Friday, May 18, 2012

Silencing the PC (Part1)

too many fansMotherboards these days come with all sort of fancy fan controls. Asus Z77 series motherboards have a very intelligent and cool design. Others too have some sort of control.

But ASRock definitely has to improve in that regard. The fan control on my Z68 Extreme4 must be the worst among the current mainstream boards. It does have a lot of fan headers (6 of them) buy not all of them can be controlled via bios (my bad, UEFI) or their AXTU software. The best you can do is, set a value manually and if some temperature threshold is reached, it would run at max speed. Though the funny thing is that it is pretty much same as Asus' design (because ASRock is Asus in a way) but Asus' software does the trick.

Recently I have taken an interest in the projects and articles at (SPCR). I quite like the idea of having a silent PC without any rattling going on. Noise factor also gives an impression about the build quality of the PC - low noise being better quality.

Noise is mostly caused by two things in a PC
1. Fans (airflow noise as well as motor noise and vibrations)
2. Hard drive noise (operating noise as well as vibrations)

Since I use an SSD, there is not much hard drive noise because SSD (which makes zero noise) is used more frequently and the hard drives (3 of then) are used less frequently. Thanks to the rubber mounts, there are no vibrations caused by the hard drives.

So in my case, it ultimately comes down to the fans. The case that I am using, the Silverstone Raven RV03, is designed for air cooling. So you cannot do without fans. The arrangement of fans is like this.

1. Two 180mm fans mounted on the floor to suck air in. They are rated for 700~1200RPM. 700RPM is tolerable, but 1200RPM is very noisy. It is wind noise, not motor noise.
2. Two front intake Enermax T.B. Silence 120mm 1000RPM fans mounted in the 5.25 inch drive bays, pushing cool air right into the motherboard's VRM area.
3. One rear exhaust fan, a Scythe Kama Flow2 120mm 1400RPM to take out the hot air around the video cards.
4. One intake fan, same Scythe model part, on the back of the motherboard tray for cooling the drives (all my 4 drives are mounted on the back of the motherboard)
5. One top exhaust fan, a Kama Flow 2 120mm 1900RPM fan, which is also used as the CPU fan on the Antec Kuhler 620 radiator.

In addition to these 7 fans, I have 7 other fans in total inside the case. 6 are on the video cards (3 fans on each) and the fan on the PSU.

So, silencing 14 fans cannot be easy! Some fans, like the one on the PSU cannot even be controller manually. Also, it is best to leave the GPU fans automatically controlled via the driver. At idle they are not that loud.

So it comes down to the 7 fans that I can control. The bottom two 180mm fans are quiet at 700RPM but definitely not silent. ~600RPM would be ideal. The two Enermax fans are silent from 1ft away. They don't really need to be controlled. The other three fans are definitely too loud. I cannot run the fan behind the motherboard at full speed because it would make a weird low pitched noise. There isn't a clean path for air, so it can be the source. CPU fan nor the video card exhaust fan don't need to run at full speed when the PC is idle. (Also I am not entirely happy with CPU fan. It does not feel good enough to run on a radiator. I am thinking of buying a Gentle Typhoon 3000RPM fan. True, it is louder than the existing fan, so I would definitely be controlling it. But knowing that you have the power when the need is there is comforting.)

The conclusion? I need a fan controller. Not an expensive one though. But I need a lot of channels.

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