I wanted my new rig to be a quiet one, good enough for gaming and sitting in a HTPC enclosure. Most enclosures were either too big (i.e. tower cases turned to lay on one side) or too small (which means loud fans). Fortunately, Antec thought of me
and made a HTPC enclosure that fits 120 mm fans, and provides good cooling for all components. Here's what I put together last fall:
Case: Antec NSK 2480-EC
I knew from reviews that the Tri-Cool fans aren't very quiet, so, after trial and error, I settled for two Scythe S-FLEX, model SFF21E. They run at 650 rpm at idle (inaudible), and ramp up to 1200 rpm under heavy load. I cut the original fan grilles, and replaced them with ones that are less obstructive. This reduced fan noise when above 650 rpm, and added some airflow at all speeds (effectively reducing CPU temperatures by approximately 5 C). Before mounting the hard disk, I removed the mounts, leaving only the metal frame. I also put sound dampening foam on the sides and on the cover around the hard disk area. The bottom works as an air intake, so it only got an air filter (reusing a protective mesh that came with the motherboard).
PSU: Antec Phantom 500
I sold the EarthWatts PSU that came with the enclosure. Yes, I know I could have just swapped the fan, but I don't like voiding varranties. The PSU gets almost no airflow in this case, but the reserve fan didn't start even once so far. EDIT: I noticed during the summer, that the PSU fan actually works. It starts sometimes on hot days (over 25C room temperature, after some gaming), but it's inaudible. I only found out while rerouting some cables with the PC onâ€”felt the little bit of airflow it creates.
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-G33M-S2H
Had to be mATX because of the enclosure. I couldn't find a P35-based motherboard of this form factor. Are there any?
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6550
I aimed for a powerful CPU with a low clock. In retrospect, maybe it wasn't the
best choise, but it's doing well. The CPU works at stock speed, undervolted from 1.35 to 1.1V.
Heatsink: Thermalright SI-128 SE (no fan)
I honestly don't know why not a Ninja Mini, but it does it's job very well, so no big deal.
Graphics card: Gigabyte GV-NX86S256H (GeForce 8600GTS, 256 MB of RAM, passive cooling)
It was the fastest graphics card with out-of-the-box passive cooling available in Poland at that time. My second Gigabyte with passive cooling.
RAM: 2 x 1 GB Geil Ultra 800 MHz CL4
Doesn't really run at CL4, since the motherboard doesn't allow precise tweaking of RAM values. Ah, well, I'll be more thorough with my research next time.
Hard disk: Samsung HD501LJ 500 GB
Picked a quiet model, of course. I suspended it on the metal frame, and managed to keep vibrations away from the enclosure. It's the loudest component of the system. Next year, I'll consider switching to something really quiet, line an SSD or laptop drive.
Sound card: Creative X-Fi Xtreme Gamer
Maximal temperatures (real values are usually 1-3C lower), with a room temperature at around 20-22C:
The load temperatures never both reach this level at the same time, because a CPU stress test will always lower the capabilities of a GPU stress test and vice versa. At 50C or 60C respectively, the fans spin up, effectively stopping any additional heat up.
Some pics. Sorry about the crappy cell phone quality: