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Are you in search of the noise free PC? Graham has taken a good look at what is currently on offer in the silent world of quiet systems.
His complete guide with some new sections is ready to read here at AOA.
Quiet CPU Selection
For a quiet system your best friend is a cool CPU, which is a compromise between heat and performance.
The best option for a quiet system with no regard for performance is the VIA EPIA systems. These are based around the ITX form factor motherboards and the CPU speeds run from 533mhz to 1.2ghz. This is slow by today's standards and with poor floating point units these aren't ideal for a performance based system, but this isn't their target market.
For a simple web-browsing PC or perhaps a web/file server or router this is plenty of power, and the faster chips along with their onboard MPEG2 acceleration also have enough grunt to become a HTPC(Home Theatre PC).
They include a single PCI slot which will happily take either a TV tuner, soundcard or other add-on card.
VIA Mini-ITX - An Ultra Compact Form Factor
The next option gives a nice balance between performance and power - the Athlon XP Mobile. Many of you are already using these because of their overclocking benefits but they also do great for running a quiet system. These only use 45W or 35W in the case of the low power version which by it's self is very cool. But also offer under clocking/volting options to get them even cooler. They offer the perfect balance of performance and heat, though you will need a board that supports them.
The Mobile AMD Athlon™ XP-M Processor Product Brief
AthlonXP Underclocking for a Low-Power Fix at Tom's
The final option is one for max performance but with consideration for heat. The Athlon 64. Now these cpu's are by no means quiet. 89W could probably cook an egg. But these cpu's are very heat resistant. 70C is not a big problem if you aren't looking for extreme overclocking. With this in mind A quiet cooler with a slow speed fan is the best option, even still you probably still won't see this temperature. The other good aspect of this processor is cool&quiet. In theory this should reduce the clock speed and vcore in accordance to the cpu's load. Currently though it doesn't appear to be very effective. But the important thing is, the multiplier is unlocked downwards (and upwards on a FX chip) and the voltage is also adjustable downwards. You can underclock and undervolt an Athlon 64 to 800mhz at 0.8V (maybe higher voltage dependant on the chip) at this speed you can still watch a DVD or DivX, still browse the internet and listen to music and almost anything else you would use a computer for and the cpu probably wouldn't even need it's fan on, not at a high speed anyway.
This program allows you to change the the FSB, Multiplier and Vcore of Athlon 64 chips. It's a useful way of running at slow speeds when power is not needed, and quickly bringing the speed back up when it is.
AMD Athlon™ 64 Processor
Athlon 64 for Quiet Power
Cool 'n' Quiet
One other CPU worth a mention is the Intel Pentium-M. It's a hybrid P3/P4 chip taking the best elements of both architectures. It's primary use is in laptops but it's specifications scream for it to be used in a quiet system. It has an incredibly low power rating (around 20W) it performs roughly in line with P4's at twice the clock speed and has Speedstep technology which is similar to Cool&Quiet. The problem is though the lack of available boards for it, and also the price, both boards and chips are very expensive.
The Intel® Pentium® M Processor