AVADirect Silent Gaming PC: An Exercise in Balanceby Dustin Sklavos on January 30, 2012 5:30 PM EST
Introducing the AVADirect Silent Gaming PC
One of the benefits of going with a boutique builder is being able to get custom machines that are a little more specialized than what you might get from HP or even Alienware. While bigger vendors can produce their own cases, those designs have to suit a wide variety of customers. Boutiques can cherry pick existing hardware and modify it for specific purposes, gearing each build to suit the end user's exact needs. It's the same benefit many of us enjoy from building our own machines, but for those who can't or won't, builders like AVADirect are here to pick up the slack.
Which leads us to today's build, which AVADirect dubs their Silent Gaming PC. Their builders have tried to take a standard powerhouse boutique machine and kill the noise. Did they succeed, or is the Silent Gaming PC only the sum of its parts? To AVADirect's credit, as you'll see from the spec sheet below they tried fairly hard to produce a system that actually is balanced. What do I mean by balanced?
Generally when you overclock or even just choose components, there's an inflection point where power consumption, expense, and performance line up. This is the reason Sandy Bridge-E isn't particularly attractive to most users, why SLI or CrossFire are seldom worthwhile, and why it often only makes sense to overclock hardware so far. AVADirect produced a system that, as you'll see, smartly targets the sweet spot for enthusiasts: enough CPU performance to handle any task and enough gaming performance to handle any single-monitor configuration (generally 1080p). And in the process, they tried to keep it quiet.
|AVADirect Silent Gaming PC Specifications|
Intel Core i7-2700K
(4x3.5GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.9GHz, 4.6GHz Overclock, 32nm, 8MB L3, 95W)
|Motherboard||ASUS P8Z68-V Pro (Z68 Chipset)|
|Memory||2x4GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 @ 1600MHz (expandable to 32GB)|
NVIDIA ASUS ENGTX580 GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB GDDR5
(512 CUDA Cores, 782/1564/4008MHz core/shaders/RAM, 384-bit memory bus)
OCZ Vertex 3 120GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB SATA 6Gbps HDD
|Optical Drive(s)||LG BD-RE (WH12LS30)|
|Networking||Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet|
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround jacks, optical out for 7.1 sound
1x USB 2.0
1x USB 3.0
3x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
SATA hotswap bay
6x USB 2.0
4x USB 3.0 (one routed to front)
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1|
|Dimensions||20.47" x 8.46" x 18.35" (WxDxH)|
Seasonic X-660 80 Plus Gold 660W Modular PSU
ASUS ENGTX580 with triple-slot cooler
Prolimatech Magahalems CPU cooler with two 120mm fans
|Warranty||3-year parts, labor and tech support|
Starts at $664
Review system configured at $2,224
For the price, you actually do get a decent amount of machine. AVADirect equipped our review unit with Intel's fastest Sandy Bridge processor along with a GeForce GTX 580 with a custom triple-slot cooler to hopefully help reduce noise levels during gaming. 8GB of DDR3 isn't mind-blowing at this point, but it's more than enough for most users, and AVADirect wisely continues to employ an SSD system drive and HDD storage drive configuration.
I'm also happy to see a high quality power supply along with a high-end CPU cooler. When trying to achieve absolute silence, high-end air-coolers are often preferable to water-cooling systems, and AVADirect has chosen to incorporate two Gelid silent 120mm fans in a push-pull configuration on the Prolimatech Megahalems tower heatsink.
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Galcobar - Monday, January 30, 2012 - link42 dBA isn't anywhere near silent -- I understand it's near the floor for Dustin's measurement capabilities and something like Silent PC Review's 10 dBA lab is quite out of reach, but being near the floor of a loud room doesn't qualify for a silent or even low-noise computer.
Noise measurement on these complete systems, particularly when reviewing systems attempting to sell themselves on noise reduction, would add a lot to these reviews. There's a gap in review sites I find: SPCR covers very quiet systems, but rarely deals with competent gaming builds, while gaming/enterprise reviewers rarely seem to give more than a superficial consideration to noise levels for these full builds.
Boutique builds produced four years ago with roughly equivalent TDP (higher CPU, lower GPU) and much less optimally-designed cases and CPU/GPU coolers were available in the 20-30 dBA range.
The criticism of the lazy overclock and poor component choices certainly seems accurate. For a partial comparison, Puget Systems has its i7 system using the Gelid Tranquilo, but equipped with Scythe Slipstream fans, and idles at 12 dBA (using 68W) and maxes out (Furmark + Prime 95) at 15 dBA (using 215W). Puget's Serenity uses a silent GPU, but Jarred noted the GTX 580 wasn't the problem with the AVADirect Silent.
JarredWalton - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkI think you missed the end of your comment, but I'm not sure about the comment that "Jarred noted the GTX 580 wasn't the problem with the AVADirect Silent PC". I think the GPU and CPU and case fans all contribute to the noise. It's hard for me to imagine anything with GTX 580 coming in under 30dB under load. Anyway, as I mentioned above, the limits of Dustin's equipment is 40dB, which is part of the reason he measures at 12". He can still hear an audible ramp up in system noise before the 40dB is crossed, though, so I'm guessing at idle the system is close to 30dB. I know my place gets down to about 30dB at night if I shut off all the PCs, but I have a different (better I suppose) SPL meter and I don't live in the CA suburbs.
lurker22 - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - linkWow you must REALLY like PC gaming to spend $700 on a video card! lol
Tetracycloide - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - linkCould have just flashed your firmware to 6970 and been just fine performance wise assuming you're only using one monitor. If you have multiple monitors and an eyefinity set-up maybe you need that kind of power but the 6950 would have been a silly thing to buy in the first place were that the case.
GoGamerPro - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - linkI have video games and computers for sale at http://gogamerpro.com