Arctic Cooling Silentium T2

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The masters of clever, cost-efficient heasink-fans pulled out all the stops in their entry into a new market sector with this unusual, innovative case in search of optimal cooling and low noise. The features list includes the first heatsinked and suspended HDD mount ever to be integrated into a case, totally non-standard airflow management, a custom-made dual 80mm-fan Seasonic PSU built into the front bottom corner of the case, and a ducted plastic base that directs air in and out of the case. All this behind a mild, unpretentious exterior. We pulled out all the stops, too, in reviewing the Arctic Cooling Silentium T2, with new audio spectrum analysis graphs to accompany the SPL measurements, audio recordings and detailed subjective descriptions.

February 1, 2005 by Devon
Cooke
and Mike
Chin

Product
Silentium T2 Mid-Tower Case w/ custom 350W Seasonic power supply
Manufacturer
Arctic
Cooling
MRSP
US$129

One of the most interesting recent trends in the PC case market is the shift
away from the traditional ATX standard as manufacturers try to find new ways of improving
airflow and cooling. Arctic Cooling’s Silentium series represents one of the
most dramatic adaptations of the ATX case standard we have seen so far. With the
power supply mounted vertically at the front of the case and the main air intake
through the back and bottom, the Silentium T2’s airflow is nothing if not innovative.
Also of interest to SPCR readers is the first known implementation of hard drive
suspension in a commercially available case.

Of course, just because airflow layout has changed doesn’t necessarily mean
it’s better for cooling or silencing. Furthermore, the Silentium boasts no less
than four 80mm fans: Two exhaust fans and two in the power supply. Much
of the acoustic signature of this case will depend on these fans.
There is reason to be optimistic because of how Arctic Cooling fans have
performed in the past and because they are rated for a maximum of 1900 RPM.
However, the unusual features of this case make it difficult to predict; the true test will
be how it performs under testing with a real system.


Arctic Cooling advertises the horizontal orientation of the box as being beneficial
for shipping prebuilt systems.


No air intakes are visible even when the front door is open.


No intakes here either… unless you look down.


Those two 80mm fans are exhausts, but the rest of the grilled vents on the back
are for intake.


Also included are rails for screwless installation of drives, zap straps
for cable management, risers and screws for motherboard installation, and four
replacement rubber bands for the suspension system.

SPECIFICATIONS: Arctic Cooling Silentium T2
Motherboard
Full ATX, Micro ATX
Dimensions
18 cm (W) x
43.5 cm (H) x 46 cm (D)
Weight
11.5 kg, 13.8
kg with PSU
Drive Bays
2 x 5.25″ (open)
2 x 3.5″ (open)
1 x 3.5″ (internal)
1 x 3.5″ (damped HDD cover)
Fans
4 x ARCTIC Fan
3, 1000-1900 RPM
Bearings
ARCTIC Ceramic,
MTBF @ 70°C: 163,000 h
Steel Quality
0.8mm SECC
Warranty
2 years
FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS: Arctic Cooling Silentium T2
FEATURE & BRIEFCOMMENT
Thermodynamics: Non-ATX airflow layout
More on this in a moment.
Noise Reduction: No front openings
Eliminates
a direct noise path. Should prove helpful.
I/O Front Connectors: Headphones, Microphone, 2 x
USB 2.0
Kind of skimpy.
Firewire is optional.
HDD Muffler: Built-in hard drive suspension
If it works
as advertised, this will be a very strong selling point.
Power Supply: Seasonic SS-350ATC
Active PFC
(99%), and advertised efficiency of 75-80%. These numbers are in line with
previous reviews of Seasonic PSUs.
Torsionproof Chassis
Will not
twist during shipping. Not much of an issue for end-users.
Screwless Design
PCI and drive
installation are screwless. Side panel uses thumb screws, and motherboard
installation still requires screws.
Long Service Life: Ceramic bearing fans
Fans are
rated for 137,000 hours @ 40°C. That’s 15 years continuous use.
Packaging: Horizontal shipping position and extra
foam included in the box
Again, less
of an issue for end-users who can return damaged goods.

The T2 just barely qualifies as a mid-tower case. Its interior
dimensions give the Sonata a run for the money as one of the smallest
cases that can fit a full ATX motherboard. Its depth is such that Arctic Cooling warns
on its web site
that the case is incompatible with certain ASUS motherboards
whose floppy connector hangs off the side of the board. Also, like the Sonata,
only the left panel of the case is removable; there is no access to the area
behind the motherboard.

The exterior is a smooth, silvery, sedate finish that should blend
in well whatever its surroundings. It’s nothing flashy, but it’s pleasant to
look at and the exterior buttons and ports are easily accessible.

DESIGN AND LAYOUT

Let’s start with a macro view of the case.


PSU in front bottom, two 80mm exhaust fans where the PSU normally goes.


The power supply is mounted vertically, with two 80mm fans blowing down
on it to keep it cool.
More on the HDD Muffler mounted direct behind the PSU.


The fans on the PSU blow opposite to the natural direction of convection: Straight down. This is not a very efficient arrangement because
it means that the fans are fighting rising heat.

NOTE: The PSU is substantially wider than the ATX standard (as wide as the case), and the distance between the fans and exhaust is shorter. This had to be done to accommodate the dual 80mm fans. It allows for a very open airflow path through the PSU especially with the bottom grill for the PSU exhaust being so unrestricted.


The normal power supply location has two 80mm exhaust
fans.
These fans are connected directly via a dedicated lead that goes into the PSU. The voltage appears to be thermally regulated.

The airflow in the Silentium T2 is
explained by this diagram from the Silentium product page.


Air is drawn in from the rear of the case and exhausted at the
top.
A secondary air path runs through the power supply out the bottom front of the
case.

A quick look at the airflow diagram makes sense of what Arctic
Cooling is trying to do with this case. In a conventional ATX case, the components
that need the most cooling, the CPU and the video card, are not cooled efficiently
because the air that is drawn in via front mounted intake fans is warmed
by other components in the air path. In the Silentium,
the air intakes are located directly beside the CPU and the video card, meaning
that the air that cools them is drawn directly from outside the case before
other components have a chance to warm it up.

MORE ABOUT AIRFLOW

Let’s take a closer look at the venting, including the base. The photo below shows the big vents next to the I/O pane, the smaller vents next to the PCI slots, and also the vents on the bottom. These are all the intake vents.


Intake vents are located on the bottom and the rear panel.


This is the bottom of the case. The two grills on the left are intakes,
while the grill on the right is the exhaust for the PSU.
The two black knobs in the middle serve as feet to prevent the case from sliding
around in the base.


The case sits in a black base that raises the case about half an inch
to make the bottom open to the air.
It also isolates the intake air at the rear of the case from the exhaust at
the front. Damage sustained during testing.

The air-channelled plastic base raises the case about half an inch
above the ground. There are two separated airflow routes: Intake at the back and
exhaust for the PSU at the front. None of the intake vents
are filtered, so keeping a system clean in this case will prove a challenge especially in a carpeted room. The next photos show case is cradled in the plastic base, which really is an integral part of the entire design.


Note the plastic intake “fins” or guides on the base.
Also, the AC plug is positioned at the bottom corner of the back panel.


Here are exhaust vents for the PSU at the front of the case.

MORE CASE DETAILS

The PCI cards utilize a tool-free retention bracket that works quite well.


PCI cards are mounted without screws with a hinged retention
bracket.

Here is the final innovation of the Silentium case: The HDD Muffler, an elastically suspended aluminum box into which the main hard drive can be placed for both quieting and cooling purposes.


Small rubber O-rings in the corners provide just enough flexibility to float the aluminum box when a hard drive is inserted.


The plastic mounting frame of the HDD Muffler” actually bolts on to the casing of the PSU.
Note the black tab in the bottom right of this photo; it’s one of three tabs that need to be disengaged to remove the bezel.

With the unusual airflow management in the case, it comes as no surprise that the front bezel is completely sealed. There is room behind the plastic bezel to install some noise or vibration damping for those who are so inclined.


The bezel is completely solid; the case is designed not to need airflow
from the front.
This should be good for noise levels, as it prevents direct sound
paths.

DESIGN CONSEQUENCES

The unusual layout of the Silentium has a number of consequences:

Relocating the PSU to the front of the case means that all power
cables now originate from the bottom front corner of the case. This is probably
a slight improvement over the standard ATX layout, as it keeps the cables out
of the intended air paths. The cables are routed parallel with the back edge
of the motherboard which keeps them close to both the drives and the motherboard
itself. However, the cables from the front bezel are unavoidably routed directly
through the fresh air path of the power supply, so the usual cable clutter around
the air intake of the power supply is not avoided.

The HDD Muffler is located parallel to the power supply. This is quite an efficient
use of space, but, because it is not located near any other drive bays, it means
that the IDE cable required for the suspended drive cannot be attached to any
other devices. Of course, using a second, unsuspended, hard drive in a case
like this would defeat the purpose of suspending the first drive. In practical
terms, this means that the case is limited to only a single hard drive if it
is to be used for quiet computing.

The rest of the drives may be mounted without tools,
Accessing all of the drive bays (including the secondary internal bay) requires
removing the front bezel, which makes installing optical drives a little more
involved than usual. Luckily, the bezel is easily removable by lifting up three
clips along the side of the bezel.

The base could have been better implemented. Seating the case
on its base requires a certain amount of finesse, and when they finally fit
together the case falls into place with a sudden drop that may not be good for
the delicate components inside. Furthermore, the vents have sharp fins that
make moving the case a bit painful if you put your hands in the wrong place.
The base is made out of brittle, low-grade plastic that breaks easily; we broke
two of the fins early on during testing by putting the case down at the wrong
angle.

This case should never be used on a carpeted floor. Not only would dust collect rapidly, but both the bottom intake and the PSU exhaust vents could be blocked, especially with longer fiber carpets. Overheating would be far too easy.

It is impossible to take the side cover off without first removing the base. Removing the cover while there is a
system running inside is a delicate and potentially dangerous procedure. It’s a very awkward design compromise. Our
impression is that this case is aimed mainly at system integrators who would
sell it as part of a complete system to customers who’d rarely open the case..

SYSTEM INSTALLATION

Motherboard Installation

As mentioned, the interior dimensions of this case are very tight. Our full
ATX board had ~5mm clearance from the bottom of the case and ~1mm from the edge
of the HDD Muffler. Installation was a delicate procedure, especially with all
the cables from the PSU running along the edge of the Muffler.

On the whole the cables were quite short as is appropriate for a case of this
side. However, the cables for the front connectors were a couple
centimeters shorter than we would like. The header for the external headphone
jack on our board is located near the rear edge of our motherboard (not an uncommon
position), and the necessary cable was barely long enough. Installing a large
AGP or PCI card next to the header might have put the cable under tension or
made it too short altogether.


A tight fit, with few options for cable management.


The front audio cable was just barely long enough.

Hard Drive Installation

The HDD Muffler consists of an aluminum box with a plastic cap
that clips on. The cap is lined with a strip of rubber that presses against
the edge of the hard drive to prevent it from rattling inside the box. Our hard
drive fit snugly, and vibration was never an issue during testing.

Installation of the Muffler proved more difficult than expected.
Unfortunately, the cap is made out of the same brittle plastic as the base,
and one of the clips snapped off far too easily the first time we tried to remove it. Also,
removing the cap requires lifting two of the clips and pulling the cap away
from the box. One of the clips is hidden by the support frame and is only accessible
with a flathead screwdriver.

Although our test rig did not require it, we also installed a
hard drive in the unused internal bay using the screwless mounting system. Because
of the orientation of mounting rails, the hard drive had to be installed through
the front of the case with the bezel removed.


The HDD Muffler in use. Its proximity to the IDE header on the motherboard
meant that our standard 18″ IDE cable was about 12″ too long.


The inside face of the cap for the Muffler is lined with rubber to prevent
the drive from vibrating inside the box.
Note clip missing on top left corner; it was broken during testing.

THERMAL AND NOISE TESTING

Our test system was quite basic, and was intended to reflect a typical low-to-mid
power system. The system is the test platform used in our recent review of the
Arctic
Cooling Super Silent 4 Ultra TC
with the exception of the PSU and HDD damping
system. (Only the integrated VGA was used.) Temperature measurements should thus be comparable between the two
reviews, and some judgment of how the Silentium compares to an open test
bench can be made. Noise levels between the two reviews are not comparable,
however, as this review is intended to show how effective the Silentium is at
damping noise, while the SS4UTC review was designed to test the noise
levels of a specific heatsink.

Test Bench

Testing Tools

Ambient temperature was 20°C. Total system draw was 58W at idle, 118W during
folding, and 132W during burn, measured at the AC outlet.

TEST #1: ACOUSTICS BASELINES

Our first test was done with the system at idle, placed on the carpeted floor in the quietest room available in order to establish a reference
noise level for the case itself. Ambient noise level was 16 dBA. A 40G Seagate Barracuda IV was used to test
the effectiveness of the suspension system.

Although the exhaust fans and the PSU fans appear to be identical, they do
not start off spinning at the same speed. We were unable to determine exactly
where the thermal sensors for the two sets of fans are located, but the power
supply fans appear to have a minimum voltage that is significantly higher than
that of the rear exhaust fans. The result is that the power supply fans are
consistently the main source of noise in the system.

Arctic Cooling Silentium T2 Noise Levels at Idle
All fans, HDD
23 dBA / 1m
No PSU fans, HDD
18 dBA / 1m
PSU fans, no HDD
22 dBA / 1m

At 23 dBA, the starting noise level of the Silentium appears deceptively low.
Subjectively, however, the noise is a specific pitch centered somewhere around
middle A (440 Hz) and is immediately recognizable and irritating.

To discover just how the noise is distributed between the PSU and exhaust fans,
a second measurement was taken with the PSU fans stopped by jamming them with
the reviewer’s fingers (don’t try this at home, kids). The change in noise level
that this produced was quite dramatic. Not only did the measured noise drop
to 18 dBA, but the irritating hum that was so evident in the first test completely
disappeared. Even with the side door removed, the fans were barely audible from
a distance of one meter.

To illustrate just how dramatic the difference that the power supply fans make,
we used Steinberg Wavelab 5 to produce 3-D spectrum analysis graphs of ~5 second noise segments. (Click on the images below to enlarge in a separate browser window.)


Click for larger image.

The Silentium noise profile with all four fans running. The character
of the noise is dominated by a spike around 440 Hz.


Click for larger image.

The Silentium without the power supply fans running. The 440 Hz
spike has completely disappeared, and the graph is now dominated by an intermittent
band of noise centered around 100 Hz, most likely associated with the HDD. This is not very audible.

Note: The vertical scale of
these graphs is not quite identical.

We also took this opportunity to test the effectiveness of the
hard drive suspension system. Our conclusion is that the HDD Muffler is as effective
as any method of suspension. Running the case with the hard drive unplugged
did not produce any noticeable change in noise level, and the measurements bear
this out. The 1 dBA difference between the two situations is well within the
margin of error of the measuring equipment, and subjectively the two noise levels
were too close to call. At any rate, the noise contribution of the hard drive
was made inaudible by the dominating drone of the power supply fans.

TEST #2: COOLING & NOISE AT LOAD

After establishing the baseline levels, the system was moved into
a different room for thermal testing. This room is equipped with desktops, keyboards, monitors, access to network and high speed web. Ambient noise level in this room was ~20
dBA, somewhat higher than in the previous room. Not only was the ambient noise
level higher, but the case was placed on a table. There was also a trace of audible noise from the table resonating
due to conduction of vibration from the case. These different conditions are reflected in the 4 dBA higher noise
level measured at system idle.

Silentium T2 w/AC SS4UTC HSF Temperature / Noise
CPU Conditions
CPU (°C)
open bench*
CPU (°C)
Case (°C)
HDD (°C)
SPL
(dBA / 1m)
Idle
32
33
30
29
27
Folding@Home
50
47
33
33
32
CPUBurn
54
51
35
34
34

*Test data from HSF test on unenclosed open bench

Idle: Our test system does not produce enough heat at idle to
push the case airflow capabilities. At 33°, the CPU is roughly the same
temperature as in free air. More interesting is the temperature reading
for the hard drive. This drive typically idles in free air around 38-40 °C, but, according
to the SMART sensor on the drive, the temperature is just 29 °C, easily 10 °C cooler This suggests
that the HDD Muffler is effective as a heatsink as well as a silencing tool.
It also suggests that there is a considerable amount of air being drawn across
the Muffler by the power supply fans, as illustrated by AC’s airflow diagram.

CPUBurn: Once the CPU is fully loaded, the unconventional airflow of this
case begins to make a difference. After 20 minutes of CPUBurn, the CPU temperature
was 51 °C, three degrees lower than in our open bench setup .
This means that the cool air being drawn into the case and directed around the heatsink is
doing its job. This is quite an impressive result.

The noise level at full load is less impressive. The character of the noise
does not change much ? it is still dominated by the hum of the power supply
fans, although the pitch of the noise has risen correspondingly with the increase
in fan speed. There is a trace of residual noise from the HSF underneath the
power supply fans, but not enough to affect the measurements by more than a
couple of dBA. At no point did the rear exhaust fans become a distinguishable
source of noise; they remained at a considerably slower speed than the power
supply fans throughout the test.

At full load, even our modest test system cannot be considered quiet. This
is not a fault with the case and case fans; the noise is directly traceable to the
fans in the PSU. Because the power supply is fully integrated into the case and its thermal sensors are
not easily modifiable, this is quite a serious drawback with this case.


Click on image to enlarge.

At full load, the spectrum of noise has shifted further
into the frequency range to which humans are most sensitive. The power supply fans are
now spiking around 600 Hz.

MP3 RECORDINGS

To judge the case noise for yourself, please download and listen to the MP3
files below.

MP3:
Arctic Cooling Silentium T2 at Idle, 23 dBA/1m

MP3:
Arctic Cooling Silentium T2 at Idle,PSU fans stopped, 18 dBA/1m

MP3:
Arctic Cooling Silentium T2 at Full Load after 20+ min. of CPUBurn, 34 dBA/1m

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE
These recordings were made
with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The microphone
was 3″ from the edge of the fan frame at a 45° angle, facing the intake
side of the fan to avoid direct wind noise. The ambient noise during all
recordings was 18 dBA or lower. It is best to download the sound files
to your computer before listening.
To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing this Nexus 92mm case fan @ 5V (17 dBA/1m)
recording and set the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don’t reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, all tone controls and other effects should be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system playback level to get the most
valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to
the Fans
on page four of the article
SPCR’s Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

HEATSINK SWAP

Because the airflow over the CPU area of the motherboard was so effective
at cooling our test heatsink, we decided to do a further test to see if we could
run a CPU without a direct mounted fan by relying on the case airflow to cool the heatsink. Our
heatsink of choice: An Arctic Cooling Freezer 4 with the stock fan removed.


Arctic Cooling Freezer 4: Four tiny screws were undone to remove the fan.


Here it is, fanless and installed. More about that piece of cardboard later…

Arctic Cooling Silentium T2 w/
Fanless Freezer 4
CPU Conditions
CPU (°C)
SS4UTC*
CPU (°C)
Case (°C)
HDD (°C)
SPL
(dBA @1m)
Idle
33
33
30
29
27
Folding@Home
47
52
33
33
31
CPUBurn
51
57
32
32
32


*Performance with first HSF: Arctic Cooling Super Silencer 5 Ultra TC

Idle: At idle, the fanless Freezer appears to cool very similarly to the Super Silent
4. The noise level did not drop appreciably despite the absence of the fan because the SS4UTC’s temp controlled fan made so little noise, especially in the context of other noise sources in the case.

Burn: The true test of a heatsink is not how it performs
under idle conditions, but how it withstands the stress of a CPU benchmark.
After 20 minutes of CPUBurn, the CPU core reached 57 °C, 6°C higher than with the fan-cooled SS4UTC, but well
within the safe thermal limit for our chip. For a heatsink to perform this well
fanlessly is quite impressive, though this is also a testament to the
airflow within this case.

Eliminating the fan of the first heatsink, the AC SS4UTC, as a noise source dropped the measured
noise level by ~2 dBA/1m at full load. Subjectively, this drop in noise is minor, mostly wind turbulence
and low frequency rumble; the main source of noise is still the hum produced
by the power supply fans.

AIRFLOW EXPERIMENTS

Because the exhaust fans are located right next to the intake vents, we speculated
whether some of the intake air might be getting exhausted immediately without
cooling the case. To find out, we installed a cardboard ledge in the space usually
occupied by the bottom of the power supply in order to route the air further
into the case before it is exhausted. We’ll call it an airflow guide (in the best marketingspeak tradition).


Does having an intake so close to the exhaust fans make sense?


To find out, we blocked airflow between the intake and the exhaust, forcing
the air to travel across the heatsink before it leaves the case.


The airflow guide installed in the case.

The airflow guide appeared to have no effect on our first heatsink (the fanned AC SS4UTC);
there was no measurable difference either in idle or under load. This means that the airflow in the case is already adequate for the heatsink
without the guide.

Because our second heatsink, the AC Freezer 4, was run fanless, we guessed
that the airflow guide might have more of an effect. At idle, we were disappointed
again; there was no measurable change in temperatures. The only time
our airflow guide made a measurable difference in temperatures was with the
fanless Freezer 4 cooling the CPU at full load. After 20 minutes of CPUBurn,
the temp was 2 °C lower with the guide than without it. Strangely,
the hard drive temperature also dropped a degree, but this is probably not a
statistically significant change.

Unless you’re rabidly obsessive about getting the absolute lowest
CPU temperature under all possible conditions, the airflow guide is probably
an unnecessary mod. Its effect was negligible under all but the
most stressful conditions. Such an airflow guide might be more useful with a much hotter CPU like a >3.2 GHz Prescott. In any case, Arctic Cooling has done a good job of engineering
the airflow paths in this case.

CONCLUSIONS

The Silentium T2 was quite an interesting product to review. Its advantages
and nuances are not immediately obvious from a cursory glance. Unfortunately,
its main disadvantage is obvious as soon as the power supply is turned
on; the power supply fans are significantly louder than the exhaust fan, despite both pairs of fans being identical models.

Case airflow is exceptional. The
main airflow path is directly from the outside to the CPU and VGA, or across the motherboard and HDD. The
CPU and VGA card are cooled by air that is at room temperature, not case
temperature. This case could probably support a much higher-powered system than
our test system, although for it to remain reasonably quiet, the system would be limited practically to just one hard drive — the suspended one.

The hard drive suspension system works as claimed, and the HDD was never a significant
source of noise. As a bonus, the HDD Muffler also cools the hard drive very
effectively. However, the plastic cap that fits over the end is hard to remove,
and breaks easily. Aside from that flimsy cap, this is a very good commercial implementation of what
many PC silencers have been doing for years.

There are some minor issues that make the case unpleasant to work with.

  • All the
    plastic in the case is brittle, meaning that it breaks easily.
  • The front panel cables could have been an inch or two longer.
  • The right
    panel is not removable, and the left panel requires the base to be removed
    before it can be opened.
  • The base / case interface is really awkward and could use rethinking.

Most of these are installation issues, that, hopefully,
only need to be dealt with infrequently.

The main difficulty that we have with this case is, of course, the noise the PSU fans
produce, especially as the load is increased. We know the PSU fans are louder because they run faster than the back case exhaust fans. There may also be some extra resonance caused by vibrations going from the fans into the PSU and chassis as well. We also know that these fans can be much quieter, judging by the identical fans that are running slower on the back panel.

We contemplated removing the PSU to either swap the fans or slow them down with extra resistance or diodes in the voltage feed to them, but decided against it. It’s something only a small portion of even the hardcore SPCR audience would undertake. The power supply is really quite integrated into the case, and not designed to be removed. So most users will be stuck with the stock fans in the PSU as they are.

Admittedly, the >20 minutes of CPUBurn’s intense CPU loading is hardly the kind of thing a normal PC user will do. It is a worst case scenario for noise. In more typical desktop usage, the system built in the case stayed close to the idle level of 27 dBA/1m, and the PSU fans rarely ramped up the way they did under CPU stress testing. In normal use, it is a pretty quiet system.

But still, with the relatively high efficiency of the Seasonic PSU and the high airflow afforded by the open design of the airflow path through the PSU, you would think those dual PSU 80mm fans could afford to be run slower than they are. We think the engineers went too far in playing it safe for cooling. If adequate cooling for hot climates and conditions was an issue, they could simple have put in a lockable user-selectable fan speed switch. One that keeps the thermal control in place but simple lowers and raises the sensitivity. A minor drop in the speed of the PSU fans could make a dramatic improvement.

Despite excellent airflow and cooling superior to running the system on an open test bench, our ultimate verdict of the Silentium T2 is that it allows for a system that is quiet, but probably still not quiet enough for those who are seeking “silence“. It is also not easily
made quieter. It may be a good option for system integrators who want to
produce inexpensive noise reduced systems. Perhaps a second generation version will prove more satisfactory for more demanding silent PC enthusiasts. We certainly applaud Arctic Cooling for the creativity and innovation shown in this adaptation of the ATX standard; more efforts like this will ensure an extended life for ATX.

PRO
Excellent airflow / cooling
Pretty quiet in normal use
Good one package deal
Nice compact size
Sturdy steel chassis
Decent styling
Very effective HDD Muffler
Very good quality PSU
CON
PSU fans get loud under load
Cheap plastic
No filters!
HDD installation a bit clumsy
Poor base / chassis integration
Short front panel cables

Many thanks to Arctic
Cooling
for the Silentium
T2
sample.

POSTSCRIPT Feb 2, 2005: MORE THOUGHTS, SOME REVISIONS

It’s normal for writers to go over their work after it has been published. Devon and I did just that, and we discussed the issue of how much the placement of the Silentium T2 on the somewhat resonant table top affected our perception of its noise. This required another setup and another round of listening along with a few more SPL measurements.

Placed on the floor, the overall noise IS reduced by about 3 dBA at full load. This brings the SPL down to about 29 dBA/1m at full load with the fanless Freezer 4 heatsink — but it does not change the basic character of the sound, the broad humming in the mid-band that annoyed both of us. However, in normal use and at idle, the overall level dropped down to about 24~25 dBA/1m.

The reduced volume of noise in normal use persuaded us to soften our overall verdict of this case; web publishing gives us this privilege:

The Silentium T2 is a good case for someone seeking a simple base for a quiet computer. In this regard, it can be compared to the similarly priced but far more conventional Antec Sonata case, which has been wildy successful by offering a noise-reduced package that allows for quieter than typical systems. In fact, for airflow management, component cooling, HDD silencing and the quality of the PSU supplied, the Artic Cooling Silentium clearly beats the Sonata. That comparison helps put this product into better perspective: There are many PC users who would find the system we assembled in this case perfectly quiet. Given the modest price, the cooling and acoustic performance offered is quite good, and the range of innovations offered is impressive.

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