When NVIDIA announced the SLI (Scalable Link Interface this time around), gamers were excited by the potential performance increase found by running two of the latest and greatest GPUs together. As the preview and reviews for nForce4 SLI motherboards came forth in late November of 2004, the benchmark results were staggering. The playable game settings that SLI made look easy were unfathomable just two years ago.
Shortly after the benchmark honeymoon was over, the reality of living with an SLI system set in for those building dual GPU PCs. The two card configuration creates a lot of noise and a lot of heat. All of that noise and heat starts out as energy provided by the oversized power supplies that became the necessary evil to impress your friends at LAN parties. Recommended PSUs can top 600W which is a significant amount of work being done compared to the standard 300W required just years ago. If you recall, the original GeForce GPU was the first to push limits of motherboard standards and mandate minimum power supply ratings. This evolution creates more performance and higher minimum requirements, the power ratings previously saved for the most impressive server and workstation applications.
If you do not care if your PC makes your house sound like you live under the flight path of local airport, this article is not for you. If however, you wish to have the best performance possible, with out compromise, keep reading.
The original goal was to assemble components that could make living with SLI easier. The aforementioned challenges of SLI are obvious. On top of SLI, I knew I wanted to have a RAID0 drive array, have low CPU temperatures at idle and under load, and have sufficient cable management and space for all of my components to afford needed airflow. After making several decisions about the hardware choices for the new system, the focus shifted to the case, power supply, CPU's heatsink/fan unit, case fans and GPU coolers. I never put much thought into my cooling and power choices prior to this project. Now I had to learn about my options and move forward with making decisions about accessories and replacement parts.
In teaming up with 3DCool.com, I was able to put together what I consider to be, pardon my pun, the coolest PC I have ever built. This article will highlight the steps along the way that led to one member of our regular LAN party group to say, "That's quieter than my laptop." Can an SLI system be made to be nearly silent with out watercooling?