Silent gaming PC build, September 2012

Introduction

My old workstation and gaming PC is now 6 years old and it is beginning to feel slow. A few weeks back I set out to build the replacement and my main objective was that it should be silent, but powerful, so I have search the net for reviews and recommendations and the following is the items I decided to buy:

  • CPU: Core i5 3570K, 6 MB
  • MB: ASRock Z77 Extreme4
  • CPU-cooler: Noctua NH-C14
  • GPU: Sapphire RADEON HD 7950 OC (3 GB)
  • CASE: Fractal Design Define R4
  • PSU: Sea Sonic M12II-520Bronze
  • SSD: Samsung 830 Series MZ-7PC128B, 128 GB
  • RAM: Corsair Vengeance 2 x 4 GB, low-profile, PC3-12800, 9-9-9-24
  • DVD: Samsung SH-222BB, DVD-burner

On the day it was bought (21-sep-2012) this totaled, with delivery, to 8430 DKK (1470 USD).

Update – overclocked CPU, underclocked fans, decided against 7950

I have now received all the parts, put them together and I am happy to report that it is a very silent build. 🙂 The only change I made in the last second was to drop the 7950 GPU as the rumors of the 8850 are just starting to emerge and I can cope with my 5850 until then. If anybody is using this article mind also that the Samsung 840 SSD has just been launched and it should be very impressive. I couldn’t wait for the 840 to come to Denmark, so I am perfectly happy with my 830.

Additional notes: The Noctua C12P cooler comes with two extra cables to reduce voltage on the fans – Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.) and a Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.). These adaptors reduce the original fan speed from 1200 RPM to 900 and 750 respectively. I am using the 900 RPM L.N.A. version it is hardly audible and still coolers sufficiently. Another great thing is that the Fractal Design R4 Case comes with built in adaptors for the case-fans which be control on front, see image. I have found that the lowest setting (5V) is sufficient for me and it is very silent. To put in into perspective I have a moderate overclock from 3,4 to 4,2 GHz while having underclock most of the fans and the system is both stable and not be any means too hot.

Core i5 3570K, 6 MB

The first thing I decided to buy was the i5-3570K. It seems to be the new king of mid range with a great performance/cost ratio. It has a great potential for overclocking and is a significant step upward from my old Intel E6600 CPU.

Much like the Sandy Bridge i5-2500K processor was the best value in terms of price and performance for the 2nd generation Intel Core processors, the Ivy Bridge i5-3570K will surely be a popular processor among enthusiasts on a budget. The i5-3570K does not have the i7-3770K’s Hyperthreading capability but is more than powerful enough for most tasks even at stock clocks. Since it is a K processor, the i5-3570K can easily be performance tuned to reach the i7-3770K’s stock performance and is as equally impressive in this regard as the i5 2500K before it.

Review – hitechlegion.com (quoted)
Review – hexus.net
Review – bit-tech.net

ASRock Z77 Extreme4

The next thing I needed was a motherboard with a socket to match the CPU. After researching for a while I knew that I wanted the Z77 chipset and quickly settled on the Asrock Z77 Extreme4. This motherboard is also a good value for money.

That said we are proud to award ASRock Z77 Extreme4 mainboard our Recommended Buy title for offering the best combination of functionality and price among contemporary Intel Z77 Express based mainboards.

Review -xbitlabs.com (quoted)
Review – tomshardware.com
Review – anantech.com

Noctua NH-C14

Since one of the key objectives of my new build was silence I knew that I could not live with the noise of a stock cooler. I have previously owned a Noctua cooler and I was very happy about the quality and low noise. I chose this cooler instead of a tower cooler as I liked the idea of having a active flow of air over my motherboard and thereby cooling the chipset in addition.

The design of the Noctua NH-C14 is nothing mind-blowing, essentially a larger version of the NH-C12P with Noctua’s updated (though not that different) universal mounting system and a pair of 14 cm fans. However these more powerful fans allowed the Noctua to pack the fins more densely without sacrificing low airflow performance. The end result is superb CPU cooling when both fans are utilized, and solid cooling with just one. It manages this while delivering airflow over the circuitry around the CPU, over the VRMs, capacitors, and chipset as well. Down-blowing heatsinks typically do not perform as well as their side-blowing brethren when it comes to CPU cooling, but the C14 bucks this trend.

Review – silentpcreview.com (quoted)
Review – overclockersclub.com
Review – kitguru.net

Sapphire RADEON HD 7950 OC (3 GB)

Every month tomshardware.com creates a list of the best graphics card for different price ranges. This is a great service to find the best option depending on the budget. I knew I wanted to put a significant amount of budget on the graphics card. I also knew that I wanted a AMD and not Nvidia card since Nvidia’s Linux support leave is getting worse. Given the amount of money I was willing to spend and the decision that I did not want to have two cards in Crossfire, due to noise, I chose the AMD 7950 in with a factory overclock and a better cooler.

Upon its release, AMD’s Radeon HD 7950 was overpriced compared to the Radeon HD 7970, and it performed too much like the less-expensive Radeon HD 7870. After a sequence of much-needed price cuts, though, this card is a much more interesting option at $330. Keep an eye out for the Boost Edition cards, which include a different BIOS with a higher base clock, a boosted operating state, and higher power consumption.

Review – tomshardware.com (quoted)
Review 2 – tomshardware.com
Review – legitreviews.com

Fractal Design Define R4

Again noise is a big issue for me, so when I read about the Fractal Define R4 with built-in soundproofing I was very interested. In addition I also liked the design being very minimalistic and low-key.

Overall we are very impressed with the Fractal Design Define R4. It is one of the finest cases you can buy at around £100. The minimalist design and the brushed aluminium effect front panel means it could easily be mistaken for one of Lian Li’s models. Obviously it is sold at a much cheaper price tag as it’s constructed from steel rather than aluminium. Even though it is constructed from Steel, build quality is excellent. We would say it offers a similar level of build quality to cases from Corsair with the added benefit of extensive sound deadening. The excellent acoustic performance of this case is sure to be a key selling feature as it’s one of the quietest mid-tower cases available on the market.It’s very difficult to find fault with the Define R4.

Review – kitguru.com (quoted)
Review – techpowerup.com
Review – hexus.net

Sea Sonic M12II-520Bronze

The power supply should adhered to same noise standards as the other items and regarding power supplies Seasonic is know for high quality and very low noise. My last PSU was a Seasonic and this would should be as well. As I have no intentions of doing any Crossfire setup a 520W would be sufficient and the choice fell on the Sea Sonic M12II-520Bronze.

In what is likely the highest scoring group regulated unit I have ever tested, Seasonic has something really special here. A nice, quiet, efficient, and well performing unit that is affordable for just about any budget.

Review – jonnyguru.com (quoted)
Review – tipidpc.com
Review – hardwaresecrets.com. This is a review of the S12, but the S12 is identical to the M12 with the only difference being that the M12 is modular.

Samsung 830 Series MZ-7PC128B, 128 GB

As for the graphics card Toms’ hardware also does monthly reviews of SSD’s and within my budget the Samsung 830 was the best choice. I will pair it with a WD black for bulk storage once I have salvaged it from my old build.

The combination of screaming sequentials and so-so random performance makes the Samsung 830 seems like a supercharged Intel SSD 510. We’re not as awed by it as we were when OCZ first showed us the Vertex 3, but to be frank, we’re standing in the midst of a lot of very fast SSDs right now. In that context, Samsung’s 830 performs like a drag racer that puts its rubber down on flat pavement and in a straight line.

Review – tomshardware.com (qouted)
Review 2- tomshardware.com
Review – thinkcomputers.com
Review – tweaktown.com

Corsair Vengeance 2 x 4 GB, low-profile, PC3-12800, 9-9-9-24 and a Samsung SH-222BB DVD-burner

Obviously I needed some memory as well, so I chose some speedy and low-profile memory modules from Corsair as I was worried about the clearance beneath my C14 CPU cooler. I chose 8GB – this might be a bit much for now, but the memory prices are very low currently, so I would rather do it now than later. The DVD burner is dead cheap and is only bought to load software that for some reason cannot be downloaded online.

Summary

So in conclusion I could surely have chosen better performing parts or even more silent parts, but not without having the cost going through the roof. I feel that this build is a good compromise of performance, noise and cost. Once I have received the parts I’ll put up some pictures of the build and give my first impressions.

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