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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ATC9001 - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkI think they failed hard by choosing an nVidia card. The 7970 is nearly the same price (but its faster) and the 6970 is much cheaper and close to performance.
The 7970 compared to 580....uses 20-35 watts less and runs 10 degrees cooler under load.
The 6970 compared to 580....uses 55 watts less and 7 degrees cooler under load.
I'd expect a vendor targeting silence would know this and at least be smart enough to not ship the nVidia card for the review.
Dustin Sklavos - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkExcept the 7970 is actually a bit loud (not to mention we couldn't get one in this build in time for the review.)
And again, the 580 is an aftermarket card with a whisper quiet triple-slot cooler. The 580 is not the problem.
bronx623 - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - linkThat is why they would put a custom cooler on it with custom fans.
burntham77 - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - linkThey could have even gone for a 6850. I have one and it runs very cool, very quite and handles pretty much every game I throw at it running at 1080p on highest quality settings. I say "pretty much" because occasionally SWTOR will pause for a couple seconds (although that may be server related), and it occasionally struggles on games like Batman AC and Crysis 2.
Leyawiin - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkThat ASUS GTX 580 is much quieter and cooler running than either of the options you mentioned (especially the HD 7970). "Failed hard"? Hardly. You have no idea what that AVADirect paid for the GTX 580 and its a solid choice performance-wise right now. A few months from now will be a different story.
chrnochime - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkSo with a title of "Silent PC" there no noise measurement? Your comments about it being not silent but merely quiet doesn't tell us how this system compares to other ones when it comes to noise suppression.
JarredWalton - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkPage three: "Jarred was skeptical about a silent (or at least extremely low noise) build being possible with an overclocked i7 and a GTX 580, but I believed and still believe it could be done. Why do I say "still believe"? With all the case fans set on low, idle noise of AVADirect's build remains well below the 40dB "aggravation threshold," and even a GPU load doesn't noticeably affect noise levels. Unfortunately, the instant you stress test the CPU the Gelid fans start really kicking in and AVADirect's system goes to pot with a measured 42dB noise level from about a foot away. [Jarred: Isn't "very quiet" at least less than 30dB?]"
Dustin's testing environment and equipment doesn't allow him to reliably report anything less than 40dB, unfortunately, but we can say for certain that the system emits around 42dB under load. At idle, it's probably in the vicinity of 30dB, which is good but by no means silent.
Zap - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkC'mon, no noise measurements?
Regarding the overclock tuning, I agree with both Dustin Sklavos and Ricky Lee to some degree.
IMO Dustin is 100% right in saying the overclock should not have been done using static voltages, but rather with a voltage offset. Seriously, it doesn't take any more time to set an offset and test for stability as it does to set a static voltage and test for stability.
However, Ricky is also right in that consumers who buy pre-built machines probably don't care about having the perfect overclock down to the last MHz and mV. Those who have OCD^H^H^H ahem, those who care will probably build their own. Those who buy a pre-built just wants it to work.
earthrace57 - Monday, January 30, 2012 - linkI think that they should have more (or different at least) settings for the OC profile.
Personally, I have 3 settings for my i5 2500K
My 4.0 GHz overclock, which is what I usually use for gaming
My 4.5 GHz overclock, which is for CPU-intensive tastks/games *cough* FSX *cough*
My 3.4 GHz underclock, using only 2 cores for standard work (because lets face it, I'm not going to need blazing fast speeds to run a few tabs on firefox, word, and itunes)
Ammaross - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - linkAgreed. My i5-2500K, I set to OC to 4.4GHz for demanding tasks, but I left the C-states enabled. The machine usually camps at 1.6GHz most of the time (web surfing, etc etc) but as soon as I need it to do some work, it happily pops up to 4.4GHz for me. Works a treat.