Case Recommendations--Accoustics and Cooling

Okay, I’ve overcome my denial and have come to the realization that I have a major cooling problem. Why? Because every time I really stress my system (like running 3DMark2003 at high settings or America’s Army at high settings), the sucka shuts down in the middle of the process. After the third time of watching this happen, I realize that I have to do something about this before summer hits, because it will just get so much tougher to keep the system cool when the ambient room temperature is in the 80’s and 90’s.

I’ve got a 4-year old ATX case that I’ve resused over and over again, and that’s probably the first problem. It was designed before the era of the AthlonXP and 2GHz CPU’s and the immense thermal problems that come with those kinds of chips. Any recommendations on a good (and, hopefully, inexpensive) case that has good airflow and cooling.

The other thing I’d like to do is lower the damn accoustical signature of the entire thing. I have to sleep with my computer near my bed, and to say that it wakes me up several times in the middle of the night is an understatement. The damn thing is annoyingly loud with the gazillion fans in it. (Yes, the obvious solution would be to shut it down when I sleep, and most nights I do shut it down, but there are those occassions when I have to leave it running overnight… Not to mention, I’d like to be able to leave it running and read a book during the day without having a constant rumble in my ear.)

So, on top of the case recommendation, what do you recommend as good, quiet heatsink/fan solutions. I’ve noticed that also the biggest fan in my system may also be my power supply fan, so is there a better option there? I’m not ready to go the entire water-cooling route, but what’s out there for air cooling?

Finally, I realize that “quiet” and “cool” are not mutually exclusive, but that to mate the two togther usually means a significant jump in cost. But are there any quiet AND cool case and cooling solutions that you recommend that are relatively cheap?

I’ve also heard that Dell has spent a lot of effort lowering the accoustical levels of their systems so they’re in the “whisper-quiet” range… how do they do it?

Thanks!

Try the Koolance case. It’s a prebuilt water cooling solution, and will be your best bet for a quiet system. Particularly if you have to sleep in the same room as your PC.

http://koolance.com/products/product.html?code=CCS-A04

Reviews here (scroll to PC2-601 reviews)

http://koolance.com/press/reviews.html

Dell does it through a combination of large, ducted fans over the CPU – so there’s no CPU fan per se; rubber grommets and mount points for all storage devices and other small tricks, such as designing exhaust ports to minimize noise. They are incredibly quiet, even at 3.0GHZ.

One case you might consider, if you don’t want to overclock, is the Antec Sonata (antec-inc.com - This website is for sale! - antec inc Resources and Information.). It’s designed to be quiet. Couple it with a good cooling fan that’s also designed to be quiet, such as the Vantec TMD sereis (http://www.vantecusa.com/afc250.html), and you might have what you’re looking for. The TMD fans use a unique drive that removes the need for the standard DC motor, and it’s noticeably quieter, even at a spin rate of around 5500RPM. It’s got a copper core and decent aluminum fin structure, too.

As ever,

Loyd Case

When I first read the threads subject “Case Recommendations–Accoustics and Cooling”, my first thought is that the poster was soliciting Loyd Case’s input rather than referring to a computer case. I guess that makes Loyd famous in my book.

I bought Loyd’s new book from Amazon the other day (via the QT3 link of course) and am working my way through it. I am fairly comfortable with computers, but I like to keep a written document handy for when I am doing some work and need a visual reference and the web isn’t available.

Back on subject, Jason Cross has a review of the new Dell gamer PC in the May edition of CGM. I guess Dell has enough engineers and OEM influence to design a high end PC that’sb quiet and fast.

-DavidCPA

-DavidCPA

I thought the low-end Koolance was still annoyingly loud, so I ripped out the fans, got a better pump and surprise surprise…it’ll run at 62C with no active cooling. Look for something with a biiiiiiig radiator.

Dell does it through a combination of large, ducted fans over the CPU – so there’s no CPU fan per se; rubber grommets and mount points for all storage devices and other small tricks, such as designing exhaust ports to minimize noise. They are incredibly quiet, even at 3.0GHZ.

Not entirely fair, since Dell uses P4 chips exclusively. In overheat conditions, these chips throttle themselves down-- way down. Which is preferable to the Athlon XP “china syndrome” approach, to be sure, but this also gives OEMs like Dell the ability to use sub-standard cooling and effectively get away with it. Business users would never notice the difference anyway.

I can’t remember what forum I read this on, but one tech support guy said the first thing they did when they got P4 boxes shipped back was run 3DMark on them. If the scores were abnormally low (like 1/4 what they should be), they knew that the fan wasn’t functioning on the heatsink.

There’s also that video at Tom’s hardware which brilliantly illustrates these differences:

http://www4.tomshardware.com/cpu/20010917/heatvideo-05.html

The Athlon does have the ability to shut down, but it requires BIOS level support, whereas the P4 has that functionality (auto-throttling) built into the CPU die itself.

Thanks for buying the book!

Now, you get bonus points for finding the two art errors. I was quite chagrined when they were pointed out to me, but they’re NOT MY FAULT. I gave the corrections to the illustrators, but they weren’t implented. One is glaringly obvious, the other a bit more subtle.

As ever,

Loyd Case

I really do recommend that video. I had forgotten how cool (no pun intended) it was. Now with 56% more techno soundtrack!

I’ve never had a Dell throttle down on me, even in heavy gaming sessions. The ducted fan works quite well.

What I don’t like about them is networking. Now, I’ve used motherboards with built-in Ethernet (even built-in Intel Ethernet), but somehow Dell’s implementation of Intel’s ICH Ethernet is dog slow. I don’t mean that the tranfer rate is slow, but enumerating other systems on the network seems slow. Every time we try to connect to a multiplayer LAN game, the Dell Dimension’s have almost always been last in finding the server.

As ever,

Loyd Case

I’ve never had a Dell throttle down on me, even in heavy gaming sessions. The ducted fan works quite well.

The P4 gives Dell flexibility in designing their thermal solution that they would not have with the Athlon. I’m not saying Dell’s solution is poor or unworkable-- large fans and ducting are always good ideas-- merely that the choice of processor has a direct impact on the design, because the Athlon and P4 differ so radically in how they handle overheat conditions.

I recommend the video. It’s no Matrix Reloaded trailer, but in this case, the video is worth a thousand words.

The other problem with Dell is the proprietary nature of many of the parts they use, if you’re the “buy a name-brand PC, but perhaps upgrade it someday” type.

Dell power supplies use non-standard wiring, the case/cooling design isn’t good for third-party motherboards, etc.

That said, every desktop PC I’ve ever purchsed rather than build myself has been a Dell. And I continue to recommend them to friends. But that’s something to keep in mind when buying one.

I wasn’t going to mention any errors, but Figure 2-4 (page 22) and Figure 2-5 (page 24) are swapped. 2-4 is obvious because the figure label says “block diagram of AMD’s opteron architecture” but contains the Intel 845 chipset diagram that is supposed to go in Figure 2-5. The error is harder to spot in 2-5 as the only reference in the picture to an AMD product is the HyperTransport description.

Most people won’t know it is an error and those who do will know what picture applies where.

-DavidCPA

I wasn’t going to mention any errors, but Figure 2-4 (page 22) and Figure 2-5 (page 24) are swapped. 2-4 is obvious because the figure label says “block diagram of AMD’s opteron architecture” but contains the Intel 845 chipset diagram that is supposed to go in Figure 2-5. The error is harder to spot in 2-5 as the only reference in the picture to an AMD product is the HyperTransport description.

Most people won’t know it is an error and those who do will know what picture applies where.

-DavidCPA[/quote]

You found the less obvious error. The other one is glaring (and embarrassing, since people will think I made the gaffe).

Cheers,

Loyd

That new Dell also cranks up its big fans when things get hot, though it only happened a couple of times when we tested it (Jason could tell for certain, since he was actually doing it; I heard them come on when the system was powering on, I believe). When they spin up, it can get somewhat noisier, though it’s still more quiet then that wacky GeForce card, and I doubt you’d reach a point where the P4 throttles down.

That Dell system is great. I can’t wait until everyone else rips off its case, and I hope others adopt that brick power supply at the bottom of the case. Makes the wiring a lot neater, and everying is so much easier to get to without requiring a larger tower case.

The cheapest thing you can do is to get a piece of plywood and stick it between your bed and your computer. That’ll deflect some of the sound.

The loudest things in your computer, in order, are:

  1. CPU fan
  2. hard disks
  3. Power supply fan
  4. case fans

You can spend $100 on quiet, 20dB power supplies, CPU coolers, and 80mm case fans, and the whirr of the hard drives will still be louder than you want.

So, then, how did I silence my Athlon 2100 XP, 6-drive 400GB RAID-1 fileserver?
edit: It’s now a 7-drive, 920GB RAID-1 fileserver.

I put it in the closet. Three cheers for wireless networking.

As my new main system, I put together one of those Shutte SB-51G XPCs with 1GB RAM, a single 200GB hard disk, DVD-ROM, and a 2.4Ghz P4.

It was whisper, whisper, whisper quiet until I added a Radeon 9700. Now it’s just slightly whisper quiet. Sustained CPU temp is about 42C with the fan in quiet mode, and I keep the house at 26C (80F) or below.

I used to consider only capacity and speed when I bought new hard drives. But last time I upgraded, I specifically went after low idle noise and low drive temperature. This helped a lot - especially since I already had a quiet CPU fan.

StorageReview has a neat database with performance data for a lot of hard drives (including idle noise and temperature).

One thing that I did was to get a CPU heat sink that supports an 80mm fan. In general, the larger the fan, the quieter it is (it can spin slower than a small fan and still move the same amount of air). And several manufacturers make “stealth” fans in the 80mm size. You probably already have a heat sink/fan combo, but if your fan is removable, look around for an adapter that would let you use a larger fan (I think Directron has them). It really helps.

I still hear the whine of my damned Radeon fan, though. I have half a mind to rip that bastard out and do some surgery.

Directron has a whole section of “quiet PC” supplies, actually:

http://www.directron.com/silence.html

Does anyone have experience with (or seen a review of) something like this?

I haven’t, but I’m skeptical for a few reasons. One, the vibrations that rattle your case don’t come the sides of the case–they come mostly from the fans, which are in direct contact with your case in an area where it would be difficult to apply accoustical padding (the front and back panels). Also, vibration noise generally comes from pieces of the case rattling against each other; the padding would keep vibrations in the air inside the case from being tranmitted outside the case, but I don’t see that it would be all the helpful in stopping the vibration of the case itself. Also, I worry that adding insulation to a case would be bad for the heat situation (probably just me being paranoid, though).

A better solution is to stop vibrations at the source:

http://www.directron.com/tnpcs80.html

I’ve used these, and they really do help, are cheap, and and are easy to install. They also make them for power supplies.

I have similar mats in several of my cases. It helps a bit, but it’s no revolution. Keep in mind that it also increases case and CPU temperature.

If you wish to reduce HD noice, try this. Even if it doesn’t lower idle noise, it almost removes all vibration.