"Very quiet", "off the shelf parts", and "gaming" is now, to my very great pleasure, easy. I've been lurking around here for five years or so and with a limited budget have only ever really achieved a noise level of "tolerable" but with the latest partial upgrade, and more importantly with very little particular effort, a noise level has been attained that is almost unnoticeable.
pc.jpgBits:Fractal Design Define Mini caseSilentPCReview
hereAsus P7-H55-M SI Motherboard
(micro ATX, H55 chipset)Intel i3-530 CPU /w Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo
(using supplied PWM fan)SilentPCReview
on the older Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus, new model seems identical in every way save for the base now being a bit more heatpipe and a bit less metal block.Asus Radeon HD7770 DirectCU 1GB graphics
SilentPCReview on Asus DirectCU HD7870
, TechPowerup review
of Asus DirectCU HD7770 obviously not noise focussed but favourable subjective comments, and an attempt (if perhaps a tad questionable) at objective analysis also favourable.BeQuiet StraightPower E9 480W CM PSU
Absent from SilentPCReview, JonnyGuru review
(of 680W model) and 80+Gold reassured me on electrical quality, subjective statements on JonnyGuru and the official tech sheet
reassured me on noise - ignoring (as always) manufacturer quoted db levels, the tech sheet still suggests all the right ingredients for low noise.Samsung 830 128gb SSD
for OS and Seagate Momentus XT 750gb hybrid
I have no sound measuring equipment other than my 30 something ears (by which I mean they are 30 something years old, disappointingly I only posess a single pair) so all statements are subjective. Temperatures and fan speeds as measured by HWiNFO64. Ambient room temperature as suggested by an old mercury thermometer is 20c (68f).Temps and fan speeds
(3 case fans turned to lowest possible setting of included fan controller throughout both idle and gaming)Idle
CPU 24c / 986rpm
GPU 29c / 1112rpm
Hybrid 25cMax reported during hour long XCOM session
(perhaps not the most testing, but appropriate to my usage)
CPU 46c / 1041rpm
GPU 59c / 1188rpm
I can't really add anything to the SilentPCReview article on the case, it's a damn fine case, a little too big but that undeniably makes for a pain free build. I'd have liked to see padding on the top panel as well as the sides and door, if only to get that reassuring thunk rather than a tinny tap when rapping the panels. Going by side panel off/on observations I'd say that the padding goes a tiny way to reduce some high frequencies. I placed both of the supplied fans as front intake fans, adding an old 120mm Noctua *something* as the rear exit; all three wired up to the included fan controller which is turned right down to it's lowest setting (equiv of 5v or so?) - at this setting the three case fans are below the ambient noise of the room and the ability of my ears to hear them. Three case fans is perhaps overkill but I wanted positive air pressure because I'm too damn lazy to clean PC innards. Whether idle or gaming I've seen no need to turn those fans up any higher than their lowest setting.
Motherboard & CPU are pulled from an existing PC, they're kind of in line for an upgrade but I'm more than happy to wait until next year's Intel Haswell generation which will hopefully bring some modest improvements in performance and power, for now they're fine for my needs. Having only PCI Express 2.0 and SATAII they are limiting the graphics card and the system SSD somewhat.
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo heatsink is undoubtedly the loudest component now. Some of the blame could well be my motherboard's PWM control which doesn't seem to want to run the included 600-1600RMP fan lower than 980RPM (guessing 20% duty cycle?); as a result I can hear the (faint) "whoosh" from this fan coupled with a warbling resonance (I'd guess 15-20 hertz) that ceases upon applying light pressure to the top of the fan case. Swapping this fan, controlling it via means other than motherboard PWM, or finding some way of decoupling resonance is on my list of things to do, but it still counts as "quiet" to my mind. With the PC on the desk I can just hear it, place the PC under the desk and it is only barely audible (but under the desk lurks pet hair and other detritus not fit to be sucked into a PSU).
I am staggeringly impressed with the graphics card. Ok, so a 7770 may not quite qualify as hardcore gaming, but it's plenty enough for me, I can live without ultra high settings if it saves me pounds sterling, watts, decibels, and degrees centigrade. HWiNFO reports the fan as idling at around 1100RPM and I'm really not sure of the accuracy of this because I genuinely can't hear it *at all* with the case closed up. The only time I can perceive it is when I wake the display (once the display turns off from inactivity the fan turns off completely), then I can hear the faint whoosh as it kicks in before settling back to being completely inaudible - with the case's side off I can continue to detect a faint very high frequency whirring, just below the frequency expected of electrical coil whine, but with the case closed up, it's silent.
The PSU is another item that impresses. I realise they're not particularly common on the other side of the pond but do see if you can get a review copy. They seem to have three ranges, "Pure Power" is the base range and going by tech sheets I wouldn't necessarily expect them to be any quieter than any other well made PSU; "Straight Power" seems to be where you start getting serious noise reduction, 135mm fan rather than 120mm, fan being mechanically decoupled from the housing, 80+Gold efficiency etc, and "Dark Power" doesn't look to particularly add any extra silencing features but adds a few more bells and whistles. They seem to be FSP Auurum platform units but they've done a bit more than a simple rebadge. I am completely unqualified to comment on electrical quality and accoustically I only have my ears, but with other components stopped it is just hovering above perceptible against the ambient background noise level of the house (itself pretty damn quiet, heavily insulated in rural england).
The SSD system drive is naturally effectively silent, and the hybrid apps drive (pulled out of a dead laptop) is likewise, when closed up in the case, silent to my ears - I can't hear it spin up or down, I can't hear it seek. Having a hybrid apps drive is perhaps a little silly, but it was available and it's sold me on the benefit of 2.5" drives as desktop app drives. Quiet, drawing of naff all power, and run cool, performance might not be up to 3.5" standards but it's an app drive, it's fine (perhaps one benefit of having the hybrid as an app drive, but ordinarily I couldn't justify the added expense).
All in, it's quiet. As a measure of how quiet, having built it I then had to swap my router - the electronic whine from the previous one was suddenly noticeable. I'm now seriously considering "upgrading" the fridge in the kitchen because it's suddenly become too noisy.