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Cooler Master Silencio 450: Silence on a Budget?

The Cooler Master Silencio 450 is essentially a cut-down version of the successful Silencio 550, targeted at those seeking quiet operation on a shoestring budget.

January 30, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Cooler Master Silencio 450
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$70

Last year, Cooler Master surprised us with the Silencio 550, one of the rare sub-US$100 tower cases that actually lived up to its quiet billing. It had a pleasant appearance, quiet fans, acoustic dampening foam, a removable hard drive cage, and other extras like a SATA hard drive docking bay, USB 3.0, and an SD memory card reader thrown in. Like most noise-conscious cases, it was airflow-starved, resulting in a rather toasty environment for higher-end systems, but only a select few models like the Antec Solo II are built and designed well enough to overcome such obstacles. The Silencio 450 is a follow-up to the 550, but not an update; actually it is a less costly model for those seeking quiet operation on a shoestring budget.


The box.

Like the 550, the Silencio 450 boasts sound damping foam, quiet fans, USB 3.0, and an SD card reader, but also adds a unique feature: the ability to flip the location of the door hinge. Doors typically flip open right to left, making it a pain for users who keep their cases on their right; the 450 gives you to the option to have it swing out from either side.


The Silencio 450.

The 450 is also a less attractive case, ditching the glossy full-length door for a half height door with a matte finish and front ports exposed at the center, pushed in compared to the surrounding surface. It appears that airflow hasn’t improved, as the vents along the sides of the front bezel still run only halfway up. It’s a smaller chassis as well, with a waistline 0.7 inches slimmer than the 550, and at 13.7 lb is almost 7 lb lighter than its predecessor. This immense savings in construction material indicates a much weaker build quality.


Included with the case were two expansion slot covers, dampening pads for the power supply, a PC speaker, strap-ties and screws segregated by thread in separate bags. A nut-driver was thrown in with the brass standoffs because the motherboard mounting holes were not fully-threaded.

 

Specifications: Cooler Master Silencio 450
(from the
product web page
)
Available Color Full Black
Material Steel body, plastic front bezel
Dimension (W / H / D) 194 x 451.45 x 494.75 mm (7.63 x 17.77 x 19.47 inch)
Weight 6.2kg / 13.66 lb
M/B Type Micro-ATX, ATX
5.25″ Drive Bay 3 exposed
3.5″ Drive Bay 1 exposed, 5 hidden
I/O Panel USB 3.0 x 1, USB 2.0 x 1, Mic x1, Audio x 1, SD card reader x 1
Expansion Slots 7
Cooling System Front: 120mm fan x 1, 800 RPM
(can support 140mm fan x 1)

Rear: 120mm fan x 1, 800 RPM
(can support 80/90mm fan x 1)

Power Supply Standard ATX PS2 (optional)
2.5″/3.5″- SATA HDD Drive Bay 1 hidden
Maximum Compatibility CPU cooler height: 6.16″ / 156.5mm
VGA card length: 11.06″ / 281mm
16.61″ / 422mm (Without HDD cage)

EXTERIOR

The Cooler Master Silencio 450 is constructed primarily of steel with a plastic front bezel. It measures 19.4 x 45.1 x 49.5 cm or 7.6 x 17.8 x 19.5 inches (W x H x D) for a total case volume of 43.3 and weighs in at 6.2 kg or 13.7 lb.


Besides being reversible, the door feels surprisingly solid for a budget case. It closes solidly with a magnetic seal and is padded with foam on the interior. Underneath are mic, headphone, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, and an SD card slot. Intake vents are situated on the bottom half of the front bezel running down both sides.


There’s nothing remarkable at the rear of the case, though we noticed the side panel handles and screw holes don’t line up with one another. The panels aren’t interchangeable.


The Silencio 550’s feet are shallow and wide, while the 450’s are tall and narrow, making it easier to slide the case across a solid surface.


A filter is provided for the power supply fan, but it’s very restrictive and cheaply made. It’s just a piece of mesh held on with malleable steel tabs that. Also note four rubbery bits sticking out around the filter — it looks like they used rubber fan isolators to dampen the power supply inside.


The 450’s side panels are 0.7 mm thick with 2~3 mm (when compressed) of sound dampening foam on the interior. They sheets are flat while on the 550, they have a wavy surface.

INTERIOR

Like the side panels, the interior of the 450 is noticeably weaker compared to its predecessor. The hard drive cages are the only portions of the chassis that feel really solid. This is not a surprise given that the 550 is about 7 lb heavier. We also found the side panels too clangy due to their thinness and lack of structural support.


The Silencio 450’s features a bottom mounted power supply, a removable hard drive cage, holes cut on the motherboard tray for CPU heatsink backplates and routing thick cables. Cooling is provided by a pair of 120 mm fans, one at the rear and one at the front blowing over the hard drive bays. Tool-less mounting is offered on one 5.25″ bay and two 3.5″ bays.


Cooler Master also cut corners by not including proper expansion slot covers (only two are provided in the accessory bag). The two fans included are plain black 3-pin models with 4-pin molex adapters included.


Four very thin pads lift the power supply up over the vent on the case floor. Next to it on the case floor are mounting holes for another drive, either 2.5″ or 3.5″.


The bottom hard drive compartment is affixed to the chassis and holds two drives using a tool-less locking mechanism, but we found these mounts to be very loose. The upper chamber is more secure, being held by four screws, and providing a home for three drives. There are 140 mm mounting holes if you feel the 120 mm fan is insufficient.


The front bezel is removed by simply tugging at the hole on the bottom. This is necessary for installing drives in the external bays and servicing the front fan which thankfully has a proper removable filter. Note that the front USB 3.0 port is attached to an external USB cable that has to be routed outside the case.


Though cable management features are present, it’s rather deceiving because there is only approximately 7 mm of space behind the motherboard tray when you take into account the thickness of the foam on the side panel. Though there are holes large enough for a 20/24-pin ATX cable through, if you thread it through the back, it’s impossible to get the side panel on.

REVERSIBLE DOOR

Despite being a budget case the Cooler Master Silencio has one convenient feature that we’ve never seen on a tower case before: the ability to flip the front door. The hinge can be taken apart and modified to swing out from the side of your preference.


The hinge is secured by two screws on the inside of the front bezel.


The screws hold down two plastic tabs. Once free, lift each tab up and pull away to release the hinge from bondage.


On the other side is a hinge spacer secured with three plastic barbs.


Inside are magnets used to hold the door shut.


The hinge is attached to a large rectangular piece on the door with four screws. Take them out and flip it around.


If you’re sitting to the left of the system, having the hinge on the right side makes the drive bays and the reset button easier to access.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the Silencio 450 is a straight forward affair. Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply. By our measurements, video card clearance is limited to approximately 27.1 cm and CPU heatsinks to 15.9 cm.


We recommend placing hard drives in the upper cage first. The bottom compartment receives airflow as well, but the bezel and fan has to be removed temporarily to screw them in properly. Drives are packed rather tightly together in the 450 with only 4~5 mm separating them from one another.


Two screws on the left side and one on the right secure the hard drive in place.


After assembly we noticed a significant amount of vibration, so we added some closed-cell packing foam with double-sided tape to press up against the side panels and keep from vibrating as much.


Due to the lack of room behind the motherboard tray, the thicker 4-pin and 24-pin cables had to be left above the board. Removing the upper hard drive increases video card clearance, but only for a card installed in the 4th or 5th slot.


With so little room on the back side, running thicker cables here make putting on the side panel difficult.


Most of the cable management features were left unused.


Frosted plastic subdues the large blue LED inside, lighting up the outside of the Cooler Master logo without blinding brightness.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
7V
9V
12V
Rear
14
17~18
23
Front
15
18
22
Combined
16~17
21
25~26
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

The stock fans have similar acoustics to those found on the Silencio 550, though they appear to be higher speed models that produce more turbulent noise. The bearings generate a constant, low frequency clicking noise that is audible, but only at close proximity. Otherwise the fans sounded fairly good with a mostly smooth character both at low and high speed. The overall noise level produced by fans was low as well, with the two combining to measure 16~17 dBA@1m at 7V and 25~26 dBA@1m at full speed


At 9V, the front and rear fans generated a noise level of 21 dBA@1m with a generally smooth, broadband character.

Test Results: Radeon HD 3300 IGP

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan
7V
CPU Fan
9V
12V
CPU Temp
28°C
52°C
50°C
SB Temp
34°C
40°C
39°C
HD Temp
31°C
31°C
31°C
System Power (AC)
47W
154W
153W
SPL@1m
19 dBA
19 dBA
20 dBA
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Our IGP test system was very quiet at idle, measuring 19 dBA@1m with the CPU fan at 9V and the system fans at 7V. On load, the CPU and Southbridge temperatures rose by 24°C and 6°C respectively while the hard drive remained at a cool 31°C; There was no difference in noise level (the power supply fan might have ramped up but was drowned out by the rest of the system). Speeding up the CPU fan to 12V lowered the CPU temperature by 2°C and increased the noise level to 20 dBA@1m which is the around the upper limit with which we try to restrict cases to using our IGP configuration.


Our HD 3300 IGP test system measured 20 dBA@1m on load with the stock fans at 7V and CPU fan at 12V.

Though our SPL measurements were low, we could detect a steady, slightly annoying, low pitched, electrical-sounding hum emitted by the system, likely a result of a hard drive vibration being passed onto the rest of the case. Even though we took steps to prevent this by adding styrofoam padding, it was still evident. The sound actually showed up in the spectrum analysis as a tonal peak at ~120 Hz which corresponds to the 7200 RPM speed of the hard drive.

IGP Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
NZXT H2
Antec Solo II
CM Silencio 550
CM Silencio 450
System Fans
rear, fronts @low
rear @low
rear, front @12V
rear, front @7V
CPU Temp
51°C
47°C
51°C
50°C
SB Temp
38°C
38°C
41°C
39°C
HD Temp
37°C
35°C
31°C
31°C
SPL@1m
19 dBA
19~20 dBA
19~20 dBA
20 dBA
CPU fan set to 12V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

As our IGP test system is not particularly taxing, the Silencio 450 turned in results similar to other “quiet” cases we’ve tested in the past, performing very similarly to Silencio 550 which shares much of the same DNA.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870

System Measurements (HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan
7V
9V
12V
CPU Temp
34°C
55°C
54°C
51°C
SB Temp
49°C
59°C
58°C
58°C
HD Temp
31°C
31°C
31°C
30°C
GPU Temp
77°C
87°C
86°C
86°C
GPU Fan
900 RPM
2050 RPM
2030 RPM
1980 RPM
SPL@1m
21 dBA
27 dBA
27 dBA
29 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Adding an HD 4870 created a more challenging configuration for the Silencio 450. Relatively cool and quiet when idle, full load brought the CPU and Southbridge temperatures into the mid to high 50’s and the GPU fan spun up to 2050 RPM, keeping the GPU core at 87°C. Increasing the system fan’s speed to 9V had a minor effect on the components, improving the CPU, Southbridge and GPU temperatures by a hair, and allowing the HD 4870 fan to slow down slightly. The overall noise level was 27 dBA@1m whether the system fans were set to 7V or 9V. Running the fans at full speed generated further gains, but the extra noise going from 27 dBA to 29 dBA wasn’t worth it.


Our HD 4870 test system measured 27 dBA@1m on load with the system fans at 9V.

The HD 4870 stock cooler produces a noticeable but soft hissing noise that would be considered inoffensive by many, so while the system was 6 dB louder than the integrated graphics configuration, the noise level wasn’t too unpleasant.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
CM Silencio 450
Antec Solo II
CM Silencio 550
NZXT H2
System Fans
rear, front @9V
rear, front @12V*
rear, front @12V
rear, fronts @med
CPU Temp
54°C
45°C
57°C
53°C
SB Temp
58°C
47°C
56°C
52°C
HD Temp
31°C
34°C
31°C
33°C
GPU Temp
86°C
82°C
88°C
87°C
GPU Fan
Speed
2030 RPM
1880 RPM
2330 RPM
2110 RPM
SPL@1m
27 dBA
27~28 dBA
27~28 dBA
28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.
*Nexus 120 mm fan added as bottom intake.

Housing our HD 4870 configuration, the Silencio 450 cooled slightly better than the Silencio 550, probably due to its higher speed fans. Against a more formidable foe in the Solo II, the Silencio 450 manages to be a tad quieter, but with much higher temperatures.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In our first test configuration, we setup the Silencio 450 with a relatively low power IGP based system and it performed on par with the Silencio 550 — not surprising seeing as they share the same basic layout. Adding a moderately powerful graphics card heated up things considerably in both cases, but ultimately the 550 got the worst of it due to its underpowered fans. However neither case performed particularly well, being easily beaten by the much-lauded Antec Solo II. Both Silencios showcase the number one problem with “quiet” cases: they tend to block out noise by sealing up every hole possible resulting in poor airflow and high temperatures. If the front bezel is going to be the main source of intake airflow, the vents should be as wide as possible and run all the way up the sides.

The thermal and acoustic performance of the 450 could be overlooked given the cost of the case, but there are a laundry list of other issues as well. The thinner construction makes the side panels prone to vibration. The bottom hard drive cage is an inconvenience, requiring the intake fan to be removed first to properly secure the drives. The top hard drive cage is removable allowing for a long graphics card, but only if it’s installed in the 4th or 5th slot, an option not available on most budget motherboards. Modern cable management features are present, but their usefulness is dubious due to the laughable amount of space behind the motherboard tray. They’ve cut corners in other places as well, with the motherboard mounting holes not being pre-threaded, the lack of proper expansion slot covers, and power supply air filter being a crudely secured piece of plain steel mesh.

These cutbacks were intended to make the case more affordable but with a street price of US$70, the Silencio 450 is currently only US$10~$15 cheaper than the Silencio 550. The only real advantage the 450 has over the 550 is its reversible door, hardly enough to compensate for all its shortcomings. The 550 doesn’t suffer from any of the 450’s structural problems and boasts a second intake fan option, individually removable hard drives, and a SATA hotswap bay as well, making it a much better deal overall. As it stands the Silencio 550 remains our favorite budget case — the cuts made to create the 450 were simply too deep.

Our thanks to Cooler Master for the Silencio 450 case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Cooler Master Cosmos II: Ultra Tower Case
Raidmax Viper: A Modern Budget Tower
Fractal Design Define Mini MicroATX Tower
Antec P280: Performance One Refresh
Antec Solo II: The Legacy Lives On
Cooler Master Silencio 550 Quiet ATX Tower

* * *

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