Computer users are becoming increasingly concerned by PC noise, and manufacturers are adjusting their product mix to meet the new demand.
While there has always been a niche market for low-noise products, mainstream manufacturers are emphasising quiet components more strongly than ever at this year's Computex trade show in Taipei.
The most obvious change is the absence of fans from many desktop PC mainboards, and some graphics cards, on display at Computex.
During the past few years it has become common to see a fan and heatsink on top of the PC mainboard's 'northbridge'. The northbridge is part of the chipset which handles communication between the CPU and the rest of the motherboard.
"The problem was that the northbridge is small, so the fans are small, and small fans have to turn faster and make a lot more noise," explained Andreas Bunen, European sales manager at Japanese cooling product vendor Scythe.
Scythe occupies a relatively neutral position in the war on PC noise. The company makes fans and heatsinks suitable for silent-PC enthusiasts, as well as for 'overclockers' who want maximum airflow and often don't care about noise.
"People have definitely started to be more concerned about noise, especially in Europe," said Bunen. "The increasing use of PCs for home theatres is one of the reasons behind this."
Taiwan-based motherboard maker Asustek began emphasising low noise as a motherboard selling point last year. Others have jumped on the bandwagon more recently.
As well as consumer demand, sources at Computex suggest that a shift in the main chip designers' strategies towards lower power, and therefore lower heat, components is also driving the change.
"It has been a big relief for everyone that Intel is better controlling the CPU thermal [output] because those big heatsinks cause a lot of design issues," said a motherboard company representative who asked not to be named.
"I would hope that the chipsets could be improved in the future, but the new [manufacturing] process technology will help there."
More graphics cards are going fanless, too. Last year, there were only a handful of fanless high performance 3D graphics cards. This year, there are too many to count, with first tier manufacturers like Asustek, MSI and Gigabyte offering a wide variety.
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