Well, as everyone around the office knows, I don’t get on the upgrade wagon that often. I see software upgrades as being a never-ending cycle meant to pull customers in and take their money, when oftentimes, an upgrade isn’t necessary because the software already works. From a hardware standpoint, this is not as true though. Over time, users’ computing needs change, and software and OS take up more and more system resources, so hardware upgrades are a necessity at some point.
I last built a quiet PC in or around 2001/2002, and this box is finally starting to show its age. My first thought was, “I’ll just update a few key components to boost the speed and then I won’t have to build a whole new machine.” WRONG. Everything has changed:
Socket A / Socket 478
PCI express (PCI x16 / x8)
DDR2 / DDR3
Socket AM2 / LGA775
My main focus wasn’t necessarily complete silence, because often that comes at the cost of performance. I tried to get a maximum of performance with a minimum of sound, and without breaking the bank. I ranked silence and cost slightly above performance however, but if I could have all three, I did. I also wanted to be able to overclock this machine to get the most performance possible.
I started with the case. There are few good manufacturers that make quiet cases, like Antec, Lian Li and Zalmann, and I am sure there are others. I settled on an Antec case. Then, I chose a chipset and processor (Intel’s LGA775 and their dual core e8500 3.16 GHz chip) and motherboard (Gigabyte EP45 UD3P). The next step was the video card and the power supply. There are still manufacturers who make silent video cards (heatsink only), and granted, you have to give up a little bit of performance, and your case cooling needs to be a little better with a heatsink-only card, but it’s not that bad and I don’t do heavy-duty graphics anyway. I chose a fanless ASUS ATI 3650 PCI-Express card. Next was the PSU; it needed to have enough power but also be fairly quiet. I chose a Seasonic S12 550W model; there are others to choose from, but this one seemed to fit my needs well and seems to be well-received on the internet. Finally, I chose a quiet hard drive (Western Digital’s Caviar line is very quiet and is also long-lasting ) and some quiet case fans and a heatsink/fan unit for the processor (the supplied Intel HSF for the processor is far too loud). Nexus makes quiet case fans as does Scythe, and I chose the Xigmatek SDT-HD964 as the HSF, replacing the supplied stock fan with a quieter Nexus 92mm fan.
I’ll tell you what, this thing is QUIET! I compared it to my old “quiet” machine, and it surpasses it easily. You have to turn everything off and listen very closely to even hear the fan noise (which is just a very soft “whooshing” sound). And even as quiet as it is, my CPU temps haven’t gone above 34C with the processor overclocked to 4.08GHz! Right now, the loudest thing is the PSU fan and the 120mm case fan, whose decibel levels can actually be lowered even more by replacing with quieter fans and using some “undervolting” tricks.
There are a couple of sites I used extensively for the quiet pc component reviews: silentpcreview.com and to a lesser extent, endpcnoise.com. They are both valuable resources in your quest to build the ultimate quiet PC.