Rather like children, PCs can be noisy little monsters. Fortunately, unlike kids, they do have an off switch, although having to work with a loud computer can still be very distracting. Even an average PC makes a reasonable amount of fan and drive noise, and we’ve experienced some machines which could give a vacuum cleaner a run for its money.
You know the sort, often these are gaming oriented rigs with multiple fans inside of the case. By the time they’re all whirring, and the CPU and graphics card fans kick up into high gear, because Battlefield 3 is running at some ungodly resolution with the details on maximum – the noise is not dissimilar to a couple of Cessnas, taxiing out of an aircraft hangar.
Quiet PC is a company which specialises in ensuring that you don’t need a pair of ear-defenders shipped with your new computer. In fact, their machines are designed to make no noise at all. With the Nofan IcePipe A43-Z68 Silent PC in your study, the theory is that you’ll be able to hear pins drop, and very probably, spiders shuffling across the skirting boards.
The heart of this computer is the Nofan SET-A43 fanless bundle, which as the name suggests does away with all the fans from inside of the case, CPU cooler and power supply. The cooling solution is Nofan’s CR-100A Icepipe, which can handle the machine’s Core i5 2500K processor at its stock speed of 3.3GHz.
The CR-100A is a cleverly designed heatpipe that employs convection cooling, with a large cylinder of heatsink fins to dissipate all that toasty processor warmth. The PSU is the P-400A, which is a fanless 400 Watt power supply and is 80Plus Bronze certified. This is situated at the bottom of the case, so that all the heat it produces rises and is dissipated through the Nofan CS-60 micro ATX case’s vents. There’s a large meshed vent in the roof of the case to deal with that rising heat, and plenty of other the ventilation is courtesy of the entire front, and most of one side, being an open meshed-panel.
When the PC has been running for a while, you can feel the roof vent gets slightly warmer than the rest of the case, just as it should do. The case and cooling solution works well, with both CPU and ambient case temperatures remaining quite low, and with the machine on for extended periods. Even when running more intensive applications, the processor didn’t rise up above the 55 degree centigrade mark.
That’s all well and good, but exactly how quiet is the IcePipe A43-Z68? Is it truly silent? The short answer is yes. In fact, when we first powered the PC up, only a slight click from the optical drive informed us that the boot process had actually started. Aside from this half a second hiccup, no noise whatsoever comes from the machine, with the complete lack of fans and a solid-state drive on board. It’s rather strange, almost eerie, to use a completely noiseless PC with not even a hint of a buzz from the PSU.
There’s no discrete graphics card here, but there is an option for those who want to add a Sapphire ATI Fanless HD6670 for a bit more pep, with an £83 cost. Again, that’s a noiseless solution.
One point worth bearing in mind, is that a video card can’t be installed in the PCI-E x16 slot. This is because the CR-100A Icepipe CPU cooler totally obscures this, as the PCI-E x1 slot dwells beneath that space. That’s an unfortunate side effect of this hefty cylindrical cooler that also sits over the RAM, meaning you’ll have to remove the CR-100A, should you ever wish to switch the system memory. While the internal layout isn’t ideal in that respect, there are two usable PCI-E (x8 and x4) expansion slots. All the cabling is also neatly tidied away, and there are less cables anyway due to the lack of fans.
As for the specification, Quiet PC has built this machine on a Gigabyte GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3 Micro ATX motherboard, with a Core i5 2500K processor that we’ve already mentioned. Our review machine came with 16GB of Corsair DDR3 memory, with a 64GB Crucial M4 SSD as the main system disk and with Windows 7 Home Premium, preinstalled. There was no secondary drive, leaving just 20GB of spare space on the primary drive. It’s very likely you’ll want to add another SSD, or exercise the option to spec a larger version.
The optical drive is a Samsung SH-S222 DVD writer and that’s the sole source of noise in this PC. When this first spins up with a disc in the drive, it does make a bit of a racket – although there’s really not a lot that can be done about that. There’s no such thing as a silent DVD drive, when it’s running at full tilt.
However, this Samsung model makes less noise than most optical drives we’ve heard and when tootling along playing a DVD movie it is actually pretty quiet. Quiet PC has made a good job of sourcing a relatively muffled model in the DVD drive.
Aside from the lack of noise, there are other upsides to the no-fan PC build, which is worth bearing in mind. Firstly, as there are no fans, there is no dust intake or dust build up. All of which means there’s no need to worry about cleaning your machine, or degraded performance, if you neglect this chore.
A lack of moving parts also potentially means less mechanical problems, and the Gigabyte motherboard utilises a doubled-up two ounces of copper, for its power and ground layers. This helps keep temperatures down and provides greater efficiency, with the PC sipping power very economically. This is another plus point, which in itself helps to keep electricity bills down.
While a dust-free PC helps with hardware stability, the system stability on the software side is also considered by Quiet PC – with the company avoiding installing any superfluous programs, trials or other bloatware. You get a totally clean Windows installed with just the drivers, and Microsoft Security Essentials is the only program added. We definitely appreciated this touch which, along with the SSD, helped the IcePipe A43-Z68 to run nice and snappily inside of Windows.
Paying the price
So, what’s the downside here? Well, it’s the price, with the NoFan components push a middling PC up into a higher price bracket. There’s certainly a premium on the case, with a cooler and particularly silent power supply, which ends with a certain sting in the asking price.
To be fair to Quiet PC, it’s the component prices that are high, not the charge for building the machine. The latter of which is perfectly reasonable, particularly considering the level of service provided by the company that includes a two-year return-to-base warranty, with an “open-case” policy. This means you’re allowed to perform upgrades, without voiding the warranty.
If you need a truly silent PC for whatever reason – home recording perhaps, or a work machine, with no distraction factor or if you’re particularly noise sensitive – then the IcePipe A43-Z68 really delivers. However, many might find a completely noiseless machine something of an unnecessary luxury, given that a very quiet or near-silent PC can be purchased with a considerable reduction in expenditure. It all depends on just how golden PC silence is to you.
Company: Quiet PC
Contact: 01653 668000
- It really is totally silent; quality build and service provided.
- Costly silent components push up asking price; cooler obscures two expansion slots.
If budget isn't a primary consideration and noise level most certainly is, then this is a great choice of machine. The Nofan IcePipe A43-Z68 is truly silent and boasts a quality build, a streamlined OS installation along with a commendable after-sales service. It's a niche product, though, and some folks might balk at the difference in price between this and a PC built to be very quiet rather than silent.