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 Post subject: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:09 am 
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Location: East Midlands, UK
Hello! I would like some opinions/suggestions on my current shopping list for a new PC please.

My last self-built PC lasted over 10 years before it died, so I'm very much in the camp of "build something quite nice that will last a while" rather than replacing a £300 PC every couple of years. However, that machine used a Zalman Reserator to cool CPU and GPU and thus was a bit faffy to put together. It was also difficult to move even within the same room, on those rare occasions when I had to move it. I'm not sure I want the faff of watercooling this time around, given that some modern air coolers are so darn good...

My requirements are:

1. Powerful - I don't do much gaming but I'd like to do a bit more, and I do a lot of Photoshop and video transcoding. I expect this PC to last me quite a few years, so I'm aiming for top of the range 'normal' products... i.e. I'm happy to spend more to get something that is faster/better than I really need at the moment, but I'm not interested in the Nvidia GTX Titan or i7 3960X or similar overpriced items. "Premium not Insane" is the level I'm aiming for.
2. Hackintosh compatible - I haven't decided on my final OS of choice yet: Win7, Win8 or OSX (I'm currently using XP, so anything is going to be a big change!). I'm strongly tempted to try to build a Hackintosh, so my aim is to choose components that work well for both platforms out of the box...
3. Quiet-ish - absolute silence is not my goal but it would be nice to be able to forget that it's switched on if placed under the desk during less intensive use (browsing etc).

Here's my current list:

  • Nanoxia Deep Silence One case (Anthracite)
  • Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H or Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH motherboard (the latter for Thunderbolt)
  • Intel Core i7 3770K
  • Noctua NH-D14 CPU Cooler
  • Crucial Ballistix 32GB (8GB x 4) DDR3 PC3-12800 (1600), 8-8-8-24, 1.35V
  • Asus GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II NVIDIA Graphics Card - 2GB
  • Seasonic FANLESS 520W Platinum SS-520FL2 Power Supply 80+ Platinum
  • 512GB Samsung 840 Pro Series, 2.5" SSD
  • Sony AD-5280S-0B 24x DVD±R, 12xDVD±DL, DVD+RW x8/-RWx6 SATA, Black, OEM
  • LG 16x Blu-ray Writer, 16x DVD±R, 8x +RW, 6x -RW, 12x RAM - OEM + Software
  • 29" Dell UltraSharp U2913WM

I'm thinking of swapping out the default 3pin fans in the NH-D14 for the NF-F12 PWM and NF-A15 PWM (both 4 pin), as I'm told this provides better control by the motherboard/bios.

Note that I have a decent NAS for my mass-storage requirements. So I don't think this PC needs a mechanical drive - the SSD should be big enough for OS, apps and working files (photos, videos etc) that I need locally, I think.

I've put a bit of thought/research into each item so happy to provide my reasoning (or be corrected!) if something looks odd. If anyone has any comments or suggestions for better alternative options I'd be very keen to hear them. :)


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:02 am 
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Looks like a nice build. Some case alternatives are the Fractal R4 and Corsair 550D. Unless you plan to overvolt, the NH-D14 might be overkill for a 77W CPU. MSI Twin Frozr 4 is an alternative to the Asus card - both are nice.

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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:58 am 
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Location: East Midlands, UK
Thanks Steve. :)

I remember looking into those cases that you mention, but can't remember now why I thought the DS1 was preferable... I think it was probably just a taste/opinion thing: I prefer the minimalist aesthetics of the R4/DS1 and the stealthy top-panel for USB/audio on the DS1 to the front-facing ports of the 550D.
I also prefer the split-door design of the DS1 over the R4.

Overall, it's a much harder decision to pick a case this time around, in fact. Things have moved on considerably in the quiet case offerings since I chose my last case (now discontinued):

http://www.acoustiproducts.com/en/acousticase.asp

I realise that the Noctua cooler is overkill. But then it should last almost forever given Noctua's policy of sending out mounting kits for new sockets/mounts on request, and the fact that you can easily swap out the fans with minimal hassle is attractive too.
Also, I figure a little thermal headroom is a good thing when I'll no doubt be tempted to try out the 'easy modest overclocking' that the 3770K allows.

As for the graphics card, I hadn't considered the MSI option so thanks for that. My choice of the GTX670 is due to it being at that "premium but not silly" price/performance bracket, and also the fact that the 7000 series ATI/AMD GPUs get immediately discounted from my list due to lack of native OSX support (for if I decide to go Hackintosh).
I've been comparing reviews of the Gigabyte Windforce 3 vs the Asus Direct CU II so far. The MSI card gets similar reviews to the Gigabyte: i.e. it's a nice card and quite quiet, but the consensus seems to be that the Asus is quietest, especially under load. Comparing GPU reviews is difficult because there seems to be quite a lot of sample variation. Some reviews of the MSI call it "very silent" (whatever that means), but others say that it's almost as noisy as the stock cooler under load.

I've seen recommendations to re-mount the coolers on these cards using high quality TIM in order to make them as quiet as possible... so you think that's worth doing, or overkill?

I do like the anti-dust feature on the MSI - where it runs it's fans in reverse at 100% for a while after bootup, to get rid of dust.
This is going to be my first fan-cooled GPU (my previous card was in a water loop and before that is ancient history)... so I'm not sure what to expect in terms of dust/maintenance requirements.


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:26 am 
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Posts: 625
Location: Germany
Review DS1
http://anandtech.com/show/6479/nanoxia- ... you-got-it

DS2
http://anandtech.com/show/6742/nanoxia- ... -we-needed


Regarding MSI antidust... i've been wondering, where does that dust go after it falls of the fan? My guess is: right back into the card. Up to now i feel using a vacuum cleaner and a brush is the only way to remove dust once and for all. sadly, you'll have to rinse and repeat after a few weeks or month.


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:24 am 
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MSI vs Asus: Every single model seems to use a different version of heatsink/fan/profile/etc... so it's tough to give a generic answer. So, I'm going to do it anyway :) Asus cards seem to run quieter. MSI cards seem to run cooler and tend to have better VRM cooling . Again, you have to look at each model's review and teardown. Gigabyte seems to be all over the map with Windforce - some are awesome, some are Hoovers.

I agree there is a lot of variance site to site and owner to owner on cooling/noise performance of these cards. I think it's manufacturing assembly variance as well as mfg tolerances....or maybe the card was dropped during shipping. <shrugs>

MSI Antidust: It might help. Don't have a card to tell ya (though I often lust after the GTX 660 Ti PE/OC TF IV). I think the first step is to have a positive pressure case to reduce the dust load.

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1080p Gaming build: i5-4670K, Mugen 4, MSI Z87-G45, MSI GTX 760 2GB Gaming, 8GB 1866 RAM, Samsung Evo 250GB, WD Red 2TB, Samsung DVD burner, Fractal Define R4, Antec True Quiet 140 (2 front + rear) case fans, Seasonic X-560. 35-40W idle, 45-55W video streaming, 170-200W WoW, 200-230W Rift, 318W stress test (Prime95 + Furmark)


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:58 am 
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Location: East Midlands, UK
Thanks Pappnaas for the reviews. I think that's helped confirm my choice of the DS1. My only worry is that the I/O flap on top is a bit flimsy/plasticky - several of the reviews report that - but I don't think there's such a thing as a perfect case...
I agree that the dust will end up somewhere in the case anyway, so maybe I just need to face up to getting in there with a vacuum every now and again.

CA_Steve - glad to see you reached a similar conclusion as I did, having read lots of graphics card reviews recently. I still think the Asus GTX 670 Direct CU II (non-TOP) is probably my best bet given my bias towards quiet over performance. I'm not looking to overclock the GPU or graphics memory at all.

Would you mind explaining (or pointing me to a link) about positive pressure cases please? I assume it's something to do with balancing the intake and exhaust fans so that overall there's more 'suck' then 'blow' (so to speak!)? :)


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:44 am 
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So after some Googling and reading about positive vs negative case pressure arguments, I'm confused. :)

The general consensus seems to be that negative pressure in most cases leads to slightly lower temps, but positive pressure leads to less dust (or rather, more dust on the easy-to-clean dust filters than everywhere else in your system).

The DS1 case seems to come with a positive pressure configuration by default: 1 x 140mm exhaust (top-rear) and 2 x 120mm intake fans (front-bottom).

I don't think I've mentioned it in this thread, but I'm considering mounting my SSD in a little caddy in a 3.5" external bay (the case comes with an adapter to make one of the 5.25"/optical slots into 3.5"/floppy size). My plan was that this would allow easy switching of boot disks to save any complicated multi-booting of OSes from a single physical disk. In other words, if I want to use Windows one day and OSX the next, I would simply shutdown the PC, switch SSDs and switch on again.

This approach might also have an interesting side effect though... if I don't need a mechanical HDD in this system (and I don't) and the SSD is mounted up top near the opticals, then it means I can remove all three of the modular HDD cages from the case and hopefully massively improve the efficiency of my intake fans as a result! :)

To see what I'm talking about, consider these images from the SPCR review of the DS1 case...

Here you can see all three modular drive cages in their default configuration:

Image

And here you can see the top two cages removed, which removes a lot of obstruction from the top intake fan... but the bottom fan is blowing into the side of the HDD cage - good for cooling that HDD but not great for case airflow, I guess?

Image

By moving the SSD to the top of the case and removing that bottom drive cage altogether, there would be nothing blocking the airflow from the intake fans - they would be blowing cool air directly towards the GPU and PSU.

Surely this must be a good idea?


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:39 am 
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If it were me, I would remove all those drive bays in a heartbeat. Go pure SSD or mount the hard drive in the 5.25" bay drive with an adapter. The SSD itself can be just taped to a side panel if you need more space. Of course, that does make it harder to "swap" as you said, since you have 2 actual optical drives.

Maybe there is a 5.25" to dual 2.5" drive converter somewhere.

edit: to clarify, i meant using a 2.5" HDD. you might be able to mount two 2.5" drives in a 5.25" external bay.

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Case/PSU: Antec P183 V3 + True Power New 650w
Mobo: MSI P67A-G43
CPU/HSF: core i5 2500k @ 4.4GHz 1.25V w/Scythe Mugen 2 Rev B (push-pull)
Memory: Corsair XMS3 2x2GB 1600MHz 9-9-9-24
GPU/Cooler: Radeon 6850 w/Gelid Icy Vision
Storage: Kingston SSDNow V100 64GB + WD Caviar Green EARS 1TB


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:48 am 
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I would be worried about connector wear with the suggested drive swapping. I don't know the frequency you have in mind, so this might not be an issue, but I doubt that normal SATA and power connectors are tested for frequent dis- and re-connects.

Just install Windows first and let Linux take care of the bootloader.


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:32 am 
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airflow and drive cages: yeah, if you don't use 'em, lose 'em.

positive pressure: Theoretically, if you had a case with 2 identical fans, perfect airflow and no other openings, you could run the input fan at 600rpm and the output fan at 550rpm, and you'd have positive pressure. Don't think that'd impact temps.

+1 on wondering if the drive connectors can weather the repeated handling...maybe if you had a dedicated hot-swap style dock, the guideway would reduce the wear caused by manual wiggling/jiggling of the connectors.

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1080p Gaming build: i5-4670K, Mugen 4, MSI Z87-G45, MSI GTX 760 2GB Gaming, 8GB 1866 RAM, Samsung Evo 250GB, WD Red 2TB, Samsung DVD burner, Fractal Define R4, Antec True Quiet 140 (2 front + rear) case fans, Seasonic X-560. 35-40W idle, 45-55W video streaming, 170-200W WoW, 200-230W Rift, 318W stress test (Prime95 + Furmark)


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:09 am 
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The caddy I've been looking at for my SSD-swapping plan is this:

http://www.quietpc.com/nof-ssd-caddy

It takes (up to) 2 x 2.5" SSDs and allows them to be slotted into a standard 3.5" floppy-sized bay. I understand the DS1 case comes with an adapter to convert one of its three 5.25" optical bays into a 3.5" bay, so it looked like an elegant solution to me: the convenience of (occasional) drive swapping without opening the case. And then it would simultaneously free up the regular HDD cages so I can remove them to improve airflow.
... but it's a very good point about the connectors maybe not liking repeated swapping. According to Wikipedia, the SATA specification only rates the connectors for 50 attach/detach operations. (eSATA is naturally designed to be more robust and is rated for 5,000 connections, according to the same article.)

50 times isn't a lot of lifespan for the connector on an expensive SSD, but then again I'm probably kidding myself that I'll be swapping more than a few times anyway, if I'm honest about it. I don't expect to regularly use two OSes: it's more that I'm attracted to the theory and technical challenge of building myself a Hackintosh, but wanted the security blanket of an easy way to get back to Windows if I didn't like it or couldn't get it to work, lol. :)

I'm keen to avoid needing to use complicated boot loaders and umpteen partitions etc. But it may be that I don't need to swap the physical connections/drives anyway: I assume the new world (for me) of AHCI, UEFI, etc, still allows a choice of 'boot order' for attached disks, so I could maybe just keep two SSDs in that little caddy and simply select in the BIOS when I wanted to boot to t'other one?

On the subject of positive pressure and airflow... I can't think how I can determine for sure whether I've built something with positive or negative pressure, other than simply waiting to see where the dust gets built up. ;) So I'll just aim to have slightly more (dust filtered) intakes than exhausts, take the side off every few months to check and only worry about it if my case starts clogging up too often.

Would it be a good idea to budget for additional very-low-speed case fans? There are lots of options in the DS1 for extra fans, including filtered intake fan(s) at the bottom and exhaust fans underneath the 'chimney' at the top.
Adding more fans seems counter-productive for a quiet system, but I'm wondering out loud if it's generally better to have more fans running at very low rpm, or just two or three fans running at medium speed, to get the quietness I'm looking for?


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:47 am 
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Quote:
Would it be a good idea to budget for additional very-low-speed case fans? There are lots of options in the DS1 for extra fans, including filtered intake fan(s) at the bottom and exhaust fans underneath the 'chimney' at the top.
Adding more fans seems counter-productive for a quiet system, but I'm wondering out loud if it's generally better to have more fans running at very low rpm, or just two or three fans running at medium speed, to get the quietness I'm looking for?

There's always some fan-fu to be done with a new build. Your heat load will be ~50W less than that in the review, so you should see similar or perhaps better results. I'd go with the stock fans and see if it meets your needs. Hey, it's positive pressure! You can always add fans later...but I wonder whether adding a bottom intake and top exhaust fan (and open chimney) will lower the noise levels or not...

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1080p Gaming build: i5-4670K, Mugen 4, MSI Z87-G45, MSI GTX 760 2GB Gaming, 8GB 1866 RAM, Samsung Evo 250GB, WD Red 2TB, Samsung DVD burner, Fractal Define R4, Antec True Quiet 140 (2 front + rear) case fans, Seasonic X-560. 35-40W idle, 45-55W video streaming, 170-200W WoW, 200-230W Rift, 318W stress test (Prime95 + Furmark)


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:56 pm 
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A hackintosh-ish comment; if you decide to go dual/triple boot, it's much less hassle to have OS X alone on its own disk. So you may want to leave the option to add a second (spinning i guess, because of the price of 2 SSDs) hard drive in there for the secondary OS(es). I.e. keep one drive cage.

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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 14, 2013 11:22 pm 
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Thanks Steve. Given that I was thinking of swapping out the fans in the NH-D14 with PWM equivalents anyway, I might just try mounting the stock cooler fans on the bottom and top fan mounts. I could attach the case's stock fans to one fan controller channel and the top/bottom (ex-cooler) fans to the other channel... then I should be able to see if the extra fans do anything significant to temps and what their effect on noise is.

torp - thanks for the tip. That confirms my hunch that I'm making life complicated for myself if I attempt to setup Windows/OSX dual-boot, so I'll stick with the disk swapping idea (either physical or bios boot order). But I'll probably just get another SSD tbh. If/when I eventually plump for one OS over the other, I can always re-format the redundant SSD and use it to upgrade my laptop... :)


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 1:32 am 
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Just to let you know, I went ahead with this build with the same specs as listed above, with the exception of the optical drives where I picked up a couple of Pioneer units, which seem very quiet in most use (they clunk around a bit when first reading a new disc). I also went the whole hog and bought a couple of Noctua NF-A14 FLX fans for the top and bottom fan mounts.

I'm really chuffed with the system so far... it is blazingly fast compared to my previous box (unsurprisingly). Transcoding the same DVD title in Handbrake with identical settings, I'm getting an average fps of just over 140fps. My old PC could barely make 5fps! (For reference, my Core2Duo laptop can manage around 25fps.)

It all runs very cool although I don't trust the Gigabyte utility that I'm using to report CPU temps, as during idle it reports temps lower than ambient... I know that the NH-D14 is a famously good cooler but I'm pretty sure it won't be able to cool below ambient room temperature! :)

The fan noise is surprisingly low, given there are 7 fans in the system (9 if you include the two on the GPU!): with a 'strong breeze' level of airflow (subjectively), there is a rather intrusive hum and some whooshing/wind noise. Dialling the fans down gradually until I can no longer make out the noise of the fans over ambient noise, there is still quite a lot of air being shifted.

I tried a modest overclock to 4.0GHz (from 3.5Hz stock) using multiplier alone, and the temps hardly budged from their original values, so I've kept it that way for now.

I'm not sure what the total power draw is, but it's not much - this system is plugged into an APC Smart UPS 1500 and even when on full load, doesn't even light the first 'load level' indicator... impressive!

The only trouble is, my NAS now sounds intrusively loud in comparison. I might try fitting the Noctua 'low noise adapter' resistors to reduce the fan speed a bit - it seems to be very conservative with its fan speed control even in "quiet mode".


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 7:03 am 
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Congrats on your build!

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1080p Gaming build: i5-4670K, Mugen 4, MSI Z87-G45, MSI GTX 760 2GB Gaming, 8GB 1866 RAM, Samsung Evo 250GB, WD Red 2TB, Samsung DVD burner, Fractal Define R4, Antec True Quiet 140 (2 front + rear) case fans, Seasonic X-560. 35-40W idle, 45-55W video streaming, 170-200W WoW, 200-230W Rift, 318W stress test (Prime95 + Furmark)


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 Post subject: Re: New quiet(ish) PC/Hackintosh build - thoughts?
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 11:44 pm 
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Thanks Steve. :)


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