A silent high-end gaming computer: possible?

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A silent high-end gaming computer: possible?

Post by Baudesign » Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:34 am

Hi everyone,

I am seriously thinking about buying a high-end PC this year. Photoshop to the max, GuildWars, video editing, Crytek...

This usage demands real power, and the best graphic cards. I was thinking about "Dual 640MB NVIDIA® GeForce™ 8800 GTS" on an Alienware Aurora 7500, but just looking at the pictures, i can hear the sound of those fans!

Now, the big question: is it possible to build a high-end PC without noise? Is there some way to throw to the garbage all those fans and replace them with heat dissipators?

Any suggestions?



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Post by darthan » Thu Jan 11, 2007 8:39 am

The answer is maybe, if you've got lots of money. If you really must have dual 8800GTS and such, well, you're going to have to invest in a large water cooling system to make it work. This would get to be a complicated project very very quickly. You would do better to just get one 8800 GTS (it's worth pointing out that SLI is terrible value for the money) and save the money. Unless you are gaming on something like a 30" display, then a single 8800GTS should do you just fine for a good while (and you'll have all that money left over for a future upgrade-which will be much better performance than the SLI). Silence is also impossible to achieve, but if you're willing to settle for comfortably quiet and a single (really really freakin hot) graphics card you can probably achieve it without even too much cost.

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Post by jaganath » Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:06 am

I wouldn't buy anything from Alienware, they have a reputation for making the noisiest rigs imaginable.

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Post by orihara » Thu Jan 11, 2007 1:00 pm

I'll point out that I run GW on a 7950GT, and regularly get 75+ fps. The only time I didn't was during the winter festival, when there was literally 100+ people on the same spot in town.

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Re: A silent high-end gaming computer: possible?

Post by stromgald » Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:54 pm

Baudesign wrote: Now, the big question: is it possible to build a high-end PC without noise? Is there some way to throw to the garbage all those fans and replace them with heat dissipators?
IMHO, you can build a pretty awesome system with aircooling. A Corsair 620W PSU can handle two 8800 series cards and should be fairly quiet. An X6800 Core 2 Duo isn't that hot compared to some of the old Prescotts. A good Thermalright tower heatsink with a slow fan should take care of that heat.

The main thing I'd be worried about is effectively cooling the graphics cards. You could either rig up your own fan setup with low speed fans to blow on the 8800s with Thermalright HR-03s on each (assuming they're compatible). Or you could just get an Antec P190 case with the giant side fan to provide some more graphics card cooling.

It certainly won't be cheap, but if you're considering buying 2 8800GTS cards money probably isn't that big of a concern for you. One problem I do see is that I'd be afraid of moving a system with so many heavy heatsinks, but overall, I think its possible.

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Quiet "Bleeding Edge" PC?

Post by christopher3393 » Tue Jan 30, 2007 3:10 pm

The question raised by Baudesign has been on my mind for several months. I'm in the process of attempting to configure a pc somewhat like this. One of my inspirations came from this review:http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2023314,00.asp Overdrive PC is renowned for their overclocking skills using air cooling. They presently use one case for all builds, the CoolerMaster Stacker 830. Since the review they have fully incorporated the 8800 GPUs into this system. Their systems also have a reputation for quiet. They swap out stack cpu and gpu fans for quieter Zalman fans, and they undervolt the numerous 120mm case fans (5 volt) so they are using a number of fans running "quietly".
How quiet? Well, better than many of their competitors. The case fans are certainly running under 30dB, but with a huge PSU (Enermax Galaxy 750W for example) this will not be quiet under a load and neither will the Zalman fans I suspect.
So I think we can come close to SPCR's MINIMUM standards for quiet if we're a) not overclocking or only OCing quite moderately and/or b)not running a full load. So not only is passive cooling unlikely under these conditions, but even the best quiet active cooling is challenged.

However, I haven't given up yet:

To get around PSU noise, I will use 2 Corsair 520W PSUs. These individually run very quiet up to 300W and are still reasonable at 400W load. That's at least 600W within the quiet spectrum and potentially a little more.

To get around GPU noise/heat issues is more difficult. Aftermarket cooling options for the 8800 series are at present quite limited. So here's my plan: JUST SAY NO TO SLI and use an EVGA 8800GTX with ASC3 Cooling. This is a very fast card ( and $$$) so one is enough, and it is cooled reasonably well. The fan is quiet for a stock fan, but I'll have to wait and see how quiet that is.

The CPU: Thank heaven for Core 2 Duo. The x6800 at 2.93GHz, maybe overclocked to 3.2. Cooling: looking at Noctua NH-U12F - should have no problem keeping things cool and quiet, especially with proper airflow in case and will not exceed 25dB.

A more ambitious approach would stray into the liquid arena using the Coolit Freezone TEC. The exhaust fan hits 37dB under a full load, so I'd void the warranty and rig it with a Scythe S-flex 1600rpm that moves all the air needed for even higher overclocks, but won't exceed 31dB.

This and all fans would be on controllers, so they would only be at their still-tolerable loudest when one is pushing the system.

More to address, but this is probably enough for 1 post.[/url]

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Air cooling

Post by DeltaForce » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:31 pm

My 2 cents,

Yes, you can build a great gaming machine that's quiet, but there are compromises, which are worthwhile in my view.

Stay away from liquid cooling because you can build a quiet-enough machine with air-cooling, and liquid cooling opens up new problems. I had a fanless Zalman reserator liquid cooling rig and then the water pump kept breaking down, and the whole thing was more trouble than it was worth.

Follow the good advice above, and go with (1) graphcis card. One will be fast enough with a good motherboard, CPU, and enough RAM. Making it quiet will be your challange. You can buy less-noisy ones, or add your own heatsink/fan and make it quieter -with a fan speed controller. Some companies sell modified graphics cards like this. This site has reviews, and check quietpc.com too.

Go with 120mm case fans only, and they should all be adjustable -quietpc.com sells Zalman fan speed controllers. These fans will allow for more airflow at potentially reduced, and less annoying sound.

Pick a powersupply with a 120mm fan on the bottom, so the fan is farther inside the case, and is thermally-controlled and quiet. A quality Powersupply is important for a stable system. Seasonic makes good ones, but read all the powersupply reviews on this site -noise levels are rated.

Here is where I compromise; I installed (1) Samsung spinpoint hard drive which is very quiet, and skipped a data-stripped raid arangement with 2 or more drives. More drives won't really effect your gameplay (once it is loaded), and I prefer to have a quieter system for all those times I am not gaming that have a dual 10,000 rpm maxtor setup. Unless you do a lot of video editing or encoding, this is something the think about.

Steer clear of fanless graphics cards and powersupplies if you are going to play games. The reality is, you spend a lot more time than you think playing a computer game, and under those high load conditions, you don't want to worry about cooling on a hot day. You want to enjoy the game!

Pick a case with good airflow, and 120mm fans ducts. Stay away from alluminum or thin paneled cases -which have thin panels that often resonate, and cause noise. A case won't quiet your system much, but it can prevent it from being noiser with rattling -by the panels or drives, etc.

Don't forget the CPU heatsink has to have an adjustable fan too. This way, you can control all the fans (perhaps except the powersupply). The result is you will have some noise when you are turning up the airflow and playing games. However this noise will not be annoying -as the 120mm fans don't have a high whine (and psycologically you're controlling the fan speed). You can do thermal tests of course to find the optimal, or slowest fan speed (quieter), to cool your system under load. However, when you are not gaming, and are instead on the Internet, or need to concentrate, etc, you can turn down all the fans, and your system will be so quiet you'll laugh. This is a good compromise if you want to play all the latest high end games -which I do for hours!

Good luck

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Post by christopher3393 » Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:32 am

Some very good advice from DeltaForce especially since it comes from an experienced gamer concerned about SPCR level quiet.

My own interest is to push a little harder toward what would be considered by the enthusiast/gaming/modding/overclocking community including forums, reviewers and boutique system integraters as "high-end". The tendency in this community is to want and show interest in the latest high-performance technology.

There is now a widespread enthusiasm for quiet in this community, but it generally is unwilling to compromise as much as the SPCR community. This is nowhere more apparant than with the graphics card. I was having a conversation with 3 avid gamers yesterday and was mildly ridiculed for not wanting SLI.

There are a number a perfectly good mid-range choices for building a quiet gaming pc with very good gaming performance especially with a mid-range choice in monitors. For a quiet PC enthusiast who wants to do some gaming, these choices are eminently sensible. And even these choices usually involve compromise.

My own perhaps foolhardy project is motivated in part by going to boutique pc vendor sites, drooling over the high-end oft-overpriced configurations and asking 2 questions: could I build that myself for less? And, could I make that quieter? The answer is yes to both questions, the real issue is "how much quieter, how much less expensive?".

Case in point: Velocity Micro's Signature Edition Gaming PC, starting at $7300.00! http://www.velocitymicro.com/wizard.php?iid=75 Take a close look. Welcome to the world of high-end gaming systems! When I called to ask a number of questions, I asked about noise. The rep. put me on hold to consult with the tech who builds these. The answer was 50-52 dB on full load, 35-40dB when idling. After further discussion it became clear that no attempt was made to use quiet fans.

Look at the "Raidstorm" hard drive cofiguration: a raid host controller card and 4 150gb raptors in raid 0 array! Much could be asked here, but to be brief, I can buy an Areca Arc 1210 PCI Raid Controller (the one Velocity uses) for $310, and 4 raptors for $800 after rebates. I'm going to have to spend $250.00 more to put the drives in SmartDrive 2002 hdd enclosures to do the best I can to keep them quiet without heating them up, and I'm going to have to use 5.25 drivebays AND leave space btw them (space can be used for dvd, controllers, etc).

Clearly this is an extreme example. My point is that if I were to go through the entire configuration and add quieting where helpful, I could build this system for $1500 less and lower both idle and load noise by 10dB. If I simply change cpu and gpu choices to 1 performance level lower, I can save over $1,000 more and reduce heat. And with just a few more low-price modifications for quiet, The noise level could easily be reduced a few decibles more. The biggest challenge, again, is gpu heat/noise.But if you drop the sli, you have again reduced heat and noise, you have some room to innovate a better noise/cooling solution, you still have 1 truly high-end card, and you've just saved another few hundred $.

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Post by Baudesign » Thu Feb 08, 2007 12:44 pm

Thank you for your long and generous answers to my question.

To sum up, yes you can build a gaming computer, very powerful, without being the latest and best thing around, that can also be quite acceptable in terms of noise.

Asus offers some interesting passive cooling systems for their graphic cards (I do not think it's available for all their models):


I should look into it.

I hate fans. You can undervolt them as much as you want, they still make noise. This is a problem. I have read reviews of cases, like the Antec P180 that some like, and some hate. Just the idea of a giant fan on top of the rig, near my ears makes me look somewhere else. And the Cooler Master with fans everywhere makes me run away like Ben Johnson. Arg...


One and only one graphic card seems to make consent. I take note.

Lots of fun in the coming weeks. :-)

Thanks again guys


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Very much possible to do

Post by merlin » Thu Feb 08, 2007 1:28 pm

I just helped a friend setup a relatively quiet high end system. I think as long as you avoid SLI, you will also have a much easier time creating something. With a little bit of careful picking of parts, you can setup a great Core 2 Duo system with a Geforce 8800 that will be pretty close to quiet. I think with the number of fans you have to deal with, it's extremely hard to have something whisper quiet, but you can get close for a low budget.

If you think about it, there's really only two major sources of heat you're dealing with. One is the CPU, which is migitated by the cooler Core 2 Duo. The other is the Video Card. As long as you can keep those two aspects quiet, the rest is a lot easier to deal with. We have a number of quiet PSU's out there that can handle loads around 150-200W quietly...preferably you'll want the intake to be cooler, so that the PSU fan doesn't ramp.

That's also why I don't think SLI works so well without more tricks, you'll end up pushing 300-350Watt's on your psu and then it gets harder to silence.

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Post by s_xero » Thu Feb 08, 2007 2:31 pm

Take a good note that the hot 8800GTS/X are also warming up the case big time.

For example take a look at the CPU-temperatures measured int the review "P180 Part 2: The whole nine yards".
I've got an 6800GT, so I know what I'm talking about. Cool graphiccards are a big difference, butwhen you want high-end and sacrifice some thinking...

You'll go with ducting. Since watercooling is in my point of view completely worthless. When ducting however - a large case is obviously the best choise.

If you Like aluminum big time, you COULD EVEN chose for Lian Li. But then again, it's far to expensive, so in the end you'll get back to Antec, but you don't want the P180? Then there's (I guess) about one good choise left: Silverstone.
Aluminum looks, Steel frames, etc: large cases with potential.

Think airflow through a lot - I did, I even calculated some of the thermodynamics in the case with ducting. In the end I was only 2 degrees centigrade average off...which sounds more like just f***ing luck.

Succes with your build.

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Ducting 8800 GTX?

Post by christopher3393 » Thu Feb 08, 2007 2:46 pm

s_zero: how would you go about ducting an 8800 in a Silverstone Temjin 7 or 9? Have you tried this? Any links to pics? Sounds very interesting.

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Post by Munch » Thu Feb 15, 2007 7:34 pm

Hey Baudesign and everyone else.

Quiet Gaming PC Shopping List

Newegg...good place to start.

Antec P180B case

PC Power and Cooling Silencer 610 PS

Asus P5B-E Deluxe

Intel E6600 Conroe C2D

Zalman 9500 CPU cooler

Creative X-Fi Extreme Gamer or Fatality

2 gigs of Kingston 667 DDR2

WD SATA HD (size your choice)


LiteOn 18X or 20X DVD RW

2 Scythe 1600 rpm 120mm fans for exhaust (speed controlled by mobo)

1 Noctua 1200 rpm 120mm intake (speed controlled by mobo)

I can run BF2142 maxed out with 2X AA at 80-100 FPS. And sound setting at Ultra High w/EAX enabled.

Runs at 33 idle 38 load for CPU.

Video card has yet to break 58C...ever and I can't hear it.

I cannot hear anything but a slight woosh from the front intake which is an Antec 3 speed 120mm. Noctua arrives tomorrow. :wink:

This system will run about $1550.00 US depending on shipping or rebates offered.

And all the components will play nicely w/o conflicts too. Running XP Pro....No Vista for me til after at least SP 1...maybe SP2 :shock:

P.S. Just noticed that your in Quebec. Whoooops....List is still good for reference though.

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Post by Baudesign » Thu Feb 15, 2007 8:08 pm

Thanks Munch for your suggestions.

I can pretty much get any part I want from my distributor, or the Internet of course.

I am thinking about building a PC similar to what you suggest or similar to Sharkyextreme High-End gaming system. For what I understand, I have to take a close look that the quality of the fans, at the power supply and of course, get the best "no noise" graphic card.

I have read a few times that the Seagate drives are nice, reliable and that they do not produce too much noise. I will have to investigate a bit more on that part; I am thinking about a terabyte of disk space in RAID 0 for my video needs (2 or 3 drives, not sure).

This thread is in my bookmarks now.

Thanks to all contributors.


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Post by wussboy » Fri Feb 16, 2007 3:09 am

Even though most seem to be against it here, I really believe that if you want supercomputer performance and SPCR level silence, you must go water cooling. Absolutely there are drawbacks, but there is one huge advantage:

Water cooling allows you to tackle the issue of heat removal on your own terms.

If you air cool, you will always eventually be limited by air flow and heat exchange area. I mean that you can only slow the fan down so much before it becomes ineffective, and you can only have the heatsink so big before you run out of room. With watercooling, you do not have these issues. Water gives you the ability to get the heat of your components out of your case, where you can deal with it in any fashion you like. Build a giant metal passive reservoir. Hang a radiator outside the window of your room. If you are patient and don't mind thinking outside the box (and don't need to move your case very often) there's nothing you can't do.

While it is certainly true that you can get a very fast computer to operate moderately quietly, you CANNOT get a real screaming beast of a computer silent without watercooling. You can have your cake (8800 SLI) and eat it too (silent computer) if you water cool. It's not for the faint of heart, but what exciting thing is? :)

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Post by SockToy » Sat Feb 17, 2007 3:51 pm

My system is in my sig - its quiet, much quieter than my girlfriends computer with the snazzy LED fans (and by the way, are there any quiet blue LED fans out there I could sneak into her system when she wasnt looking? Please?), but it is audible. Im hoping folks here can help me with it, but Im thinking for silent + 8800GTX you're going to need a reserator.

The real problem is, once you start spending and listening to quiet stuff down you get way more sensitive. I think Im bothered by the noise MORE now that I've reduced it than when I never thought about it and didnt care.

Sigh ;)

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Post by christopher3393 » Sat Feb 17, 2007 3:55 pm

Socktoy: looks like a really nice system to me! Any trouble fitting the 8800GTX in the P180?. Have you done any temperature readings? How's the noise on the Raptor?

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Post by SockToy » Sat Feb 17, 2007 6:13 pm

I cant hear the drives unless they're accessing. I can hear airflow, and Im thinking now I might have to cut out the bloody honeycomb over the fans, which is sad, because I bought the P180 to avoid having to dremel a 150 to fit the GTX in ;)

Idle temps are:
case 42c, CPU 44c, Drives 37+40c, GPU 74c.

Loaded seems to rise to, then cap (flat plateau on the graph over an extended period) at

case 46c, CPU 57c, Drives 40+40c, GPU 89c.

Someone on another board, using 1200rpm fans but otherwise similar kit as me, reported "an ambient temp of 20C I have 30C idle, 50C load on CPU (E6600 @ 3.24), 29C on mobo and 33C on HDs" - they have a GTS rather than GTX, which idles at 56, so seems to greatly reduce case temp, and are overclocking their CPU, which I am not yet doing. He also has all fans on, and Im currently just using the exhaust, CPU and power bay fans.

Updated my sig to include link to page with pics if you want to see how the GTX fits.

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Post by christopher3393 » Sat Feb 17, 2007 9:16 pm

Thanks! Helpful. Seems like the GTS may make a bigger difference in case temps than I've been led to believe. Have you thought about testing temps/noise with additional fan(s)? Do you see any possibility of reducing GPU temps w/ some sort of improvised fan placement, venting and/or ducting?

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Post by SockToy » Sun Feb 18, 2007 2:25 am

Well, dont forget, Im running 3 800rpm fans fight now and he has 5 1200's.. that'll make a difference too.

I dont think the GPU cooling situation can be improved till a decent aftermarket cooler comes out. The stock heatsink is inside a sealed sheath with its own fan onboard, venting out the back of the case; blowing a fan on it will just be blocked by the plastic shroud, and potentially screw up the airflow coming out of the shrouds venting slots.

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