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New PC - upgrade, part 1


EricBall

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For the most part I've been very happy with the PC I bought two years ago.  From a performance perspective it's handled everything I've used it for and it's definitely faster than the iMac which I was using previously.  Sure, I could have spent more and made it even faster, but my plan was bang for the buck.  I am also very glad I bought it when I did - if I'd waited much longer the epidemic & ethereum related supply difficulties would have made it more difficult and expensive.

 

However, when playing games it gets noisy with the fans at full power - audible even when wearing headphones (and aggravating my tinnitus).  I had gotten used to the quiet of the iMac (and the Dell I had before that) and I'd forgotten how loud a PC could be.  Unfortunately the main culprit is the GPU.  If it was the CPU I could easily buy a replacement cooler (the stock one actually isn't too bad - not quiet, but not annoyingly loud), but that isn't an option for GPUs.  Pre-COVID I might have been able to shop around for a replacement GPU and try to find a quieter model - although GPUs tend to be noisy as they are limited in how much space they can take.

 

The real solution would be to use water cooling.  (Liquid cooling is more accurate as the coolant doesn't have to be water.)  For decades water cooling has been the best way to make a computer quieter or for high end overclocking (which generates a lot of heat).  The advantage of water cooling is the ability to use much larger radiators and lower speed (therefore quieter) fans.  The downside is the additional cost for the specialized parts.

 

Unfortunately, simply replacing the heatsink & fans on my graphics card was basically not an option.  First, I would risk potentially damaging the card if I tried to remove the existing heatsink.  Second, while "universal GPU water coolers" exist they don't cool the RAM and other components which can get just as hot.  And while whole card coolers exist, they tend to be for the most expensive graphics cards based on the reference design.  (And even then, you have to be careful of potential compatibility issues.)  What I really wanted was a graphics card which came from the manufacturer as a water cooled version.  EVGA makes this kind of card (but only the top models), but due to the crypto currency induced demand these cards simply aren't readily available.

 

But then I started to see YouTubers talk about how street prices of graphics cards were coming down and supply was returning.  So I had a look at eBay to see whether anything was available - and at what price.  Much to my surprise one was being sold by someone in Canada and the current bid was only C$1000.  So I put a watch on it, asked the guy why he was selling (he got it as part of an influencer promotion but never used it) and then thought about how much I was willing to pay for it.  I talked myself down from C$2000 to C$1500 - the whole computer (w/o monitor) cost less than $1400 - and while it would be a significant upgrade from the 1650 Super, the objective was to make the computer quiet.

 

The end of the auction was Friday afternoon, just before 4:30 PM local time.  Over the week I checked the current bid once a day and each day the bid got a little higher.  Once it hit C$1425 I figured I'd already lost - the high bidder almost certainly had put in a max bid of at least C$1500 (and I wasn't going to spend more than that), so even if I bid C$1500 they'd win the auction.  But when Friday afternoon came and I logged off from work I decided to check one last time and saw the high bid was still $1425 and there was less than a minute left in the auction.  So I entered my bid as quickly as I could - confirming it with bare seconds to spare.  Much to my surprise - I won the auction with a final price of C$1450 - a single bid increment over the highest bid.

 

I should receive the card next week.  Assuming everything is in order the next step is to order the rest of the parts.

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Ventilation isn't a problem - the Core V21 has two sides which are basically mesh and the other sides have lots of holes, plus it has a giant 200mm fan to push air into the case.  The problem is the graphics card doesn't have a lot of space for cooling so it has to move a lot of air, which means the fans have to spin faster and work harder, resulting in more noise.

 

And if you think the graphics card is a lot of money, wait for part 2....

 

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