Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD6950

Show off your quiet rig.

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Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD6950

Post by faustus » Tue May 31, 2011 12:14 pm

I'm working on a new build; it will be my new primary desktop and my first attempt at triple monitors.


* Case: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
* CPU: Intel i7 2600K
* mobo: Asus P8Z68-V Pro
* RAM: 2x4GB Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz
* graphics: Asus HD6950 2GB DirectCUII
* sound: Asus Xonar DX
* OS disk: Corsair F60 60GB SSD
* storage disk: WD Green 1.0TB
* ODD: A Blu-ray player I had lying around.
* PSU: Seasonic X-760 (the X-560 and X-660 was out of stock)
* CPU cooler: Corsair H60
* fans: 3x 200mm case stock fans, 2x 120mm Scythe Gentle Typhoon 1150rpm (for the H60 radiator)

With non-passive graphics this system can probably never be bedroom-quiet, but I hope it can be living-room-quiet (i.e. not noticeable in the living room during the day).
The graphics card and the CPU cooler are the largest uncertainties, I consider them experimental.

Thermaltake Level 10 GT

I picked this case after reading the reviews at benchmarkreviews and techreport.
I fell primarily for the design, and the stock fan specifications seemed good for a reasonably quiet system.


It's a sizable case, but not as giant as I expected. It's roughly the size of the Antec P193: A bit higher (due to the handle) and a bit wider, but less deep, so it gives the impression of being more compact. It is also better proportioned and generally far better looking, at least to my eyes.

The stock fans - 3x200mm (front + top + side) and 1x140mm (rear) - are rated at 13-15 dBA and 16 dBA respectively. There's a two-speed switch for the 200mm fans (hence the two dB ratings), but no fan control for the rear 140mm fan.

Running just the stock case fans without any other components installed, the noise rating appears to be very optimistic.

With fans on 'high' the case is loud. I don't have a dB meter, but I'm sure it's too loud for anyone visiting SPCR.
Theoretically, I suppose four sound sources at ~16 dB each should add up to 22 dB total (+3 dB for each doubling of the number of noise sources), but it's louder than that - at a guess I'd say 30-35 dB.

With fans on 'low' the rear fan (with no fan control so it's still running at full speed) is the noisiest component by far. Disconnecting the rear fan, the noise from the three 200mm fans isn't too bad, but the side fan is clearly louder than the other two.
If I disconnect the side fan as well, the remaining two fans (front and top) are what I consider borderline inaudible (~20 dB?).

The hard drive mounts have rubber grommets. The grommets are not very thick, but there's no issue with low-vibration HDDs like WD Green. (An older 7200rpm drive on the other hand, a 250 GB Samsung, made a surprising amount of noise and ended up being the loudest component by far in the complete system, so I replaced it with the WD Green. I wouldn't recommended this case for high-vibration drives, at least not without additional dampening.)

I like the case a lot, I'd say it's the most pleasant build experience I've had so far. (My experience being four complete builds and seven cases.)

* There's actually room to work comfortably in there - the case has plenty of space on all sides of the ATX motherboard. (In this particular build the absence of a giant CPU air cooler also helps making everything more accessible.)
* The hot-swap bays with the SATA backplane are simply brilliant. Connect a couple of cables, slide in the drives and you're done. Very nice :)
* There are niceties like a hook for headphones; a top tray; a carrying handle; a self-closing connector for the side fan (so there's no need for the three-armed juggle of holding the side panel while trying to reach into the case and disconnect the power cable for the side fan); a hinged door for the left side panel. Somebody actually put some thought into making this case practical to use.
(You can also choose between five different kinds of LED lighting - static red/green/blue or two patterns of color cycling if you feel for a light show - for those who like that kind of thing. Or turn it off, for those who don't.)
* Mechanical rigidity is no more than "fair", so you need low-vibration hard drives or additional HDD damping.

TL;DR: The case is reasonably quiet with the fans on 'low' if you add a fan controller for the rear 140mm fan and use low-vibration HDDs. Not bedroom-quiet (meaning < 20dB, I believe), but at least living-room-quiet.
Disabling or further undervolting the side fan makes the case bedroom-quiet to my ears.

I'll update with impressions of the remaining components when I have experimented a little more.

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by faustus » Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:42 am

Corsair H60 w/2x Gentle Typhoon 1150rpm

Although air coolers can give better cooling with less noise, I went for the Corsair H60 all-in-one liquid cooler.

This was part curiosity since I haven't tried water cooling before, partly because I wanted more overclocking headroom than what I get from a Noctua (NH-C12P SE14 w/ULNA), and partly because the best aircoolers are huge and require that you sacrifice tall memory modules and/or access to the first memory slots (Silver Arrow, Noctua NH-D14) or the first PCIe slot (Archon).

H60 and two Gentle Typhoon 1150rpm

H60 mounted in the case, the second fan not installed yet. It's tiny compared to 'enthusiast' air coolers - not much bigger than the socket. It's a welcome change not having to unmount the motherboard or the cooler to unplug the CPU fan :)

The H50 got a rather negative review at SPCR, mostly because of a noisy pump. The pump is the primary issue, since unlike fans it can't be replaced.
The H70 pump is better, according to xbitlabs. Their dB values aren't comparable to the SPCR ones, but their diagram says that the worst case pump noise from H70 is less than the noise from the Silver Arrow @600rpm, which SPCR measured to 12-13 dBA @1m.
The H60 pump is best, according to madshrimps. They measure the H60 pump a couple of dB lower than the H70, which is a couple of dB below the H50.
The dB numbers from the different reviews don't quite add up, but I wanted to try liquid cooling and was willing to believe that the H60 was less noisy.

The stock fan is specified to 30 dBA, way too loud for even semi-quiet computing, so it had to be replaced.
I picked Gentle Typhoon from bit-tech and xbitlabs reviews as one of the better tradeoffs between noise, airflow and static pressure. (We need high static pressure for a radiator, as radiators typically have more air resistance than CPU air coolers.)
The H60 has mounting holes for two fans, but uses a non-standard screw diameter and doesn't come with screws for the second fan. I ended up attaching the second fan with plastic strips.

For noise comparisons, I used
* a Lian Li PC-Q08 home server at idle with minimum fan speeds: Almost a replica of the SPCR SFF home server, measured at 20 dBA@1m
* a Noctua NH-C12P SE14 w/ULNA: One NF-P14 140mm fan @750rpm, presumably ~16 dBA@1m

Both at idle and under load (Prime95) the H60 with two GT @1050rpm (the FanMate max speed) makes less noise than the Lian Li home server, but more than the Noctua cooler. The noise is closer to the Lian Li.

I get CPU temps in the high 50's under full load (Prime95). That's ~15 C below Intel's design temperature (Tcase 73 C), leaving plenty of headroom for overclocking and/or summer heat waves, and it's ~10 C better than the Noctua w/ULNA.

I bought a FanMate to undervolt the Gentle Typhoons, but could have spared myself the bother: The difference between 500 and 1050rpm is minimal, and appears to be more a matter of a difference in tone than in actual loudness. The undervolting costs ~10 C in cooling - giving the same cooling as the Noctua w/ULNA, but with more noise - so I'll just leave the fans on full.

Tentative conclusion:

I think the H60 is quiet enough for perhaps half of the SPCR population: The half that thinks ~20 dB is pretty quiet.
In SPCR terms, that's the noise level of the SFF home server from the silent build guides, and below that of the silent gaming file server. Pretty much by definition, it's quiet enough for anyone even considering discrete graphics.

Subjectively, I don't notice the H60 during the day.
But if I'm alone in a quiet room late at night it is perfectly audible and can border on annoying. This is different from the Noctua w/ULNA, which is vaguely audible at night but never annoying.
Although merely having another person in the room can make those ~20 dB from the H60 slip below the threshold of perception. I suppose it's partly because people make noise too, by moving, breathing etc., and partly because the other person draws my attention so I forget about the low-level noise. Likewise, I never notice while I'm using the computer, probably because I'm focused on something else.
And opening a window to the outside certainly drowns it out, even in the middle of the night. Wind, rain, rustling trees and tweeting birds are all more than loud enough to make the H60 inaudible.

20 dB is not quiet enough in every context, and the pump still sets a noise floor you can't get below by switching fans. For those who aim at even lower noise - and for some reason don't want to go all passive, like a HDPLEX H3 case, an i3 2100 and integrated graphics - air cooling still rules.

For myself, noise is only one of many factors influencing what I build. Yes, I want the lowest possible noise, but I also want the most powerful CPU, overclocking headroom, gaming level graphics, lowest cost, most convenience, most attractive design etc.

I think the H60 is a decent tradeoff, with a noise level that is imperceptible ~90% of the time. But I still intend to keep it out of the bedroom.

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by justice99 » Wed Jun 01, 2011 11:55 am

Thank you for all details, but you should know that some Heatskin's fan (Mugen 2) run at 90RPM without any undervolt, you only have to set the minimum speed on the bios and the minimum temp to start the fan. So at idle : inaudible !

I was thinking of buying a Corsair H60 too, but at idle, you can obviosly find quietest and cheaper.

What about yout GPU ? Will you flash it to 6970 or change the cooler ?

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by ntavlas » Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:21 pm

It looks like a very clean build. One of the nice things about water cooling is the extra amount of space around the socket, improving airflow as well as being more practical. Mechanically it is more elegant, especially if you add a gpu into the mix..

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by faustus » Thu Jun 02, 2011 9:22 am

@justice99: Yes, I was considering Mugen 2 (half the price), the Hyper 212 Plus (even cheaper) and Megahalems/Super Mega (same price as the H60 in my area) as well.
But the Mugen 2 is quite big - I had one for an X58 system in a much smaller case, and it was big enough to be inconvenient.
I don't think the size would have been an issue for this build, there's plenty of room, but I decided to try something smaller this time around.

The Mugen is certainly more quiet at idle, but as far as I remember it was more noisy than the H60 with the stock fan at full speed. (SPCR says 24 dB.)
But it might very well beat the H60 in noise as well as cooling with two low-noise fans. (In the SPCR review two Nexus fans give the same temps @15 dB as the single stock fan gives @24 dB.)

I'm planning neither aftermarket cooling nor flashing for the graphics. The DirectCUII is a non-reference model with a fancy cooler and heatsink, so aftermarket coolers probably won't fit and the unlocking doesn't work. At least not easily, AFAIK, as the card has a non-reference BIOS and Asus hijacked the dual BIOS switch for some other purpose.
For modding I would probably be better off with a cheaper reference model. I bought this one because it was the quietest card in a Tweaktown review, and the 10-15% markup from the standard model was less than the cost of an aftermarket cooler.

@ntavias: Thanks. I agree that the primary reason to go for all-in-one liquid cooling is to save space (improved air flow, more practical and fits in smaller cases), and possibly for the aesthetics. And I suppose they have a theoretical advantage in dumping almost all the CPU heat outside the case rather than inside it.

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by faustus » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:18 pm

Asus HD6950 2GB DirectCU II

I picked Radeon for triple-monitor support, the HD 6950 since it seemed a reasonable price/performance tradeoff (and the most I'm willing to spend on graphics), and this particular model since it was at the bottom of the noise chart in a Tweaktown review:
Where the model really shines, though, is noise levels. Oh my... so quiet.
Of course, Tweaktown's idea of quiet may not be the same as mine.

Looks promising. The card is three slots wide.

Fan settings:
* manual minimum: 22% and ~1400rpm (according to Asus SmartDoctor). Quiet for being graphics.
* manual maximum: 100% and ~3600rpm. Sounds like a hairdryer, quite literally. Not even remotely quiet.
* auto: ~1200rpm at idle, ~1300rpm under load (Folding@home GPU client). The auto setting actually spins the fans a little slower and more quietly than what you can set manually. Adding a second and third monitor doesn't affect fan speeds.

Under full load (Boinc CPU and Folding@home GPU) the system (graphics, case fans and the H60) makes slightly more noise than a Mugen 2 with the stock fan at full speed, which should put it at ~25 dB. That's pretty good, although it's ~5 dB more than running without graphics.
Unfortunately, the noise is almost the same at idle, which is not so good.

The system still qualifies as "living room quiet" to my ears, but only just: It's about the loudest I am willing to accept.
Subjectively, the few dB extra compared to running without graphics means that the noise is no longer automatically drowned out by opening a window, I notice it more frequently when working at the computer, and it can start to interfere when playing soft music.

Compared to the SPCR "silent mid gaming PC" (Phenom X4 and HD 6870, non-OC: 14 dB idle, 17 dB load) this system is far more noisy, although it scores ~5000 in the 3DMark11 "performance" benchmark vs SPCR's ~3900.

I think 25 dB under load is perfectly acceptable, but I would like it more quiet at idle. The power consumption is roughly the same as the SPCR non-OC system, so it should be possible from a cooling perspective.
I guess I'll try to mod the card BIOS to reduce the idle fan speed. Having a non-standard card works against me here, as the standard tools are less likely to work on a non-reference BIOS. I suppose I won't know until I try...

Complete build

Power consumption and temperatures

Power consumption is measured at the wall on a 220-230V electricity grid. CPU temperatures are highest maximum core temp from RealTemp. GPU temperatures and fan speeds from Asus SmartDoctor. Ambient temperatures in the 20-23 C range.
Power consumption tend to jump around quite a bit, I've eyeballed an average. I expect that it's accurate within 10% or so.

Integrated graphics

Code: Select all

Idle        64
CPU        132 Prime95 small FFT
GPU         90 FurMark preset 1080 (1 FPS)
CPU+GPU    152 Prime95 + FurMark
Idle is a bit higher than expected, I have another 2600K (Asus P8P67 + GeForce 210) idling at 45 W. That other system has neither optical drive nor sound card, and a motherboard with fewer features. I don't know whether the chipset, Z68 vs P67, makes a difference.

HD 6950, one monitor

Code: Select all

                temp C    
          watt  CPU  GPU   GPU fan
Idle        90   40   39   1200
CPU        158   59    -      -  Prime95 small FFT, 10 min
GPU        254    -   68   1200  FurMark preset 1080, 60 sec (40 FPS)
CPU+GPU    305   60   70   1200  Prime95 + FurMark, 60 sec
CPU+GPU II 240   61   66   1300  Boinc CPU + Folding@home GPU, 24 hours
Assuming 90% PSU efficiency the system peaks at 270 W DC, so this could in principle be an entry for the "how much can you run on a 300W power supply" thread.
A 300 W PSU would be pushing it, I think, but something like the Seasonic X-460 should be fine.

HD 6950, two and three monitors

Code: Select all

                temp C    
          watt  CPU  GPU   GPU fan
Idle       124   40   49   1200
CPU        191   61   51   1200  Prime95 small FFT, 10 min
CPU+GPU    305   61   72   1300  Prime95 + FurMark, 60 sec
Adding a second monitor increases idle power consumption by ~35 W, adding a third monitor makes no difference.
The difference is smaller under graphics load. FurMark in particular shows the exact same power consumption with one and multiple monitors.

Triple monitor desktop, quite a lot of screen real estate.
Next up: Finding a large enough desk.

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by justice99 » Sat Jun 04, 2011 3:53 am

Very nice desk, thanks for the review, consumption is great, only 305w for this system.

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by faustus » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:38 pm

A quick update on queting the graphics card:

Modding the card BIOS to lower the idle fan speeds seems unlikely to work, simply because the stock fans probably can't run any slower. The ~1200 RPM minimum speed is ~30% of the maximum speed, and checking the specs for a few PWM fans it appears that very few of them can run below 30%.
"Minimum RPM shall be 30% of maximum RPM or less" is a requirement from the 4-pin PWM fan specification (pdf). I guess manufacturers generally make fans that satisfy the specification, but rarely see any benefit in going beyond that.

But the heat sink itself is quite beefy, and it's a simple matter to replace the fans. Removing the shroud is just a few screws:

(Picture borrowed from the Vortez review)

I rigged up a couple of 120mm fans as a quick-and-dirty proof-of-concept, and it works swimmingly:
Whether idle or load, the card is no longer audible, and temperatures are pretty much the same as with the stock fans. (A couple of degrees higher.)

I'll admit that it doesn't look very professional:


But the results are encouraging, I think.

The system is now as quiet as it can be without replacing the H60 cooler, and for the intended usage of this system ~20 dB is quiet enough.

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Re: Thermaltake Level 10 GT, 2600K/Z68, Corsair H60 and HD69

Post by bear75 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:44 am

same mod here for my 460 gtx!
i usually work with my pc without looking inside the case :lol:
my ears are more sensitive than my eyes...

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