The Ugly Ductling

Show off your quiet rig.

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HammerSandwich
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The Ugly Ductling

Post by HammerSandwich » Mon Mar 31, 2008 1:55 pm

I almost called this "Project Python," because it is something completely different. My main system has used watercooling for the last 3.5 years, and I wanted to see what air could do in a new build.

Basic design assumptions/goals:
1) New heatpipe coolers rival water & produce less noise.
2) A roughly 200w heat budget can be handled quietly.
3) HDs are the most difficult parts to quiet.
4) Maximize air usage & efficiency. IOW, minimize resistance.
5) Use the fewest fans at the slowest possible speed.
6) Separate airflow paths help #4.

The 200w goal came from combining a number of reviews. High-performance components can run within this power budget, and a modern PSU can provide it while running at minimum fan speed. Calculating the system's cooling shows exhaust temperatures less than +18C over ambient at 200w & only 20cfm. A pair of 120s can cool everything while running below 500rpm, which seems like a workable solution.

The basic hardware:
* Intel Xeon E3110 CPU (E8400 clone)
* Abit IP35-E motherboard
* ECS 9600GT video card
* Corsair 450VX PSU
* Samsung SP1614C HD (during build & testing)
* Antec Nine Hundred case

Cooling:
* Scythe Ninja, Rev. B
* Arctic Cooling Accelero S2
* Yate Loon D12SL-12
* Smart Drive 2002C
* Custom ducting

I chose the case for airflow, not noise containment. While HDs limit my noise floor now, they won't after SSDs take over. That upgrade should occur during this system's life, so CPU & GPU cooling takes priority over HD noise. I also figured that the PSU could cool the GPU with no penalty, and this required a case with floor-mounted PSU. A P182 would allow the same approach, but it would demand more work and cost more.

Everything remains physically stock for now, because I wanted to test the concept in a worst-case configuration. This means that the Ninja is mounted with pushpins, the grilles haven't been cut, no damping has been added, and I've made no case mods for wire management. Yet...

After building the basic system, I constructed some temporary ducts of tape & paper. The ducts are not completely airtight in every place, but they definitely encourage the air to flow where I wish. The 450VX's intake air passes through the Accelero before entering the PSU, and the Ninja's exhaust exits through both the rear 120 & top 200mm grilles. I tested with the 200mm fan on low, and the 2-3C temperature drop doesn't merit the noise increase.

Enough talk! Let's see some pictures. Please note that I used a clear tape which does not photograph well.
* Inside view of the ducting
* Intake & HD mounting
* Rear panel

Results:

I'm running the CPU at 450x8 = 3.6GHz on stock 1.225v. It OCs much higher, but requires extra voltage and burns a lot more power. The GPU runs at stock speed. The PC idles at 80w, Orthos burns 120w, 3dMark06 150w, and Orthos + 3dMark is 162w. These are all AC numbers from a Kill-a-watt, so it would work fine with a good 150w PSU.

As for temps? The HD stays below 40C, and 2 passes of 3dMark06 plus 2 passes of SuperPi 1M give this:
Image.
Sustained load gets the CPU & GPU to 50-52C in a 20-21C ambient.

Noise? The Smart Drive is on Sorbothane, the CPU fan is held by Speedfan at ~440rpm (3.1v), and the 450VX is the loudest part of the system. My refanned Super Tornado is much quieter, but I'll need to get a PCIe adapter before it works this computer.

Verdict:

Compared to its watercooled predecessor, the new computer is a winner. It is ridiculously faster, burns a bit less power and is almost as quiet. Once I replace or fan-swap the Corsair 450VX, this system will be my quietest computer ever.

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Post by xev » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:31 pm

thats nice. i was thinking of doing something similar myself. but i dont get how the graphics cooling lets the warm air out. you taped up all the back clots where the warm/hot air should be leaving.

or did i miss something

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Post by HammerSandwich » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:32 pm

It goes through the PSU. All of the PSU's intake goes through the vidcard's HS.

xev
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Post by xev » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:35 pm

right. sorry didnt read it carefully.

definitely interesting, did u take temps of the psu? if thats possible

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Post by HammerSandwich » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:51 pm

Okay. During a single pass of 3dMark06, approximately 150-164w, the ambient was 21C, PSU exhaust 32C and CPU exhaust 27C. CPU never hit 40C, but the GPU peaked at 54C (highest yet, starting long test now).

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Post by psyopper » Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:08 pm

Man! I was planning this same build in a Cooler Master Centruion 541. Essentially the same case but inverted BTX style.

The differences are obvious but conceptually identical - ducting the CPU out of the dual 80mm rear fan ports and using the PSU (Seasonic S12II-380) to exhaust the heat of the video card.

Good to know I was on the right track, especially for a newb.

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Post by HammerSandwich » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:06 pm

Newb or not, few people have tried this setup. Be sure to post after you build it.

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Post by psyopper » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:34 pm

Have you considered using the unused rear PCI ports as part of your VGA ducting solution? Imagine a half sized PCI card 2 slots away from the VGA cooler. In other words air is drawn in through unused PCI slots, over the cooler and then takes a right turn around the divider into the PSU.

The divider should not occlude the cooler completely, maybe only extends as far as the GPU core. To be effective you would need to seal the bottom half of your system from the top half.

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Post by HammerSandwich » Thu Apr 17, 2008 8:46 am

That's a viable approach to adding intake area for the GPU, but I don't plan to try it. The Antec 900 has plenty of intake area up front, and a rear intake is more likely to eat the hot PSU + GPU exhaust. Now, if my temperatures were a problem...

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Post by HammerSandwich » Thu Apr 17, 2008 8:50 am

I've made a few changes.

The previous ducts have been reworked for cleanliness, durability & ease of installation, and I added an intake duct. The idea is to block direct noise paths and also to force incoming air to pass the Smart Drive.

Because the Corsair 450VX power supply was too loud, I replaced its Adda 1800rpm fan with a Yate Loon SL (1300rpm max). Rather than use the PSU's controller, the YL connects to the motherboard's system-fan port so that Speedfan can control it. I'm trying to be careful with the settings while monitoring temperatures and may be able to slow the fan more with additional testing. The fan now idles at ~600rpm and increases to ~750rpm when the GPU heats up. There's a big noise difference in this mod, and PSU exhaust temps have remained below 45C.

New pictures here:
* Front of case
* Intake exposed
* Side shot 1
* Side shot 2

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Post by psyopper » Sat Apr 19, 2008 9:23 am

It's been a few days for you to play arond with your new ducting. How's it working out?

Lots of people are convinced that ducting the S1 through the PSU will cause the psu to heat up and spin up; I'm not convinced that this is the case. How well did that method work?

Are you getting enough airflow through the case with the two ducts to keep the northbridge cool? What are your case temps like? What about your hdd temps?

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Post by HammerSandwich » Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:39 am

psyopper wrote:It's been a few days for you to play arond with your new ducting. How's it working out?
Doing well so far, but I want to try another option or two.
psyopper wrote:Lots of people are convinced that ducting the S1 through the PSU will cause the psu to heat up and spin up; I'm not convinced that this is the case. How well did that method work?
(It's an S2.) Clearly this setup does pump heat into the PSU, so the proper question is whether the PSU can handle it. I believe so. The Rev. 2 setup from my previous post handles Orthos + 3dMark just fine, with CPU & GPU temps staying below 65C. Even with the PSU fan at ~750rpm, it's quieter than a stock 450VX.

Note that I swapped the PSU fan not because the PSU ramped up under load, but because it was too loud at idle.
psyopper wrote:Are you getting enough airflow through the case with the two ducts to keep the northbridge cool? What are your case temps like? What about your hdd temps?
Haven't had any stability problems, so the NB temp must be okay. Case temps have been low enough that I haven't even noticed them. The HD exceeds 40C only after extended defragging.

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Post by IsaacKuo » Tue Apr 22, 2008 10:37 am

That is indeed ugly, although not nearly as ugly as at first.

I don't think there's any problem with routing GPU heatsink air to the PSU. When is the GPU heatsink ever going to heat up? Probably only when you're gaming, at which point background music and sound effects may distract you from any PSU fan noise.
Isaac Kuo

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Post by ntavlas » Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:05 pm

I agree that using the psu to cool the vga shouldn`t pose a problem. Cooling the rest of the system was always part of a power supply`s funcionality.

The only risk I see comes from bypassing the built in fan controller though your target speeds seem reasonable. Pitty there aren`t many quality fans rated at 1800-2000rpm. Those seasonic based psus have an excellent controller wasted by those nasty adda fans.

I like your layout, you got very good temps too. At first I wasn`t a big fan of the antec 900 but after seeing it in the metal I`m even considering it for my next build. It manages to look much smaller than it is doesn`t it?

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Post by IsaacKuo » Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:10 pm

The Antec 900 is a big brute. Maybe it looks smaller in pictures due to its excessively large top fan.
Isaac Kuo

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Post by HammerSandwich » Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:04 am

It's actually a standard mid-tower size, except for the top fan/plastic stuff. I'd prefer it to be an inch deeper to add a little working room between my Smart Drive & PSU.

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Post by HammerSandwich » Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:13 am

IsaacKuo wrote:That is indeed ugly, although not nearly as ugly as at first.
Oh, and thanks! I guess... :)

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Post by seemingly.random » Sun Jul 06, 2008 7:19 pm

Imaginative and apparently effective build.

Impressive temps. How are they in the summertime?

[Came here as a result of your fs:e3110 thread.]

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Post by HammerSandwich » Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:24 pm

Thanks for the compliment.

Everything's running great. After a little more tweaking, I have Speedfan dialed in with good results. The fans run <600rpm unless I run stress tests, so this PC is very quiet. Seek noise is the loudest part of the system by far, though a proper suspension would beat my Sorbothane in that area.

Anyhow, compared to my water-cooled Opteron 144 at 2.4GHz, this thing offers huge performance and comparable noise levels. I'm happy with the new build.

A good friend I haven't seen in a few years is coming up to visit in a few weeks, and he's bringing me a NIB P150. We plan to transplant this system into that SPCR-approved case and report.

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Post by frenchie » Fri Aug 01, 2008 2:08 am

Hi HammerSandwich,
I like what you did with the GPU.... Thanks for sharring it !!!
In fact I like it so much I'll try to copy it this week end to see if it works in my setup. I'll post pics if I get it to work.
Great work on your computer and thanks again for sharring your mod !!!

[EDIT : just added pics of how it turned out : viewtopic.php?p=424503]

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