Plans to build a new machine - but is my timing off? (considering upgrading)

vfrex

n00b
Joined
May 12, 2006
Messages
48
I posted a version of this over on ars, but I'd like to see if I get some different responses here. I am looking to build a new computer that will serve as my primary machine. Gaming is one of the demands.

I had two main goals for this system.

(1) It must be very quiet, preferrably inaudible from a meter away. That's not to say that while under load it needs to be completely silent. But if I leave it on overnight idling, I don't want to hear it.

I do not want to have to control fan speeds manually.

(2) It has to be upgradeable. My current machine was built just before 64 bit processors and PCI-E, and I didn't go SATA either. I want to avoid having that happen again.



My idea was originally to buy a 939 X2 system, run up a tab of around $1500, and hope that would last me a while. However, the imminent releases of AM2 and Conroe are not sitting well with my plan. So in the middle of that Ars thread, I came up with another idea. I would build a cheaper system to hold me over for a 8-12 months, hopefully by which time AMD will have its response to Conroe, and prices will be nicer. Then I step up into a new processor and maybe video card.


Before I go on, here is my current system:

Kingwin KT-436
AMD Barton 2800+
Radeon 9800 Pro (128)
512 Crucial PC2700 Ram (I can't get more than 1 stick to run without BSOD...long story)
Thermaltake Silent PurePower 420W Power Supply
Coolermaster Aero 7 Lite

Words can't express how loud this thing is, and I have no idea where to start isolating it. If I turn down the CPU blower/fan, it gets a bit quieter but the CPU heats up considerably. Power supply is pretty damn loud. I suspect that most of the other noise comes from the case fans and video card fan.


Ok, so if I followed my marginally better build followed by a big upgrade, the initial system might look like this:

Processor
Socket 754 vs 939 for $80-120 (I need suggestions here). This computer would be used for gaming, word processing, perhaps some media encoding/decoding, and maybe for music listening. Although I would be upgrading from the processor in about a year, I would like for the processor to retain value, whether resold or reused (I will go into that later).

I've heard that Socket 754 will be supported for longer, but I'm not really sure if that matters much. I guess if they continue releasing Socket 754 processors for a while, I could upgrade without jumping to a new motherboard.

AMD Sempron 64 3100+ vs AMD Athlon 64 3000+

Sempron is ~$20 cheaper, has half the L2 Cache

Case
The first important component when it comes to goal #1! I've been looking at a few cases, namely the Antec Sonata II, Antec P180, and MNPCTech Modded cases. I would probably go with the P180 over the Sonata. As far as the modded case goes, it carries a fairly large premium. However, it probably comes the most prepared for silent operation.

note: http://www.mnpctech.com/ThermaltakeSwing_Modified.html

PSU
This might be the biggest source of noise in my current machine. It seems that the only logical option, outside of attempting a passively cooled PSU, is a Seasonic. I will probably be going with the 500w version. These are expensive components though. I want to be using the Seasonic for a few years down the road. Is 500w safe, especially if I want to leave this on 24/7? Should I go 600w?

Video Card
Ok, here is the next problem. With DX10 coming within the next 12 months, the current card will probably not see the inside of the upgraded system. It does need to be able to handle games until then (a la Oblivion). However, remember goal 1. I need a graphics card that will operate quietly when I'm not encoding video or playing games. I planned to spend ~$150 for this purpose, but I have not read any reviews of cards in that range which can operate silently. That said, I'm going from newegg "reviews". In dire need of suggestions in this department.

Motherboard
I'm having trouble finding passively cooled boards. I won't need SLI. I will need onboard audio. I would like to spend $80 or less here.

HSF
Important when it comes to noise, although I'm not really sure which way to go. XP-120 (attach temperature controlled fan), Scythe Ninja (again w/ temp controlled fan), Zalman9500. Then again, if I'm not overclocking, these processors might not even need these higher end solutions. I could probably get away with an XP-90 or a Zalman 7000/7700. I think the main goal here is automation of fan speed. Any of these can run quietly if the fan isn't spinning on full.

Hard Drives
I'm pretty loyal to Seagate, and they typically have had the quietest solutions. However, I've been reading reviews that their most recent line is a bit noisy.

Throw on 1 gig of Corsair ValueRam ($80)
$150 for hard drive(s)/optical drives

To summarize, that's about $1000 making a few assumptions, such as being able to find a $150 video card that fills my needs, spending $250 on the most expensive case. That means to meet my original price goal of $1500, I'd have $500 to spend 12 months down the line to upgrade this to a modern powerful rig. The transition would go as follows:

SocketA/Barton2800+ board/processor are removed from Kingwin case
939/754 board/processor removed from P180 or MNPCtech case
939/754 board/processor installed in Kingwin case
New motherboard/processor installed in P180 or MNPCtech case
Seasonic remains in new case with upgraded components
TT 420w power supply remains in Kingwin case, unless it isn't powerful enough

So, I will have $500 for:

Processor
Motherboard
Video Card
Memory
Hard Drives? (I have a 40gig and a 120 gig in my current computer, 160 in another, and will probably end up with a 250gig in the initial build. While I would like to re-rip my music collection into lossless, I could probably do without more hard drives

I would probably want to jump up to 2 gigs of memory, which would probably cost me ~$150 assuming prices remain constant. $200 processor. $200 video card. $100 motherboard. Pushing $700. It is a bit over what I wanted to spend initially, but then, the timing is better and it will last longer. Going with one of the Antec cases would also make a notable difference here.


That's just about all I have to say. I've got a lot of questions there, so I hope someone roughs through it and can give me some suggestions. Is my logic sound in my upgrade path?
 

Oneos

Gawd
Joined
Sep 14, 2004
Messages
596
Now I'm no expert,but here's my quick thoughts.

I have a Athlon64 3000+ in my computer, along with a 6600.

With this I am able to run Oblivion pretty decently, not nearly as good as others, but I'm sure it will tide you over. Though a better card that 6600 would probly be in order.

With that I have an XP-120 cooling the CPU, with a silent 120mm fan, and get low 40s under load. This is also being overclocked to around 2.4Ghz.

The 6600 I had admittedly accidently picked up a passive one. However not wanted to bother returning it, I put a silent 80mm fan on it, and it's done pretty well.

For the motherboard I have an Asus A8V-E Deluxe (wouldn't suggest this), but point of story, is I replaced the loud chipset fan with a Thermalright NB-1 (wanted the copper, but was discontinued). It does get hot as I didn't get a fan for it, but it is silent.

This system I have in an Antec SLK3000B, using the stock case fan in it on the low setting for exhaust.

I have a hard time telling whether it is on, as I can't hear it, even with the case side off.

Just some experiences I've had.
 

MrGuvernment

Fully [H]
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
20,618
AMD AM2 wont be mature for a good year until 2007, the new chips will be nothing more then 939' chips basically

BUT, you will have the new socket and that would be better then buying 939

754 DONT even consider it - dead socket, like 478 for intel.

I would wait if you could, at least uyntil AM2 comes out, sure Conroe should be around in 2-3 months, but can you wait that long.

i say at least wait until AM2.
 

vfrex

n00b
Joined
May 12, 2006
Messages
48
I wouldn't be ordering until around the time that AM2's come out. That said, aren't they going to be priced higher? I would be paying a premium on both the motherboard and processor, and maybe a bit more on the memory as well. Also, is it definite that AMD will be sticking with AM2? Or will they transition to a new socket with 65nm.
 

general

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Oct 14, 2004
Messages
1,192
Remember that when new things come out, motherboards for them are VERY expensive and they depreciate quickly. Both Conroe and AM2 will also be using more expensive DDR2 ram. I'd go with what is around now. Personally, I'd do something like this.

Sonata II - It is nice looking and quiet and come with a decent power supply. Personally, I would buy it, sell the PS and order a Seasonic. They're more quiet and this is generally the number 1 source of noise

Abit AN8 Ultra - You can probably find it used iwthin your price range. Passive northbridge cooling adds to a motherboard price so you'll only see it in pricier models. Your alternative is to get aftermarket cooling, but often it interferes with how the video card sits in the motherboard

Athlon 64 939 chip - Find something cheap for now. Once AM2 hits, you'll see a load of people offloading 3800+ X2's and the like. They'll work in your motherboard and give you an upgrade path

Scythe Ninja HSF - Passively cooled = no sound

7600GT - You can get these passively cooled as well. Not as fast as a 7800GT, but they'll actually play Oblivion. I can't imagine what kind of crap that game must look like on the 6600 someone mentioned.

Check silentpcreview website for details on hard drives. I think the Samsungs are pretty quiet. Of course, I always advocate RAID-1 for your data.

Go with this and the only fans you'll have are the quiet ones in the Seasonic and the Sonata case fan. That will make for a very quiet system.
 

vfrex

n00b
Joined
May 12, 2006
Messages
48
Sonata II has a duct over the CPU. I would have to remove that to fit a Scythe Ninja, right?
 

jcmuse

Limp Gawd
Joined
Feb 10, 2006
Messages
329
vfrex said:
Sonata II has a duct over the CPU. I would have to remove that to fit a Scythe Ninja, right?

The Sonata II duct is generally considered garbage (not functional) so don't worry about removing it. I was in a similar situation awhile back... i had a 9800 pro which was no longer cutting it, and silence was a goal when choosing components.

I ended up going with a 3200+ venice, 7800gt, DFI SLI-DR UT NF4, SonataII, XP-90+nexus. I wasn't impressed with the sonataII and the smartpower that comes with it, and it wasn't long after that the P150 was released. Instead of buying a new PSU (the seasonics are almost as much as a new case), i decided to go for the P150 which comes with the NeoHE -- a very nice and quiet PSU (comparable to the seasonic). You can see the final system here if you're interested. I'd also recommend that site, silentpcreview.com, if you want to read up/get suggestions on silent components.

So here is my advice:
Go with a P150. It is has built in hard drive suspension rubber bands as well as a very nice PSU for a reasonable price tag. If you want to go with a bigger more potentially silent case, go with the P180. Like you, i was concerned about being able to upgrade in the future so i went with an SLI mobo so that i could add another card later. This turned out to be a mistake. If you aren't going SLI in the first place, don't bother getting SLI... it will turn out that it is better just to sell your current card and upgrade to the next gen. I would recommend DFI... you can take off the fan and replace it with a cheap passive Zalman HS (ZM-NB47J). The Scythe Ninja is also a popular choice and comes highly recommended by many. For HDDs, i would check out silentpcreview.com. The popular choice seems to be the Samsung Spinpoints. I have one and it is inaudible while suspended.

Goodluck.
 

vfrex

n00b
Joined
May 12, 2006
Messages
48
Thanks for your response jcmuse. I am pretty new to this whole quiet computing thing, so please bear with the questions.

In my search for components, I have read accounts of the elastic bands used to suspend hard drives failing. Further, they are supposedly less than ideal for computers that will be moved.

I've actually been doing a fair amount of research at silentpcreview, although it often seems to create more questions than answers :(. I have recently been looking into a passive GPU for this transitional build. A 7600GS passive could be had for $115, or a GT for $180. Obviously, this would require sufficient airflow. I think the 180 would be better for a passively cooled GPU as the PSU wouldn't have to share the load of exhausting the rising hot air. Of course, I could dish out a bit more and get a VGA cooler. I see you were pleased with the AC Silencer?

I'm pretty sure the answer to this is no, but is one of the speeds on the Tri-Speed antec case fans automatic to respond to temperature changes?

Also, I think I am leaning towards the Scythe Ninja HSF, but with such a large heatsink, I'd always be worried when moving the thing. Is there really any cause for concern?
 

jcmuse

Limp Gawd
Joined
Feb 10, 2006
Messages
329
yes, there has been cases where a DIY suspension job has failed. No they are not ideal for computers on the move. That said, the p150 elastic bands are very strong. They can be twirled so that they fit very tightly around the HDD (so that it doesn't move). If you still find that your HDD moves when you're moving the computer (which it shouldn't if you have fastened it properly), then you can always use the traditional drive trays that are still provided with the p150.

Yeah, you would probably be better off with the p180 if you really want to go passive GPU. Personally, i would just go with an AC Silencer and p150 and adjust the fan to run at low speeds when idle/not gaming. The fan will run silent when you're not gaming and the AC will exhaust the heat of the card straight out the back. Adjusting fan speed can be done with RivaTuner on a 7800. I don't know about other cards.

No, the antec tri-cool does not have an automatic setting. Most hardcore silencers quickly swap this out for the quieter Nexus.

Yeah, that ninja is awfully big. I have never owned one so i can't really say, but i'd imagine that it wouldn't take much for it to be ripped off the motherboard when the computer is in transit.

I would also post your quiet pc related questions on the SPCR forums. Most people here could care less about airflow efficiency or noise levels =P Be warned though, they are a bit anti-social over there (the forums are not very active imo). I have seen many threads go totally ignored. It is funny because they do get a lot of publicity too.
 

vfrex

n00b
Joined
May 12, 2006
Messages
48
Yeah, reading through the forums there have scared me a bit. I'll try to put up a post in a few hours. It is difficult since the choice of one component likely will cause me to change another. That forces me into a general hardware forum like this, rather than a more specialized board. Every time I think I have something figured out, there seems to be a flaw, one thing changes, and a chain-reaction ensues.
 
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