Small quiet (silent??) desktop PC – Mac or Windows

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  • Small quiet (silent??) desktop PC – Mac or Windows
  • phil5556
    Member

    I have an ageing Dell Vostro laptop running Win 10. While it runs reasonably well from day 1 the fan has sounded like a small jet at least half the time the thing is switched on (which is quite a lot).

    I was considering replacing it with something, thinking I could get some kind of mini desktop that would run quicker and quieter but I don’t really understand computer specs these days.

    I’ve got 2 SSDs that I can use so hard drive space on anything I buy won’t be an issue, I’d like it to be able to take both drives (2.5 SATA 3).

    So what do I need to be looking at to get something that’s a step up from this:

    Graphics are some kind of integrated Intel (actually it’s also got an AMD Radeon in it that’s never worked properly).

    Generally gets used mainly for moving photos about, a small amount of photo editing and general internet things. Nothing too taxing.

    I wondered if this should be where I step into the world of Macs but my budget is nearer £200 than £2,000.

    Cheers for any thoughts/input.

    disco_stu
    Member

    I have an Intel Nuc, just add RAM and a hard drive.
    It’s not completly silent as there is a small fan but it’s barely noticable.
    https://www.ebuyer.com/869762-intel-nuc-i5-8259u-nuc8i5beh-bean-canyon-small-computer-at-ebuyer-boxnuc8i5beh3

    Though they will only take 1 2.5 drive, you could get a caddy for the other drive and connect via usb3.

    fossy
    Member

    A refurbed HP Elite desk PC would do the job – the newer ones are SSD and very quiet. Got a couple in the house for media playing (i.e. video streaming, so can generate heat, but very quiet).

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    the fan has sounded like a small jet at least half the time the thing is switched on

    Take the back off it, get a can of compressed air and blow all the cruft out of it. There’s nothing wrong with that spec (aside from it being ‘only’ dual core) that anything you’re doing with it should trouble.

    phil5556
    Member

    Take the back off it, get a can of compressed air and blow all the cruft out of it. There’s nothing wrong with that spec (aside from it being ‘only’ dual core) that anything you’re doing with it should trouble.

    It’s always been noisy. In hindsight I wish I’d sent it straight back 8 years ago!

    phil5556
    Member

    Cheers. I’ll check out the NUCs & HP

    phil5556
    Member

    Will a more recent i3 be quicker than my old i5?

    I think mine is 2nd generation.

    Premier Icon PePPeR
    Subscriber

    Microscoft surface pro i5

    No noise I love it…

    fossy
    Member

    2nd gen is old… i5’s went 4 core about 5/6 gen, so that’s the ones to get, although software still doesn’t max the cores…

    phil5556
    Member

    Microscoft surface pro i5

    No noise I love it…

    That’s a laptop / tablet though, I just want a desktop.

    Will a more recent i3 be quicker than my old i5?

    I think mine is 2nd generation.

    Yes, potentially.

    My newer i5 is a bit faster than the older i7 in my other laptop. If you know the exact model there are loads of websites out there that will tell you the specs and speed test results as a comparison.

    baboonz
    Member

    If it’s just the noise you could swap the stock fans for some noctua fans which are incredibly quiet.

    phil5556
    Member

    @baboonz even on a laptop?

    phil5556
    Member

    Yes, potentially.

    My newer i5 is a bit faster than the older i7 in my other laptop. If you know the exact model there are loads of websites out there that will tell you the specs and speed test results as a comparison.

    Cheers. I do, it’s an i5-2410M. I guess I’ll do a comparison between it and anything I look at buying.

    tinribz
    Member

    First off avoid laptop cpus, a laptop i7 is slower than a desktop i3.

    Also with 6th gen i3s onwards you’d be lucky to get 15 – 20% more performance for 50% more cash. Although they’ve diluted the market with lots of new models lately to make it confusing.

    https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_lookup.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i3-8100T+%40+3.10GHz&id=3304

    For silent look at fanless mini itx, but you wil still pay a bit of a premium for small size and quietness with an i3.

    https://www.atlastsolutions.com/fanless-s-series-quad-core-i3-8100t-mini-pc-8gb-250gb-860-evo-ssd-asus-h310t/

    We have an Acer Revo RL85, does all you’re asking. Silent, neat, not a beige or black box and no garish lights. It’s about 5 years old now though. Remote control for using as a media box next to a telly, i3, ssd, 8GB ram, 1TB harddrive which only spins up when transferring big lumps of data. Still plenty of Acer Revo models out there, but they’ve gone back to brick shape and beige. Still, with a bracket on the Vesa mounts on the back of your monitor, you might never see it day to day.

    baboonz
    Member

    @phil5556 I had somehow missed the laptop bit, in that case I don’t really know tbh.

    Some laptops come from stock with very poor thermal management. In addition the paste tends to degrade and dust will accumulate around the fans which wont help the situation.

    Premier Icon FuzzyWuzzy
    Subscriber

    Have you ever updated the BIOS on the laptop? I know Dell have released laptops with issues relating to fans being overly ‘aggressive’ (spinning much faster than needed for the temperature) and subsequent BIOS updates have fixed this.

    phil5556
    Member

    Cheers all, still deciding what to go for. I keep getting drawn to try a Mac but keep reminding myself I probably don’t use it enough to justify it.

    @FuzzyWuzzy yes the BIOS is on the latest version, it’s been updated a couple of times and I don’t thing the fan got any quieter with updates unfortunately.

    Big fans are quieter – 120mm/140mm are much quieter than 92mm and laptop sized fans. A decent PSU goes a long way to building a quieter PC as well, not only is the fan usually quieter but efficiency gains mean that the system produces less heat and thus can run the fans at a slightly lower rpm. I went extreme with my build and got the most efficient platinum rated atx PSU on the market and threw it in a tiny but full size atx chassis with glass sides and added watercooling to the PSU. Despite being small and having no sound insulation, it’s still quieter and cooler than my older sound insulated build. Big fans, power efficient parts.

    You want a small form factor PC – with a 120mm exhaust fan and a 120mm cpu fan at a minimum. Some builds come with some sound isolation as well.

    phil5556
    Member

    So I finally got around to ordering something. I’ve got a second hand Dell Inspiron 3470 on the way. While I don’t expect it to fulfil silent/quiet criteria it should be quieter and quicker then the current laptop.

    It’s got 8gb RAM in it, i3-8100 and an M2 SSD.

    I’ll see how it is but at just over £200 I’ve got some spare to change the fan for something big as per @ryanwomble suggestion of 120mm+ if necessary.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Most PCs don’t make a noise when doing light surfing or word processing and whatnot. Usually it’s a rogue process going nuts using loads of CPU power. You can find out if that’s the case using the task manager.

    fossy
    Member

    That should run quite quick for general stuff, The SSD’s make a difference.

    fossy
    Member

    You could drop an extra low speed fan in to increase cooling if needed

    trail_rat
    Member

    I got a recon Inspiron sff case with 8gb ram and 128gb SSD. I5 etc etc.

    Runs zwift perfectly.

    Impressed for 130 quid.

    phil5556
    Member

    Most PCs don’t make a noise when doing light surfing or word processing and whatnot. Usually it’s a rogue process going nuts using loads of CPU power. You can find out if that’s the case using the task manager.

    Unfortunately my laptop does, with very low load. Anything over 50% CPU usage and it sounds ready to take off!

    I’m hoping the new one won’t.

    mattyfez
    Member

    That’s the problem with laptops, the cooling is very restricted so any task that’s even slightly demanding will have the fans working overtime.

    Laptops have there place but they are no replacement for a regular PC unless you are remotely connecting to a more powerful machine for more demanding stuff.

    The number of people know that insist on having a laptop, despite they don’t need mobile connectivity that can’t be covered by a smart phone or tab, is truly confusing.

    phil5556
    Member

    @mattyfez when I bought it about 9 years I needed a laptop but for the last 5 years it’s been plugged in on the desk and not moved, so desktop is ideal now.

    I mostly use a Chromebook or my phone for browsing etc.

    Premier Icon oldnpastit
    Subscriber

    Raspberry Pi 4.

    retro83
    Member

    phil5556

    Unfortunately my laptop does, with very low load. Anything over 50% CPU usage and it sounds ready to take off!

    I’m hoping the new one won’t.

    Yeah it’s not uncommon. Unfortunately a lot of laptops have poorly designed/implemented cooling systems. My brand new i7 Lenovo was constantly throttling due to overheating on any moderately taxing task.

    Add in Windows tendency to have things like Windows Modules Installer Worker running high CPU loads for extended periods in the background and there you go.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    Laptops have there place but they are no replacement for a regular PC unless you are remotely connecting to a more powerful machine for more demanding stuff.

    Sure they are, it depends what “demanding” stuff you’re doing. I’m typing this right now on a laptop which will be coming up to it’s 11th birthday shortly.

    A “recommend a computer” thread pops up like weekly on STW and it’s almost always the same question, they want something that can browse the web, send emails and write the occasional letter. You’d have to try really hard to buy any modern computer that’s not up to that task, a £40 Raspberry Pi would fit the bill.

    If you want a gaming rig or something for CAD work maybe then that’s an entirely different barrel of whelks of course, but (anecdotally) the majority of people asking on here don’t.

    phil5556
    Member

    Well it’s here. So far all good, only just plugged it in and it’s installing updates. The fan runs slowly and it’s whispery quiet 🙂

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Unfortunately my laptop does, with very low load. Anything over 50% CPU usage and it sounds ready to take off!

    50% is quite a lot of work. Normal usage should see it ticking over at about 5-7%.

    This MacBook I use for work starts to get noisy if I view any pages on the Independent website. Heavy ad and video laden websites are the main cause of fan noise.

    In contrast the office refurb desktops the kids use have a constant quiet fan at all times even when they play games.

    phil5556
    Member

    50% is quite a lot of work. Normal usage should see it ticking over at about 5-7%.

    Slow processor I guess? It often was well above 50%.

    I’m just moving everything across to the new PC, checking for latest drivers etc using the Dell Support Assistant. It’s apparently running a stress test, the CPU has been running at 100% for 5 minutes and the fan is still barely audible. £230 well spent! 🙂

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