A picture of the exterior to start off with...(Click on any of the images to enlarge)
First off, a little preamble about what the goals of this build were. While this is a silent-enthusiast site, this is a gaming rig first that has been built with "long-term" performance in games (ie: upgreadable) and value for money first, and then made as quiet as I could get it. In keeping with the value idea, many parts were carried forward from what I had before, such as the case, soundcard and fan controller, so they don't necessarily reflect what I would
have picked if I was starting with a clean slate. Most of the new parts were ordered at the beginning of August 2008, but the build was being held-up by the 1GB 4870 which wasn't available until late September.
Case - Thermaltake Tsunami (not the best choice by any stretch of the imagination, but it was made a long time ago before I found this site)
PSU - OCZ GameXstream 600W (same excuse as above) with Scythe Kama (1200RPM stock speed) 120mm "soft-mounted" fanswap
Motherboard - Asus P5Q Pro w P45 chipset
CPU - Intel Q9450 2.66Ghz @ 1.032V w Scythe Ninja Rev.2 and S-Flex SFF21E
RAM - 4x 2GB PC2-6400 OCZ Platinum 5-4-4-15 @ 2V
Video Card - HIS Radeon 4870 1GB w AC Accelero S1 Rev.2 w S-Flex SFF21E suspended
Hard Drive - WD Caviar SE16 640GB Suspended
Optical Drive - Samsung 203S 20X DL DVD+-RW w Lightscribe & TruDirect
Soundcard - SB X-Fi Platinum <- complete garbage! avoid like the plague!
Case Intake/Exhaust Fans - S-Flex SFF21E 120mm
Fan Controller - Zalman ZM-MFC2
OS - Win7 Home Premium x64
Another shot of the case exterior, this time without flash so you can see the fan controller display lit up. It obviously doesn't look that bad in real life...(unless you look at it from most other angles
, then it may as well be this bad).
Ok, now for the guts...
Here's what the interior looked like with most of the new parts but before I got the 4870. Previous tenants were a P4 2.4B on an Asus P4S533 board, 6600GT, 1 GB RAM, 160GB WD HDD. If you are familiar with this case, you'll notice the HDD cage is gone, as are the stock fan-mounts and the flimsy tool-less PCI-slot clips. Also, I put in a switch for the LEDs on the front door in one of the 5.25" bays (I've kept them switched off pretty much all the time since installing the switch, making it obsolete). You'll probably notice is how much wiring there is in here. 4 thermal sensor wires + 5 fans all connected to the Zalman controller in the 2nd 5.25" bay + SoundBlaster front I/O bay with its archaic ribbon cable + custom switch + ~6x 3ft long unused wires from the PSU (thankfully I was able to hide a few between the PSU and side panel) = big mess...
Finally, the 1GB 4870 came in, so I popped it in to get some baseline temps. The stock cooler was set to a low setting in the BIOS or driver, so even at idle, this thing was running hot and, not surprisingly, a glutton for power (~130W system power at idle VS only ~95W with a 9600GT all else being equal). I used RivaTuner to bump up the fan speeds to 30% which brought temps down a few degrees but then the fan was damn loud. I can't recall if the screen with the temps is with the fan at 30% or the stock 25% setting. Also, putting this thing in made me realized how cramped that area of the case was going to get, so the next order of business was to drill out the rivets holding the 3.5" drive bay and suspending the HDD from the 5.25 bays above.
The new HDD suspension. Uses a LOT less elastic cord, too, leaving me enough to suspend the fan from the Accelero S1 instead of using zip ties (probably overkill, but I don't want any resonance buildup on the card - it's damn heavy and I'd rather have it sit perfectly still)
The 4870 with the S1 and S-Flex SFF21E assembled. The fan's slight slant towards the rear case is intentional, with the hope of blowing some of the hot air out the back of the case. In the future, if I put a second 4870 in, I'll try to make a duct enclosing both cards with their S1s that runs horizontally with this fan oriented like the intake, forcing all the hot air out the back of the case. But that's for another day...
With the 4870 in place, the system is complete! Some pics of the whole arrangement. The last pic shows the Temp sensor on the back of the GPU, the others are attached to the base of the CPU and PSU heatsink,
and one at the intake fan. A bit redundant with all the software monitoring, not to mention less accurate, but at least their data are always visible.
The left pic shows idle temps, and the 2 others are while running Codemasters' Race Driver:GRID. One was the peak temps and the other, just taken at random, which is to show that there's a lot of variabilityin a typical session. For context, I have my fan RPMs set to 720 (CPU), 840 (intake+exhaust), 780 (GPU) and 900 (PSU) when idling and after some experimenting, settled on 840/1020/1020/1080 at load to have a lot of headroom. At idle, its still quiet enough to do HTPC duties (quieter than the power transformers or whatever makes that slight hum in my Onkyo TX-SR702 AV Receiver at the same distance), and at the higher settings it's obviously not silent, but still a lot better than the sound of just the stock 4870 fan at it's lowest possible setting, and definitely a LOT quieter than the PS3 or X360. If my case had a separate chamber for the PSU, then I could drop the fan count to 4 maybe, but one intake fan at low revs isn't enough to feed everything...especially that PSU...
If you're wondering, it idles at ~120W and the highest I've seen it go during gaming is ~240W at the wall, according to the Zalman fan controller.
Phew! That was a lot of typing...if anyone got this far, thanks for reading! If there's anything you want to know or have any feedback/ideas to drop a few dBs feel free to post