This build began as a replacement
for my P180 build
from one year ago. It was a very succesful adaptation of cmthomson's rig (thanks for the tips!) with no overclocking, one less fan and no ducting needed. It was very, very quiet, below ambient. The only downside to it was the size of the case. Some hitches with the Asus P5B WiFi Deluxe motherboard and two whining Phantom 500 power supplies caused grief as well, but the former didn't have anything to do with silencing and the latter problem only exhibited itself in specific circumstances, namely GPU load.
I am not one that would constantly swap his gear for better, always wanting to stay at the top. The system that preceded the P180 rig was a 750MHz Duron box, enclosed in a massive silencing cabinet and it had served for over six years, with the cabinet having been in use for a little over seven and a half years. Building things is fun, so I wanted to try and optimize this setup. Since I use only one hard drive, current motherboards have integrated most features I need and microATX boards these days are just as viable as full size boards, I decided to go for it. Besides, the Antec NSK3480 is damn cute.
The parts from the "old" build are:
Core 2 Duo E6600
Scythe Ninja Rev. B heatsink
Thermalright HR-05 northbridge heatsink
4x1GB DDR2 800 A-Data Vitesta memory sticks
120mm Nexus fans
Scythe Quiet Drive
DVD-RW optical drive
microATX case with an EarthWatts 380W PSU, fan swapped to an NCB fan
Gigabyte G33M-DS2R motherboard - the -S2 without RAID would have sufficed, but it wasn't available
Samsung T166 500GB hard drive - I had purchased this a while before to replace a 320GB drive, but delayed putting it in use
Some elastic for suspending the hard drive instead of laying it on foam as before.
The build wasn't hard at all really, it was about as laborous as any other, with some extra annoyance from having to cram the cables out of the way better than in roomier cases. Swapping the PSU fan was pretty straightforward, though I expended some unnecessary effort since it was my first fan swap. Better safe than sorry I guess. I finally ditched the floppy drive here, since it came very close to the fan on the Ninja. I had retained it for emergencies and other rare moments it was needed, but I figured I can always plug it in temporarily if a need arises and/or purchase a USB disk drive. Especially since I learned how to install AHCI or RAID driver after installing Windows
, the F6 method with a driver floppy at hand isn't needed anymore.
The system has one less fan now, or not, depending on how you count. The P180 had three 120mm fans and a stopped one in the Phantom 500. Now there are just two 120mm Nexus fans and one 80mm in the PSU. They all run at inaudible speeds, constant 600rpm like before with the Nexus and whatever speeds the PSU fan runs at. I brought the tach signal wire outside but haven't bothered yet to check its signal as I would need to disconnect one of the others to do it. It is hard to judge the noise of this build as there's an odd ambient noise emanating from somewhere
if I listen under the table - the computer is in the corner of the room and there's a vague noise floor there - the central heating system's radiator is a couple meters away and isn't the one hissing, but something else definitely is. In any case, where I sit the most audible noise is the annoying whine from the backlight control of my main LCD monitor.
In close listening the NSK3480 is subjectively (and I'm sure objectively as well) a bit louder than the P180 setup, but still below ambient. This is partly thanks to the fact that it is now a bit farther as it fits nicely under my 120 x 60 cm table that wasn't deep enough to keep the P180 under. If I press my ears near the case, I can hear more noise from something
than before, although there are less fans and the vent grills have been cut except for the top cover PSU intake. If I stop all the fans the noise is not affected - it isn't the hard drive either (the noise characteristic is all wrong) and then there's the odd background whoosh from the building or whatever making it hard to tell what kind of sound comes from where. There's also some electrical noise from the PSU that I am interested in tackling, though it would be trial and error. Perhaps hot gluing the coils and so on - it's not necessary right now though, since none of this can be heard at one meter. Like before, the only noise this computer ever makes with any workload is the muffled hard drive seek noise (suspended and in a Quiet Drive). The Nexus fans don't have a need to speed up, and I don't think the PSU fan speeds up either, since there's no way this system draws more than 150W AC at any workload. Measurements of the previous system are here
The temperatures are safe. Idle temps seem to be a couple degress higher for some reason, but load temps are the same as before, thanks to undervolting. Ambient is 21 degrees Celsius. CPU cores idle at 39 (37 at best), at full synthetic load they barely reach 50. The passive 7600GS idles at 59 degrees and when stressed with ATI Tool it reaches 80 degrees. I suppose it receives air through the expansion slot covers now. In any case, its temps are indentical to the P180 setup! System temperatures are not comparable since the motherboard is different, but "System" reads 34 degrees right now. Without the slight undervolt it was nearly 40. I never tried the stock heatsink and installed the HR-05 right away. Vcore is 1.15, manually set in bios, with "FSB" and "(G)MCH" each dropped a notch as well. I didn't see the need to try any lower FSB and (G)MCH voltages for now.
The usual HDD temps are now at 29 or 30 degrees - whopping six to seven degrees less however! I was satisfied with them before, mind you - this is just a side-effect from the space saving new placement, see below. The drive is of course different one now, but I don't think a 320GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10
(ST3320620AS) would have had a significantly higher power dissipation compared to the 500GB Samsung T166
(HD501LJ) drive I now use.
Now for some long due pictures. Sorry for the low quality - I still don't have a camera of my own.
Here it is - the looped wire is the PCIe auxiliary power, standing by in case I install a higher power graphics card at some later date. There's also the tach wire connector from the PSU fan.
Up and running, but the short exposure time due to the flash shows the fan at standstill. 600 rpm isn't that
The SQD suspended on some clothing elastic, 1.5 meters of it. I threaded some wire through the various holes in the bulkhead between the compartments, providing loops for the elastic to thread through. A bit ghetto, but I couldn't be arsed to build a proper metal assembly at that time. I could make one that utilizes the floppy drive cage mounting at some later date. It's properly aligned like as it is though, so there's no pressing reason for extra work.
The SATA cables of the Gigabyte board have a nifty locking mechanism that the Asus P5B did not have. It works very well, but unfortunately the SQD's connector doesn't have anything it could lock into, hence the rubber band for a little extra security.
Still plenty of room left for all kinds of hardware!
One memory stick is out at the moment, since after flashing the latest bios version the board refuses to boot with the full set. I haven't had time yet for a reboot to try some things like manually setting the correct timings (all settings were and are at automatic).
There's still room for improvement, like adding some ducting to eliminate any airflow short circuits from the expansion slots to the exhaust fan. The first thing I did was swap the side panels with each other to eliminate the unnecessary CPU cooler intake vent (from "Intel Thermally Advantaged Chassis" specs) on the left panel. Adding some foam might be in order since the side panel is just metal, unlike the composite panels in P180. I won't rush it though, since I'm considering some hotter running video card in addition to the current one. The 7600GS ran surprisingly well temperature-wise in the lowest slot, so the remaining question is the airflow if I add a hot gaming card with a cooler like the Accelero S1. With the current configuration it would dump much of its waste heat in the case and the CPU cooler would be affected by it. Only testing would reveal what kind of effect it would have. Trying to reverse the airflow (assuming I am right about the current direction in the first place...) wouldn't be easy, since there would not be room for a fan between the card and the front of the case, as the HDD is right there.
Well, that's it for now. Feel free to comment.