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 Post subject: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:40 pm 
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Hi everyone, first post!

My 4-year-old desktop is just dying a slow death... something is wrong with the motherboard and it's not driving certain USB devices properly - e.g. it can wipe my iPod but, ugh, not restore or write to it; one mouse of mine is working but not another; on some bootups, the USB keyboard is not recognized; it can see flash drives but not external hard drives. Adding to which, the onboard Ethernet died last month and the onboard VGA gives really ugly output (thus I grabbed spare cards for both functions to extend its life just long enough for me to get my new comp). The case has a couple design quirks I'm unhappy with and the whole machine is quite loud with fan noise. So I'm pretty much ready to start an entirely new desktop from scratch. At best I might transfer over my optical drive and add my old 500GB HD to supplement whatever I buy for the new machine.

Anyway - it's very sad that Anitec in Vancouver BC no longer specifically offers silent PC builds, as they are very conveniently located exactly one bus from my apartment. It is also my understanding that most desktop PCs from major brands fail to achieve low noise levels. My computer desk is in my bedroom so it'd be nice to play music and run overnight downloads without a constant background groan.

My current desktop has a Pentium D 3GHz which contributes generously to its heat output. Having just finished grad school, I've completely blacked out on the past 4 years of computing developments, but I understand that today's 2-3 GHz CPUs perform significantly better than my old one, and run significantly cooler. I don't need a huge amount of performance - if I can play 1080p video smoothly and very occasionally transcode video at reasonable speeds, run the Android SDK emulator from time to time, and use the web the way I need to - I'm good!

I'm very glad to see that SPCR is starting up some build guides! I wish their first guide had just been for a plain old budget-to-midrange desktop, because that's exactly what I need. For a lark I took their home server build guide, and tried adding the budget version of the components to my NCIX cart with price matching based on results found at PriceCanada.com; but of course instead of 6 x 2TB hard drives, I just threw in one single 1 TB drive. The price came in under $600. Of course I am not aiming for a server. Perhaps there's an ideal sub-$500 build out there which will be my ideal quiet desktop?

So anyway, here I am. I dropped by Anitec and NCIX this Saturday and found that both were just way too busy to engage me in a serious conversation about buying/building a quiet PC. I wanted to go into Frontier PC but it seems that in the 2 years since I last ventured there on a weekend, they've reduced their hours to Monday-Friday only. So perhaps some time this week. Let me know if you have any questions, thoughts, comments.


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:08 am 
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Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 10:31 pm
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Well, here's a basic start using NCIX pricing:

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Dual Core Processor Socket AM3 3.0GHZ 2MB L2 Cache 65W Retail Box ($71.76)
Gigabyte 880GMA-UD2H AMD880G mATX AM3 DDR3 1PCIE CrossFireX DVI HDMI GBLAN SATA3 USB3.0 Motherboard ($110.99)
Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB SATA2 7200RPM 16MB 8.9MS 3.5IN NCQ Hard Drive OEM 3YR MFR Warranty ($49.99)
Corsair CMV4GX3M2A1333C9 4GB DDR3 2X2GB DDR3-1333 CL9 Dual Channel Memory Kit ($68.84)
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus Direct Touch 4 Heatpipe Heatsink ($29.99)
Antec NSK3480 New Solution mATX Mid Tower Case 2X5.25 1X3.5 including 380W PSU (137.99)

Total: approximately $470, not including any operating system.

For your stated use, I don't think a discrete graphics card is really needed. You can always add one later if necessary or when your budget can afford it.

Add 2 x Nexus 120MM Real Silent Case Fan Orange 1000RPM fans to replace the stock (somewhat noisy) fan that comes with the case and the Coolermaster heatsink, if they are too noisy for you.

Add a Zalman Fanmate-2 Fan Speed Controller or two to control the speed of these fans and you should have a pretty quiet system. The included Antec Earthwatts 380W PSU is likely to be a bit noisy if you load the system, but it should be alright.

You might be able to find a cheaper case and buy a better separate PSU - have a look at the Recommended PSU list on the main site and find something within your budget.

Hope that helps!

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My PCs:
Main PC (E5200, G31, Lian Li Q07) | Gaming PC (E6850, X38, 5870 Vapor-X, P182) | HTPC (4850e, 780G, 3450, NSK2480B)


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:43 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:18 pm
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Intriguing, thank you! Let me see if it gets any cheaper via price match :)

Also, I received an offer by private message from Mike, to help me build a machine from SPCR review sample components. That could be interesting.


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 8:02 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:18 pm
Posts: 8
Ok allow me to amend your quote!

JamieG wrote:
Well, here's a basic start using NCIX pricing:

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Dual Core Processor Socket AM3 3.0GHZ 2MB L2 Cache 65W Retail Box ($71.76) on sale this week, $62.99
Gigabyte 880GMA-UD2H AMD880G mATX AM3 DDR3 1PCIE CrossFireX DVI HDMI GBLAN SATA3 USB3.0 Motherboard ($110.99) on sale, $103.99, price match to DirectCanada $90.21
Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB SATA2 7200RPM 16MB 8.9MS 3.5IN NCQ Hard Drive OEM 3YR MFR Warranty ($49.99) on sale, $42.99, price match to TigerDirect $40.97
Corsair CMV4GX3M2A1333C9 4GB DDR3 2X2GB DDR3-1333 CL9 Dual Channel Memory Kit ($68.84) on sale, $67.99, price match to DirectCanada $64.19
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus Direct Touch 4 Heatpipe Heatsink ($29.99) on sale, $19.99
Antec NSK3480 New Solution mATX Mid Tower Case 2X5.25 1X3.5 including 380W PSU (137.99, price match to DirectCanada 82.15!)

Total: (previously $470) $435 with weekly sales, $360 after price match!, not including any operating system.


See, my Jewish shopping instincts are very finely-honed... And with the savings I would then be inclined to bump the hard drive up to 1 TB and subsidize my OS purchase :)

How bad would the noise be without fan replacements? How much of a difference would the tweaks make?


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:59 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 10:12 am
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Location: ITALY
cmstlist wrote:
How bad would the noise be without fan replacements? How much of a difference would the tweaks make?

IMVHO/IME if you aim to play it at night, you may miss your hit.

Some undubitable points.

The 380W Antec PSU isn't enought quiet to be withstanded at night.
The very same is for the case and cpu fans, they need to be replaced.
The Caviar Blue is a bit too much noisy at night, maybe even at day time: when you set up a very quiet system (your current quote isn't so, according to me), the HDD will become easily the loudest kid in town.

Some questionable points.

I don't like also basic level Gigabyte mobo, as they usually offer awful fan management/support, but I don't know your specific model.
As the cpu, a cooler 235e may help quietness, a 3 core 445 may help performance (but a 250 isn't a bad choice at all).

Eventually, last but not least, if MikeC has offered to you some help and items via private messages, I don't see such an educated gesture to report this publicly.

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Luca


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:42 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:18 pm
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I really appreciate any tips and ideas that can be provided here. Thanks again. Whichever route I go with, I think I'd like to place my order by this coming weekend.


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:09 am 
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cmstlist wrote:
I really appreciate any tips and ideas that can be provided here. Thanks again. Whichever route I go with, I think I'd like to place my order by this coming weekend.

Well, I guess you have to do some homework before friday.

You either have to choose another PSU, if you want to sleep comfortably while your PC is on, or void the warranty and swap the fan on the Antec 380W (an 80mm 3-wires low speed Scythe/Nexus/Noctua will work, an Arctic Cooling maybe). Let's your choice (? I don't know if it's grammarly correct), but as I don't see any enough quiet PSU for less than 80-90 CAD (list prices) on NCIX (Nexus seem to have there the best quietness/price ratio), maybe it could be more worthwhile modding the NSK3480 (swapping case and PSU fan).

For nightly downloads a quieter drive is strongly recommended, you have to go through SPCR relevant lists: a slower and quieter 2.5" is recommended for that task, IME, if in case it might be paired with a little SSD (Kingston and Intel may be preferred among the cheapest ones) for OS and some daily use (for a substantial amount in charges, of course).

If the one you'll pick is the only drive you'll have, for reliability reasons avoid either anything too much newer, or drives over 750GB for 3.5" (500GB for 2.5"), but if in case remember that every day is the international backup awareness day.

Have a good luck!

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Luca


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2010 10:58 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:18 pm
Posts: 8
quest_for_silence wrote:
You either have to choose another PSU, if you want to sleep comfortably while your PC is on, or void the warranty and swap the fan on the Antec 380W (an 80mm 3-wires low speed Scythe/Nexus/Noctua will work, an Arctic Cooling maybe). Let's your choice (? I don't know if it's grammarly correct), but as I don't see any enough quiet PSU for less than 80-90 CAD (list prices) on NCIX (Nexus seem to have there the best quietness/price ratio), maybe it could be more worthwhile modding the NSK3480 (swapping case and PSU fan).


So let me ask, if you were to start from scratch rather than go from the list presented upthread, what parts would you choose to build a midrange desktop?


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:29 am 
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Location: ITALY
cmstlist wrote:
So let me ask, if you were to start from scratch rather than go from the list presented upthread, what parts would you choose to build a midrange desktop?

It depends of how much performance you may need: the more the performance, the more the heat, the more the noise, the more the cost. You have to balance by yourself all these aspects. Even size matters: smaller dimensions usually lead to more expenses.

First of all, as you are on the cheaper side of the life, you have to go for AMD, as Intel systems tend to cost substantially more.

For 2D/web/htpc use (so no gaming at all), even a mini-ITX SFF system would perform quite well.

A typical (for SPCR) one would be: an Antec ISK-300 or 310 case, an ASUS M4A88-I De Luxe mobo, an AMD Athlon X2 235e cpu, a Scythe Shuriken heatsink, a single platter Hitachi 5K500.B disk drive, a Scythe SFF80A or SFF80B as case fan. RAM may be the above mentioned Corsair DDR3.
If you don't store films, music or programs on such a system, a midrange Corsair Nova V128 or Kingston SNV-425/S-2 128GB SSD might replace the Hitachi drive, if you can afford it. And, in my opinion, you also need an external disk drive primarily for back up purposes.
You can't do some math on NCIX/price match as they currently don't carry AMD mITX mobos.

Otherwise you may opt for a mid-tower/desktop more standard 2D/web/htpc system: it's bigger, more obtrusive, but you might save a bit on mobo (while having superior features) and case fan, and have to spend more on PSU and, probably, a video card.

As an ATX (or mATX) system has superior cooling power, you may choose a more powerful CPU than a 45W one, to cope with a big heatsink, which may be the good quoted Cooler Master 212 (but you have to swap its fan: the orange Nexus Real Silent Case Fan has the best performance/price ratio, but it isn't PWM and it is sleeve bearing, if you mind. So it's not the most reliable choice for placing it horizontally - it depends on mounting and case -, while if you wanna go for PWM you have to choose Scythe PWM fans, surely among the quietest). But you also may not choose any hotter cpu.

Therefore, using NCIX parts, a typical (for SPCR) one could be: Antec Solo case, Seasonic X-560 psu, MSI 870A-G54 mobo, AMD Athlon X3 445 cpu, Cooler Master 212 as heatsink, two Nexus orange Real Silent Case fans (for CM and Antec), a basic fanless Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 650MHZ 512MB 800MHZ HDMI video card, a WD Scorpio Blue 500GB for quietness (or even a SATA III WD Caviar Black 640GB for performance), while the ram is the usual Corsair as in the miniITX system.

Now you may suspend your drive (highly recommended, especially with some loud drive as the Caviar Black!), or use a second internal one for back-up or archiving. You may opt for a SSD as above, or you may choose a smaller SSD as a boot disk along with a mechanical drive: among those small (30-64GB) ones, you may opt for a cheap one (but still good for the task) such as Kingston SNV-125/S2 or Intel X-25V, or for a speedier one (Corsair Force, OCZ Vertex 2 EX, Crucial C300, or so the like) for more performance.

Over and above web browsing/htpc use, if you also use to work with this PC, the processing power you may need depends on application (some serious office, image processing, audio-video ripping/editing): so they may require faster (or even bigger) mechanical drives, more memory, a more capable vga card, or more cpu power (or everything at once), or eventually some "trusted" mobos (as for audio).

If you game, or fold with it, well, price can only increase from the above "baselines".

When I said you should do some homework, I mean just you have to consider your performance need, and then operate a cross-selection from Reference/Recommended lists (case, psu, hdd) on SPCR, and what is actually available to you, with reference to your budget (carefully balancing costs and quietness/performance, as already said).

About cases, an SPCR-related list on NCIX is:

    ANTEC
      Solo
      Sonata Elite
      NSK-3480 *
    Silverstone
      GD05B

But maybe IMO you could worthly consider there:

    ANTEC
      Sonata Proto
      Three Hundred
      Two Hundred
    CoolerMaster
      HAF-912
      CM690-II Basic
      ELITE 334
      ELITE 370
      USP-100
      Centurion 590
    Lian Li
      PC-A05NA
      PC-A03B
    NZXT
      Gamma
      Beta Evo
    Silverstone
      PS04B
      PS05B
      PS02B

For the PSUs, the choice on NCIX is also limited (for comfortable sleeping): the only stable point I see is that if you don't game at all, a "midrange" system will need no more than 120-150W (at large!), so you have to choose any PSU primarily for its noise level up to that value.

    Seasonic
      X-560
    Antec
      Truepower New 550W
    Nexus
      RX-5300 Tranquility 530W
      Value 430W
    Enermax
      Liberty ELT500AWT-ECO 80+
    CoolerMaster
      Silent Pro 600W

If you want to relax your requirements (as said, sleeping comfortably while downloading at night), I think that the following PSUs may also serve you well:

    Corsair
      TX650W
    Seasonic
      M12II 520W
      M12II 620W

So the idea of "voiding the warranty" of an Antec NSK3480 (swapping the case and PSU's fan) isn't too much bad: otherwise, you may simply resell that PSU (as it has a 55CAD list value on NCIX), swapping it as a whole (and not only its fan).

Have a good luck!

_________________
Regards,
Luca


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 12:44 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:18 pm
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Thanks again. A bit overwhelming. I wish I had a simple off-the-shelf solution that does not involve a certain fruit company.


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:19 am 
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cmstlist wrote:
A bit overwhelming. I wish I had a simple off-the-shelf solution that does not involve a certain fruit company.

Sorry, but reality is an harsh mistress.

The real point is "running at night" (near to you, I mean): several years ago I started from there, and now I know that it can be done, but not so-right-out-of-the-box (where Apple rules).

However, as you can't live without it, the following is just a fast recipe at your favourite NCIX, trying to address the most obvious issues for nightly use (PSU and drive):

SilverStone Precision PS05B
Enermax Liberty ELT500AWT-ECO 80+
MSI 880GMA-E45
AMD Athlon II X2 250 (ADX250OCGMBOX)
G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws 2X2GB (weekly special)
CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Plus
Nexus 120MM Real Silent Case Fan Orange x 2
Western Digital WD5000AADS Caviar Green 500GB

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Luca


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 10:25 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:18 pm
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Heh, looks like the Enermax Liberty is on back order and the orange case fans are nearly out of stock too. Perhaps too many great minds are thinking alike...

I feel like I've already spent far too much time on this. Buying a computer should be easy. Maybe I should go to the dark side :P


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:58 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 10:12 am
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Location: ITALY
cmstlist wrote:
Heh, looks like the Enermax Liberty is on back order and the orange case fans are nearly out of stock too. Perhaps too many great minds are thinking alike...

I've already suggested some alternatives: just as example, you may try to go for the black & white Nexus fans and the Nexus 5300 (or the Value 430) PSU (they adds more costs, but if you can't wait, and you want to buy just from NCIX, I guess it's the only thing to do).

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Luca


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 Post subject: Re: Relatively quiet midrange desktop in Vancouver, BC
PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 4:11 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:18 pm
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I think I'm now just going to buy an off-the-shelf build at NCIX and to heck with the noise. I just don't understand this stuff well enough to make an informed decision, and I'm not comfortable enough with modifying equipment. There's a reason I went into the natural sciences instead of computer science... I simply don't get any thrills out of trying to fix malfunctioning hardware or software, but rather it brings me anxiety.

And right now what's making me the most anxious about my computer is that I have a failing motherboard inside a case that I never liked anyway, and it could use a CPU boost too. The noise is annoying but not really worth wringing out whatever's left of my hair. So let's just get a functional computer, and then focus on getting a well-paid job with the skills I *do* have. When I can afford to splurge, money will be no object.

Thanks again for your suggestions. --C


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