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Cooler Master Silencio 550 Quiet ATX Tower

The Silencio 550 is Cooler Master’s budget take on a classic silent case. It’s a modestly sized sleek solid tower with a pair of low speed fans, full-size front door, acoustic foam on the side panels, and a handy hard drive docking bay.

June 27, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Cooler Master Silencio 550
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
~£65

Being one of the largest PC case makers, Cooler Master has a seemingly endless selection ranging from relatively small budget models to enormous EATX server towers and offerings of every size and price in-between. Like most manufacturers they’ve largely ignored the notion of the silent or quiet case. To our recollection, their only serious attempt at such a chassis was the Sileo 500 which we reviewed in 2009. The Silencio 550 appears to be an updated version for 2011.


The box.

The case.

Like most cases currently marketed as quiet, the Silencio takes the form of a simple but sleek tower with a front door, solid panels and controlled ventilation to limit the amount of noise from escaping. The case has a black matte finish, a glossy reflective front door and stands a modest 18″ tall. It bears a close resemblance to the NZXT H2 but has a more streamlined appearance, lacking the fan placement and hard drive dock and covers at the top of the case. It also has a bit intake ventilation with slits running up halfway up the sides of the front bezel.


Accessories.

The case ships with instructions, screws, drive rails, a PC speaker, a set of thin plastic ties, and rubber damping pads for the power supply and two case fans, even though only one extra fan can be added.

Specifications: Cooler Master Silencio 550
(from the
product web page
)
Available Color Full Black
Material Steel body, Plastic front bezel
Dimension (W / H / D) 210 x 451.5 x 505.2 mm / 8.3 x 17.8 x 19.9 inch (48 liters)
Weight 9.2kgs (20.3lb)
M/B Type Micro – ATX / ATX
5.25″ Drive Bay 3 (without the use of exposed 3.5″ drive bay)
3.5″ Drive Bay 7 Hidden
2.5″/3.5″- SATA HDD Drive Bay 2 Hidden (converted from one 3.5” bay)
I/O Panel USB3.0 x 1, USB2.0 x 1, Mic x1, Audio x 1, SD card reader x 1
Expansion Slots 7
Cooling System Front (Intake): 120mm x 1, 800rpm silent fan pre-install
(Support 120mm fan x 2 or 140mm fan x 1 optional)
Rear (Exhaust): 120mm x 1, 800rpm silent fan pre-install
Power Supply Standard ATX PS2 (optional)
Maximum Compatibility CPU cooler height:
6.10-inch (154mm)

VGA card length:
11.10-inch (281mm) (With HDD cage)
15.80-inch (400mm) (Remove HDD cage w/120*25 fan)
16.80-inch (427mm) (Remove HDD cage w/o fan)

EXTERIOR

The Silencio 550 measures 21.0 x 45.2 x 50.5 cm or 8.3 x 17.8 x 19.9 in (W x H x D) making the total volume 48 L. The side panels are made of steel but are thin, measuring 0.8 mm; the noise dampening foam gives them a little extra stability.


Sitting comfortably on the roof of the front bezel are connectors for two USB devices (one 2.0 and one 3.0), line-out and mic, and a SD card. Small power and reset buttons reside on the right side. The hard drive and power LEDs are small and inconspicuous.

 


The front door swings out right to left, extending out just past 90 degrees. It is lined with layer of foam and seals using magnets hidden along the edges. A hard drive docking bay is pre-installed in the third 5.25″ drive bay.

 


A hole at the bottom provides some airflow and doubles as a handle to dislodge the tabs securing the panel. There are a pair of 120 mm intake fan mounts at the front, with one pre-populated.

 


The fan filters are attached to an easily removable plastic vent cover with a large gap in-between.

 


Like at the front, there’s a single rear 120 mm fan secured with standard screws. Both fan sit almost flush with their respective vents which is normally detrimental to acoustics, but at low speeds it shouldn’t be an issue.

 


Padded feet raise the case slightly off the ground. A removable square filter resides at the back, servicing the power supply fan.

 


Both side panels are equipped with acoustic dampening foam, measuring between 7 and 14 mm thick.

INTERIOR

The layout inside is fairly standard with the power supply at the bottom opposite side-loading hard drive cages near the front. It has three 5.25″ bays (one occupied by a hard drive dock) and seven 3.5″ bays. There are three 120 mm fan mounts, two at the front and one at the rear; two 800 RPM models are included.


The interior is a little small compared to most modern towers, but there is an adequate amount of space to work with as the power supply and its bundle of cables sits on the floor and hard drives load from the side.

 


A 2.5″ drive caddy mounts using the drive rails for the 3.5″ drives.

 


Optical drives are secured with a solid flip-switch locking mechanism. Screws can be added on the other side for additional security.

 


Though separated into two sections (the larger one is removable), the drive cages are sturdy with hardly any give. The included intake fan is only large enough to cover the top drive cage so you’ll probably want to add another one if more than four drives are going to be used.

 


A lone 120 mm fan at the back acts as an exhaust. Both fans are 3-pin varieties with 3-pin to 4-pin molex adapters included.

 


The power supply sits atop four rubber knobs to lessen vibration and provide breathing room for bottom intake fans.

 


On the right side there are four hooks running down the center to aid in typing up cables but only two large holes exist on the edges of the tray. Routing a 24-pin ATX connector through there might be problematic for some PSU/motherboard combinations.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the Silencio 550 is a straight forward affair. Drive mounting is tool-less, but the power supply, motherboard, and expansion cards require traditional screws. Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar Black 1TB hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply.


Hard drive mounting is facilitated by plastic rails loosely slapped onto to either side of the drive and slipped into the drive cage.

 


The larger drive cage can be removed via four screws on the right side, but this isn’t necessary unless you need to make room for a long graphics card. Video card clearance is 27.8 cm (10.9″) with the cage in place.

 


Clearance behind the motherboard tray is an ample 24 mm, but as we mentioned earlier, there is 7~14 mm of foam on the interior of the side panel. Bundling up thick sets of cables must be avoided.


With a modular power supply, we managed to keep things fairly tidy. One tip is to try to isolate the 24-pin ATX cable. Laying thicker cables like the USB connector over or under it made it difficult to close up the case.

 


Our HD 4870 system, fully installed. We were able to fit our 156 mm CPU cooler even though Cooler Master lists the maximum clearance as 154 mm. The foam compacted just enough to allow it. With the side panel off, there was a gap of 5 mm above the heatsink and the edge of the chassis frame so if you excise the foam over the heatsink, clearance becomes 161 mm.

 


The hard drive docking bay is fairly secure and works as intended but as the drive extends only a small amount beyond the bezel, it is hard to pull out (you have to hold onto the corners to get enough of a grip). An ejection mechanism would’ve been nice.

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

The Silencio 550 ships with only two black 12 cm 800 RPM fans, one at the rear acting as an exhaust and one at the front acting as an intake. Both are sleeve bearing models with the model number DF1202512SEDN and a current rating of 0.10A (1.2W).


Front fan.

 

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
9V
12V
Rear (12 cm)
<11
11~12
Front (12 cm)
<11
12
Combined
<11
14
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

The stock fans are an enigma, being both too loud and too quiet at the same time. The bearings generate a constant low frequency clicking noise audible at one meter distance in a quiet room, and the fan spins too slowly to generate enough turbulence to cover it up. Inside our test system, both fans individually measured near our anechoic chamber’s 10~11 dBA noise floor and together just broke 14 dBA@1m at 12V. There is no reason to run them any slower unless the components placed inside the Silencio are all passively cooled.


Our baseline noise level for the Silencio 550’s was 14 dBA@1m at 12V.

Test Results: Radeon HD 3300 IGP


HD 4870 test system.

 

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
off
12V
CPU Fan Speed
9V
12V
CPU Temp
38°C
56°C
51°C
SB Temp
40°C
41°C
41°C
HD Temp
40°C
31°C
31°C
SPL@1m
16~17 dBA
18~19 dBA
19~20 dBA
System Power
48W
178W
177W
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Without any system fans turned on and the CPU fan set to 9V, our IGP test system was exceedingly quiet when idle, measuring 16~17 dBA@1m with system temperatures hovering at about 40°C. On load with the stock fans at full speed the CPU temperature rose by 18°C while the hard drive cooled down by 9°C. A 5°C improvement was recorded when we cranked up the CPU fan to full speed.


Our HD 3300 IGP test system measured 18~19 dBA@1m both when idle and on load with the stock fans at 12V and CPU fan at 9V.

With the rest of the components turned on the clicking of the Silencio’s stock fans was thankfully blended away somewhat, barely noticeable at one meter while more clearly audible at shorter distances. The acoustic profile was mainly smooth with almost no tonality except for a slight hum generated by the hard drive.

IGP Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
NZXT H2
Fractal Define R2
CM Silencio 550
System Fan Speeds
rear & fronts @low
rear & front @12V
rear & front @12V
CPU Temp
51°C
51°C
51°C
SB Temp
38°C
38°C
41°C
HD Temp
37°C
34°C
31°C
SPL@1m
19 dBA
19~20 dBA
19~20 dBA
CPU fan set to 12V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

On load, our IGP test system performed similarly in to the Fractal R2/R3 and NZXT H2. Only a few degrees in hard drive and Southbridge temperature and less than 1 dB of noise separates the three.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870


HD 4870 test system.

 

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
CPU Temp
35°C
57°C
SB Temp
48°C
56°C
HD Temp
32°C
31°C
GPU Temp
79°C
89°C
GPU Fan Speed
940 RPM
2330 RPM
SPL@1m
20 dBA
27~28 dBA
System Power
118W
316W
CPU fan set to 12V.
Stock fans set to 12V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Adding an HD 4870 created a bigger challenge for the Silencio 550. While relatively cool and quiet when idle, full load brought the CPU and Southbridge temperatures north of 55°C and the GPU fan had to spin at 2330 RPM to keep the graphics card under 90°C. These results are higher than we’re used to see as most cases aren’t equipped with only a pair of low speed fans.



Our HD 4870 test system measured 20 dBA@1m when idle and 27~28 dBA@1m on load.

While the internals ran a little hot, the acoustics were fairly good with the solid side panels keeping the generated noise at a reasonable level. At idle the HD 4870 barely made a dent in the measured SPL. On load the HD 4870 stock cooler had to spin quite fast, but its soft broadband acoustics made it more bearable than the 27~28 dBA noise level suggests.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
Fractal Define R2
CM Silencio 550
NZXT H2
System Fan Speeds
rear, front & side @12V
rear, front @12V
rear, fronts @med
CPU Temp
48°C
57°C
53°C
SB Temp
45°C
56°C
52°C
HD Temp
34°C
31°C
33°C
GPU Temp
84°C
89°C
87°C
GPU Fan
Speed
1710 RPM
2330 RPM
2110 RPM
SPL@1m
26~27 dBA
27~28 dBA
28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

Thermally, the Silencio falls to the NZXT H2 by a 3~4°C in both CPU and Southbridge temperature. Though the Silencio has better ventilation, the H2 has an additional intake fan, explaining most of the difference. The hotter environment inside also forced the HD 4870 fan to spin faster by ~200 RPM but the Silencio was quieter overall. Neither compared favorably to the Fractal R2/R3 with a 14 cm side fan installed however.

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

The Cooler Master Silencio 550 is imbued with most of the qualities required for a quiet chassis. The panels are solid, preventing noise from leeching out a side vent, the door masks the the hard drive(s) and intake fan noise, and the damping foam helps prevent standing waves. Its appearance is pleasing — simple, streamlined, and lacking the odd contours of more fanciful high-end cases. There are a few conveniences though including an SD card slot and a hard drive dock, though the dock could use an eject mechanism. With components that have a modest total power profile, say <200W total, the Silencio 550 can certainly be an exceeding quiet system.

The main problem for cases billed as quiet is they usually can use some additional airflow. In the Silencio, the slit vents on the sides of the front bezel could have been bigger and perhaps should really run all the way up like the Fractal Design Define R3 rather than stopping halfway. Punching a few holes in the floor would help as well and wouldn’t add any extra noise, though additional air filters would be required to keep out dust. The stock fans run a bit too slowly, too quiet for their own good as they likely would be drowned out by other components in most system configurations. Their bearings also emit clicking noise audible at close proximity.

Though average in size, the case suffers from clearance issues due to the thick foam padding lining the interior of the side panels. The foam on the right side panel is particularly infuriating as it can have no acoustic benefit behind the motherboard tray and just makes cable management difficult. There’s almost an inch of space back there, which is normally plenty, but with the foam you have to be careful about the cumulative thickness of the cables at any given point. The foam on the left side panel is less problematic but limits CPU heatsink clearance; we used a 156 mm tall cooler which fit with no room to spare.

While the Silencio 550 is a decent quiet tower, it doesn’t fare that well against the last two noise-conscious cases we’ve reviewed, the NZXT H2 and Fractal Design Define R3. Both the H2 and Define R3 have better build quality, more features, and a higher level of polish. On the other hand, these competitors also carry much higher price tags. We don’t have any information regarding North American pricing, but on one UK shopping site the Silencio is going for ~£65 compared to ~£90 and ~£100 for the H2 and Define R3 respectively. If these prices carry over to North America. the Silencio should retail for US$65~$70, making it the most affordable case that we can describe as quiet with a straight face.

Cooler Master Silencio 550
PROS

* Quiet out of the box experience
* Acoustic damping foam
* Extras: SD card slot, hard drive dock most components
* Removable hard drive cage to facilitate long graphics cards
* Looks great
* Affordable

CONS

* Could use more airflow
* Fans are clicky and too slow for most users
* Foam creates clearance issues
* Hard drive dock lacks an ejection mechanism

Our thanks to Cooler Master for the Silencio 550 case sample.

Cooler Master Silencio 550 receives the SPCR Recommended Award

* * *

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* * *

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