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Cabinet or rack for HTPC?

537 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  legatus
Been looking at racks and cabinets for awhile now. Have found a couple, not a great deal. I didn't exactly put the quietest components in my HTPC - I had planned on swapping them out sooner rather than later though. However, most of the cabinets I've found are only about 20" deep and the Cooler Master case I'm using is about just that, maybe a little longer with cables so will probably mean removing the back of the cabinet.

As far as racks go, there is the fan noise of the HTPC to take into consideration. I guess my question is really, if I go with a rack - would I ever be able to get the HTPC quiet enough that I can keep it on an open shelf?
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Originally posted by alougher
I guess my question is really, if I go with a rack - would I ever be able to get the HTPC quiet enough that I can keep it on an open shelf?
Yes, but it will take some careful choices in regards to componenents. First thing is to look at is go passive where possible.

First, the power supply, I've been incredibly impressed with my Antec Phanom. It's completely passive, and powers a Geforce 6800 and P4 2.4GHz without effort.

Second, the video card, I've got a http://www.giga-byte.com/VGA/Products/Products_GV-N68128DH.htm=Gigabyte 6800[/URL] that has passive heatpipe cooling, they've also got a passive Geforce 6600 , although it seems a bit hard to find right now.

On to the CPU, or more specifically the heatsink, it's been a while since I researched this, I've got a Zalman CNPS-7000AlCu, it's great, there are probably better by now though.

On to the final two, these were the last two things I added/changed in my HTPC that made it silent. I'm not sure if, had I replaced one of the other components last, I would feel differently, but these are what finally got me there:

HDD, get a 2.5" laptop HDD for the HTPC and put the rest of the (noisy, hot, 7200rpm, 3.5") storage in another PC/another room. After the video card and the power supply, I could easily hear my 7200 RPM drive spinning in my HTPC, I replaced it with a 4200rpm, 40GB, 8MB cache Toshiba HDD and it's awesome. I can only (barely) hear it if it's seaking.

And the (for me :D) holy grail, the M-Cubed T-Balancer . I just don't have enough good things to say about this piece of hardware. Basically it's a self contained, usb programmed, fan controller. It monitors up to 8 digital (or analog, comes with 4 digital) temperature sensors, and controls up to 4 (independent) fans with it. What is totally awesome about it, and unique, is that it will vary the speed anywhere from off to 100%, based on a user defineable temperature/speed curve. Before I got my TB, I was serously considering an ATech Fab Heatsync case (spectacular engineering there :)) with heatpipe cooling for a completely passive HTPC. It would have been very expensive, and I thought the only way to achieve silence, but the T-Balancer has given me that.
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There are a host of products geared towards making an HTPC quiet. In fact, one of the criteria for a good HTPC by most people is quietness. Quiet fans, larger quiet fans, fan gaskets, quiet CPU coolers (a major difference-maker in most systems), quiet VGA coolers (if you have a powerful noisy video card) or fanless video cards, quiet power supplies, rubber grommets for HDD/ODDs are all examples of quieting methods that fall short of more involved things like water-cooling. Most people will find when they quiet a component, it allows them to hear other components. Regardless, these tools can indeed allow you to have an HTPC quiet enough for a open rack. One thing to consider is cooling. Loading up an HTPC with internal HDDs will not help keep things cool and quiet. Therefore, external HDDs (although some are noisy) and network drives can help solve the cooling and quietness equations.

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