My post-purchase tinkering with Akitio Node Pro to make it more quiet
I've received my Node Pro a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to share some stuff I did to it to make it more quiet. Although, the stock fans are quite loud, I'm not writing this to complain and instead want to share some of my passion and deliver some entertainment while also sharing some stuff that may help others do the same as some of the mods here are very cheap.
Owning Razer Core V1 before I knew to research fan noise prior to purchase, so when my Node Pro started to take off once plugged in, I was not at all surprised to discover that the bottom exhaust fan is configured to run at 100% all the time. I quickly got myself a Noctua NF-B9 redux and also a no-name 80x80x15mm fan to try to replace one in the PSU once it inevitably starts being even more obnoxiously loud, or at least so I've heard.
Installing the exhaust fan was a blast, I was already prepared for it thanks to a very helpful guide here on the forum. With Noctua fan, the enclosure became much quieter when idle. I still didn't like how it was blasting cold air over my table, but at least I could actually use it for work. Once I booted a game, though, I quickly discovered how loud and high-pitched the PSU fan gets. I couldn't hear half of what's happened in the game I was playing.
Deeming this a no-go, I quickly voided my warranty by taking the PSU apart and installing a different fan that I got. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, the best 80x80x15mm fan I could get was still bad, adding bearing-related clicky/scratchy noise to the only slightly quieter fan noise. At the time, I gathered that I'll have to get another PSU, and had gotten myself a Corsair SF600.
Just changing a power supply in the Node Pro is enough to void your warranty, or at least Akitio says so, and I can understand their thinking, so beware. Where I live, I won't be able to get any warranty anyway without paying $90 for shipping each way, so this didn't deter me. Thanks to a lovely PSU replacement guide from this forum, I knew I needed a third PCIe power cable and a paperclip adapter, so it was finally time to use a handy connector disassembly tool that I've ordered one and a half years ago. I've salvaged some PSU connectors from a modular Chieftec PSU I had lying around and made a neat set of cables. After checking all of the voltages with multimeter, then assembling the guts of the Node Pro outside the enclosure, I've put it all back together, aaand...
And then I discovered that once the GPU draws 250 watts of power, the SF600 spins its fan up, and although the noise profile is more pleasant, it was still very loud. Not at all the quietness I expected from the Corsair PSU which is not supposed to even start up the fan before a certain load. Now that got me scared a bit that I won't be able to do much with the noise, but then I also started paying attention. Don't know how the review determined that Node Pro has "substantial" rubber feet, but it doesn't have any photos of them, so they may have well been substantial on the review unit. Mine has only had a 6 millimeter (0.23 inch) gap between a PSU intake and the table. I tried to test my hypothesis by elevating the enclosure above the table using some books, but then I ran into another issue - once elevated, the PSU would primarily intake the really hot air from the bottom exhaust fan as I've got the axial cooler on my GPU, not the blower-style one. This would only heat the PSU up, not help it cool itself.
I knew I was on the right track, though, and the next morning I finally figured where the heck do I get a more permanent set of bigger feet for the Node Pro as well as how to separate the PSU intake from bottom exhaust fan. I've had some self-adhesive cable clips lying around, which filled the role of feet quite nicely. The enclosure is only a teeny-tiny bit more wobbly, but the airflow benefit is substantial. Now the gap between PSU and table is 15mm (0.6in). With that, I've found a folder made of rigid plastic and cut an appropriately sized rectangle to glue it with a double-sided tape to the slanted part of the Node Pro's bottom in such a way that when the enclosure is on the table, the attached rectangle touches the surface and bends slightly forming a seal.
With all that done, I've booted the game, and woah! The PSU never gets louder than the Noctua fan I installed. I can feel that the air coming out of the PSU is colder than the bottom exhaust from GPU, so my airflow separation technique worked. And it doesn't look too bad at all!
Here's an album with some of the photos of my modifications: https://imgur.com/a/uU6ZjMz
Thinking back on what I did now that I know what worked, I would have tried airflow separation and taller feet before changing the PSU. You see, the stock PSU only really ramps up its fan once it gets hot. When I had the stock PSU disassembled on the table (not at all recommend you do that without understanding how capacitor charge or mains voltage could harm you significantly btw), it only slightly spun up the fan that I pointed at it even though the GPU was at full load, so given enough airflow, it could have adequate noise levels.
I'm still not satisfied with how the exhaust fan is always running full-throttle, so I'm going to try some temperature-based fan controllers to try to make it so that it spins up once the GPU has something to exhaust. And if you've got a blower-style GPU cooler, you may not need it at all! With the PSU and GPU fans already being off while not in-game, I fear that with no fans spinning, I might get quite irritated by the coil-whine, though But it's going to be very fun getting there.
I also miss my RGB lighting from Razer Core. I know, I've always felt it was unnecessary and gamer-y, but now that I don't have it, I kind of miss it. So I'm thinking of a way to add the RGB lighting as well. Hopefully, I'll be able to embed some images here by then =)
Thank you for sharing your mods!!
I'll definitely try your rubber feet replacement and airflow separation skill.
Fortunately, I could successfully replace the PSU fan with Cooler master 80 x 15mm fan and 3 to 2 pin adapter.
I also replaced the exhaust fan with Noctua NF-A9 FLX fan.
The new fans are way quiter than the stock fans, so I am very satisfied now. I don't use the Node pro at the office, so my standard for the fan noise must be lower than you.
Thanks for this post! I also went ahead and replaced my case fan and PSU after seeing this, and it's really working out well.
Now all I can hear is the case fan - which means that all I want to do is silence the case fan!
Did you end up doing the PWM mods for your case? If so, how difficult do you think it would be (for someone with, ah, let's say much less experience than you clearly have) to figure out? I've only really ever done like-for-like components swaps and the like, I'm not as much of a tinkerer as I'd like to be; but I would really love to have a silent case when I'm not gaming.
Thanks again for your helpful post!
@kstl, glad it was helpful to you!
I did the PWM (and RGB) mod and it turned out super-awesome. Now the Node Pro is pretty much silent when not in-game.
For the PWM mod there's an easy-mode wiring, for which you wouldn't even need a soldering iron, just cutting the extender from the Noctua fan package (if it's not a Redux version) would suffice. You can see the wiring in this image. The disadvantage of this wiring is that the fan connector in the Node outputs less than 12 volts, and thus the fan has a lower top speed than what is rated, which leads to the GPU actually getting hotter while at full load. But the top speed is mostly the same as when the fan is plugged directly into the Node's fan connector.
Because I did an RGB mod as well, I've already had a relay module ready, and so I rewired the PWM controller to be attached to the PSU 12V rail with the relay turning the controller on when the Node's fan connector starts supplying power. You can see an approximate wiring on this photo, but the finished solution would have the PWM controller instead of the black fan, and no gray fan at all (and no connector needed there).
this is the fan I bought: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0014I9K30/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1, so it is a redux model. what does that change?
I like the idea of routing the fan power to the PSU, so it can run at top speed when it needs to. Is this possible without a soldering iron? I don't own (nor have I ever used) one. Looking over your imgur album (great work btw!), it looks like it might be slightly above my skill level, even without the RGB mod which I don't have an interest in.
@kstl, I've thought this through and you could do it without soldering:
Get a male SATA power adapter to something else, like to a fan connector or molex power. Just make sure it has enough length to go from the PSU to where you're going to mount the PWM controller. Then you cut whatever was on the other side of the adapter off, strip the cables for the ground and 12V (look up the connector pinout to figure out which those are). Insert the ground wire into the screw terminal of the PWM controller, the 12V wire into a screw terminal on the switching side of the relay module (COM on the linked relay, but do figure out how the relay module works just to be safe).
Also, get a very long 3-pin fan extension cable. Cut the side with the connector that fits the Node's fan connector with enough slack to reach where you'll mount the relay module. Strip both 12v and ground wires and put them into the ground and 12v power screw terminals of the relay module. Also cut a small single wire from the rest the fan extension and strip both its ends, insert one end into a 12v power screw terminal of the relay module and the second end into the 12v trigger screw terminal of the relay module (should be right next to it). This way, when you plug this fan connector into the Node's fan connector, the relay will immediately close once the Node is powered up.
Now get another single wire from what's left of the fan extender, long enough to go from the relay to PWM controller. Wire it from the relay's normally open screw terminal to the PWM's 12v power controller.
That's it, now you use the SATA power cable that came with the PSU, plug the male SATA end into it. Plug the fan connector into Node's fan connector, and plug the fan into the PWM controller and that's it
Heres a small diagram that I drew up.
Be careful to get the relay where both power and drive volages go to 12 volts. The relay is pretty cheap and can be found on Amazon easily.
@kstl, sorry that I haven't looked at the fan before. This fan is a 3-pin fan, and thus not a PWM fan. PWM controller wouldn't be able to control this fan, so you should either get a controller that'll control the fan with voltage and not PWM signal, or get a PWM fan (which has a 4-pin connector).
Edit: I'd recommed going with the PWM fan because voltage-based speed control is less precise and the fans typically start up at quite a high voltage. In fact I also first got a 3-pin redux fan and later moved to a 4-pin non-redux one so that it has higher top speed.
I only vaguely remember it from my research back then, but I think the voltage-based controllers were also more expensive and/or harder to get.