As seen on:
February 22nd, 2013
03/25/13 05:54 PM
|Passively cooled i7 Ivy Bridge workstation in Zalman's TNN-500AF case: No moving parts, absolute total silence. No buzzing, coil-whine, not even a 1 decibel hum can be perceived. Truly zero dBA.|
The project... with commentary: Since this build spanned a period of months,
better video card solutions surfaced and so multiple upgrades were
made throughout this project. In order of acquisition... Zotac's GTS 450 Zone was too large for
the Zalman TNN-500AF
case door to close as it was impacting the case's PSU shell.
Next was the GT 640, which was a moderate upgrade until the lower TDP and higher performance
GTX 650 was released just a month later.
Considering how frequently video cards are upgraded, I ultimately
decided on the passively cooled HD 7750 from HIS. The blue
metal heatsink of the 7750 is a nice match for the internal cooling
this case and the passive heatsink met the low profile requirements
of the case. This build already utilizes an external PSU which
completely removes a large element of heat from the case, so
forgoing the case's heat pipe cooling solution for the GPU
contributed to even lower temps for the case and ultimately lower
temps for the CPU and motherboard. The next video card upgrade
on the horizon will be Sapphire's low profile
passively cooled 7770 that was announced June 2012, but
considering the long delay, I'm skeptical if it will ever see
production. I'd also settle with a
passively cooled GTX 680 from Colorful, but that appears to be
vaporware as well.
These are the initial components purchased that kick started
this build. I later discovered by trial and error that the
passively cooled GTS 450 Zone (and the recently released GT 640 Zone)
are too tall for the TNN-500AF case. The heat pipes of this
video card extend too far and will impact the 400W PSU when you try
to close the case. Do NOT attempt to install either of these
cards into this case as it will bend the heat pipes of your
video card, dent the Zalman PSU casing, and can fry your system
(voltage jumping from PSU to MB through firm contact with video card).
Also decided to upgrade from 8GB (shown left) to 16GB of RAM (shown
Since Zotac's GTS 450 Zone Zone was incompatible with the case,
I later decided to use the case's heat pipe solution to passively
cool the 65W TDP GT 640. Luke of
Endpcnoise.com was kind enough
to supply me with the screw I needed to optimally complete this
build as I was short one hex mounting screw for the motherboard
installation. I only asked for one but he sent me five! Also shown is
the 16GB of HyperX that was purchased to upgrade the 8GB that I had
never used and Fusion-io's 80GB PCIe SSD card carried over from previous build.
FYI, the heatsink fins of this particular model of HyperX memory are
too tall when using the mounting plates of the case (mounting plates
x4 were installed for the SSDs).
Last batch of components, most of
which were purchased towards the final phase of the system build.
Needed low profile memory since the tall fins of the older style
HyperX were impacting the case's mounting plates. Decided to
try larger capacity PCI-E SSD card but the OCZ was causing
sleep/hibernate issues because the bios kept defaulting to the OCZ
at resume (RAID 10 is OS and OCZ was intended for applications).
Didn't want to wait for a possible bios patch for motherboard,
reverted back to the Fusion-io PCI-E SSD, problem solved. Discovered that
I required more thermal paste than originally anticipated, partly
because I replaced/upgraded the case's thermal blocks (taken from
2nd TNN-500AF purchase). Although I'm only using 4 HyperX SSDs
for this build, I acquired a few more at a great price for backup.
The display port adapter was necessary for the HD 7750 from HIS seen
in picture below. To better group the cables that route from
the external PSU, I went with blue ties that can be cut to the
I tried THREE (3) Seasonic
fanless/silent PSUs and they all exhibited identical buzzing.
I swapped the Seasonics quite few times, yet I couldn’t perceive a
difference in the decibel nor pitch of the buzzing between their fanless models. Even Seasonic themselves said the buzzing
sound was normal and that exchanging would be fruitless. Either I
purchased 3 brand new but defective Seasonic PSUs, or the
manufacturer knows what they are talking about when they say the
buzzing sound is normal. I suspect that all Seasonic fanless
PSUs exhibit this buzzing. However, this is a
seriously MAJOR factor to consider, something that should not affect
everyone… with this fanless/silent build, the PSU resides over a
foot OUTSIDE the case which means that there is zero sound buffering
but this allows for unrestricted/full ventilation of the PSU. For
others, having the PSU within a closed case may very well alleviate
any humming sound (coil whine) that a normal human ear could
detect. 10 feet away, I could still hear it, but again, it was not
inside a case and yes, my room is rather silent.
The KingWin Stryker 500 only makes a clicking sound when you turn it on and off. Now it does have faint coil whine but it’s truly only audible when your ear is inches away and directly above the PSU. This KingWin is completely inaudible from a few feet away and I'm extremely pleased to have found this silent solution. Coincidentally, the heat sink color and design of the KingWin is a perfect match for the TNN-500AF.
The KingWin PSU is mounted on a custom stand
built by Sound Anchors (cut and welded to the exact dimensions of
the PSU). This stand keeps the cables elevated and well off
the ground to prevent any magnetic interference from the Earth's
core (I admit that this is mainly for aesthetics and not fear of
resistance/interference; the vast majority of audiophiles don't
bother elevating their speaker wire off the ground). Although
wheels weren't really necessary, they were added since the Zalman
case has wheels. The hollows of this steel stand were filled
with sand for stability and a solid feel/footprint.
Dimensions of stand:
5 14/16” wide x 6 11/16” deep x 12" high (with wheels). Base of stand: 10”
wide x 10 11/16 deep.
PSU weight: 5 lb 13 oz
Stand weight: 31 lb 11 oz
Stand + PSU weight: 37.5 lb
1st edition Saber
from Volks of Japan.
Since this build spanned a period of months, better video card solutions surfaced and so multiple upgrades were made throughout this project. In order of acquisition... Zotac's GTS 450 Zone was too large for the Zalman TNN-500AF case door to close as it was impacting the case's PSU shell. Next was the GT 640, which was a moderate upgrade until the lower TDP and higher performance GTX 650 was released just a month later. Considering how frequently video cards are upgraded, I ultimately decided on the passively cooled HD 7750 from HIS. The blue metal heatsink of the 7750 is a nice match for the internal cooling blocks of this case and the passive heatsink met the low profile requirements of the case. This build already utilizes an external PSU which completely removes a large element of heat from the case, so forgoing the case's heat pipe cooling solution for the GPU contributed to even lower temps for the case and ultimately lower temps for the CPU and motherboard. The next video card upgrade on the horizon will be Sapphire's low profile passively cooled 7770 that was announced June 2012, but considering the long delay, I'm skeptical if it will ever see production. I'd also settle with a passively cooled GTX 680 from Colorful, but that appears to be vaporware as well.
|The initial reason that I chose custom cabling was because the 24-pin motherboard cable required a 2-pin appendage to branch off for powering the infrared sensor. Also, since this build utilizes an external PSU, power cable extensions were required of varying lengths. Custom assembled cables allowed for the creation of the exact lengths necessary and so when the case is closed, all cables that extend from back of case to the PSU are of equal slack as the lengths were intentionally designed to achieve this effect. Popular vote decided that black with blue accents was the best color combination for the sleeves. These cables were quite the side project as you can see from the request page, but the end result was well worth it. Professionally made by Martin of PsychoSleeve.com, utilizing German MDPC-X sleeves. Additional mods that Martin performed that are not listed on initial request page include rebuild of 2-pin cable to extend by 3" and custom rubber heat shrink labels with hand painted white numbering for SATA breakout cable.|
|Here we have the RAID breakout cable that was custom sleeved. A Sanford Uni-Ball Gel Impact Pen was used to hand paint the numbering onto both sides of the black rubber heat shrink labels.|
|Here's the custom 2-pin cable that branches from the 24-pin motherboard cable. Its purpose is to provide power to the infrared sensor of the case for turning on the system by remote control. This 2-pin cable includes a wire that is a +5 V standby which supplies power even when the other supply lines are off (i.e. before powering on the computer).|
|Acquired from a supplier in the UK. According to the source, these pads are allegedly used in the aerospace industry and are among the most technologically advanced thermal pads on the market.|
|The carbon thermal pads have an insane 20W/The carbon thermal pads have an insane 20W/mK heat transfer but they are not adhesive or form fitting, and they are electrically conductive, so they can only be used between the CPU and heat sink in this build (I only used a single 30mm x 30mm x 0.5m carbon pad). The gray pads are not electrically conductive, have a natural tack to them, and offer the 2nd highest thermal conductivity of 12W/mK. Upon request, the supplied can cut your pads into 10mm squares or circles, whichever you prefer. Between thermal block and motherboard, circles should be your only choice since you want to avoid the obstructions of soldered circuits.|
|Installed socket 775 clip support, works perfectly fine for 1155. Installed Zalman RAM heatsinks onto exposed chips of motherboard. Removed ASRock's cosmetic metal plate from the Northbridge heatsink for optimizing heat pipe connectivity.|
|The 1mm thermal pads I had ordered were too thick for use on both sides of the thermal blocks so I custom trimmed the extra thermal stickers that came with thee Zalman heatsink kits. These thermal stickers actually turned out perfectly since they are super adhesive (you can literally pickup the entire motherboard from a single thermal block). With the stock thermal pads out of the way, there's no more worrying about knocking over a thermal block during motherboard installation.|
|Installed thermal blocks for Southbridge, Northbridge, and FET area. For additional thermal conductivity, 16 rear mount thermal blocks were used instead of the traditional 8 that are included with the case.|
|The square pads you see attached to the top of the thermal blocks are the 10mm x 10mm x 1mm 12W//mK extreme thermal adhesive pads. They are naturally tacky and have a clear protective film on both sides that you remove when ready to install. Ideally, you would need to order 0.5mm pads for both the top and bottom of the thermal block for optimal height once installed. 1mm for both sides will be too thick and will cause your motherboard to rise slightly more than desired above the gold hex shaped mounting screws. However, you do need some thickness to your pads or they will NOT connect and transfer heat because the height of those gold hex shaped mounting screws are > than that of the thermal blocks. Btw, the source in the UK recently acquired a hole puncher/cutter so you can request 10mm diameter circles from him now.|
2-pin installed. Also shows SATA data cables: x4 for
SSDs and one for DVD burner.
Bottom PCI-E slot is occupied by Fusion-io 80GB ioXtreme.
Close-up of the Northbridge case cooling
The finished assembly of internal hardware of case that includes all
components that are directly connected to motherboard, shown in high
resolution with warm incandescent lighting
(system is probably too heavy/risky to place on top of photo table). The wifi card
and dehumidifier of motherboard
can be disabled in bios.
Comprehensive list of new components ordered that were used for this project:
ASRock Z77 Extreme9 LGA 1155 Intel
Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
perfect clearance for CPU heat pipes. Extreme11 has fan on southbridge and poor
reviews so opted for Exteme9 instead.
Intel Core i7-3770S Ivy Bridge 3.1GHz (3.9GHz Turbo) LGA
1155 65W Quad-Core Desktop Processor
- Case can passively cool up to 100W TDP processor, but goal is lower heat,
energy efficiency and long term reliability.
Kingston HyperX Genesis 16GB (2X8GB) 1600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM
DIMM 240-pin CL9 Memory Module (KHX16C9K2/16X)
profile to allow room for case plates that SSDs are mounted to. Low
latency and same reliable brand as SSDs.
GPU: HIS Radeon HD 7750 iSilence 5
H775P1GD Video Card - 1GB GDDR5, PCI-Express x16 3.0
$104.99 - Low profile,
blue steel compliments system build, factory silent/passive, and only 55W TDP.
SSDs: Kingston HyperX SH100S3/120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal
Solid State Drive Qty: 4 $567.98
remarkably energy efficient (0.45W idle / 1.58W read / 2.11W write), and most
importantly, they're are all
3ware Internal 9750-4i SATA/SAS 6Gb/s
PCI-Express 2.0 w/ 512MB onboard memory Controller Card
- RAID 10 for both speed and
redundancy for OS and critical data. Dedicated RAID card reduces load on both CPU and chipset of
motherboard. While Fusion-io's PCI-E SSD's provide the highest form of
quality and reliability, they are not bootable in Windows 7, hence the RAID 10
array for the OS.
SATA RAID cable: 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-10M 1M Multi-lane Internal (SFF-8087) Serial ATA Breakout Cable $16.94
PCI-E SSD: Fusion-io 420GB ioFX Qty: 2 $3,084.77 (on order as of March 6th, 2013, will update pictures w/ write-up after installed) - This is by far the ultimate single slot PCI-E SSD for a Windows 7 64-bit machine available. Each ioFX provides a billion (1,000,000,000) input and output operations per second, a snappy read latency of .068 ms and write latency is .015 ms, and a read bandwidth of 1.4 GB/s. Fusion-io has agreed to provide in-house passive heat sinks for their ioFX (2 black, 2 silver, and 2 raw), and I will swap them with the fans after I have the raw heat sinks anodized and dyed blue. An extreme silent computing enthusiast's dream come true this is! Will setup the 2 ioFXs in RAID 0 to serve as the application drive for this system for 3GB/sec reads & 840GB of storage.
Anodizing service: Professional anodizing and coloring of the heat sinks for the Fusion-io ioFX PCI-E SSDs. - view request page
KingWin Stryker 500-Watt ATX 500 Fanless Power Supply STR-500
- Inaudible buzzing from a few feet away
even when PSU resides outside of case. While in an exceptionally quiet
room, your ear must literally be placed directly above and inches away from PSU
to perceive faint coil whine. PSU makes a single click sound when you turn
on system and only for that brief microsecond when power is activated.
4 Post Monitor Stand design from Sound Anchors
$312.81 - Steel was cut & welded to
exact dimensions desired to create stand. Platform = 5 14/16” wide x 6
11/16” deep x 12" high.
Base = 10” wide x 10 11/16" deep. I decided on wheels/casters since
the TNN-500AF case has wheels. Total height of stand is exactly 12" from
base of wheel to top of blue pads of platform.
Custom length with German MDPC-X sleeves.
Professionally made by Martin of PsychoSleeve
view request page,
Necessary for integrating 2-pin cable for powering infrared power sensor of
case. Perks included cable lengths were exactly as required with blue
accented sleeving that compliments components.
Cable management: ORICO CBT-1S reusable blue ties 1M length Qty: 2 $7.18 - Cable management for the power cables that span from PSU to case. Choosing blue was a given.
Adapter: Accell UltraAV B087B-005B DisplayPort to DVI-D Active Single Link $26.99 - Needed adapter to connect 3rd display to the 'DisplayPort' output of the HIS 7750, is bonus that it supports ATI Eyefinity Technology.
Thermal pads: 12w/mk 10x10x1.0mm Qty: 45 + 20w/mk 30x30x0.5 Qty: 3 + 12w/mk 30x30x0.5mm Qty: 2 + 12w/mk 60x80x0.5mm Qty: 1 $256.09 (£164.39 GBP)
Sorbothane pads: Heavy Duty Sorbothane Vibration Isolation Square Pad .25" Thick x 2.5" x 2.5" - Set of 4 $35.80 - Sticky pad that was available in the exact 2.5" width of the case's mounting plates that the four SSDs are attached to. Not only do these pads have ultra secure adhesive properties, they also serve as thermal pads (heat transferring).
Thermal grease: Zalman ZM-STG2 Super Thermal Compound
Paste Qty: 3
- For labeling the SATA RAID breakout cable P0 -
P3. Fully opaque, rather perfect for calligraphy.
VGA/RAM heat sinks: Zalman ZM-RHS1 Silent VGA RAM Heatsink Kit Qty: 7 $59.50 - Coming from Zalman, they are a perfect match. Color blue ftw!
Pen: Sanford Uni-Ball Gel Impact Pen, White
- For labeling the SATA RAID breakout cable P0 -
P3. Fully opaque, rather perfect for calligraphy.
Total cost of new components that were purchased
and used for this new silent system build:
The following components were ordered and received, but decided to upgrade/replace as build progressed, or only partially use in final build, or did not use at all and kept previous component(s) as seen with the 20.1" NEC displays:
Case: Zalman TNN-500AF Fanless Totally No Noise (TNN) Computer Case,
($700 + shipping)
Purchased used from seller on
eBay. Bought for spare parts to use best looking parts for this new build
and have 2nd TNN-500AF for future build. Had slightly better condition
Northbridge and CPU heat blocks (less fading and brighter blue steel), both of
which were used in this new build. I won't count this purchase towards
final build cost, but is included for 'Total cost of all components purchased'.
SSDs: Kingston HyperX SH100S3/120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive Qty: 3 $225 (Purchased used from seller on eBay) - only needed one since I stripped threads of one SSD by over tightening while mounting to metal plate of case. Seller accepted my best offer of $75 each so I ended up with 3. Now I'll have two backup SSDs in case any SSDs of the RAID 10 array fail (up to two drives can fail and data can still be maintained in RAID 10 array). I won't count this purchase towards final build cost, but certainly counts towards total cost of parts purchased.
PCI-E SSD: OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 PCI-Express SSD $360 - 3x the capacity and nearly 1/3 the price of the Fusion-io 80GB ioXtreme from previous build. Too bad it competes with the 3ware 9750-4i for the boot drive (impossible to resume from sleep/hibernate). Tried tons of bios tweaks, nothing works except for removing the OCZ from the build (or installing OS on OCZ and applications on the RAID 10, which was not preferred). Fortunately, Fusion-io has agreed to assist with my quest in acquiring their ioFX as passively cooled.
Displays: NEC MultiSync LCD2090UXi-BK
20.1” inch LCD S-IPS Monitor Qty: 4 $800
(A stock from computersnow.com) - Tried to
These had great specs and were in
near pristine condition without dead/stuck pixels for a bargain price, but the
displays exhibited a crystalline surface that made text annoyingly difficult to
This was apparently how NEC designed
them from the factory.
Still waiting for better 5:4 display
tech to surface, perhaps in 2013 or beyond OLED will have matured.
Until then, the NEC LCD1990SX remains
crisp and free of obstructions, which was my upgrade to NEC's 1990FXp.
Memory: Kingston HyperX 16GB (2 x 8GB)
240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 2133 Desktop Memory XMP T1 Series Model KHX21C11T1K2/16X
- discovered heatsink fins too tall
Memory: Kingston HyperX T1
Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory
Model KHX1600C9D3T1K2/8GX $51.49
- upgraded to 16GB
GPU: ZOTAC ZT-61002-10M GeForce GTX 650 2GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card $118.99 - Faster yet lower TDP than GTX 640 @ 64W. Supports up to 4 displays!
ZOTAC NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2GB GDDR3 2DVI/Mini HDMI PCI-Express Video
Card - ZT-60201-10L
- better GPU released shortly after purchasing GT
640, upgraded and replaced yet again.
ZOTAC nVidia GeForce GTS
450 ZONE Edition ZT-40511-20M
$175.25 (£109.17 GBP)
- Never released for USA market; had to import
from Germany. Warning! Too tall for case to close, GT 640 retail (not under clocked Zone) is faster
in EVERY spec.
PSU: KingWin Stryker 500-Watt ATX 500
Fanless Power Supply STR-500 $119.99
- Needed an additional matching SATA
power connector for the custom SATA x4 power cable. Good deal surfaced on
Newegg. Will keep for backup or use for next silent build.
PSU: SeaSonic Platinum-860 860W ATX12V / EPS12V 80
PLUS PLATINUM Certified Full Modular Active PFC Power Supply
- NOT silent, exhibits constant
PSU: Seasonic SS-460FL Active PFC F3, 460W Fanless ATX12V 80Plus Gold Certified, Modular Power Supply $121.49 - NOT silent, exhibits constant buzzing!! Exchanged yet same buzzing.
Cables: Bitfenix Alchemy Multisleeved cables color red Qty: 7 $70.76 - Discovered that custom cable modification was required in order to utilize the infrared power switch of the TNN-500AF case and as a result, I decided to go all out with exact lengths and colors specific for this build. View request page for the custom cabling solution.
SATA RAID cable: LSI/3Ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M SFF-8087 to Discrete Forward Breakout Cable
- too short when case is opened... whoops!
OS: Windows 8 Professional upgrade $39.99 - Purchased online from Microsoft. Colossal setback for productivity. Metro start page is fail and not well integrated. Often requires 2x to 3x as many clicks to accomplish the same tasks under Windows 7. OCZ PCI-E SSD only supported for Windows 7.
Pen: Sharpie Paint Marker white extra fine $4.30 - While the brand name is solid, the product was not. It was runny, not fully opaque, and not a permanent solution (flakes off).
Total cost of 'trial and error'
Components from previous build that were used for new build:
TNN-500AF Fanless Totally No Noise (TNN) Computer Case,
purchased used from seller on Craigslist but factory complete and
PCI-E SSD #2: Fusion-io 80GB ioXtreme $911.30 - Older tech but built like a tank and still provides bleeding edge performance with zero issues/conflicts. For now is application drive, will serve as cache drive after ioFX is installed.
Displays: NEC MultiSync LCD1990SX-BK 19” inch LCD TFT Monitor Qty: 3 $345.03 ($115.01 each on eBay) - Love the 5:4 ratio, virtually extinct these days with widescreen being shoved down everyone's throats.
LightScribe 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive IHAS424-98
Thermal blocks: Zalman Rear-mount Thermal Block ZM-RTB1 $26
VGA/RAM heat sinks:
ZALMAN ZM-RHS1 VGA RAM Heatsink 2-Pack (New)
Zalman ZM-STG2 Super Thermal Compound
Paste Qty: 4
Theragrip Thermal Tape
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit full version $239 - system builder software that came with Zalman TNN-300 that was purchased from endpcnoise.com on Thursday 2/22/2007 12:22 AM
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit upgrade $219.99 - purchased new/sealed retail on Thursday 10/22/2009 4:43 PM on eBay
Dap Silicone Rubber Auto/Marine Sealant, Clear (local Home Depot purchase): $5.69
Fiber washers & neoprene rubber washers for bolting gold heat sink (local Home Depot purchase): $2.17
24" inch Right Angle SATA Serial ATA Connection Cable
PS2 to USB adapter:
1.5M HDMI to DVI cable: $3.86
2M Black DVI-D male to male cable:
3M Black DVI-D male to male cable: $7.75
Total cost of all components utilized from previous build for the new build:
Budget summary for this silent enthusiast build:
Total cost of all components purchased for build/setup (actual components used + test/replacement parts): $12,195.22
Total cost of components used for system (subtracting $3,322.43 in components that were replaced or not fully utilized during build process for one reason or another): $8,872.79
-The following expenses were NOT included as part of this system build project: 5.1 surround system, printers, scanner, battery backup, surge protectors, mouse & keyboard, software beyond OS, router, miscellaneous cables, computer desk, computer chair, plastic floor mat for chair, et cetera. Literally used a full box of cotton swaps + 1.5 boxes of alcohol pads to polish/clean every crevice and probably a dozen kilowatts of power to vacuum every visible spec of dust/grease from the hardware during this project. Besides, since this system is fan free, dust isn't an issue when case is closed.
- Photographs of completed build taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 w/ 20mm prime & 12-35mm zoom lenses. Photographs of components prior to build competition were taken with Pansonic Lumix DMC-GH2 w/ 14-140mm lens. Photo table used: Just Normlicht Studio Light System 5000.
- Previous system was Intel i5 680 utilizing the same Zalman TNN-500AF fanless case, built August 1st, 2010. Viewable here.