Now that we know a little more about what we are measuring and how, we will proceed by discussing system hardware choices.
The GPUs chosen for the project are the NVIDIA Reference 6600GTs. The higher clock speeds will present a challenge to whatever cooling device is attached to its smaller core slug. The 6600GT SLI will scale well with my Samsung LCD as it has native resolution of 1280x1024.
Assuming that after market cooling for GPUs requires a little extra space over the single slot design of the 6600/6800GT coolers, the Asus A8N-SLI was a natural choice for motherboard. With a full two slots of clearance between the two PCI-E x16 slots, any of the popular GPU coolers would have plenty of room to breathe with out worrying about added stress to airflow or obstacles to cooling. Upon turn up of the A8N-SLI, I was forced to RMA and replace the chipset fan. The stock unit spun at 8000rpm and failed on first boot. The replacement has a new design, fan running at 5300rpm, and took about a week for delivery. You can read details about the process here.
Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe
Along with the A8N-SLI, I chose the Seagate line of NCQ SATA drives. Two 80GB drives for a RAID0 boot drive and a 160BG drive for back up and pure storage needs. The Seagates have a reputation for being nearly silent, as opposed to my other possible choice, the WD Raptors. Click here for a .wmv of the drives loading Windows XP (494 KB).
The CPU started as a Socket 939 Athlon 64 3200+. It was replaced very recently by an Athlon X2 4800+. Corsair Value Select DDR400 2.5cas in a 2x512MB configuration occupy the dual channel memory slots. The remainder of the system consists of the NEC DVD-RW, Lite-On DVD-ROM, Samsung Floppy and HDA Mystique 7.1 Gold. Time to start considering cooling and power equipment choices and here is where having a good partner and vendor is a necessity.
Lian Li V1000 Plus
One of the first decisions made was to use the Lian Li V1000 Plus to contain all the components. The latest refresh to the popular V1000 is reviewed here. Yes, it does present even more of a challenge as the open airflow design leaves little to baffle the sound of internal components. If this project is to be successful, it will not be because of a taking the easy route by baffling noise. I do not want to create noise and then hide it.
The first component impacting audio levels was the 600W version of SilenX iXtrema Professional Series power supply line up. 3DCool.com emphatically recommended this power supply. Through the use of silicon fan-mounts clean internal airflow, and multi-level PCB, the power supply lived up to its promise of being silent, rated at only 14dB. You CAN NOT hear this PSU over any of the other components in the system.
SilenX iXtrema Pro 600W
Results: No measurements taken.
The stock AMD cooler for the 3200+ features an aluminum construction with copper insert and fairly restrictive fin sizing, 60mm low rpm fan bolted on top. Despite being very quiet, its cooling capabilities were shameful for any self respecting gaming system. That had to go.
Thermalright XP90/Panaflo 92mm Fan
Replacing the cooler is the Thermalright XP-90, reviewed at nV News by Clay Angelly, which utilizes heatpipe technology and wafer thin aluminum fins. This helps two-fold; the heatpipes extract and distribute heat away from the CPU and up into the heatsink, and the thinner fins decrease restriction of airflow thereby creating less turbulence and noise. While we did not see any change in noise output, the CPU cooling efficiency of the XP90 dropped the CPU temperatures to near water cooling levels allowing the QFan controller to take care of business and keep the noise levels down even in the most demanding CPU usage scenarios. The addition of the Dual Core CPU did not change the idle and load temperatures which serve as a testament to the efficient design of the XP-90.
Results: Click here for a .wmv of the system at this point (473 KB).