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Sensible Systems: ZERO dBA ... but why?

by Sensible_Systems



Date Published

Nov. 12, 2017

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GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate



This build was a bit of a weird one. The goal was a totally silent system that could still give good gaming performance at 1080p. Why bother striving for silence, you might ask... Fair question.

With quiet case fans, a quality air-cooler for the CPU, and a custom graphics card (a Strix, for instance) there's no way a system is being heard over the sounds of your favorite game. There's no difference in terms of subjective experience between "so quiet you can't hear it" and "silent".

But the point of this system was to see just how cool (pun intended, sorry) these newer, highly-efficient CPU and GPU architectures are, and how much performance it's possible to get while staying totally silent. Mostly it was a pet project for me :-) I might even keep this one!

A few part choice notes first:

I chose this case because it let me top-mount my passive PSU, venting up and out of the case, which kept its waste heat out of the system. This case also mounts the graphics card vertically, which is the best orientation for the passive GPU I was using. And, it has good ventilation - full front mesh plus large side and top vents - so there is scope for some convective airflow around the GPU and also the passive CPU cooler I got for the low-TDP CPU. Lastly, storage here is a single large-ish SSD, chosen for its good GB/$ ratio and also, obviously, the fact that it don't make no noise!

Now some build notes:

I actually built this system three times in one night :-( The first time, I didn't bother bread-boarding, since all parts bar RAM were brand new.

It didn't POST.

There is simply no way to trouble-shoot in this little box, so I pulled the whole thing apart and bread-boarded, like I should have done right at the start.

A quick run-through of the process might help anyone ever facing a failure to POST.

First, I tried the mobo with just one stick of memory and on-board graphics. That worked. Then, I added the other memory stick. Worked too. Next, I added the graphics card. Also worked. Finally, I connected the SSD. Everything worked. So, that told me the problem was somehow something I did while building in the case. OK, apparently I suck. Time for take two...

The second time, I just got everything installed willy-nilly, then powered on. POST, yay!

Then it was time for the third build, where I bothered with cable management again. (There is no way to do that at the end in this case - you must cable-manage as you go.) Happily, it worked after that too.

Overall, building in this case was a fun challenge, and I'm happy with the result. Building it three times in a row actually helped me improve the cable management in the final version, so that's an upside :-)

Finally, performance. Here's how it did:

For just general pottering around, temps are totally fine. That's to be expected, since the i3-6100T is well within the TDP envelope for the Arctic Alpine 11.

Under stress-test loads (Cinebench, 3DMark's Physics test) the CPU gets up to ~70*C, which is also totally fine, and nowhere near throttling.

Performance is very decent too. The i3-6100T only trails the G4560 by 8%, due to slightly slower clockspeed, and while the G4560 is the better pure price-to-performance buy, with its 47W TDP passively cooling it requires a bigger and more expensive hunk of metal. The i3-6100T was the sweet spot for price, performance, and passive cool-ability (totally a word!) for this system.

The graphics card - Palit's KalmX GTX 1050 Ti - has been on my drool list for a while now. I finally got to use it in this build, and I gave it a tough job: work in an ITX case with no active cooling. Temperatures and performance were very interesting indeed.

Check the pics/graphs for full details, but the short version is this: under full load, the card eventually hits Nvidia's default throttle temp of 83*C and the core clock stabilizes at ~1300MHz.

In this respect, it's sort of like an FE card: it runs hot, but not cripplingly so, and OC'ing headroom is very limited. That's fine, in my view, provided it can handle the intended use case, and it can: this card will handle 1080p gaming just fine, and in total silence.

So, overall, considering the various trade-offs involved, I am extremely happy with this card. It's not even wildly overpriced, either, falling about in the middle of the 1050 Ti price range.

To sum up, this is not the most sensible system I've ever built, but it is one of my favourites. Through the whole process of design, building and testing, I had fun playing with PC hardware (rather than just on it), and that's really my favourite game :-)

As always, please comment or question below - I really appreciate feedback - and feel free to look me up on Facebook where I'm Sensible Systems.

Comments Sorted by:

Techmaster123Xd 2 points 1 month ago

Great budget build. You nailed the PC parts!

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

Hey, thanks!

Lippe 2 points 1 month ago

Very interesting, I love silent PC's and it's great to see people doing this kind of builds. Can you post some performance in games to see how well it performs ? Cheers +1

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

Hi, glad this one grabbed your interest. :-) About the game performance, I have tested in PUBG while comparing stock performance to a custom profile for the card, and those results are here. The focus there is mostly on clocks and temps, rather than fps, but it really performs much like any other 1050 Ti. Just runs hotter and quieter :-)

Gooberdad 7 Builds 2 points 1 month ago

Sweet mini quiet build. That cooler looks like a pain to install though.

Thunbs up, dude!

Gooberdad 7 Builds 2 points 1 month ago

Ugh I meant to text Thumbs up not ThuNbs

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 2 points 1 month ago

Cooler was a real bugger, yes! Thanks for the thumbs :-)

latc1956 2 points 1 month ago

+1 on the build(of course).

I like the non-air moving parts design of your system. Have you ever tried a system build like this one before and will it last as far as you know with regards to heat?

Where did you get the fan less CPU cooler? I agree with Techmaster123Xd, you nailed the PC parts!

Thanks for the extensive pictures and for sharing with us again!

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

Hey, thanks for the +1 and the comment :-)

This is the first build like this that I've done. I think the CPU will be absolutely fine in terms of heat and longevity. At stock, the same is true of the GPU, since it's really no worse than a Founder's Edition or any other blower-style card in terms of temps.

I worked out a custom profile for the card that has an over-clock, an under-volt, and an increased temp limit... with all that going on, it performs better but runs a lot hotter, up to 95C, which is just a bit below Nvidia's stated safe max of 97C.

Longevity issues there? Maybe... Other folks probably know better than me...

I got the cooler off US Amazon, but it's also available a few other places, including direct from Arctic via their website.

Thanks again for the comment and the support!

latc1956 1 point 1 month ago

LOL - you have that card going in every direction! If it works, that's all that matters.

I think you will be pleased with this build in the long run. If for some reason it doesn't work out you can always add a fan or two to smooth things out?

You are welcome on the support and comments. You make it easy for us!


mhmd.bg 2 points 1 month ago

cpu cooler https://pcpartpicker.com/product/KdvZxr/arctic-alpine-11-passive-silent-intel-cpu-cooler-high-passive-cooling-performance-for-all-intel-cpus-up-to-47-watts , suppurt PCPP by buying parts using their links, one more thing to mention when i tick the "Fanless" checkbox this cooler won't be listed.

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

Aha, thank you! I couldn't find the cooler listed when I did my parts list, hence adding it as a custom item, so appreciate you providing the link, and yes: support PCPP!

inertiaselling 2 Builds 2 points 1 month ago

Great build! Have you tried undervolting your graphics card? You could gain a few hundred MHz before you reach throttle temp.

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

An excellent suggestion my friend!

I actually spent hours on this, and have posted a description of the process and results here, if you're interested in checking it out.

Lobsterareawesome 5 Builds 2 points 1 month ago

I love your builds man! PCPP should include like a follow option where you can follow an account and see their activity on new builds and such! cuz i would totally follow you since your builds are very interesting :D

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 2 points 1 month ago

Hey, thanks so much! I post all my builds on my Facebook page too, which is here, so hopefully I don't sound too self-promoting if I suggest Liking the page to get notifications when a new build goes up there, since it'll also go up here too at the same time. Thanks again for the kind words :-)

Lobsterareawesome 5 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

I dont have facebook but i'll check it out :)

marcustheadore 2 points 1 month ago

Thanks for sharing with us. Glad to have access to folks like you, with a heart to share your work, knowledge, and enthusiasm. Feeling inspired both by your build and sharing. Have a great holiday season.

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

Very welcome! I love being able to post my stuff here and get folks' thoughts on it. Such a good community at PCPP :-) Happy holidays to you too!

stewie71 2 points 1 month ago

A very interesting build. I thought about using the same chassis for another build I'm planning, but after using its bigger brother (Elite 120) for my first build I decided against it --it was a real pain in the ***.

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 1 month ago

Ha, yep, pain in the *** is right I reckon! I've got plans myself for a Node 202 build sometime down the line. What case did you end up deciding on for your planned build?

stewie71 1 point 21 days ago

I went with the Phanteks Evolv. Great cable management and a smaller footprint.

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 1 point 21 days ago

Such a nice case!

OllieManMan 7 Builds 2 points 27 days ago

Love this idea and execution. I want to do this for a PC designed to record soft music like acoustic guitar.

Sensible_Systems submitter 31 Builds 2 points 26 days ago

That would be a great role for it :-)

I did a build for music production for someone a while ago, using an R5 1600, which works well for that job, and I'm sure that CPU could be passively cooled with a bigger hunk of metal like a Thermalright Macho Zero (it has a 65W TDP, so a bit much for the Alpine 11).

I really like seeing systems meant for more than just gaming (not that there's anything wrong with that!) so please do share if/when you go ahead with the plan :-)