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Thread: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

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    Default Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Silence Will Fall...
    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-silence.jpg


    Greetings all, Mike here, one of your friendly review staff! Sorry for the radio silence as of late, I've had a heck of a lot going on personally with my computers dying every five seconds as well as some personal affairs, but that's behind me now. Now is time for me to bring you guys something a bit different from the usual review content: this time I will be sharing with you the odyssey of a little project that I have been working on on and off for the past several months as time and funds allow. Of course I can't go on too far without thanking:

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-swiftech_logo.jpg

    Without their sponsorship and the faith Bryan had in my build this would not have been possible. They have supplied all of the water cooling components that will be used here, though maybe not the ones you might have been thinking...

    The Theme: Silence-optimized HTPC (black and gold color scheme, because "Silence is Golden").

    I figured I should start with the general idea here. The purpose of this build is to produce something that is elegant and silent, yet tastefully adorned. The goal is also to keep power consumption to a bare minimum while still allowing for further expansion of the system as funds and need demands. Since this will be sitting in my living room I don't want it to be too terribly loud or draw attention away from interaction with others I have over, but I still want it to be exciting-looking enough to act as a conversation piece; essentially, functional art... and what better way to keep it artful, functional AND silent than with water cooling (in my opinion, anyway)?


    The Case: Why did I choose this case?

    For this build I decided to go with... the Cougar MX500

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-title_20.jpg

    Cougar MX500 Mid Tower | Pure Overclock (link to our review)

    At this point you are probably wondering: "Mike why in the bloody hell did you go with a case that you didn't even offer up an award for?" The short version is that I already had the case on-hand, and didn't know of anyone who could have used it. I got to thinking though: in my review I kept hinting that there was much potential in this case that was missed, but a few simple modifications could resolve that. I could have either gone with a more extreme "gamer" theme with this, or I could have gone the silence-optimized route, a-la H440. Ultimately, silence optimization seemed the best thing to do, so I decided to see what I could possibly do to get the noise levels down as low as is humanly possible with the fewest non-functional mods possible. I also decided to alter the color scheme for the case to reflect the internals: black and gold. Thankfully Cougar made this bit particularly easy, with all of the trim pieces easily removable and readily customizable. More on this in the next post...


    The Guts: So what exactly is going into this build?

    That's where things start to get a little interesting. I have long been a fan of AMD's APU platform, but could never bring myself to go all-in on the purchase of the platform since the performance at the time seemed a bit too low for my tastes to really justify taking the plunge. Times have now changed, and AMD's latest APU platform for their Kaveri chips offers plenty of real-world performance without spending all of your money in the process.

    APU: A10-7850K

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-amd_kaveri_apu_announcement_slide.jpg

    I opted to use the top-shelf APU for this build. The 7850K offers no compromise in the lineup, allowing system enthusiasts to overclock their entire system should they so desire or allowing an adjustable TDP to keep power consumption relatively low without sacrificing everyday use performance.

    Motherboard: Asus A88X-PRO

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-line.jpg

    At the time of purchase, this was the flagship APU platform from Asus, and frankly there wasn't much competition for this board at the time in terms of raw performance, build quality or reliability. The board also provides excellent fan tuning capabilities with all of the overclocking tools you could possibly need for this platform. Moreover, this board is also black and gold, which fit the bill for this system perfectly. Could you build a system like this with a less expensive board and still get similar performance? Absolutely you could, however I have a problem with constantly craving the finer things in life, and it didn't get any better than this at the time... so there ya go.

    Memory: Adata XPG v2 2x4 1600 MHz DDR3

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-productgallery3018.jpg

    I decided to go with these modules, not only for their known reliability and overclocking potential, but also because... well... they're gold. They are also more readily available than other options I was toying around with (Avexir are you listening?), and are less expensive than others as well. These modules will be getting a pretty decent overclock for this system, as APU's tend to perform much better with higher frequency memory, latency be damned.

    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1 TB HDD

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-barracuda.png

    Unfortunately my budget did not allow for the use of a dedicated SSD for the OS, so I had to stick with the use of a single platter drive. I would have loved to use one of Adata's SX900 drives, but perhaps after the build is finished I'll be able to incorporate one once I get enough money saved up. This will still do just fine for our purposes, as a HTPC really should have more dedicated storage for HD movies and the like.

    Discrete GPU: XFX R7 250 Core

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-r7-250.jpg

    With recent driver improvements and price drops, the performance/dollar ratio of a Dual Graphics system is now much more appealing than it was at the time of launch. I therefore decided to pull the trigger on an R7 250 as part of this thought experiment. I wanted to see not only what Dual Graphics could offer in the here and now, but I also wanted to see what I could do with a total system overclock. The card will be getting as hefty an overclock as it can handle, as well as some special color treatments as I can provide them.

    System Fans: Cougar Vortex HDB 120mm PWM

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-cougar-fan.jpg

    It's a Cougar case, so I figured I should go with Cougar fans. In the review I noted that while the stock fans were great with the case, at full speed they were simply too loud for everyday use without a voltage reducer. Since I want to make sure that the system is silent under all load conditions (and I want to minimize cabling as and when I can) I opted to replace the stock fans with these guys. They are reasonably priced, offer excellent airflow and static pressure, and are all black... except for those corner vibration dampers, which we will attempt to address later in the build. All in all it's hard for me to recommend different fans for a build like this, since they are among the most silent you can buy with the most reasonable price tag... and aren't poop brown and vomit tan.

    Power Supply: Enermax Revolution X't 630W
    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-psu.jpg

    Granted this PSU might be a bit on the large side for even this build, however the idea here is to provide the system with more than enough power for further adding storage. Over time the plan is to get a RAID 10 array established. This was also chosen not only because of its black and gold color scheme, but for its efficiency rating and semi-modular design. You can catch our review of this particular PSU here.

    Silverstone PP07 Black/Gold braided cable extensions
    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-pp07-mbbg-02.jpg

    Granted I could have probably done some custom braiding on the entire PSU, but that would have been far more time consuming than this particular build needs to be. I also happened to have these on-hand from a previous review, so it felt natural to actually put these to good use rather than just sitting around collecting dust.


    Water Cooling: Y u do dis, and what parts u do dis with?

    At this point there will be a lot of eyebrow raising and potential nay-saying, but that's cool because it's my build, not yours ;-P. Part of the thought experiment is to see if I can not only water cool the APU... but the R7 250 as well. During some initial testing with this system I discovered that my particular 250 overclocks really well; as in you plug the card in, open Afterburner, move the sliders all the way to the right, apply and enjoy. However I noticed a few things, which I will go into more detail with in the next update: Afterburner allowed me to override the AMD-enforced overclocking limits of the card, but the stock cooler was... well... a bit less than adequate to keep temperatures where I would have liked them to be. This got me thinking that perhaps a universal GPU block would provide a more elegant solution to this problem rather than re-applying paste and lapping the OEM heat sink.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1230.jpg

    I'll be taking some up-close and detailed shots of the parts throughout the build guide, so apologies for the small-ish pic. Swiftech has provided me with a plethora of cooling hardware for this system, not the least of which is their Apogee XL block and their new Raystorm v2 reservoir/pump combo outfitted with their brand new MCP50X pump. You may also notice little white block in the picture: that little guy is Swiftech's MCW82 Universal GPU block which I will be attempting to affix to the R7 250 GPU using a special fastener kit to align properly with the GPU fastener pattern. I also went with two of their MCR120-QP radiators, largely due to spatial restrictions within the case. The hope is that with a radiator being dedicated to each device and the loop flow running block/rad/block/rad that there will still be reasonable cooling performance to be had. With the MCP50X pump there should be more than enough head pressure within the system to overcome any pressure drops this kind of loop will provide, so I'm not too terribly worried about that. I will also be passively cooling the MOSFET's and the memory on the GPU using some of Swiftech's passive GPU heat sinks, and tying everything together with 3/8" ID, 5/8" OD TruFlex tubing and compression fittings.


    I hope I have tantalized your tech-y taste buds enough to sub to this thread and to keep abreast (and a thigh) of the progress on the build to come. I would once again like to thank Bryan Ramirez from Swiftech for offering to sponsor the build, to Gabe Rouchon for not only giving him the O.K. to do it but for giving us a company that provides PC enthusiasts the world over with some of the finest enthusiast components around, and to Pure Overclock for offering up its blessing for me to attach their name to this in the first place. I can also tell you guys right now that you should expect more similar content to this in the future, as we are always striving to bring you more excitement all the time! I hope to have another work log update within the next week or so, but with college starting up for me this weekend my time table will be tight so I will do my best to provide frequent updates and some fancy B-roll to satisfy your itch for pretty and functional tech!
    Last edited by Mgutierrez33; 20-08-2014 at 23:33.

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    rrplay (26-08-2014)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Love it.

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    Mgutierrez33 (20-08-2014)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Excellent.

    Always look beyond the limits...

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    Mgutierrez33 (20-08-2014)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    LOVE the Dr. Who reference. Build is looking amazing too!!!
    Second System: CPU - AMD FX-8350 / Mobo - AsRock 970 Extreme3 R2.0 / Video Card - XFX Radeon HD6870 / Memory - 8gb Gskill Sniper DDR3 1600 9-9-9-24 / Harddrive - Seagate Barracuda 250gb 7200 rpm x 3 Raid 0 / Power Supply - Seasonic X Gold 750w / Case - Sunbeam Transformer / CPU Cooler - Zalman CNPS9900 Max

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Very nice looking good to

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by joshjaks View Post
    LOVE the Dr. Who reference. Build is looking amazing too!!!
    It's funny because I originally wasn't going to make that connection in this build log... but then I watched Series 6 again the other day, so they're kind of fresh in my mind lol. The build also got its name from the original review of this case... I got the fans up and running, heard the noise, turned them off within a few seconds and all I could think of was "Silence WILL fall" as I grabbed two voltage reducers x-P. I have such a huge problem with noisy systems, but that's all part and parcel with my anxiety x-D

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Heads up guys: there should be an update to the build log at the end of this week! Stay tuned as I explain the reasoning behind wanting to water cool the GPU, show off some temps, show you all where the case sits so far and start in on the GPU block :-)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Sure looks like a well thought out plan for an excellent performing and very quiet rig. Thanks
    "You're never to old to learn something stupid."

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Greetings PureOC, Mike here with the first update to my build log.

    So as I mentioned last time the reasoning behind my decision to water cool the R7 250 was largely due to the inefficiency of the stock cooler.
    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-250-temps.png
    This is a screenshot taken after roughly ten minutes of MSI Kombustor, and contrary to what I mentioned previously I did, in fact, change out the thermal paste on the card to Noctua NT-H1 just to see what kind of difference it would make. The short answer: not much. The stock heatsink on my XFX R7 250 just doesn't fill me with that "warm and fuzzy" feeling, as there are passively cooled cards that run cooler than this. Matter of fact PureOC JUST reviewed one the other day here. Granted this screenshot also shows the card having been overclocked, but it's really only 50 MHz or so and the AMD enforced limits won't let me go further. I CAN unlock extended limits, but with the temps already looking like this I would rather get the GPU itself under water first before trying anything.

    This brings us to the MCW82 universal GPU block by Swiftech. Originally I requested a black variant of the block, however somehow a white one got shipped instead... this turned out to be a very happy coincidence, as this also gave me the opportunity to try painting the block gold to match the rest of the system.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1277.jpg
    For the purposes of this build I used Dupli-Color's Sunburst Gold. It's an acrylic automotive paint that I used throughout the case itself to custom color the panels, but we'll get to that bit in another post. I really like this brand of paint as it always sprays on evenly with minimal paint splatter.

    Now before I can do anything with the GPU block, there are a handful of issues that must be surmounted first. The first of which being:
    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1250.jpg
    This fastener kit from Swiftech is necessary for me to even remotely entertain the prospect of fitting this block to the card. If you try to place the GPU block in-line with the mounting openings on the back of this R7 250, you will notice that none of the pre-supplied hardware works: it was all meant for bigger cards. The other thing you'll notice is that the four corners of the GPU block itself have measurements that are equal to the measurements on the GPU itself. This fastener kit replaces the original screws with screws that have hollow shanks: the outside and inside are threaded to allow those four tiny screws to thread into the bigger ones to hold the block in place. The reason this particular kit isn't packaged with the GPU block is that it was originally designed for a rather old GPU, the 4870x2/5970. However it's only like seven bucks for the kit, so not a big loss and Swiftech ships very quickly so there wasn't really any downtime for me.

    The second thing to address is the corners of the GPU block itself. While this fastener kit will let you technically mount the block (still don't know at this point), the corners of the GPU block have too much plastic on them:
    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1253.jpg
    If I try to just use the screws with the block as it is, they won't bottom out properly and therefore will create sealing/mounting issues. The instructions for this fastener kit specify that you need to take a blade and cut off a certain amount of the plastic, but I had a better idea.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1256.jpg
    Since a rotary cutter is a part of my arsenal, I figured I'd use my etching bit to whittle away at the corners of the GPU block so I can retain the curvature in the plastic and see if I can't make it look a bit better.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1254.jpg
    Ah, that's more like it. Mind you when performing an operation like this, you need to not only be sure to wear the proper safety equipment (goggles, breathing mask), but you also need to work very slowly and methodically to make sure you don't cut too much away from the plastic.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1257.jpg
    Now that we've test fit the fasteners themselves to make sure everything is sitting flat, let's see if it will mount to the GPU... if it doesn't, then I have a big problem with this build...

    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1259.jpgSilence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1260.jpg

    Great success! The block mounts as if it were meant to go there in the first place! I also really love that this particular section of the XFX shroud mounts independently of the rest of the heat sink, as this allows me to conceal a lot of the bare hardware that's on the card while still having clearance for running water cooling tubing and fittings. Speaking of the original heat sink...

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1261.jpg
    This was an earlier shot I took of the heat sink when I removed it to try re-pasting it. Not only was the original thermal paste a bit overdone, but none of the rest of this block comes even close to touching the rest of the components to keep them cool (MOSFET's, chokes, VRAM). Essentially while this is still a rather quiet unit, it's not particularly efficient, and we all know that these cards are capable of far better temps than this. Now that I know the water block will fit however, I can move on to painting it.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1266.jpg
    To prepare the block, I used proper masking tape to protect the bits I didn't want gold, and stuffed the G 1/4 openings with paper towel bits to keep the threads as free from paint as possible.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1267.jpg
    I actually rather like setting down large cell bubble wrap sheets to paint on. The reason for this is that the large cells make it easier for you to slide your hands underneath the object(s) being painted to move them to safer locations should you need to without disturbing the object(s). I went forward with applying roughly four coats of paint to the block to make it as even as possible.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-dscn1272.jpg
    All things considered I rather like how this turned out. There's only one rough spot where I didn't separate the masking tape from the paint cleanly enough and it caused a very small tear in the paint, but once I get some paint thinner I'll be able to get that to lay down again and all will be right with the world. I would have simply removed the Swiftech logo before painting, but it didn't feel like it was willing to let go without a fight, so there it stayed. If they had gone with a label like they did with the Maelstrom reservoir where the logo is a separate piece that you can either choose to use or not use that might have been a better route to go, but this is a design that has been in use with them for many years so far... and if it ain't broke, don't fix it, amirite? However I think that if there were enough enthusiasts that wanted a product like this, and they told Swiftech about it, that might motivate them to produce something that's a bit more modder friendly in the future.

    ... but for right now that's all the update that I have. Next time I'll be going over where the case and build sits as a whole at present, and going over the installation of the custom side panel window I cut out. Also, I was thinking of painting the separate AMD mounting hardware that comes with the Apogee XL block gold to match the rest of the system, but I am uncertain about that much gold being present in one spot... what do you guys think? Let me know in your comments, share this build log if you like what you see so far, and I'll see you at the next update!

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Excellent paint job, great looking WB.

    Always look beyond the limits...

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    Mgutierrez33 (29-08-2014)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Hey guys. Just wanted to give you all a heads up that i might not be able to get a proper update in for another few days... My week has been surprisingly hectic and my weekend threatens to do the same. I'll do my best to get a good update out sooner rather than later, i promise!
    Last edited by Mgutierrez33; 04-09-2014 at 19:52. Reason: i hate autocorrect

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Hey guys another update to let you know what's been going on lately:

    I have not forgotten about this project! Not that there's very many people browsing this at the moment, but I am working diligently on a LOT of things right now, including more than a few reviews for you all to peruse (spoilers: they're pretty neat bits of hardware that are going to see a switch-up in writing style, so stay tuned), working full time and going to school part time to finish my Associate's Degree in Engineering. As soon as I am able to I will be posting some build log updates, including the plans for the case (functional modifications) and the set-up of the water cooling loop and some benchmark results. I really wish I had more time in a day to bring you guys ALL of the content and ALL of the build logs, but right now I just don't have a lot of it. I will do my best to reward your patience and continued support of PureOC... WITHOUT producing crap x-).

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    Smiki007 (17-09-2014)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Don't worry, finish your school first , then your builds, then your reviews, then your benchmark scores, then your case plans and functional modifications, then... then....

    Always look beyond the limits...

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    Mgutierrez33 (17-09-2014)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    *sigh* yeah... no rest for the wicked and all that. Really wears on a guy after a while, but then if I had NOTHING to do I'd have nothing to look forward to so I guess there's that x-).

  23. The following user thanks Mgutierrez33 For this above post:

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