Advice for Building a Quieter Gaming PC?

#1 Posted by Ubersmake (754 posts) -

It may be time for me to build a new gaming PC. Intel's Haswell CPUs weren't the powerhouses I was hoping for, nor did they need to be. I can rest somewhat assured that Intel won't be releasing a new line of CPUs anytime soon. The new consoles are just a few months away, but my current GPU isn't going away anytime soon. But my current CPU is. A Core 2 Duo on a motherboard that supports RAM up to DDR2. So now seems as good a time as any, since my current machine isn't going to be upgraded in...ever. It's at the point where any upgrade attempt would be silly and a waste of money.

Time for a new machine. With an "old" HD 5870. Yes, that was running with a Core 2 Duo. Yes, there are many things bottlenecking this GPU in my current system. And time to address what is really the biggest issue I have with my current rig. Cooling. Or rather, the noise that comes with it.

I'm considering water cooling now. When I last checked, water cooling consisted of websites with DIY instructions involving piping and a drill. Admittedly, it's been more than a few years since I last checked. And while that mitigates noise for CPU cooling, there's still the GPU. Which is probably the loudest thing in my current PC. I actually turn vsync on, not to get rid of screen tearing, but to remind the GPU that it really doesn't have to work so hard.

In the end, I want to build a quieter gaming PC, and am hoping for any advice from anyone who's walked down a similar road. What's your cooling solution, duders? And do you have any suggestions for making a new PC quieter than an angry wasp?

#2 Posted by Korwin (2828 posts) -

Using a closed loop liquid cooling solution is an excellent option to keep things quite without strapping a enormous power cooler to your cpu, they also have the advantage of keeping the socket area clear so you don't interfere with the memory slots.

Look at something like the Corsair H80i or the Antec Kuhler 920, I've been using the 920 on my loungeroom PC for a while now and you never hear anything from it.

On the GPU front things are going to be a little trickier, if you were buying a new one i'd suggest you look into a card with a custom cooler solution. The easiest option in you case would be to install an after market cooler - http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/cooling/vga/375/accelero-twin-turbo-ii.html?c=2182#compatible

That thing will generate a lot less noise under load than the stock 5870 fan.

#3 Edited by RollingZeppelin (1914 posts) -

The only thing you can do about the video card is buy one that has a reputation for being quiet. Some cases are designed around noise reduction as well so keep an eye out for those. If you want to go all out with the water cooling, there are adapters that can be bought to hook up the water cooling to the videocard. In my opinion, going all out with liquid cooling is more trouble than its worth unless you want to do some serious overclocking.

#4 Edited by Andorski (5190 posts) -

Doesn't matter if you go air or water cooling. Unless you plan on hitting +4.5GHz on OC, either route can be used in a quiet PC. What's important are the fans and the case. My recommendations for fans are:

  1. Noctua: They are the kings of quality performance fans. They push a lot of air, have good static pressure, and are quiet. They have a diversified selection of fans depending if you want a case fan or a CPU heatsink/radiator fan. Check this link to find out which ones you want.
  2. COUGAR: If the Noctua fans are too expensive, then check out the Vortex series. They come in 140mm and 120mm and are great all around fans that can be used for the case, heatsink, or radiator. They also come at almost half the price of Noctua.

Honorable mentions would be Noiseblocker and Be Quiet!. Noiseblocker fans have a variety of 120mm fans that come at different RPMs. The 800rpm version I heard is dead silent, but the amount of air it pushes is somewhat lackluster. I also heard of issues with the static pressure of the fans. Be Quiet! fans are a good alternative to Noctua fans, if the brown/red color combination is not to your liking.

The other two things you have to consider is the PC case and the PSU. Neither are really my expertise. For PSU's, I've heard good things about Be Quiet!'s offerings. Check out Silent PC Review to do some research on these two components. Once you have all this figured out, the noisiest component your PC will have will be your GPU.

[edit] Completely forgot that if you do go custom water cooling, you will remove any noise your current GPU makes. In this case, it would definitely be better to go water instead of air.

Online
#5 Edited by Rowr (5477 posts) -

NoiseBlocker are pretty well regarded for being good quiet fans. If your graphics card is the thing making all the noise maybe look at setting up some better airflow around it to keep it cooler thus quieter - make the fan in it work less?

It's really going to come down to your case. When i built my rig recently I didn't look into this at all, I bought a Noctua D14 cpu fan for a Corsair 800D, a great watercooling case - but a terrible air cooling case. I'll probably try out watercooling for my next build, it doesn't seem nearly intimidating as it once was.

Anyway so i googled every thread i could find about aircooling the 800D, and after hours of research and modification and about 300 dollars worth of fans it's as cold as it will get.

Without putting those fans in though my graphics card was baking, so definitely make your decision based on your case.

I read somewhere that watercooling can be just as noisy as a quality air cooler in regards to cpu when under load? Can anyone confirm that?

With regards to air cooling there's often a lot to think about in regards to how much air you push in vs how much you extract, how good the airflow across the components are, whether it is leading to a positive or negative pressure scenario in your case (with regards to attracting dust.)

What case are you using?

#6 Edited by TheHBK (5463 posts) -

I just built a new PC with the 4670K using the Antec Kuhler 620, works great. Overclocked it to 4.2 Ghz and it runs quiet and the temps on idle are 35 C. Never really seems to go up when I am playing a game. Sure is a lot cooler than my Core 2 Duo on my Macbook which goes up to like 80 C when I am watching youtube.

#7 Posted by VACkillers (1059 posts) -

Basically as Korwin mentioned, using a closed loop solution for watercooling now is a now very effient cooling solution now and more then enough pre-built PCs actually come with them box standard now... Their an easy-to-install water cooling which only cools the CPU, nothing else, there is no need for piping to go all over in and around you case or outside it anymore with some massive reservoir/pump calmped onto this and that. Yes those are still around but its mostly for cosmetic sake, because UV water looks absolutely stunning!! but for more practical use a closed-loop is exactly the way to go.. below I'll link a couple as examples to use........

Corsair Hydro Series H100i

Antec KÜHLER H2O 620

COOLER Master Seidon 240M

ZALMAN LQ-310

Now Corsair or Antec are probably the better brands but its easy to install, just look at it like a heatsink install, and then just hooking the fans somewhere... and your done!
as for the silent gaming overall though, well you'll never obtain absolute perfect silence unless everything including your graphics card is watercooled as well, but its mostly down to the case as others have pointed out, some have sound-absorbing foam in the side pannels to help, Fractal Design Cases I believe are one of those case makers built for low-level noise, and of course the type of case fans make a difference to....

Fractal Cases

This stuff I posted is just to help give you idea's for your new build... hope it helps! Just keep your cases Dust Free as possible so doesn't work the fans so hard because their overheating!

#8 Posted by Ubersmake (754 posts) -

@korwin, thanks for that GPU aftermarket fan link. But how does that work, exactly? I've never "disassembled" a video card, although it always seemed within the realm of possibility. And thanks for the water cooling suggestions, too. Until very recently, I wouldn't have considered water cooling. Like my first post said, my knowledge of doing that sort of thing involved piping, a drill, and a sort of precision that I'm frankly too clumsy for. Learning that water cooling solutions came as kits changed everything.

@rollingzeppelin, it's probably too late for that, although it'll definitely be a consideration when I inevitably replace this 5870. But that won't be for another year or two. My current card is this beast: http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?psn=0001&pid=287&lid=1, which was on sale for some ridiculous price on Newegg about two years ago. It also barely fits in my mid-tower ATX case. I actually had to move my hard drive so the thing could fit in. And at the time, I didn't think video cards actually got that big. Of course, this isn't really a surprise anymore. The Titan deserves its name. As for overclocking, that isn't something I plan to do.

@andorski, @rowr, thanks for the fan suggestions. The nice thing about this is that I can keep using them in the future. My current case is this: http://store.antec.com/Product/enclosure-sonata_family/solo/0-761345-18500-4.aspx. It's...yeah. It looks good, but it has no front intake fan. It has one case fan in the back, separate from the one that's in the PSU (which doesn't count). Definitely going to get a full tower this time around, and for more than just adding more fans. This thing is at the point where I've backed myself into an upgrade corner of sorts. It started out as a Core 2 Duo with a Radeon HD 4850 and a 450W PSU. The latter two are now a Radeon HD 5870 and a 600W PSU.

#9 Edited by Rowr (5477 posts) -

@rowr, thanks for the fan suggestions. The nice thing about this is that I can keep using them in the future. My current case is this: http://store.antec.com/Product/enclosure-sonata_family/solo/0-761345-18500-4.aspx. It's...yeah. It looks good, but it has no front intake fan. It has one case fan in the back, separate from the one that's in the PSU (which doesn't count). Definitely going to get a full tower this time around, and for more than just adding more fans. This thing is at the point where I've backed myself into an upgrade corner of sorts. It started out as a Core 2 Duo with a Radeon HD 4850 and a 450W PSU. The latter two are now a Radeon HD 5870 and a 600W PSU.

I installed one of these http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lian-Li-Cooling-Intake-BZ-502B/dp/B002BWSVH4 , so there are options out there. Whether it will benefit your graphics card or not or if you have the extra slots will depend also. I took the stock 120 fan it comes with and put it on the back over the graphic card vents for extraction. Like you say once you buy the fans you have them for the future, also you can look at putting the fan you take out somewhere else, I think i have 10 fans in there total, which leads to buying fan controllers and splitters etc.

But yeh if you plan to get a new case, definitely have a rough plan regarding cooling.

#10 Posted by Korwin (2828 posts) -

@rowr said:

@ubersmake said:

@rowr, thanks for the fan suggestions. The nice thing about this is that I can keep using them in the future. My current case is this: http://store.antec.com/Product/enclosure-sonata_family/solo/0-761345-18500-4.aspx. It's...yeah. It looks good, but it has no front intake fan. It has one case fan in the back, separate from the one that's in the PSU (which doesn't count). Definitely going to get a full tower this time around, and for more than just adding more fans. This thing is at the point where I've backed myself into an upgrade corner of sorts. It started out as a Core 2 Duo with a Radeon HD 4850 and a 450W PSU. The latter two are now a Radeon HD 5870 and a 600W PSU.

I installed one of these http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lian-Li-Cooling-Intake-BZ-502B/dp/B002BWSVH4 , so there are options out there. Whether it will benefit your graphics card or not or if you have the extra slots will depend also. I took the stock 120 fan it comes with and put it on the back over the graphic card vents for extraction. Like you say once you buy the fans you have them for the future, also you can look at putting the fan you take out somewhere else, I think i have 10 fans in there total, which leads to buying fan controllers and splitters etc.

But yeh if you plan to get a new case, definitely have a rough plan regarding cooling.

Good solution to the 800D intake problem there (provided you're doing extract through the top).

#11 Edited by Rowr (5477 posts) -

@korwin said:

@rowr said:

@ubersmake said:

@rowr, thanks for the fan suggestions. The nice thing about this is that I can keep using them in the future. My current case is this: http://store.antec.com/Product/enclosure-sonata_family/solo/0-761345-18500-4.aspx. It's...yeah. It looks good, but it has no front intake fan. It has one case fan in the back, separate from the one that's in the PSU (which doesn't count). Definitely going to get a full tower this time around, and for more than just adding more fans. This thing is at the point where I've backed myself into an upgrade corner of sorts. It started out as a Core 2 Duo with a Radeon HD 4850 and a 450W PSU. The latter two are now a Radeon HD 5870 and a 600W PSU.

I installed one of these http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lian-Li-Cooling-Intake-BZ-502B/dp/B002BWSVH4 , so there are options out there. Whether it will benefit your graphics card or not or if you have the extra slots will depend also. I took the stock 120 fan it comes with and put it on the back over the graphic card vents for extraction. Like you say once you buy the fans you have them for the future, also you can look at putting the fan you take out somewhere else, I think i have 10 fans in there total, which leads to buying fan controllers and splitters etc.

But yeh if you plan to get a new case, definitely have a rough plan regarding cooling.

Good solution to the 800D intake problem there (provided you're doing extract through the top).

Actually i'm intaking at the top and bottom and extracting out the back for positive pressure, though i generally have the top fans turned to a lower rpm (not in this pic) so it doesn't mess with the airflow too much. My biggest revelation was the fact that the gpu exhausts from either end and not just the back (duh), originally i had the fan thats floating in the middle, down at the bottom blowing hot air straight through the gpu, one processor was like 20 degrees hotter than the other.

Now hot air that rises from the gpu on the inside is pushed up and out the back, while at the bottom is extracted straight out the back by a 120mm mounted on the outside through grated vents. To be honest I dont think the top fans do too much aside from keep pressure up to "seal" positive pressure and keep the air moving out the back. I've messed around with making them exhaust, but i'd rather keep air rushing from front to back over the components.

Otherwise i could probably turn the d14 to face upward and intake from the back and exhaust from the top.

GPU's fully loaded, even out and max out at roughly 65 Celsius. About 75 overclocked. The 120mm fan at the front runs continuously at 1200rpm.

#12 Edited by Ubersmake (754 posts) -

Thanks, everyone, for all the feedback. Whenever I get to building this system, probably before the end of the month, or after the insanity that is PAX Prime, I'll likely just write up a blog post detailing what I went with. And I'll take a picture of my current machine to show the nightmare that arises when a machine was haphazardly upgraded over the years.

@thehbk, I probably have the same MacBook, a 13" Core 2 Duo from around 2008, when MacBooks were still pearly and glossy. I have no idea why those (all Apple laptops, really) run so hot. But the worst part is the fan. It's not enough for it to burn your lap. It has to yell at you, too.

@vackillers, I'll take a look at those cases, thanks. I know very little about cases beyond which brands are more well-regarded than others. Since this is a new machine, I may as well go all out and think everything through. My current machine was built based on how much I could squeeze out of $600. So the case was an afterthought. It only had to look decent on the outside!

I haven't done the proper research yet, but could someone explain "static pressure?" My knowledge of fans and such is limited to:

  1. Heat rises.
  2. Make sure air gets sucked in and gets blown out.

Which did make it somewhat amusing when I had to take out a fan to get something into my machine, and accidentally put it back in facing the wrong direction.

#13 Posted by Brenderous (1097 posts) -

Turn up your speakers.

#14 Posted by Sergio (2049 posts) -

@andorski said:

Doesn't matter if you go air or water cooling. Unless you plan on hitting +4.5GHz on OC, either route can be used in a quiet PC. What's important are the fans and the case. My recommendations for fans are:

  1. Noctua: They are the kings of quality performance fans. They push a lot of air, have good static pressure, and are quiet. They have a diversified selection of fans depending if you want a case fan or a CPU heatsink/radiator fan. Check this link to find out which ones you want.

I replaced all of the fans in my HTPC with Noctua fans when I built it several years ago. It runs very quiet and cool, so I'd highly recommend them.

#15 Edited by Rowr (5477 posts) -

@ubersmake said:

I haven't done the proper research yet, but could someone explain "static pressure?" My knowledge of fans and such is limited to:

  1. Heat rises.
  2. Make sure air gets sucked in and gets blown out.

Which did make it somewhat amusing when I had to take out a fan to get something into my machine, and accidentally put it back in facing the wrong direction.

It gets complicated, but luckily you only need to understand or bother with the science with it if you really want to get into it.

Heres what i understand. Fans will be rated for a CFM (cubic feet per minute or something) - Think of this as how hard it can push air through. When you have a fan which is obstructed (by computer components etc), you will want a higher CFM. So for things like radiators and stuff you want to worry about a higher CFM i suppose. But i know nothing about those setups, so I cant tell you much more. Now the thing is pretty much all the manufacturers exaggerate their CFM anyway, if you do get to a point where you want to get choosy with fans this is a good resource http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/331629-28-cooling-roundup-2012 .

Really if you just find something recommended like noctuas or noiseblockers or whatever, that's probably going to be fine. It's not worth agonising over. I've got noiseblockers and I reccomend those, they run quietly and have a decent CFM that is pretty accurate to what they advertise to. The Noctua's seem pretty good, they have a natural noise as opposed to any sort of whirring, but man are they bland to look at.

Anyway so the thing worth thinking about and where the cfm thing comes in, is the subject of positive or negative pressure.

So the basic idea is this, your case is basically a box right so imagine an empty box, imagine you have one fan hooked up to push air in and one to push air out.

Now imagine the fan pushing the air in is rated with a higher CFM, so it's pushing more air in than can go out at a natural rate. This causes slight pressure in the box as the air tries to escape out of the box.

Now imagine you hookup three fans intaking and one exhausting. Your going to have some strong POSITIVE pressure in that box. Because of the pressure the air will push hard to escape out, it will try and exhaust out of any open holes or vents in the box.

Ok so imagine you set up the box the other way, three exhausts and one intake, NEGATIVE pressure. The air is trying to rush into the box from the outside.

The main reason you need to consider this is dust. A setup with a negative pressure bias will cause your system to build up with dust, because it's all trying to get in the box and it won't want to leave, whereas a positive pressure setup will act to keep dust out, though you want to make sure you have dust filters on your intakes.

The second reason to consider is in the case of a positive pressure setup, pressure will push the hot air produced by your components out of the case, so if you leave some open grates nearby this can help around the GPU for instance. In this instance it's often helpful to block off any open vents that don't promote good airflow. If you can leave venting open around your GPU, while closing off vents somewhere else, it forces the air to take the single path.

When you setup you're computer you generally don't want it biased to much one way or the other, excessive pressure one way or the other can cause your fans to overwork or vibrate and make noise. In the case of a dusty environment, I would lean toward a positive pressure setup. Some people prefer a negative pressure setup because it's supposedly a little bit cooler, especially if you are in a hotter environment.

Now aside from all this the other important consideration for all of this is your fans positions and how this all ties together to affect airflow. Good airflow around your hotter components is probably the most important thing (especially in the case of your GPU's). In this case it's probably helpful to take a picture or draw a diagram to see what the path the air is likely to take depending on the positioning of your fans and their CFM.

Also yes remember Heat rises, though this isn't always a factor good airflow will basically negate it's effect. If hot air is getting pushed out the side with a fan, it's only going to rise as far as when the fan hits it.

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