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A Silent PC, In peace and quiet…

Hardware, True Custom


The way humans perceive noise coming out from the computer case is relative. Some people tend not to notice it and have a minor concern about it, whereas for the others it could be a source of permanent discomfort and intense irritancy. However, in many cases it depends not only how noisy the computer is, but in what environment it is being operated – at home, in the office, in a commentary booth in the stadium or on a heavy machinery factory floor. In other words – what is the level of ambient noise?

And if in the factory or somewhere else, where the ambient noise level is high enough, that is sufficient to override the noise of the computer and so that it isn’t noticed. In the opposite, the work in a quiet environment that requires constant concentration on the working process and the absence of external stimuli, such noise might turn out a very noticeable and distracting. This problem is especially relevant if we would like to build-up a custom silent workstation for audio producing, video editing/3D rendering or even high-performance gaming.

What causes the noise?

A powerful workstation is a set of hardware of great computing power that requires a lot of electricity. And consumption of high amount of electricity leads to discharge of great deal of heat. If we won’t get rid of this heat in timely manner, it would lead to a quite severe consequences – the hardware will overheat fast and break down. A logical solution for this problem – installing heat-sinks to the majority of heat-producing elements (e.g. CPU, GPU, RAM modules etc.) and cooling them down with dedicated fans. However, this is only a partial solution – hot air extracted from the heat sinks is still circulating inside the case, creating a high temperature for the whole system, thus, the high risk of overheating remains. Solution? To make a case with air ducts and equip it with more fans in order to create an air flow through the case – excessive heat will be withdrawn out of the case and cooler ambient air sucked in. And here lies the main reason for the noise – the fans. Regular fans produce noise during rotation. The larger number of fans the larger amount of noise.

Getting a quiet computer – a battle of compromises

Nowadays there are several technical solutions to get rid of the noise in a silent PC, but not all of them would be quite applicable for a given task – building a custom powerful workstation for audio/video producing or gaming center.

HTPC-like set-up

Pros:

  • Virtually a single fan for CPU heat sink. No fans on GPU, power supply unit and case – heat sinks only.
  • It is quiet… and cheap!

Cons:

  • Only the components with low or moderate computing power, which does not produce a critical heat radiation that might require an additional cooling can be used.
  • Very limited application due to low computing power.

Such set-up simply would not correspond to the required criteria for powerful workstations.

Water-cooling

Pros:

  • High level of cooling efficiency for specific system components.
  • Absolutely quiet.
  • Occupies less space inside the case due to absence of the big heat sinks and fans.

Cons:

  • A risk of coolant leakage inside the case if not installed or maintained properly.
  • Additional external hardware (pump, water reservoir, radiator etc.)
  • A perpetual need for maintenance in order to prevent corrosion and crud built up.
  • Comparatively high cost for custom set-up.

Although, it does servers the purpose – both computing power and silence, it is barely outweighs the high cost for custom set-up along with the regular, routine maintenance and risk of leakages, what makes its application for the powerful workstations quite limited.

Complex noise reduction

Pros:

  • System components that can withstand high temperatures.
  • Motherboards that allow full and precise controlling the speed of the fans, based on how hot the components are.
  • Steel-housing case specially engineered for proper airflow circulation and fans mounting flexibility.
  • Additional noise-reducing accessories, such as acoustic dampening materials inside the case.
  • Silent top-class fans for CPU and GPU and effective heat-pipe based heat sinks.
  • Quiet hard disks, such as SSD (Solid-State Drive).
  • No special maintenance required
  • It is quiet!

Cons:

  • High cost

Very high performance of the system with noise level under the level of human hearing limits in quiet environments. Indeed, the cost might be as high, but considering the flexibility of the custom-based design, it is not impossible to make sure that it will meet the budget of the customer, while giving the best possible quiet solution. Not to mention a lifetime technical support from the most of the manufacturers of such kind of systems. At AVADirect, one of your specialties is building quiet computers: from gaming PCs to workstations, if noise is an issue, let us build a quiet PC for you!


I'm a marketing professional who loves to get down to the geeky details. When I'm not studying the latest components or industry news, I can be found biking, hiking or gaming.

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