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.