This was a difficult build, but successful after months of research and a couple part changes. The result is a totally silent powerhouse of a computer. When my previous PC began to have some issues, I began researching various parts to create my ideal PC this time around. I knew I wanted something as quiet as possible - the sound of fans and other moving parts can really annoy me. I actually purchased a Nanoxia Deep Silence case and was using it for a few months before discovering that this case, the HDPlex H5, can passively cool a CPU and GPU at the same time, up to 95 TDP each. I had several parts from my previous PC in the Nanoxia case, some of which simply wouldn't work in the H5 due to space constrains or compatibility issues. I had an Asus GTX 660, an ATX power supply, a disc drive, and a 2TB HDD that I would have to give up for total silence.
The HDPlex does have a lot of flexibility to fit different components, but not many at the same time. It can fit an ATX, microATX, or miniITX motherboard, and ATX, SFX, Flex, or external power supplies can be used with the case. Its limitations are with the compact size of the case and ability to connect the necessary heatpipes from the CPU & GPU to the sides of the case unobstructed. I would have chosen some of the parts differently if I was choosing them specifically for this case instead of the Nanoxia. The motherboard for example is not fully compatible with the front panel of the case and the location of the CPU power connection is right underneath the CPU heatpipes so the connector just barely fits. The K-series i5 is also a little overpowered for the case, reaching very high temps if artificially stressed. I think Intel’s T-series CPUs would ideal.
The build included the following steps: mounting the motherboard and copper CPU base plate, installing heatpipes from the CPU to the side of the case, installing the power supply and storage drives, installing the backplate and making cable connections, installing the sound card above the CPU, installing the faceplate and front panel connections, removing the stock heatsink from the graphics card and installing the copper GPU base plate, & mounting the graphics card and installing heatpipes from the GPU to the side of the case.
A few issues I faced were connecting the sound and graphics cards to the motherboard, installing the copper GPU base plate on the graphics card, being able to make all power connections with the cables included with the power supply, and not having a USB 2.0 front panel connection on the motherboard. Connecting PCIe cards to the motherboard is definitely the most difficult part, since the height of the case prevents you from plugging them directly into the motherboard. HDPlex offers a PCIe x16 riser to solve this issue, but it’s not without its flaws and isn’t universally compatible. When I first installed my old GTX 660, it wouldn’t boot with the riser connection. It turns out some motherboard/GPU combinations simply don’t work with a PCIe riser, so I had to go with a different card. A 1050ti is what I went with. Unfortunately the copper base plate didn’t fit with the card right away due to a row of capacitors very close to the GPU. I had to drill a few more holes in the plate to shift it several mm to clear the row of capacitors. The sound card required a PCIe x1 riser to be connected to a PCIe slot below the graphics card. The riser was not very flexible, so it was a bit difficult to bend without damaging it. Luckily it works without issue. A couple of the power cables included with the HDPlex 300W DC-ATX converter were not initially long enough to make the necessary connections, so I had to move the unit to just the right spot so that all components could be reached. The final issue was with the H5’s power button and front panel USB ports. The EVGA Z170 motherboard does not have any USB 2.0 front panel connections, so I couldn’t utilized the case’s USB 2.0 ports. The power button LED also relies on a USB 2.0 connection for power, but luckily I was able to use an S/PDIF header for the same purpose.
With all issues resolved I’m really happy with the computer. It really is fully silent, no whooshing fan sound when I turn it on, no hard drive seeking sounds, no noise even under extreme loads. The heatpipes are very impressive. The i5-6600K CPU is nearly at the case’s maximum rated cooling power of 95W TDP, and it is about 30 °C when idle. It reached a maximum of 88 °C using Prime95’s Torture Test. The GTX 1050ti GPU has a 75W TDP, safely below the case’s maximum. Its temperatures are even more impressive with an idle temp of below 30 °C, and a maximum of just 50 °C using FurMark’s stress test. I even tested the GPU with the stock fan and got a maximum temperature of 60 °C, so the passive cooling of the H5 is better than the graphics card’s stock active cooling solution! The CPU did not come with a stock cooler, but I wonder how Intel’s stock coolers would compare to the H5. Here are PerformanceTest benchmarks, from Passmark software: Overall Score: 4710 (92nd Percentile), CPU Mark: 8527 (76th Percentile), 2D Mark: 896 (88th Percentile), 3D Mark: 5914 (87th Percentile), Memory Mark: 2706 (91st Percentile), & Disk Mark: 4372 (90st Percentile).
With processors becoming more and more power-efficient, I think passive cooling will and should become a lot more common, even for more powerful computers including gaming computers. With what I’ve learned about building these passively cooled PCs, I am now offering pre-built fanless PCs for sale here.