the computer. When the system starts calculating really hard, such as when gaming, the speed of the CPU fan picks up a little, but it is still not considerably loud at full speed.
A tradeoff here is that the system's case is fairly warm to the touch, since it relies on convection to draw air through the computer. It is normal to smell the plastic in this computer for a few days after you buy it, because it gets plenty warm in there and the plastics outgas from the heat for a few days. Then it's fine. It's warm, but runs fine, no crashing, freezing, etc.
Interestingly the case front puts a plastic bezels over the CDRW and the DVD drive. When you eject a CD, the emerging CD tray pushes open the bezel. Although it appears merely decorative, I have found that if you remove the bezel on the front, the CD drive becomes significantly louder. That plastic cover is serving as a muffler to quiet down the drive spinning at high speeds.
All in all, a very good and silent design.
But, there is a marketing/access problem. Medion is a German company with not a very large presence in the USA. If you live in the US, you currently cannot buy direct from them but they do sell direct to people in Germany. But, it seems you can get their systems from Best Buy and ALDI's in the USA.
ALDI? What is that? That is the second part of the access problem. ALDI is a low-budget grocery/hardware store also based in Europe. They sell everything from groceries to lawnmowers, computers to refrigerators. But, they also have stores in the USA as well, that carry products that are basically identical to their European stores.
ALDI makes money by doing things as cheaply as possible. Although they have a website to look up weekly specials, there is no store contact information whatsoever. Their specials usually run for a week or until the shipment runs out, and the last time they had these Medion computers, it was a mad free-for-all of people trying to get one. ALDI stores do not have customer service desks, and even have their phone number unlisted so you cannot call to see if they have them in stock before you go.
Better get there early. ALDI closes at 7pm nationwide, and is closed on sundays. Oh, and if you don't have cash or a charge card, don't bother going. They do not accept checks or credit cards, due to check bouncing concerns and the fact that credit card companies make retailers eat about a 5% or so charge per purchase for accepting credit cards. ALDI won't pay them for that privelege, so they accept debit cards only.
Hope you aren't expecting much for customer service. The manager IS the cashier, the employees are surly and low-paid, and you bag your own groceries, kiddo. Shopping carts are 25 cents each, which you get back when you put it back in the cart corral. You should definitely dress down if you go because much of their clientele is likely on food stamps or welfare and definitely look like it. (Actually this probably describes the employees as well.)
But, the computer is AWESOME and you get a hell of a lot for what you pay.
Yeah, you might have better luck getting one at Best Buy, but you should also expect a $150 or more markup for the same system. That's the price you pay for the convenience of a store that stays open 'till 9pm every day, has a customer service phone line, and takes checks and credit cards.