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Originally Posted by Ma15
The choice of cooling will ultimately come down to what motherboard you end up choosing. If you go with the AsRock z77, then you'll need to get a new cooler.
If you get a H50, then you'll need to mod the backplate. See this thread
. Also, the hydro series (and other AIO) are loud. More so if you're overclocking.
I think the above image does sum up the performance/noise ratio between air cooling and AIO's.
And if you end up going with the Asus itx board, it will cost more than the AsRock alternative but means you can keep your ultra 120.
Here are 3 benchmarks between H70/H50 vs the Ultra 120:
You can see that the Ultra 120 keeps up with the AIO's quite nicely.
If you had to choose between the two z77 itx boards, then it comes down to whether you want better cooling (while being louder) with an AIO or a better motherboard (Yes, I would say that the Asus itx board is better) with an overall quieter cooler that'll have no problem cooling your CPU.
Really. That's only if you're using the stock fans. In a HTPC, I think i would use some yate loons or some scythe GTs to vastly reduce the noise. It's pretty widely known that the stock fans aren't the quietest.
Also, another thing to consider is the video card. Frankly, some cards are louder than others. I have seen quite a few reference Radeon cards in HTPCs here in this site. Reference radeon cards, such as the 6900 series, are WAY louder than any hydro series cooler. Anyone using a video card with loud fan(s) on it will have nothing to worry about from the hydro coolers, even their stock fans are not as loud as the video card fans are when they start getting to the upper end of their speed range. Of course, there are other cards that don't make so much noise, but my point is that noise is all relative.
If you want a silent HTPC, then high end video cards and any cooler with a noisy fan would be something you would avoid. I have two Scythe 110 CFM 120mm PWM fans on my H100 right now, they they don't get anywhere near (not even close) as loud as my video cards get. Also, if people would use PWM and use the CPU_Fan Header, the fans will spin down and be very quiet if the CPU is not under extreme load, just like video card fans. In my spare computer I have a H50 with push/pull and in all the time I've used it I've never even noticed the fan noise. My sig rig is way louder under full load, and that's mostly because of the video card fans. Any noise coming from a Hydro series cooler (or other closed loop water cooler) can usually be mitigated.
Also, I would recommend against the H50 in a tiny build anyway just because the pump housing is so tall. My first choice would be an H60, and if noise was a major issue, the above mentioned Yate Loons or Scythe GTs. Besides, I don't think anyone building a custom HTPC, and who is concerned with noise, is going to stick with stock fans on a closed loop water cooler. However, I would like to point out that I am using the stock H50 PWM fan along with a similar RPM Scythe PWM fan, using a PWM splitter, on that H50 spare computer and it's really almost noise free because 90% of the time the CPU is not being stressed enough to rev up the fans all the way. Most of the time they are operating below 1000 RPM (between 600 RPM and 1000 RPM).
Again, the main factor that comes into play here is simple space. If you have the room for an air cooler, go for it. They are quite a bit less expensive than water coolers and still do a good job. If the area around your CPU is tight for space, but you could fit a rad against a case fan mount, then go for it. Either solution will work fine.