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#25249 by Neil Blanchard
Thu Jun 14, 2007 11:47 am

I've just built a pretty nice computer system for a fellow DBUG member, and I thought that I should pass along what I learned. Here are the specs:

Intel Core2Duo 6420 2.13gHz w/ 4MB L2 cache:
Thermalright SI-128 heatsink, with GlobalWin 120mm fan:
Asus P5N-E SLi motherboard:

2X 1GB Corsair DDR2 SDRAM 533 (PC4200)

Antec Solo case:
[Note: the location of the Power LED is incorrectly labeled: it is in fact a nice blue ring around the power button. Only the HD activity LED is on the left side...]

Fortron Source "Green" 300watt power supply:

Gigabyte GeForce 8600GTS 256MB video card:

Western Digital SE16 320GB SATA hard drive, with 16MB cache:

Sony DVD-RW burner: ... 6827131038
(You can also get a SATA version of this for about $5 more.)

The cost of the hardware including shipping was almost exactly $900.

Three alternatives to major components would be a Gigabyte GA-N650SLI-DS4 motherboard, which is very similar to the Asus:

A different heatsink that would be better in low velocity air flow (i.e. quiet); Scythe Ninja (that might not even need the fan):

And a very similar Asus video card that has a different passive cooling heatsink:

The system is very fast (right, Dick? :-) ), and it can be upgraded to 4GB (or even 8GB) of RAM (with a 64bit version of Windows). It can have a second video card added for faster support of two monitors, or support for a total of up to four monitors. You can have three hard drives (suspended in the Solo's awesome drive cage) or four hard drives with the silicon-grommeted sleds.

The Solo is an excellent case -- the best I have ever used: air flow is excellent, the 0.8mm thick steel is also damped with applied sheets on the main panels, the drive mounting is also great, and the cable management (hooks behind the HD cage) is also great. It has room for up to four 5.25" drives, or three with one 3.5" (floppy/zip) drive.

It has two (front) USB 2.0 ports, and one Firewire and front audio ports. There are 8 USB ports in total, two Firewire ports, one eSATA port (for a very fast external HD), and one 1000/100/10 LAN port, as well as multiple "HD" audio channels. The motherboard lacks only a serial port (used for a pen tablet) that requires a inexpensive PCI card to be added to the system.

The video card is the fastest video chip available in a (stock) passively-cooled video card, and it has two DVI outputs. If you want even more speed, and can live with a little fan noise, and you can afford the $150 higher price tag, the GeForce 8800GTS is the card to consider.

You'll notice there is no floppy in the system -- I had to use one temporarily to install the SATA driver at the beginning of the Windows installation, but it did not stay in the system. We used WinXP SP2 -- I cannot recommend Vista at this time.

This system easily ran a 20% overclock (with an easy BIOS setting), and it stayed quiet, and ran 10-12C hotter for the CPU. It maxed at 65C, which is fine.
#26587 by fsoliver
Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:40 am
Neil's suggestions are great for a workstation. What would be a good spec for a new notebook/laptop. I am mostly concerned in getting a good graphics card for running DataCAD and SketchUp. The SketchUp people recommend a good OpenGL card. Will a good GeForce do or should I go to the trouble/cost to get a Quarto card? I want to get more into 3D in the future so a good card will be necessary.
#27655 by Neil Blanchard
Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:34 am

Ars Technica has updated their computer buyer's guide:

Their "Budget Box" and "Hot Rod" lists are equivalent to my 75% and 90% spec
lists, respectively. Their "God Box" is well, over the top... :twisted:

As for laptops, I would recommend a 17" model, with an extended keyboard, like one of these.
#27707 by Neil Blanchard
Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:48 am

A shameless plug for an excellent computer forum, that I happen to help moderate:

The articles are top-notch, and the forums are a lot like DBUG and these forums: very helpful, civil, and most members are quite knowledgeable, too. Visit SPCR, browse -- enjoy!
#28011 by ticomccr
Fri Sep 14, 2007 7:46 am

First of all, thanks for all of the time and effort you put into helping others. I'm sure that you enjoy it, but you should know that it is also a big help to all of us.

I just built my first (quiet) computer using some of your recommendations, inlcuding going to, and buying everything from I am really happy with everything with the exception of the Antec Solo "tri-cool 120mm fan" in the rear of the case.

I guess that I just didn't read closely enough, but when I got the case and looked at the fan, it didn't have a connector (4-pin or 3-pin) that would allow the fan speed to be controlled by the bios, speedfan, etc. Instead, it has a molex connector for power and a little 3-speed control (hence the "tri-cool", duh!) for low, medium and high. Am I missing something here? I'm a little disappointed in that one little detail, but VERY happy with everthing else.

I just hung the control out the back so that I could change the speed manually if necessary. Have you been replacing the rear case fan with one that is bios/motherboard/software controllable based upon case temperature or something? Or just sticking with the stock fan. Any recommendations?
#28015 by Neil Blanchard
Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:11 am
G'Day Tico,

You're very welcome. :)

I like the GlobalWin NCB fans -- they are very quiet, and they have 3-pin plugs, that you can either use on the mobo headers with control using the BIOS, or you can also get Zalman FanMate2 controllers.

Or, you could try the Nexus, or the low speed Yate Loon fans.
#28016 by David A. Giesselman
Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:14 am
Hi Tico:

I'm running these in a couple computers I built at home. They have their own built-in thermostats and vary their speed based upon ambient temperature. I run a pair (front and rear) in Antec Solo cases and have been very pleased with their performance and relatively low noise level. I noticed some of the user reviews mentioned some sort of humming noise, but I have not experienced this. I do have mine mounted with silicone isolating grommets, so that may be the difference.

#28017 by ticomccr
Fri Sep 14, 2007 9:17 am
Neil and Dave,

Thanks for the suggestions. I will look into both.
#28027 by David A. Giesselman
Fri Sep 14, 2007 9:59 am
Neil is certainly correct, however as I have them installed in a push-pull (1 front-1 rear) configuration, they rarely run above their minimum (980) RPM even when my kids are blasting away on WoW. But, the fan that Neil suggested is quite a bit less (1/3) $$$. :wink:

I chose these fans due to their maximum (60) CFM capability. Since these computers are used for (somewhat) extreme gaming, I wanted something that could move large quantities of air in the event of a "heated situation".
#28028 by ticomccr
Fri Sep 14, 2007 10:29 am
Neil Blanchard wrote:Hello,

I have not used the 120mm "SmartCool" Antec, but I see it's maximum RPM is much higher than the fans I'm suggesting; and usually RPM = noise level.

Yeah, at max speed it is quite noisy, so I switched it down to low and it is OK. But I would really like to have a fan that ran at a variable speed depending upon temperature. Even with this fan at low, the temperature in the case is about 36C. I'm thinking that a variable speed fan with a temperature sensing control would probably shut down some of the time, and run much slower and quieter most of the time and I wouldn't have to monitor it myself.

I put two 90mm fans (ARCTIC COOLING AF9225PWM) with 4-pin connectors in the front of the case and they are typically running at about 600 rpm and are inaudible. I don't know the speed of the CORSAIR CMPSU-450VX power supply but it's fan is thermally controlled and has been inaudible also.

So I'll just replace that 120mm case fan and be done with it. :)
#28034 by ticomccr
Fri Sep 14, 2007 11:58 am
David A. Giesselman wrote:Here's a couple more that are advertised as very quiet:


Thanks again. That Noctua fan looks interesting. Lots of range (both in CFM and noise) on the Scythe fans. I'll have to consider carefully the amount of air I think that I'm going to need to move.

I don't use the computer for any gaming, but when I do some higher-end rendering with Vue 6 Infinite (thanks SO much for the 3ds export in DC12), things can get a little heated in my current computer with both cores running around 100% for sometimes over an hour!!

As I haven't even loaded Vue 6 onto this computer yet, I'll have to wait and see what happens.
#28053 by Neil Blanchard
Fri Sep 14, 2007 10:23 pm

There has been a lot of discussion of the Noctua fans on SPCR -- the bottom line is they work well with very low restriction/back pressure, but not so well if they are working against back pressure. Their blades are very narrow and very steeply pitched.

The Nexus RealSilent and the the GlobalWin NCB are both more conventional, with broader, forward swept blades, that work better against a little more back pressure. The NCB has ceramic bearings which should work well in hot conditions for a long time -- that is why I like them.

Another quiet fan is the Scythe DF.

If the BIOS has fan control by temperature of the CPU (many do!), then that's your best bet. I have my Athlon 64 X2 4200+ "passively" cooled with the Scythe Ninja (Rev A) and the Scythe DF rear exhaust only runs about half of the time. Here's a post with some pictures.

The Corsair 450VX fan runs very slowly indeed: ~4volts up to almost 250watts output, which is just 21-22dBA. It is also very efficient -- 80-84% in the critical range of 64-200watts output.
#28921 by Neil Blanchard
Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:26 pm

There is a better cooler that I would recommend over the Thermalright SI-128 heatsink; called the Scythe "Ninja":


There is also a "Mini Ninja", that is only slightly less effective, and might be better if the system gets moved around a lot:

The one caveat with it on the Socket 775 is that the standard mounting
system (four plastic push-pins that twist to lock) is barely adequate
for a big cooler, so you should use it with this Thermalright backplate,
with it's spring-mounted screws:

You can use a long-ish screwdriver on the screws down through the corner
slots on the Ninja's fins, and this is a much more secure --and much
more effective way to hold on the heatsink. The pressure against the
CPU is important for good heat transfer, and the backing plate spreads
it out on the back of the motherboard. You need to mount it before
putting the motherboard into the case!

Here's a thread on the SPCR forum, where this combination is discussed:

The Ninja probably would not even need to fan on it, since the PSU and
the case fans are very close by.

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