Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

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Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:22 pm

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by EdinJing » Thu Dec 04, 2014 11:11 pm

Hi all! First time poster here.

I very much enjoyed reading this article :D Especially as I have built my first pc a couple of months ago and opted to go small too! Unfortunately, my noise levels are not as low as I would like :( any advice to improve them would be much appreciated.

Unlike in the article, I opted to go with a slightly smaller case but the rest of the hardware is quite similar:
Case: Silverstone SG08-Lite
Case Fan: Noctua NF-P14s Redux PWM
CPU: i5-4590
CPU cooler: Noctua NH-U9B SE2 + 2x Noctua NF-A9 PWM
MB: Asus H97i-plus
GPU: MSI GTX970 Gaming 4G (a bit of case modding was need to get it to fit)
RAM: 2x4GB Kingston HyperX Fury 1600
PSU: Antec 520C
SDD: Intel 150Gb
HDD: Samsung 500Gb 2.5” (scavenged)
DVD: LG slim line DVD burner

My biggest noise generator is the CPU cooling, my PSU and GPU are quiet by comparison, at least on idle. I've tried a few things to reduce it, I replaced my low profile cooler from scythe with the Noctua NH-U9B which is pretty much the biggest cooler I can fit in the case thinking it would be quiet. However, I couldn't control it through FanExpert or the bios, the fans would constantly run at 100%. So I switched both fans on the cooler to 92mm PWM fans from Noctua and have them running at low speed (around 400 RPM) under 40 degrees. My case fan is also controlled through FanExpert, I have it set to turn off under 40 degrees.

With this setup, my PC is still audible at idle from the couch (about 3m away) when there is no other noise in my living room (no A/C, TV etc..) . Even if the only the CPU and PSU fans are running :roll: Under load its noticeably noisier (of course!) but to the point where I can hear it on top of the game I’m playing. Granted, I don’t play loudly as my wife unfortunately doesn't enjoy the sound effects as much as I… to each their own constraints! :wink:

Also, Mike’s CPU temps are quite a bit lower than mine, I’m in the high 30s on idle and in the low 60s after a couple hours of Metro 2033 or intel XTU + Unigine Valley stress testing. Lowering temps would mean my fans would maintain lower speed under more load which would be good.

So should I change the CPU cooler to another model? Should I try watercooling? Should I just deal with it :?: I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

Again, thanks for the good read!

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by nanjolno » Thu Dec 04, 2014 11:28 pm

Thank you for the great article, Mike.

Fast M.2 SSD are known for running extremely hot (article by Puget Systems).

Since most m-ITX boards put their M.2 slots at the back where air flows are severely limited, it might not be a good idea to install performance based SSDs such as Samsung XP941 and Plextor PX-G256 M6e.

Is it possible to measure the temperature of KINGSTON SSDNOW M.2 2280 (using thermal camera) during high load just for peace of mind?

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by UK_Peter » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:53 am

Mike, it's fantastic to see these new build articles on the site - and the noise levels you were able to obtain.

Two questions:

1. What was the system power consumption under load?
2. Regarding removing the dust filter from the side panel - would having a larger opening with filter over it make up for the impedance to airflow? I like to keep dust out and have been toying with the idea of a mesh panel for ventilation.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by ekerazha » Fri Dec 05, 2014 4:45 am

What about the RVZ01 "mini Raven" case?

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Olaf van der Spek » Fri Dec 05, 2014 7:36 am

Jumping straight into component options, the big question is, "Which case?" This is the single most important choice when planning any quiet/silent PC,
Is it? I thought GPU (HSF) was more important, followed by CPU, HDD & SDD.
Even when you consider the absence of a 3.5" HDD and the use of an 80+ Platinum efficiency PSU in this rig, the 131W AC with Prime95 (x8) in the ATX Gamer versus 98W in this system with Prime95 (x4) is striking. This i5-4690K may be an exceptionally efficient sample, or perhaps it's the result of improving yields in Intel manufacturing.
Were you expecting to get 4 extra threads for free? ;)
The 4770K does more work, so whether it's less efficient than the 4690K isn't clear at all.
As long as Furmark was running, the Strix GTX 980 fans cycled between pretty darn quiet to fail-safe loud over about a 3~4 minute period. Putting the case fans to high speed only stretched the cycling time, and it pushed the default SPL of the system to 25 dBA, so this was no solution, anyway.
So basically fan control is sub-par and the card is unable to keep the temps just below 90 deg?

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:15 am

Olaf van der Spek --

Thank you for pointing out typos; the ones you spotted have been corrected.
Olaf van der Spek wrote:
Jumping straight into component options, the big question is, "Which case?" This is the single most important choice when planning any quiet/silent PC,
Is it? I thought GPU (HSF) was more important, followed by CPU, HDD & SDD.
Yes it is, imo, esp when you already have some idea of the thermal load of the system.
Olaf van der Spek wrote:
Even when you consider the absence of a 3.5" HDD and the use of an 80+ Platinum efficiency PSU in this rig, the 131W AC with Prime95 (x8) in the ATX Gamer versus 98W in this system with Prime95 (x4) is striking. This i5-4690K may be an exceptionally efficient sample, or perhaps it's the result of improving yields in Intel manufacturing.
Were you expecting to get 4 extra threads for free? ;)
The 4770K does more work, so whether it's less efficient than the 4690K isn't clear at all.
I should have pointed out that the power difference remained 16~20W in the full load testing where Furmark+Prime95x2 was used in both ATX and mITX gaming systems.
Olaf van der Spek wrote:
As long as Furmark was running, the Strix GTX 980 fans cycled between pretty darn quiet to fail-safe loud over about a 3~4 minute period. Putting the case fans to high speed only stretched the cycling time, and it pushed the default SPL of the system to 25 dBA, so this was no solution, anyway.
So basically fan control is sub-par and the card is unable to keep the temps just below 90 deg?
You're taking that out of context & drawing misleading conclusions. Any cooling system with a thermal fail-safe will go into that kind of cycling under steady high load when the operating environment temperature is too high or borderline too high. I'm sure many SPCR enthusiasts have run into this kind of issue trying to run systems with super low speed fans, particular VGA cards which didn't offer any real user control over the fan behavior till recently. In fact, our case testing relies on such behavior -- the cooler/better cases allow our reference VGA cards to run their fans slower. You could even say the fan controller in the Strix 980 was doing a great job of protecting the GPU and other components on the card from possible damage, keeping its temp below 90C no matter what. When the operating conditions were readjusted to provide slightly more cooling air to the VGA card, the VGA cooler simply followed whatever fan profile is loaded (in this case, our custom config)... which is how we achieved <20 dBA@1m in the end. The current generation of VGA fan control utilities (such as ASUS GPU Tweak) is, afaik, the first to offer a level of fan profile customization approaching what's been doable with CPU fans for some time.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Olaf van der Spek » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:18 am

I should have pointed out that the power difference remained 16~20W in the full load testing where Furmark+Prime95x2 was used in both ATX and mITX gaming systems.
Interesting!
Any cooling system with a thermal fail-safe will go into that kind of cycling under steady high load when the operating environment temperature is too high or borderline too high.
The fail-safe is understandable, but ideally it wouldn't be cycling would it?
If the goal is to keep the temp at 80 deg (or whatever), it should run the fans at whatever speed it takes to keep the temp at 80. It shouldn't wait until 90 til it ramps up the fan speed.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:36 am

EdinJing --
Your query will get more attention if you repost it in the System Advice / Troubleshooting section. But off the cuff, I'd say...
1) what speed is the big top case fan running at? have you tried flipping this fan?
2) a tower heatsink is the wrong kind to use when the main airflow is up/or down -- you should be using a top-down airflow cooler, the biggest that will fit in there
3) not sure of the acoustics of the Antec PSU; no one with any acoustics concern seems to have reviewed it
4) you need to identify exactly which components are causing the most noise

nanjolno --
Thanks for the link to puget's article. They're doing a great job with those! I hadn't been aware of the heat issue, so this is something we'll try to look into. The M.2 devices they examined were PCIE, tho, and our Kingston is a SATA device. I'm guessing a SATA mode device runs cooler. And btw, a good thermal imaging camera cost thousands of $$!

UK_Peter --
1. listed in the tables on p.5 -- 275W AC.
2. yes, probably. The actual holes in the side panel are pretty small and spaced pretty far apart. But in a case that sits atop a desk, dust collection will be far less than one that sits on the floor.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:41 am

Olaf van der Spek wrote:The fail-safe is understandable, but ideally it wouldn't be cycling would it?
If the goal is to keep the temp at 80 deg (or whatever), it should run the fans at whatever speed it takes to keep the temp at 80. It shouldn't wait until 90 til it ramps up the fan speed.
When left on its default setting, the Strx 980 controller never lets the GPU get close to 90C; I think we documented in the ATX gamer article that it peaked at 72C, with fans running pretty fast/loud. But we had it on our custom profile, which takes over when the GPU is out of its "red alert" temp. Hence the cycling was caused by own machinations, and not a built-in flaw of the Asus fan controller.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Olaf van der Spek » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:50 am

Right
Ideally you'd be able to enter a target temp and the software will figure out the rest...

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:57 am

Olaf van der Spek wrote:Right
Ideally you'd be able to enter a target temp and the software will figure out the rest...
But then you wouldn't have control over its acoustics -- unless/until built-in options include specialized profiles -- "silent", "performance" etc like with CPU fan profiles in some mobo BIOS.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Xyvotha » Fri Dec 05, 2014 12:02 pm

Ooooohhhh I was thinking that silent gamer build article was great, didn't expect even more!!!

Haven't read it yet (werk, werk), will do later, just wanted to say BIG THANKS, YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by edh » Fri Dec 05, 2014 12:26 pm

I do have to wonder if the Rosewill is really that good a case for this. The graphics card limitation would be quite a big issue for me as you're always left with a small set of fans running up against a quite restrictive side panel, just like in a Shuttle really and they are accepted as being difficult to run a powerful graphics card in quietly. The limited space on that side also precludes use of some after market coolers, in particular passive ones. There just wouldn't be much airflow going through to make a passive cooler very workable.

At 31 litres it is massive for MiniITX. This is my biggest crticism of it. If you want a 31 litre case, why limit yourself to MiniITX? MicroATX is typically a cheaper motherboard size and there are MicroATX cases available at that size. What would really be better for running this kind of spec? The Rosewill or the Silverstone TJ08E?

I'm pretty much committed to an NCASE M1 when Skylake comes out but at a substantially lower TDP.
Raijintek Metis: i5-6400, Scythe Ninja 4, Asus Z170i Pro Gaming, 8Gb RAM, GTX 950, Crucial 250Gb M.2, Seasonic X-400

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Olaf van der Spek » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:10 pm

MikeC wrote:
Olaf van der Spek wrote:Right
Ideally you'd be able to enter a target temp and the software will figure out the rest...
But then you wouldn't have control over its acoustics -- unless/until built-in options include specialized profiles -- "silent", "performance" etc like with CPU fan profiles in some mobo BIOS.
Why not? Just increase the target temp.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Fri Dec 05, 2014 2:31 pm

edh wrote:I do have to wonder if the Rosewill is really that good a case for this.
The article makes no claim to that effect; it simply shows how a super quiet build can be done in this case.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by LongJan » Fri Dec 05, 2014 3:33 pm

Is it safe to mount the PSU upside down against Seasonics recommendations? No risk for pockets of hot air at PSU bottom (now top)? Case bottom intake went doesn't look very open.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Fri Dec 05, 2014 5:11 pm

LongJan wrote:Is it safe to mount the PSU upside down against Seasonics recommendations? No risk for pockets of hot air at PSU bottom (now top)? Case bottom intake went doesn't look very open.
Should have been explicit: We mounted it as per Seasonic recommendations, with the open top of the PSu cover on top.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Aibohphobia » Fri Dec 05, 2014 5:37 pm

MikeC wrote:And btw, a good thermal imaging camera cost thousands of $$!
Thermal imagers can get very expensive but FLIR offers an iPhone 5/5s case that has a thermal imaging sensor for $350: http://www.wired.com/2014/08/a-review-o ... -flir-one/

There's also the Seek Thermal camera for Android (iOS coming soon) for $200: http://www.androidpolice.com/2014/09/25 ... s-amazing/

Not as capable as the professional stuff but a huge upgrade over the basic infrared non-contact thermometer.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by hawkeye1 » Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:47 am

My system is admittedly a year old, but it is the quietest system I've ever built. I forgo a GPU since I don't game, which helps me out. After following SPCR advice for several years I've finally achieved the silence I've long searched for! (P.S. The Caviar was loud, so I reduced it to a backup drive.)

• COOLER MASTER, N200 (NSE-200-KKN1) Midnight Black Mini-Tower Case, mATX, No PSU, Steel/Plastic
• SEASONIC, X-400 400W Fanless Power Supply w/ Modular Cables, 80 PLUS® Platinum, 24-pin ATX12V EPS12V, Active PFC, 1x 8/6-pin PCIe, Retail
• ASUS, Z87M-PLUS, LGA1150, Intel® Z87, DDR3-2933 (O.C.) 32GB /4, PCIe x16, SATA 6Gb/s RAID 5 /6, HDMI + DVI + VGA, USB 3.0 /4+2, HDA, GbLAN, mATX, Retail
• INTEL, Core™ i5-4670K Quad-Core 3.4 - 3.8GHz TB, HD Graphics 4600, LGA1150, 6MB L3 Cache, DDR3-1600, 22nm, 84W, EIST VT-x XD, Retail
• NOCTUA, NH-L12 CPU Cooling Fan, Socket 2011/1155/1156/1366/775/FM1/AM3/AM2, 93mm Height, Copper/Aluminum, Retail
• INNOVATION COOLING, Diamond 7 Carat Thermal Compound, Electrically Non-Conductive
• CORSAIR, 8GB (2 x 4GB) Vengeance™ LP PC3-12800 DDR3 1600MHz CL9 (9-9-9-24) 1.5V SDRAM DIMM, Non-ECC
• SAMSUNG, 120GB 840 EVO Series SSD, TLC Samsung MEX, 540/410 MB/s, SATA 6 Gb/s, 2.5-Inch 7mm, Retail
• WESTERN DIGITAL, 2TB WD Caviar® Black™ (WD2002FAEX), SATA 6 Gb/s, 7200 RPM, 64MB Cache
• SAMSUNG, Super-WriteMaster™ SH-224DB Black 24x DVD±R/RW Dual-Layer Burner, SATA, w/o Software, OEM

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Stevo_ » Sat Dec 06, 2014 8:13 am

edh wrote: At 31 litres it is massive for MiniITX. This is my biggest crticism of it. If you want a 31 litre case, why limit yourself to MiniITX? MicroATX is typically a cheaper motherboard size and there are MicroATX cases available at that size.
My thought exactly, should've used the M1 and embraced the true mini-ITX concept. If you can build a quiet gamer in that, you've accomplished something.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by LongJan » Sat Dec 06, 2014 8:28 am

MikeC wrote:Should have been explicit: We mounted it as per Seasonic recommendations, with the open top of the PSu cover on top.
Actually, that is clearly visible in the pictures. I should have looked closer. Doing that I can also see that it is space above the PSU.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Sat Dec 06, 2014 8:47 am

Stevo_ wrote:
edh wrote:At 31 litres it is massive for MiniITX. This is my biggest crticism of it. If you want a 31 litre case, why limit yourself to MiniITX? MicroATX is typically a cheaper motherboard size and there are MicroATX cases available at that size.
My thought exactly, should've used the M1 and embraced the true mini-ITX concept. If you can build a quiet gamer in that, you've accomplished something.
You know that there are thousands of gamers using huge mitx system who disagree with you. I refer to the Bitfenix Phenom craze. And that's only one of the big mitx cases popular w/ DIY game PC builders.

I also remind you that this is only the first mitx gaming system we've detailed. I said this before -- these build guides will be regular features. Not just 1 or 2 every year, but more like at one every few weeks at least. You know how this article begins with a list of cases considered? Systems in some of those cases are actively being developed right now. The nCase, for example, we wrote in the article, is awaiting a suitable VGA/cooler. I have my doubts about a GTX 970 being cooled well enough in there w/o exceeding our low noise standards, but we'll give it another try. I doubt very much it can match the 13/20 dBA idle/load performance of this W1-S system, tho. Even getting close would be nice.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by xan_user » Sat Dec 06, 2014 9:09 am

Im happy to see some ITX love, and am looking forward to more! I like the challenge of smaller cases, and generally find big ones a bore.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by LongJan » Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:39 pm

xan_user wrote:Im happy to see some ITX love, and am looking forward to more! I like the challenge of smaller cases, and generally find big ones a bore.
Agree.

I like small cases but I also want some space inside for easy management, so for me mITX motherboard in a rather big mITX case is a perfect choise.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by EdinJing » Sat Dec 06, 2014 8:04 pm

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the reply! Will try investigating some more on the noise source by stopping the PSU fan, and will also try different top fan confiurations.
If all else fails, then I'll probably change my cooler!

Cheers!

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by edh » Sun Dec 07, 2014 4:39 am

MikeC wrote:You know that there are thousands of gamers using huge mitx system who disagree with you.
The same people will also disagree with us on many other things, like running 1kW+ PSUs when you use ~300W, or having cold cathode lighting, or thinking that an i7 actually has benefit in gaming over a similarly clocked i5.
MikeC wrote:The nCase, for example, we wrote in the article, is awaiting a suitable VGA/cooler. I have my doubts about a GTX 970 being cooled well enough in there w/o exceeding our low noise standards, but we'll give it another try.
It's fantastic that you are writing these articles so I hope it continues. I know that the Arctic Accelero Xtreme will fit in the N1. The 3 standard fans can be removed and the heatsink cooled with 2x120mm fans on the bottom of the case, maybe with a bit of ducting around it. Very keen to see what you come up with.
LongJan wrote:I like small cases but I also want some space inside for easy management, so for me mITX motherboard in a rather big mITX case is a perfect choise.
Management of what? If you are having to tidy up long lengths of cabling then getting rid of the cables is a better approach. With M.2 SSDs now becoming available at better prices, little need for an optical drive and so many things onboard, it is possible to build a system with almost no cables in at all. If you do have cables you can always mod them to make them the right length for your system.

Also if you do want room to move cables around in, a MiniITX motherboard is not a good choice as all of the components are so close. MicroATX would be better for you.
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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by Joxx » Sun Dec 07, 2014 1:32 pm

I totally disagree with the choice of PSU for this case.
The top vent is covered by the motherboard tray and there's no fan blowing on the down side (lots of cabling there anyway).

The Seasonic would be a good choice for the Fractal R5 with a second front fan and lots of back vents to let the warm out.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by LongJan » Sun Dec 07, 2014 2:16 pm

edh wrote:Management of what?
Swapping hdd/ssd:s, fans, cleaning, whatever... without having to pull everything apart.
edh wrote:MicroATX would be better for you.
I have to disagree. That is a too generall statement. It depends on many things. My mITX board has everything I need including WiFi and I can't think of anything I would have gained from a mATX version.

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Re: Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Post by MikeC » Sun Dec 07, 2014 2:18 pm

Joxx wrote:I totally disagree with the choice of PSU for this case.
The top vent is covered by the motherboard tray and there's no fan blowing on the down side (lots of cabling there anyway).
You seem to forget the back panel of the PSU is completely vented, and there about 1.5cm space in the bottom compartment above the PSU anyway. The PSU barely even got warm; at full lab-stress power of 275W AC, its only producing maybe 20W of heat. With a real gaming load, I doubt it'd get over 235W AC, and the PSU heat would be barely 15W. A non-issue.
The Seasonic would be a good choice for the Fractal R5 with a second front fan and lots of back vents to let the warm out.
Its heat would go straight up towards the VGA card, which would have to deal with that extra 20W of heat -- could be just enough to tilt it past the 90C emergency mark of the VGA fans. Which is why the self-contained cooling/heating system of a fan-cooled PSU is a better idea in any system where you have bottom PSU mounting + hot VGA card above it. And our PSU in that rig never contributed any perceptible noise to the overall SPL.
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