Please recommend or disparage your new "quiet" XP PC.
June 25, 2006 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend or disparage your supposedly "quiet" or "silent" XP desktop computer; unlike some recent posts here, pre-assembled rather than home-brew. Have you used a Dell XPS 400 or Dimension 5150 in a quiet bedroom? I'd appreciate advice based on recent personal experience. I'm aware of endpcnoise and quietpcreview.

I'd enjoy trying to put something together myself, but at the moment (knock wood), I have more money than time for this project. Able to spend perhaps $2.5k.

Not for gaming, but we'd like to be able to do some graphics (photo editing, and maybe try some architectural image rendering), wav editing, and light home-video work. This can be noisy and hot, I know.

Certainly we'll want at least 2GB RAM, a decent graphics/video card, two hard drives, and a DVD writer. Thanks for your insights.
posted by Dave 9 to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One option, albeit expensive, is an isolation box that is used in sound studios. It's as plug and play as it gets: Just pop in the computer (any tower or mini-tower computer). No homebrew work required.

If you go the homebrew direction, I don't recommend foam insulation inside the case as they greatly reduce heat transfer and increase the likelihood of part failure. Buy a small rack, a rackmount PC, and wrap the rack casing with sound insulation. But for all the work you're doing, you'd end up rebuilding an insulation box anyway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:14 PM on June 25, 2006

I have a Sony Vaio, and it's dead quiet.
posted by Daddio at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2006

If you ever go the OSX route, the iMacs are amazingly quiet, and the mac mini is totally silent.
posted by mathowie at 3:27 PM on June 25, 2006

The iMac has a good graphics card in it and can run Windows handily. A second drive could be added externally through the FireWire or USB connectors, and these drives are usually pretty quiet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:30 PM on June 25, 2006

We have the Dimension E510 (I think it's similar to the 5150?), and it's much quieter than any PC I've ever had in the past. It's not silent, but it's usually pretty close. It's quite a bit quieter than other background noise in our studio apartment. (Not true for my old, home-built machine)
posted by JMOZ at 3:38 PM on June 25, 2006

With $2,500, you have more than enough money to buy a custom-configured machine through Any reason you're not going through this route?

Dell doesn't focus on silence so if you have that money to burn, you might as well go with a vendor that knows how to build a silent machine.

SPCR reviewed the 17" iMac and posted numbers on the noise. At 20-22dbA it is pretty damn quiet. However, your post seemed to specify you wanted an XP machine (though you could run XP with BootCamp).
posted by junesix at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2006

I just got a Dimension 5150 from Dell Outlet (refurb). I bought it as a new work machine, didn't care about the sound. I was surprised to discover that when I booted it up it ran completely silent-- quieter than the CRT monitor. When adding RAM I had to double check that the power was off because I couldn't tell.

When used for gaming the fan kicks in and I can hear it. In this state it's quieter than most PCs, but audible.

But for most tasks the system makes no noise to speak of (web surfing, photoshop, etc.).
posted by justkevin at 3:56 PM on June 25, 2006

18 months ago I built an SFF PC (specifically, a Shuttle SN95G5) and put a fanless video card in it (specifically, a card with a GeForce FX 5200 chip). It is nearly perfectly silent. Total cost was around $1300.

The video card is critical in the noise equation. The CPU cooling is handled by Shuttle's fancy quiet cooling technology (heat pipes + radiators + large-bore fans), but the video card cooling comes with the card, and manufacturers don't usually care much about noise, at least not down to this level. Thus the fact that you don't care much about gaming is very good. You might be happy with the noise from a fanned video card, but I wasn't ... and I tried.

The Shuttle G5 platform has one 5.25" bay and two 3.5" bays and so it CAN fit the things you listed. However, most people put a floppy or flash reader (or my fave: both!) in one of those 3.5" bays so just be aware of that tradeoff.

SFFtech is a good site for this kind of thing.

Dell is awful and I recommend never buying from them.
posted by intermod at 3:59 PM on June 25, 2006

Price above did not include OS. You'll need to get Windows XP from somewhere for it. I'm running Linux.
posted by intermod at 4:01 PM on June 25, 2006

You say you're aware of EndPCNoise already. But since I'm reading your post on the machine they built for me, I just have to say they did a great job. I'll buy my next machine from them too.
posted by Nelson at 4:35 PM on June 25, 2006

I just bought a Dell Dimension 5150 a couple months ago. It was really quiet when it came with the default power supply. I had to switch the power supply out to put in a better video card and that raised the noise, but you shouldn't have that problem. You can put a no-fan middle-of-the-road video card in there with the default power supply and that would be enough for what you plan on using it for.

Good luck.
posted by Hypharse at 4:36 PM on June 25, 2006

Try a laptop. I can bearly hear my Thinkpad at night, from ~ 10 ft away.. all I hear is a sort of electric buzz (I think its just the power supply, actually), that's comperable to the noise a TV that's on makes 2-3 rooms away (for those of us that can still hear that freq :)
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:38 PM on June 25, 2006

Oh, read the rest of your post. You can use an external HD. 2GB ram shouldn't be a problem. New laptops have DVD writers (mine only has a CD writer). If you're doing video work, get an external monitor, and for rendering, think about putting a renderslave in the basement/another room so it can be as loud as it wants.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:43 PM on June 25, 2006

what about a mac mini? That'll run windows too these days.
posted by singingfish at 5:02 PM on June 25, 2006

Most off the shelf PC's are quieter than their homebrew counterparts, I find. The Dell my sister has is dead quiet all the time, even in Photoshop. I second the SFF suggestion. Get yourself a Shuttle (G5 Series Shuttle, ready to ship) and then head on over to the Egg and pick up 2 1GB sticks of Ram and a Fanless 7600GT or GS. Total cost = 900 and change. Just my .02
posted by richter_x at 5:48 PM on June 25, 2006

I have an XPS 400 that my wife bought me for Xmas (She paid around 1100 for it).

I have to check the power light to make sure it's on, it's so quiet.

With 2500, you should be able to buy the high-end XPS, practically fully loaded. I know a friend who's been hovering over various configs for a while, now, and he's big into gaming, so his performance demands may be more than yours. Still, he manages to fit into your budget very well.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:51 PM on June 25, 2006

My Dell notebook (Inspiron E1505, bought c. May 2006) is fantastically quiet. Not a peep.
posted by anjamu at 7:56 PM on June 25, 2006

asus t2. I got it for other reasons, but it turns out that this thing is damnably quiet. of course, amd just end-of-lifed socket 939... I imagine asus will be continuing with an am2 model but who knows when. (but this also means 939 processors will be getting very cheap soon, and am2 isn't that amazing at the moment anyway)

I think this entire product line must be pretty silent -- I have another asus terminator (c3-based) and we have an athlon-based one at work, both also extremely quiet.
posted by dorian at 8:56 PM on June 25, 2006

I'll learn to read now. well, the t2 is mostly-assembled, you just need to install drives cpu and memory.
posted by dorian at 8:58 PM on June 25, 2006

Have Dell 51XX, have no noise complaints.
posted by scratch at 6:34 AM on June 26, 2006

I have a Sony Vaio, and it's dead quiet.

Are you sure it's a Sony?

In my opinion, Sony computers:
-run hot
-are SLOW
-are unstable
-have crap HDDs
-have insufficient HDD cooling
-use cheap PSUs
-come underequipped with RAM
-come overstuffed with GBs of garbage software you will never use
-include stuff you will never want (DRM, adware/spyware)

...and Sony computers sound like jet engines compared to DIY machines designed by true silent pc enthusiasts.

The above drawbacks tend to apply to a lot of store-bought PCs but I have seen more problems with Sony computers than any other brand.

Dell is awful and I recommend never buying from them.


I second the SFF suggestion. Get yourself a Shuttle (G5 Series Shuttle, ready to ship) and then head on over to the Egg and pick up 2 1GB sticks of Ram and a Fanless 7600GT or GS. Total cost = 900 and change. Just my .02

I third this suggestion. Although a Shuttle barebones can be built very quickly, ready-to ship comes with a warranty - if you have more money than time you don't want to be messing with it should something break down.

The only quibble I have with Shuttle is that some of their fans make a high-pitched noise. It is barely audible and you probably won't hear it in an office. If you are at home and working in silence, however, the high pitch can get on your nerves.

Swapping out the standard fan for a better quality fan is an option if you are building it yourself - it is quite easy to do before you put in the CPU, apply thermal grease and affix the XPC Heatpipe Technology heatsink. If you buy ready to ship, it will be a pain to swap and you'll probably void your warranty while you are at it.

Again, the fan noise issue affects some Shuttle models (YMMV) and it doesn't bother most people.

...and a Fanless 7600GT or GS.

You definitely want a fanless graphics card if silence is an issue. If you are not doing any gaming or 3d work, have you considered a Matrox card? Fanless, beautiful 2D color/clarity/sharpness (for architectural images) and great for dual-monitor setups (useful when doing graphics - have your image on one monitor and brushes, tools, etc. on the other).

...and the mac mini is totally silent.

Anything with Core Duo is sweet. Excellent performance at 31W. You will probably never hear your case fan.

If you can wait, Core 2 Duo is coming out soon. The Conroe should be available in July and Merom (lower power consumption) in August (in Tokyo, anyway - you'll probably see them sooner in the US?).

Good luck! Depending on what you do, you may spend a good chunk of your life in front of this machine so choose carefully. Hope you find a good one!
posted by cup at 9:36 AM on June 26, 2006

Buy the time saving Dell of your choice then transfer the guts to an Antek Sonata (as seen here

I've got two, they're excellent.
posted by JakeLL at 9:38 AM on June 26, 2006

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