Corsair H60 w/2x Gentle Typhoon 1150rpm
Although air coolers can give better cooling with less noise, I went for the Corsair H60 all-in-one liquid cooler.
This was part curiosity since I haven't tried water cooling before, partly because I wanted more overclocking headroom than what I get from a Noctua (NH-C12P SE14 w/ULNA), and partly because the best aircoolers are huge and require that you sacrifice tall memory modules and/or access to the first memory slots (Silver Arrow, Noctua NH-D14) or the first PCIe slot (Archon).H60 and two Gentle Typhoon 1150rpmH60 mounted in the case, the second fan not installed yet. It's tiny compared to 'enthusiast' air coolers - not much bigger than the socket. It's a welcome change not having to unmount the motherboard or the cooler to unplug the CPU fan
The H50 got a rather negative review at SPCR
, mostly because of a noisy pump. The pump is the primary issue, since unlike fans it can't be replaced.
The H70 pump is better, according to xbitlabs
. Their dB values aren't comparable to the SPCR ones, but their diagram says that the worst case pump noise from H70 is less than the noise from the Silver Arrow @600rpm, which SPCR measured to 12-13 dBA @1m
The H60 pump is best, according to madshrimps
. They measure the H60 pump a couple of dB lower than the H70, which is a couple of dB below the H50.
The dB numbers from the different reviews don't quite add up, but I wanted to try liquid cooling and was willing to believe that the H60 was less noisy.
The stock fan is specified to 30 dBA, way too loud for even semi-quiet computing, so it had to be replaced.
I picked Gentle Typhoon from bit-tech
reviews as one of the better tradeoffs between noise, airflow and static pressure. (We need high static pressure for a radiator, as radiators typically have more air resistance than CPU air coolers.)
The H60 has mounting holes for two fans, but uses a non-standard screw diameter and doesn't come with screws for the second fan. I ended up attaching the second fan with plastic strips.
For noise comparisons, I used
* a Lian Li PC-Q08 home server at idle with minimum fan speeds: Almost a replica of the SPCR SFF home server, measured at 20 dBA@1m
* a Noctua NH-C12P SE14 w/ULNA: One NF-P14 140mm fan @750rpm, presumably ~16 dBA@1m
Both at idle and under load (Prime95) the H60 with two GT @1050rpm (the FanMate max speed) makes less noise than the Lian Li home server, but more than the Noctua cooler. The noise is closer to the Lian Li.
I get CPU temps in the high 50's under full load (Prime95). That's ~15 C below Intel's design temperature (Tcase 73 C), leaving plenty of headroom for overclocking and/or summer heat waves, and it's ~10 C better than the Noctua w/ULNA.
I bought a FanMate to undervolt the Gentle Typhoons, but could have spared myself the bother: The difference between 500 and 1050rpm is minimal, and appears to be more a matter of a difference in tone than in actual loudness. The undervolting costs ~10 C in cooling - giving the same cooling as the Noctua w/ULNA, but with more noise - so I'll just leave the fans on full.
I think the H60 is quiet enough for perhaps half of the SPCR population: The half that thinks ~20 dB is pretty quiet.
In SPCR terms, that's the noise level of the SFF home server from the silent build guides, and below that of the silent gaming file server. Pretty much by definition, it's quiet enough for anyone even considering discrete graphics.
Subjectively, I don't notice the H60 during the day.
But if I'm alone in a quiet room late at night it is perfectly audible and can border on annoying. This is different from the Noctua w/ULNA, which is vaguely audible at night but never annoying.
Although merely having another person in the room can make those ~20 dB from the H60 slip below the threshold of perception. I suppose it's partly because people make noise too, by moving, breathing etc., and partly because the other person draws my attention so I forget about the low-level noise. Likewise, I never notice while I'm using the computer, probably because I'm focused on something else.
And opening a window to the outside certainly drowns it out, even in the middle of the night. Wind, rain, rustling trees and tweeting birds are all more than loud enough to make the H60 inaudible.
20 dB is not quiet enough in every context, and the pump still sets a noise floor you can't get below by switching fans. For those who aim at even lower noise - and for some reason don't want to go all passive, like a HDPLEX H3 case, an i3 2100 and integrated graphics - air cooling still rules.
For myself, noise is only one of many factors influencing what I build. Yes, I want the lowest possible noise, but I also want the most powerful CPU, overclocking headroom, gaming level graphics, lowest cost, most convenience, most attractive design etc.
I think the H60 is a decent tradeoff, with a noise level that is imperceptible ~90% of the time. But I still intend to keep it out of the bedroom.