I just finished building a small form factor development PC. I needed something compact enough to fit into my One Less Desk, powerful enough to cope with development and graphic design and quiet enough to put in my lounge.
After much trial and error and multiple RMA numbers, I have come up with the following recipe for a machine that runs stable, quiet and cool(ish).
CASE: Streacom F1C (Black) w/ custom lid
PSU: picoPSU-160-XT + 150W Adapter
MOBO: Intel DH77DF
CPU: Intel Core i7 3770T (45w TDP)
RAM: 16GB Corsair Vengeance Low Profile (2x8GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C10 1600MHz Dual Channel Kit
CPU FAN: Akasa 7106HP Low Profile
THERMAL COMPOUND: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound (3.5g)
CASE FAN (Inlet): Fractal Design 40mm Silent Cooling Fan
CASE FAN (Outlet): Fractal Design 50mm Silent Cooling Fan
HDD: Samsung 256GB SSD 830 Desktop Series SATA 6Gb/s
OPTICAL: Sony AD-7640S 8x DVD-RW SlimSATA Slot
REMOTE: Streacom Internal IR Receiver and Remote Control
DESK: Heckler Design OneLessDesk
Cooling: Case Fan Configuration and Heatsink
Since this machine will be stored in a confined shelf within One Less Desk, good airflow through the case was essential. Since I wanted more air out than in, I put a 50mm fan, secured with cable ties, on the outlet next to the CPU and memory to expel as much hot air as possible. I put a smaller 40mm fan in the Streacom’s fan adapter at the rear of the case to bring cooler air in.
CPU Heatsink and Fan
I definitely recommend using the Arctic Silver thermal compound instead of the stock grease that comes with the Akasa.
The first rule of thumb is to try not to get grease from your fingers on the contact areas. Clean all thermal paste off with a solvent or special cooler-cleaner. Grease will prevent efficient heat-transfer.
After cleaning, use something non-porous to rub a very small amount of paste into the contact area of the cooler. This will “fill in” any peaks and troughs on the heatsink surface.
I normally place a small amount of transfer compound in the centre of the CPU so that the pressure of the cooler spreads it evenly over the surface during placement. The other method is to spread it with a plastic tool. Either method is valid but whichever one you choose the goal is not to create air-pockets in the paste. Cover at least the contact area of the cooler. The centre of the CPU will get the hottest, this is where the processor die is located.
Ensure All 4 push-ins are fastened properly, you should hear/feel each one click.
If the heatsink is getting hot then this is a good thing, it is efficiently transferring heat from the CPU to the cooler material. The fan then removes this heat from the heatsink blades.
Since we’re using the Akasa 7106HP CPU cooler, increasing the minimum operating speed of the fan was required.
This can be done easily in the BIOS and, after fiddling, settled on 55% min, 100% max. It does increase the noise levels slightly but nothing too noticeable.
Additionally, it helps to have some ventilation in the top of the case. Unfortunately, the Streacom F1C’s top is solid aluminium. With a little help from a CNC machining specialist, I now have a modified case top which looks like this and helps lower temps by a few degrees:
Machinist Gregg Symington created this CNC machined lid for my Streacom F1C with the Weblimits logo. Check out the above lid being drilled in the video below:
I tested a few utilites for monitoring fan speeds and internal temperatures. I found the best two for this setup are Prime95 for stress testing system and HWMonitor for monitoring. Speedfan did not show accurate temperatures.
CPU: With the Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound applied, the 3770T is idling at around 40-45 degrees, going up to 50-55 during a full Prime95 stress test. With an unperforated lid, stock compound and only one internal fan in the case, temps were sitting at around 50 degrees idle and 60+ under stress so it’s definitely worth making these changes.
Finished Setup (in Heckler Design OneLessDesk)