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Author Topic: Fanless computer  (Read 3841 times)

OGroeger

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Fanless computer
« on: September 24, 2007, 05:03:50 AM »
I'm thinking about buying a new computer. The problem that i have with the "usual" computers is: They are too noisy. I'm sitting in a really calm room and the sound of the fans attracts my attention. My current computer is a Shuttle SN 95G5 with a passive cooled ATI 9600 graphic card inside a silent box. This is a quite good solution. But for the next computer, why not try a model without any fans at all? I've found this offer. E.g., Midi Tower, Intel Core 2 Duo E6750, 2GB RAM, 500GB Harddisk and GeForce 8600GT graphic card for 2290 EUR (without OS). Not a single fan inside and the harddisk is enclosed in a noise protection case. Ok, it is not really cheap, but life is not supposed to be cheap. The question is: Can one up-to-date computer really be completely passive cooled via heat pipe? What is your experience?

f0dder

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Re: Fanless computer
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2007, 05:42:38 AM »
Hm, it does seem like a bit of a risk getting such powerful hardware cooled passively... but it might be possible. I'd look a lot for reviews before buying one, and I'd certainly prefer being able to see the system before purchasing (and run some CPU intensive stuff and check temperatures).
- carpe noctem

iphigenie

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Re: Fanless computer
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2007, 05:43:42 AM »
Hi

If you dont play games there's no reason a fanless PC couldnt work, within reason (i.e. dont expect to beat benchmarks etc.)

I can understand the problem - buy a new PC from a shop and it is guaranteed to have some very loud components and you have to start swapping bits again and on and on.

I have been a silent pc activist for years. I am very glad it is now quite easy to get a decent quiet in the mainstream, although I still go above that. I have not gone fanless just yet, mostly due to the cost of PSUs.

I have a fanless PC in the living room based on a C3 chip which is totally fanless but it is a small server and i couldnt play the latest games on it especially in such a small case. It could work as an office PC (has been used to run Sage at some point, on just a 1Ghz chip it was fine), i now use it as a media server.  A pc like this needs a LED indicator so you know it is on, i have it in an old plastic case which only has a drive light and i usually have to touch the power supply to see if it is on... My main PC has a passively cooled 9800Pro, 12cm super silent fans everywhere, vibration dampening kits everywhere, a very silent but not fanless PSU, silent drives in vibration dampening mountings, some foam which was a total waste of time... and a stupidly infuriating tiny fan on the mobo which is hard to remove :(

I would say if you already have a passively cooled card and a really good silent case, it might be better to build a computer within these - that or sell that case to me cheap ;)


Some general thoughts based on what I have heard and read... not as much for you (you are obviously well informed) but others being a tad curious

  • You cannot overclock. Many silence fanatics underclock.
  • You need a good case and well organised air circulation in the case - this is especially important without fans to push the air around. Dont skim on the case - get one which is known for good airflow, and ask around for the optimal placement of drives etc. Buying a ready made machine should guarantee that.
  • It might be an idea to have a few temperature controlled fans for backup, set to only turn on if things go suspiciously hot. If something ever goes hot (or you get a heatwave next summer) they might save you a lot of money.
  • get lower rpm drives - 5400. If you need the storage speed that 7200 or 10000 rpms bring, then you need some fancy cooling on your drives.
  • Realise that you might lose some power - components are a bit less performing when they are above 70C (or something like that).
  • Think about the temperature in the room you work in - if you are a person who likes it cosy warm, then fanless might not work as well as if you keep your office at 17-18C...
  • vibration resonnance - often just putting rubber grommets around screws or using dampening screws to mount everything can make a huge difference. very cheaply.

One thing worth doing is figuring out which fans make the noise that bothers you in your current PC. An exercise I do is turn the computer on with the case open and put your finger on a fan to stop it for a very short instant. You might be surprised at what is causing the noise. In my computer the loudest fan was the tiny one on the motherboard northbridge/southbridge components.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2007, 05:46:16 AM by iphigenie »

OGroeger

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Re: Fanless computer
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2007, 06:20:52 AM »
iphigenie, f0dder thanks you for your replies. Actually i don't need that graphics power, but i need Direct X 7 support because i won't give up The Typing of the Dead. :-)
Besides that, i don't play on a PC, i have a PS2. Playing from the sofa is much more convenient.

The main focus is java programming. The applications that are nonstop running are:
  • Several Eclipse instances
  • At least one DB server (Oracle or MS SQL)
  • One DB tool
  • Browser
  • A Linux VM

As a consequence i need a fast CPU, 2 Gig RAM, a fast harddisk and a graphic card that supports two TFT.

The point about the Southbridge/Northbridge fan is a deja vu  for me. ;-)
It is funny, that this is the only fan that is not thermal controlled in my Shuttle, and that can't be steered with SpeedFan.

Lashiec

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Re: Fanless computer
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2007, 12:52:10 PM »
Personally, I think that computer you link is a serious ripoff. And when I say "serious", I mean SERIOUS. Those guys are selling you each component with a big plus in the price compared to the one at what they're sold in your normal computer store.

I suggest you to go DIY. A good resource for silent computers is Silent PC Review. Those guys, despite being almost crazy almost silence, are quite trustable and their tests are very rigorous, and it's one of main sources of information despite my idea of silence being "everything that gets masked by some loud music" :). They also make their own systems, and this one it's pretty good, both in loudness results (20 dB, which means you'll breath louder than the computer) and in power. If you can't order one (I don't know if they send products to Europe) you could use it as a rough guide for the idea of computer you have in mind.

Two things: if you can, throw that mobo away. Nowadays, almost any maker is selling passively-cooled motherboards, using heatpipes and massive combinations of fins, except DFI up to some extent, and that is changing. Second, DON'T install a fanless PSU, doing that is asking for trouble. Reputable makers don't have fanless PSUs, but instead they use thermally-controlled fans, which are virtually silent, and the fan only ramps up when you really need some juice and the PSU is being stressed, which, if the PSU is powerful enough, don't happen at all. With a fanless PSU, you're playing with fire, all the ones I saw are being built by dubious makers, they're inefficient (another point to have in mind if you want a good and silent PSU, as high efficiency means less heat the fans have to dissipate) and you need a really good airflow inside the case if you don't want them to go boom! at the first sign of serious work.

OGroeger

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Re: Fanless computer
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2007, 03:41:06 AM »
Thank you, Lashiec. Those a very interesting links. I'll use them to go deeper in details though Do-it-Yourself is not an option for me. I built my first 3-4 computers (starting fom a 286-20 to the first reasonable AMD processors) myself, but in the last years i started to feel that this becomes more and more magic. Even RAM replacements needed two attempts to make them work. This costs nerves, is time consuming and (at least for mainstream parts) doesn't pay off. This is by all means my experience.