It’s easy to go to Your favorite shop (or e-shop) & buy the most expensive product willing that it will perform the best. If You done so, well.., I have bad news for You. Reality is somehow a bit more complicated & pricing is usually based on different performance metrics.
After spending a ton of money, You might not only get the worst value possible, but Your top of the line professional Quadro/Tesla might even perform slightly worse on GPU rendering (ray tracing, path tracing, etc.) than gaming oriented GTX card for a fracture of that price.
Sounds confusing? If so, simply keep reading, because here we are going to try clear things up a bit. To help me handle this hardware topic I’m happy to introduce You my guest from OTOY’s forums, Sebastian (for Octane Render users better known as Smicha).
Sebastian: Thank you, Tom. And welcome all Octane Render enthusiasts.
Together we’ll try to nail down some basics & then get into specifics, based on His personal build. We came to each other on OTOY’s forum discussing about various topics over different threads & it seems we have very similar viewpoint (at least on hardware). I hope this dialog style article about GPU hardware will be eye opening for some & at least in some extent useful for those who already know quite a bit.
Quadro & Tesla cards from nVidia are not so much different in terms of internal components compared to GTX line.
Those PRO cards are tuned to perform better with some professional applications (where optimised driver supports exists). They have higher double precision (DP) performance, ECC vRAM, but neither of mentioned features makes any difference for GPU path tracing in programs like Octane Render. One good thing is that PRO line usually offers higher amounts of vRAM compared to GTX line, but on the other hand chips that do all the calculations are usually tuned not so aggressively (in pro cards) to keep temperatures lower & power usage as low as possible.
If You consider to pay few times more to get same or even less rendering performance the amount of available memory should be very important to You.
Here we are going to talk about value based builds (doesn’t mean cheap) using GTX cards & how to tune them in order to squeeze every little bit of available performance. We’ll try to look into differences between reference & non-reference coolers, about overall airflow in a case: how it influences rendering speed. Finally, we’ll end up diving into water-cooling & all other things that falls in between of those lines.
At time when 980/970 were announced at GAME24 event 780, 780 Ti & 770 got discontinued. To find 780 6gb model became a bit of challenge, for weeks the only available model was the one from ASUS, more precisely called STRIX. As gamers started looking for new Maxwell based cards Octane Render users were waiting for news how these card are going to perform in CUDA applications.
Based on what we’ve seen from first generation Maxwell cards (like 750 & 750 Ti released earlier – 70W cards performed almost the same as Fermi based 160W 460s – impressive performance per W!) we were expecting to see good numbers from those 980/970s too.
While some can wait for a while for new “ground breaking technologies”, others need to do work; make an investment & build tools to meet deadlines. That’s what my friend done with his build. Tell us a bit more, Sebastian.
S: I’ve been working on a project with tons of instances of classical architecture elements. Few months ago we got to a point where my single, although still great watercooled Titan was too slow in rendering animations in decent time. I knew I could speed it up four times, but that meant money – new motherboard, three more Titans (even Black), more cooling stuff, etc. I am a last person who claims that faster computer means better renders. There are plenty of pretty talented and hard working Octane Render users who still use a single GPU machines and their works are superb. But when you have to render dozens of stills for 24 hours or even longer, the difference in time being saved is huge. Three more graphics cards means four times shorter rendering.
T: Actually one of the most attractive things in GPU rendering is expandability. Even if You own a top of the line GPU (let’s say Titan Black for 1000$), You can easily add a second card & if Your motherboard allows even third or fourth. If You do things in old (CPU) way & buy top of the line SKU (for the same 1000$) You are left with buying more computers, ‘cause there’s no way to simply add an extra processor. You’re left with considerably more expensive Xeon line (where again 2 CPUs per motherboard for workstation is maximum or You need very expensive motherboard and special & expensive CPUs to house 4 of them on single motherboard).
S:That is why it is so convenient to have a computer that will be expandable easily – just insert new cards and you are ready to go. And what is important for Octane Render users – the extra CPU power does not mean faster rendering. Surely with a 12- or even 18-cored CPU you’ll benefit in other CPU-based software, but we need to remember that Octane Render power comes from GPU. If you own an old CPU (like I do) and you are pretty happy with responsiveness of your system there is no need to throw your money. You’ll hardly see any difference in Octane Render performance whether you use 2nd or 5th generation core i7 (or even i5) processors. Our golden rule is to be focused on easy expandability of GPUs.
T: So let’s talk more about them. You bought three 780s, not Titans, neither 980s, why?
S: Shortly speaking – for about half of the price you get similar performance to Titan, but when you watercool them, oh Man, these babies show their true power (45% speed-up compared to 4 of them on air with no extra space for optimal cooling). I’ll talk about some benchmarks later on.
6GB is crucial for me. By the time I was planning expansion of my rig they were easily to get. I thought I would wait for GTX 980 and see how they perform in Octane Render. There had been rumours that they might perform close to 780 Ti and draw significantly less power than 700 series. Next day after nVidia’s event GAME24 some guys on overclock.net posted that they bought 900 series. I asked them immediately for help in benchmarking Octane Render. The preliminary scores indicated that 900 series cards were about 35% (or even more) slower than GTX 780 or GTX Titan (GTX 980 scored 4.5 ms/s vs 6.5-7.8 ms/s for GTX 780 or GTX Titan).
T: With Octane Render 2.13 release of OTOY managed to rewrite portion of code to take advantage of new architectural changes & it seems 980 falls somewhere in between on 780 & 780Ti in terms of rendering performance. But still, GTX980 (at least for now) is “only” 4Gb card.
You know what that reminds me? A change in architecture before. GTX 580, based on Fermi architecture, was a the “King of the Hill” for long time – 3GB of vRAM, reasonable performance, not so hot as first generation Fermi based GTX 480. Then came GTX 680 4GB. A lot of guys were so upset & even angry that 680 was not performing as good as 580.. when the reason was not so much in the software itself..but green giant’s marketing – nVidia is doing the same move now.
S: I remember these days. I had 2x 580s, then 2x 680 4GB. I was a bit surprised 580s were faster. Still being focused on extra vram I sold 680s immediately when Titan came out. So history repeats, does it?
T: Well, 580 was GF110 based card, while 680 – GK104. Now it’s the same with transition from Kepler to Maxwell, nVidia again moving from high performing GK110 on 780(Ti)/ Titan(Blacks) to GM204 equipped 980/970s keeping something in their sleeve. So with lower-end chip of new architecture they manage to get on par or even outperform high-end chip from older architecture – That’s impressive!
But let’s get back to our topic:
S: Yes. Unfortunately right after the launch of 900 series 780s 6GB were sold out. Literally I couldn’t get any single piece. If I didn’t need 6GB of vRAM I would’ve bought 780 Ti. After a week I received a phone call there were 5 Asus Strix 780 6GB at great price – I took three.
T: Are the 780s with 6GB gone from everywhere? I don’t see them anymore..
S: Yes. In the meantime I signed at EVGA website to be notified when 780s 6GB would be available again and a month ago I was notified about a few. There are also some STRIX left but I noticed sellers increased their price. Luckily prices of TITAN Z dropped by a half and this beast seems to be attractive for Octane users.
Indeed, Titan Z price now seems a bit more reasonable. Not so long ago wrote a small piece ( “Second look on Titan Z”) about it & other thing guys looking for it might be interested.
T: Without a doubt, STRIX (780) is a powerful card. What I don’t like is their cooler. It’s perfect, if You have plenty of space, but these custom coolers do not perform very good when cards are put very close to each other in multi GPU rigs.
Correct me if I’m wrong but there was no reference cooler design equipped 780 6GB.
S: I think I haven’t seen any of those. And this remark is of a great importance, because all of these non-reference coolers dissipate heat into a case and strongly affect temperatures of adjacent cards and slow them, sometimes drastically. So yes – you’d better pay attention to cooling solutions too. If you are strictly focused on air-cooled systems get yourself reference cards with external heat dissipation.
Or go with slightly relaxed, spaced out configuration, like Jeroen (a.k.a. Rappet from OTOY’s forums) done, leaving extra space between cards in order not to keep optimal airflow.
T: Ok, let’s switch gears for a while from GPUs to other system components. Ever since I’ve started with GPU rendering I’m not looking for high-end motherboards, unless I’m building a beast for someone who wants to use such workstation for CPU intensive work too. Myself, I’m pretty much happy with OC’ed 3570k as it offers great value & it’s enough to feed GPUs while I’m doing other things. What CPU/motherboard You have chosen for this build and why?
S: Honestly, that’s the starting point – a motherboard. Imagine I got my Asus P8P67 WS for 50$ on auction.
Yes, I was lucky, but even today there are old chipset based motherboards, like P67 for 150$ that can handle 4 graphics cards. Also newer Gigabyte X99-UD4, Z97-SOC or even GA-Z87X-OC Force for half of the price (about 250$) of a high-end gaming or workstation motherboard. If you are happy with your old CPU and want to have more GPUs – there are two ways for expansion: dual GPU cards, like Titan Z, or older but still great motherboards capable of handling from 4 up to 7 cards.
T: As GPU cards are backward compatible with even older motherboards there is little to no need of grabbing top of the line & probably expensive motherboards. However if You’re looking to have overall balanced rig, not only crafted for GPU power, You can do that, but You’re not forced to, unlike if You’re using CPU where with every top of the line CPU upgrade You need to buy new motherboard.
Any recommendations of what to look for? Hard learned mistakes made?
S: Three years ago it was my mistake to take although a good motherboard but with only two PCI express slots. So if you think about further development of your Octane Render computer think of how much effort, costs and time will it take to replace your old motherboard (and CPU due to a new socket) & even RAM (like from DDR3 to DDR4) and reinstall the system. My current CPU is still the same old i7 2600K which runs cool at 4.5GHz. Sure, you can get yourself Rampage V extreme and 5960X, but isn’t it better to save some money and get yourself a high-end high-power PSU?
T: Agree with You here. What about PSUs?
S: I noticed there are many questions on the forum in this matter. ‘Will my 600W or 1000W or… be able to power this and that’. If a 1200/1500W PSU costs you 100-150$ more isn’t it worth to have such for many years and not bother whether extra GPUs will run on it? Additionally there is a nice feature of such high power PSUs – they run silent at lower load, and sometimes even passive up to 40-60% power draw.
T: What do You use for the build we are talking about?
S: If you look at my build, everything apart from 3x GTX 780s, some additional cooling stuff and new case – is old, even Enermax 1350W with peak 1500W, although not well sleeved but it works.
T: Nice sleeving helps, not only for visual appeal, but also for cable routing – trying to deal with all the mess in a case might be a challenge if You have stiff cables. But in the end what matters most is the quality of supply & the power it delivers. Have You any idea about power usage in Octane Render? Read on forums, guys claimed lower usage under load & this surprised me a bit!
S: Recently I did some measurements how power hungry is GTX 780 or Titan. And this is important part because there are different opinions in this matter. First of all Octane does not draw that much power out of your GPUs as games or heavy stress tests, FurMark let’s say. When I turn on my computer it starts drawing 190 W, while loading Windows 400-500 W, and it drops to 170 W at idle. While rendering in Octane on one GTX 780 the power draw is 320 W (or 350 W overclocked). Remember, this is for entire system, not a single GPU. MSI Afterburner indicates 68% of power usage of GTX 780 (77% at overclock). And these measurements seems to be correct, because when I turn on FurMark the power usage is 100% and the system draws 440 W (at 110% it is 470 W). So GTX 780 draws from 150-180 W in Octane Render (Titan about 180-230 W, with power usage at 84-97%) and even 300 W under heavy stress tests. The difference is huge.
T: So under load Octane Render uses less power, but from time to time when system is stressed You can observe higher draw. But then how about PSU, what to choose?
S: Shortly speaking – 600 W power supply is capable of handling ONE GPU and while rendering in Octane Render you’ll have 200-250 watts reserved for peaks (as they happen). My entire system with 3x GTX 780 and one Titan draws in Octane 955 W (overclocked) but my power meter shows that the maximum was at 1500 W. I don’t know when it happened but it did. And this is why we strongly recommend using high-end high-power supplies. If you plan to have 4 GPUs get yourself 1500W PSU – although Octane will use 1000W your system will remain stable.
My simple rule for choosing a right power supply is:
PSU power = (number of GPUs + 1)*300W. Hence:
1 GPU 600W PSU
2 GPUs 900W PSU
3 GPUs 1200W PSU
4 GPUs 1500W PSU
Although Octane Render power consumption may be given by
Octane Power Consumption W = (number of GPUs +1 )*200W
So for one Titan Z 900W PSU is fine, for two 1500W, for four you need at least 2x1200W PSUs.
So those who have extra room for additional power supply in their cases are ready to expand even to 4 Titans Z.
*T: or You can pick something like 2000W PSU from SuperFlower*
S: And one more very important remark – one of Octane Render forum users reported he encountered 1500W burnout. My recommendations – keep the backside of PSU cool, because all of its electronic components are mounted there. Don’t let any graphics card close to PSU, effecting it’s temperature and keep your case, even large, always well ventilated.
T: In some cases PSU take air from outside (bottom of the case). Having this area filtered & regular vacuum cleaning is a must if You want to prevent surprises.
Last but not least, when You’re buying power supply, think whether You wish to save 100-200$ putting Your entire system at risk. If PSU fails, more than likely it can damage other components too & if You have multi GPU setup..that might be costly..
So, power supply topic is more or less clear now. It’s not so much cases that are capable storing a pair of PSUs. I see You got monstrous, though very solid one. How You came to it?
S: 3 years ago when I got 2x GTX 580 and Lian-li X2000 server case (I thought that such expensive case will be the best, but I was wrong) I had no idea how loud and hot the system will be. After I ran Octane Render I immediately started looking for any solution to cool my GPUs down and make them less noisy.
T: Guess water-cooling came into radar?
S: Water-cooling was so new to me, but I decided to give it a shot. Then it occurred that the server case can’t handle any greater radiator, 560mm especially. I had to put it outside the case, but it worked. I regretted a lot buying that case and started looking for something that could handle water-cooling stuff.
T: To house 560 (4x140mm) isn’t so easy (as far as I know there is only few products if You start to play at this scale).
S: ‘IT’ appeared in all its glory ‘CaseLabs’. When a guy on YouTube founded ‘Singularity Computers’ and showed TH10 I was stunned. 2.3mm thick alloy/aluminium construction (compared to others 1 mm) makes it a military class. It is entirely modular, can handle 2 to 6 (or more!) rads, even four power supplies, great space for cable management, no cheap plastic parts. And the only thing that limits you is your imagination of how to place your PC parts inside and… your wallet. The latter one made me give it up, especially that shipment to Europe and extra duty bumps 500-800$ price up by additional 300-400$.
T: That’s 1k$ for a case. Far from being cheap (& it seems not in line with our value topic at all). However for building a multi GPU rig with ample of radiator capacity You don’t have so much to choose from & in the end a possibility to put everything inside without leaving a mess is a great bonus that You will not have with smaller cases (especially if You have small kids or curious cats).
S: When the time came for three extra cards it occurred I need an extra 480/560 radiator (one radiator was already lying on a floor). And the CaseLabs topic returned. I just browsed auction portal and there was one guy selling it. Even without the shipment costs it was fairly expensive. But I could deduce some taxes and… asked my wife if my death will be quick and easy if I buy it.
T: How did She respond to this?
S: She looked at me and asked ’If the rads disappear from the floor just don’t ask me, get it!’ Oh Man, when I received the box and saw how every single piece is well packed, how well it is powder coated, at first I thought I am touching leather, not metal… I knew it will be a great case but what I experienced was way too much, way beyond my expectations.
T: Yeah, these cases are exceptional. As they say, You get what You pay for. As family owned business, this is not some sort of out-of-the shelf product. I’ve read somewhere that they make every case just after the order is done – not so much products today You can buy with such care & thus the price is fair. (Not so long ago tomsHardware wrote CaseLabs Q&A AMA recap – read if interested).
So, from what we’ve already talked, guess Your original idea from the beginning wasn’t to run this STRIX cards on air?
S: STRIX dissipate heat into the case (these are non-reference cooler cards), so if you want to have 4 of them on air they will strongly affect each other, reaching 80-85C (depends on your settings) limit, operate at high rpm and make lots of noise and what is the most important reduce their clock to about 800 MHz. That means you lose so much of their potential (we’ll talk about it more in detail later on). So yes, I could watercool them or… use raisers and custom “mining like” solutions to give them some air to breathe.
As I already had some watercooling parts – a pump, radiator, fittings, reservoir – the watercooling was a right way for me.
T: What water blocks You’ve used for them & why?
S: I already had an XXL EK on my Titan. There are plenty of great waterblocks from companies like Bitspower, Aquacomputer, XSPC, Koolance… And these are in competitive prices, about 100 EUR per piece.
The most important is that a waterblock has to be compatible with your graphics card. EK had such a model. The only pain is that I had to do some custom connection with my ‘old’ Titan.
Before I bought the 3-way parallel bridge (see the photo) I emailed EKWB company if 4-way bridge would fit. Unfortunately not. It’s always good to ask. I ordered waterblocks (with some more cooling stuff) right at the EK company and after a week the package arrived (see the photo). I also took backplates, beside esthetics it cools vRAM and chip from the other side of PCB. Quality (and look) – top-notch.
T: As this beast wasn’t built for looks, what You were expecting in terms of performance with increased cooling capacity?
S: Usually I do simple calculations: take the number of CUDA cores, multiply it by base core clock, multiply it by memory clock and then compare (divide) the score to same-technology-based graphics card, e.g., GTX 780 to GTX Titan (Black).
Let me give you an example. Let’s consider GTX 780 6GB (500$), Titan Black 1000$, and TITAN Z (which prices dropped lately to 1500$).
GTX 780: 2304*.889*6/500 = 24.58
Titan Black: 2880*.889*7/1000 = 17.92
Titan Z: 2*2880*.705*7/1500 = 18.95
So looking at performance to price ratio (24.58/17.92=1.37) you get 37% more power from GTX 780 6GB than from Titan Black. Surely these are rough approximations, but they give you a general idea of how attractive GTX 780 6GB is.
Now we know that Titan Z operates not on 705 MHz but on 800-900 MHz core clock (depending on available airflow inside Your case) on stock air cooling which makes it an attractive choice (connected to single PCI slot & occupying only three slots, leaving more room for further build expansion compared to 2x Titans).
But this is not the end of the story. If you have one GPU there is no need to go with water-cooling. Eventually you may get about 10-20% of rendering speed improvement, much lower temps (40C) and silence of course.
T: & Considering the cost of full custom loop it’s not worth..unless, You go for some hybrid solution by Corsair to pair AIO with HG N780 bracket. Then You can get “relatively cheap” & silent (if that’s Your plan) for single GPU.
Let’s continue, Sebastian.
S: Today graphics cards are rather quiet and relatively cool on air (up to 70C), provided that they are at least 1-slot distant from each other. So even if you have two graphics cards in a well ventilated case air cooling seems to be optimal. But when it comes to 4x graphics cards that sit very close each other.. it’s a different story.
T: What You gain from going water-cooling those already great value offering 780s?
S: The question is rather what you lose on air, and you lose a lot, even 40-45% of potential power of your graphics cards.
T: How does that even possible? (I mean, 10-20% boost is somewhat expectable, but 40%+ ???)
S: OK. Let me stress it – we are talking about four graphics cards that are placed next to each other. Let’s talk about real numbers. A while ago I did some help rendering a scene for animation. I used my machine (3×780+Titan) and my friend used 4x Titans on air. I scored 20 ms/s in PT, his score was 15ms/s PT, same settings. So my computer was 33% faster (or his was 25% slower, depending of how you look at it). But 4x Titans have 10,752 CUDA cores while mine rig has 9600. So if I were on stock air cooling he should have 12% faster renderer (10752/9600=1.12). That means watercooling gave me 49.3% speed up (20/9600)/(15/10752)=1.493 or putting this in another words stock air cooling stole 2 Titans out of 6. OC was done at stock voltage 1.16V on STRIX and 1.2V on Titan – 1200MHz on core and 7000MHz on memory.
T: What about temperatures?
S: And temps… 40C. But what if I tell you that STRIX goes 1300MHz easily at 1.2V?
T: Actually would be interesting to see how far You could stretch OC on those cards. The questions remains how stable on the long run that would be? Guess You choose fairly safe OC on Your rig too, considering it’s a machine to do work, not to break records.
S: At stock volts 1.2V ASUS STRIX goes to about 1320MHz while rendering in Octane. But I never push it that high. Actually I am at stock clocks for everyday usage (1000MHz on water). 1250MHz on core and 7000MHz on memory (at 1.16V) seems to be all I need for rendering and I never let temps go above 43-45C on GPUs, while water temp is 35C. Stability is much more important for me, especially when rendering for long hours. It’s not a gaming rig, nor FPS contest. I saw some bios mods with crazy 1600MHz at 1.6V. But, you know, for how long?
T: That’s a good point (“speed kills” they say =). Another question about overclocking – how much of that speedup comes from overclocking the GPU core and how much from OCing memory?
S: I did some measurements and estimated using ordinary least squares method a simple logarithmic model (screenshot from gretl). It occurs that about ¾ of overclocking power comes from clock and ¼ from memory. So at first try to bump up a core, then memory.
T: Do You think that could be more or less true for all cards? Or this proportion is specific to Your GPU only?
S: Estimation of certain parameters of the model I did was done on data from GTX Titan and 780. There might be some discrepancies between various chips, but I believe the rule – ¾ from clock and ¼ from memory – should be valid.
T: Then again some might ask: & what about the cost of water-cooling?
S: If water-cooling gives you the speedup of extra cards and costs you less than those, why not go for it?
T: agree 100%
S: All you need are radiators, waterblocks, pump, reservoir, fittings. This shouldn’t cost more than 1k$. And some fun. Once you go for it, you’ll never want to go back to air, like going from HDD to SSD.
T: For me performance is important but that’s not the only thing I’d look for if building a water-cooled GPU rendering rig. Silent operation under full load is another thing (especially if You don’t have dedicated server room) for which I would consider water-cooling worthwhile. How important that was for You?
S: For me – very important. I can not imagine working in noisy environment entire day. But, you know, maybe this is only me who cares.
T: The comfort of workspace is not the first priority for some, but for others it might be even more important than performance itself.
Let’s move on to other components (as we still have quite some to cover).
If I remember good, Extreme OverClockers made extensive test comparing multiple 360 radiators & the conclusion was..that 11 top performing rads differ only by 6W in terms of heat dissipation & in this context 6W might be the difference between using different pumps. So it’s questionable if there is any importance in choosing radiator, but You got something special in Your rig, tell us a bit more:
S: My first aim was at AlphaCool 560 Monsta, but in the meantime I got my CaseLabs and it occurred it has space for a 480mm radiator on its top. So you know – 480 Monsta again or EK, or XSPC, whatever.
And then I found this copper beauty. How could they – I mean AquaComputer – produce such thing that is teasing you so much? So, guiding by tons of research I knew that its performance may not be of such extreme importance. Couple of degrees will not cause my Octane Render workstation explode. I could save 50-60 EUR and get something black, as my old Phobya. I could. And it confirms we (I mean me) are buying using our eyes.
T: OK, but it is still the Best, the coolest running radiator at the category under low spinning fans – that’s a fact
S: Come on, Man, we both know that this time the look is the most important. I just did it. When the package arrived I sat comfortably on a sofa and slowly opened the box. I took so much air in my lungs and then let it go slowly saying ‘ooooooooooo…’. Shiny copper and stainless steel…
But being very serious – yes, its performance is exceptional! When I put on it 8 be-quiet fans in push pull temps went down by 5C, water temp was reduced to 35C from 40C. The internal copper fins and pipes are extremely well optimized in terms of air flow. Imagine I turned off 4 lower fans and let only 4 upper fans spinning and pushing air through the rad. Despite be quiet! BL062 fans has 1.6mmH2O pressure (which is not that high compared to 2.6mmH20 of Noctua NF-F12) the 4 lower fans were spinning! And, Man, what a silence.
T: Any recommendations from what You’ve learned so far about radiators?
S: A general rule is that you need at least one radiator unit (120mm or 140mm) for one GPU, one for CPU plus one spare. By the time I received the Aquacomputer radiator I had only one 560 rad – for two GPUs fine. No more than that.
T: Check! Now from radiators let’s go to the fans I have always been a fan of Noctua brand. As I found them, don’t look anywhere else, but I’m also curious how be quiet! perform in comparison, any observation as You had both on Your rig while testing?
S: Before I got Noctuas (NF-F12) I did tons of research, looked not only at speed, noise but mainly at static pressure – the higher the better for radiator. Because I’ve already had be quiet! fans on the 560 radiator I was leaning towards the same brand – I just love these fans, they are so quiet. But Noctua fans reach high scores among various users and the only thing some are annoyed with is their color.
T: Yeah, the choice of color scheme was interesting, but I see why they make it (purely from marketing standpoint). However You can find REDUX line in grey color & Industrial line in black (though for me color wasn’t an issue).
S: Personally I like them too and performance is the key. So I gave them a shot and… I understood that their high (2.6 mm H2O) static pressure (1.6mmH2O of be quiet! 120mm) is the reason why be quiet! fans are so silent. Noctua simply pushes air harder when applied to a radiator. I also got some more recommendations that there are industrial fans out there – Sanyo Denki. I bought one for a test, but it was 2200RPM with crazy static pressure – 3.05 mm H2O (9S1212F401). It blew so much air that one can use it in summer to cool oneself. Anyway its quality was great, built like a tank but – you know – too much for me. And I could not get a 1500 RPM version in short time, that has almost the same specs as the be quiet! fan – Silent Wings 2 120mm (BL062). These are definitely the quietest fans I’ve tested.
T: I’ve read some users are unhappy with Noctuas on higher RPMs. I’m personally using them with included U.L.N.A. (Ultra Low Noise Adapter) to reduce their speed down to 600 RPM. Higher static pressure still keeps enough airflow, but the noise signature is minimised (thought If You’re looking for higher airflow, that might not be a solution).
S: So my short summary for fans :
*Noctua NF-F12 performs great, has great package, exceptional cable sleeving and extenders, high static pressure, but is too loud for me at 1500 RPM when applied to a radiator.
*be quiet! Silent Wings 2 are well packed, have also great sleeving, rubber rings from both sides, two different anti-vibration mounting systems (one of them let you set 0 or 1mm distance from a case) and look awesome. . In push-pull setup they perform extremely well and their acoustics is exceptional. I simply love them.
*SanyoDenki fans are built like a tank, you feel their quality in your hands. You can get e.g., 9S1212 series with 1500 up to 2700 RPM versions (if this is not enough for you – alloy framed for above 100EUR; want 5000RPM? – no problem; splash, oil and dust proof…). But there is one thing – as these are industrial fans they come without 3-pin connectors (and no sleeving).
I remember I had NoiseBlockers – these are also great fans. I believe one can find her/his best fan out there, but some experimentation might help a lot. If you can return a fan to a store – get 2-3 different models and test them on your own.
T: That’s probably the best way: try before You buy or simply get few & send back those that left leaving the best inside. As always taste & preference matters. Some might find some products intrusive (acoustically) while other might not hear them at all as they are used to different noise levels.
Looking at Your last update on a build log in OTOY forums I see You went all the way with be quiet! finally. What You’ve managed to achieve in terms of OC, overall performance & temperatures in addition to whisper quiet operation?
S: As said earlier – silence and very low temps – at idle I set all fans to 5V and hear literally nothing, having +1C or +2C to ambient temperature (2x D5 pumps are set to 40% of their max speed, high enough to cause cyclone in the reservoir).
Under full load water temperature reaches 35C (22-24C ambient) and overclocked GPUs work under 40C. I already have 16 be quiet! fans – 8x 120mm in push-pull on the aquacomputer 480mm radiator, 3x 120mm as internal fans – two of them are blowing air onto motherboard cooling at once PSU and lower chamber, one as exhaust. 4x 140mm are mounted onto the 560mm Phobya rad. There is much (if not excessive) positive pressure in my case – more fans are pumping air into the case than out of it. It prevents dust being sucked into a case through unfiltered holes and keeps it clean. Actually I am awaiting DemciFlex filters.
There are some future works, 4 extra 140mm fans for 560 radiator in push, more extension fittings for the loop, cable sleeving. Having 4 GPUs seems to be enough, but even now I am thinking about possibility to go with 8 of them. And yes – I have enough room in the case to get 2x 240 radiators, an extra PSU on an optional mount and 2x 560 rads in an (optional) pedestal. My rendering speed is about 8 times faster than 3 years ago, so we’ll see what future technology brings. Anyway, the only thing I’ll be changing for sure are GPUs.
T: I think we can talk about any of these topics in great detail dedicating entire article for single piece of hardware. But as always all good things have the beginning & the end. It’s been a great time to chat with You, Sebastian. Thank You for Your time & immense input explaining some concepts for readers. Considering the fact there is a lot more to talk about I would be glad to have more articles with You in the future.
Idea for 2015 is to focus on each group of parts: GPUs, PSUs, Cooling gear, Cases, etc. Having everything in one place is just too much to go deep into differences & minor things, that matter – That’s the reason why this article is so long. I just hope readers find it as interesting & hopefully useful. For me it was so much new things & I bet You haven’t said everything You know anyway.. Let’s meet again with different build or any changes You make on this to cover!
S: Tom, it is my pleasure. Thank you very much!
T: Cheers, Sebastian.
So Guys, that’s it! Would You like to read more articles like this? If so, what would be Your preferred themes, if we keep the same GPU route? Feel free to drop me a line.