By Mike Clements posted Aug 03rd 2011
Simon and Garfunkel once famously sang in a hit song from the 1960s “these are the sounds of silence”. I always thought that was a curious expression. If something produces sound, then it’s not silent.
I was thinking about that fact recently when I read over some communications I had with Rajinder “Raja” Gill and Juan “JJ” Guerrero from ASUS. We were discussing just how cool the new second generation Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs can be run and also the plethora of power saving options on current P67/Z68 based motherboards. It’s getting extremely easy to build a really quiet and powerful PC.
This discussion started me thinking about building a silent, or at least a very quiet PC. JJ suggested that I take a take a look at the ASUS P67 Sabertooth paired with a 2500K CPU. I liked the information I found so, I got 1 of each and then I started a very careful parts selection which resulted in an outstanding system, pictured below.
I concluded that this would be an excellent board and CPU to mate with the Hydro Series™ H60 High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler. The H60 is very quiet and effective and is a perfect fit for this sort of build.
My current case of choice for this project is the Corsair Obsidian Series® 650D Mid-Tower Case. The dark interior looks great with the color scheme on the Sabertooth. The 3 speed fan controller and the large quiet 200mm fans should be easy to tune for a low noise system.
I also decided to use a set of our new Special Edition Arctic White Vengeance™ Low Profile Low Voltage DDR3 memory upgrade modules. Running these beauties at the low voltage of 1.35v is a great option to help reduce heat in this system. Making a quiet system is much easier with cooler parts.
The Professional Series™ Gold AX850 PSU uses our Hybrid Silent Fan Control which has 3 different fan modes. One of these modes is Fanless Mode. Fanless Mode means just that; the fan blades are completely stationary. There is no audible PSU noise in Fanless Mode, which is active when PSU output is below 20% of the rated DC output load. So, at any power usage less than 170w, this PSU is completely silent.
I wanted to avoid having any HDDs in the system to further eliminate sources of system noise. So, I went with 2 SSD drives. For the OS, I used the Force Series™ 3 120GB SATA 3 6Gb/s Solid-State Hard Drive. For added silent storage, I went with the Force Series F240 Solid-State Hard Drive. Transferring files and storage intensive tasks are a breeze with this setup. A very quiet breeze I might add.
I topped off the parts list with a silent passively cooled NVIDIA G210 based GPU from ASUS, the EN210 Silent and the ASUS BW-12B1LT-18 Blu-ray optical drive. The EN210 is a solid GPU with VGA, HDMI, and DVI video outputs and best of all, it's silent! The ASUS optical drive is definitely fast as we discovered when we performed our video archiving tests.
As you may have seen in other build logs using our Graphite Series 600T cases which share several features, the 650D is a system builders dream. Actually putting the parts into it took no time at all and I had a very sleek look inside which fits the theme of this build. Just like with our earlier build logs using a 600T, the grommet system, drive mounting options, and other features all contribute to a great building experience and wonderful functionality.
I also decided to try an idea I have had for a while. The fan controller on the 650D accepts a 12v input from the PSU. I decided to move the 12v pins on a 4-pin male to female molex extension cable. So, instead of supplying 12v to the fan controller, it’s getting 5v. Since this system runs so cool, I expect to be able to get away with much lower fan RPMs.
I also attached the 2 radiator fans for the H60 to the 650D fan controller. The pump of course needs a steady 12v so it’s connected directly to the MOBO CPU fan header.
The BIOS for the Sabertooth is very comprehensive. I left everything at the stock settings and enabled every power saving option I could find. The result is a system that is so quiet, I can’t tell if it is even running unless I am actively using it or if I can see a case fan spinning. Here's some of the basic info from the CPU, Memory, and SPD tabs on CPU-Z. You can see some of the extremely low voltages indicated.
Even under VERY heavy loads, I have not yet heard the AX850 fan kick on. When and if it has run, it’s inaudible to my ears. For example, Prime95 (the In place large FFTs setting for maximum heat and power consumption) for one hour produced the following temperatures, with an ambient room temperature of 24C and the case side panels on, and no audible increase in noise. The ASUS Thermal Radar utility tells the story.
In some of our previous build logs I have used the Auto Gordian Knot utility to archive the movie that is my forum namesake, Yellowbeard. So, I used the same DVD and the ASUS drive speedily ripped right through the DVD files. Here's a link to on the previous build logs for a comparison. Our previous overclocked X58 + Core i7 950 OCd system performed this same task in 20:54. After the rip using the Gordian Knot tool, this system at completely stock settings silently archived the same movie using the same software in 20:09!
This silent build offers excellent overall system performance. PCMark Vantage is a great tool for checking out just how your system does in a variety of real world tasks. It puts up very solid numbers and especially in the Hard Drive Suite.
Of course, if we compare 3D GPU based benchmarks, this unit quickly falls behind the previous gaming build log due to the GPU we have chosen. But, we chose this GPU for silence, not pure performance. So, if you are into quiet computing, a GPU selection like this may be a good tradeoff for you if you aren't going to be running Crysis at full settings.
So, what we have here is an extremely quiet PC that is about as close to silent as you can come. This level of performance coupled with the lack of noise is a testament to what can be done with a bit of careful component selection and a bit tweaking and tuning.
We shot a short piece of video to illustrate just how quiet this system is: