Puget Serenity i7 PC System

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Puget Custom Computers joins the SPCR-certified PC program with Serenity, a powerful Intel i7 system that idles at just 14 dBA@1m.

The Serenity SPCR Edition has been improved with no
increase in price. It is amazingly, substantially quieter than the original
reviewed below — which is also a very quiet machine. See the new review
here: Puget Serenity, SPCR
Edition v.2

Puget Custom Computers is not a newcomer to SPCR. Back in 2005, Puget sent
us a Pentium M system system that was passively water-cooled, very speedy for
its day, expensive, and as low in SPL as we could measure back then. The next
year, we reviewed a more conventional C2D PC from Puget that was nearly as quiet
as the previous system but far less costly. Both of these systems were impressive
in their neat, tidy execution, attention to detail, and the secure quality of
their packaging.

The customized Serenity
system Puget recently submitted for SPCR-certification
is best described as a highly capable, energy efficient general purpose PC.
The key components are an Intel i7-860 processor, ATI HD5750 video card, Intel
X25-M 160GB 2nd generation solid state drive, and four gigabytes of RAM running
64-bit Windows 7 in a silence-optimized Antec P183 case. Here’s a summary of
the system components:

Puget Serenity PC
Motherboard
Asus P7P55D-E Pro
CPU
Intel Core i7-860 – 2.8GHz 8mb 95W Socket
1156 45nm
RAM
2 x Kingston Value DDR3-1333 2048mb
Video Card
PowerColor Radeon HD5750 1gb Silent
Hard Drive
Intel X25-M 34nm Gen2 160gb Solid State
Drive
Hard Drive
WD Caviar Green 1.5 tb
Optical Drive
Pioneer 22x DVD-RW SATA
Case
Antec P183
Power
Antec CP-850
CPU Cooler
Gelid Tranquilo
Fans
Quiet Case Fans Upgrade Kit
Case Mods
AcoustiPack Acoustic Composite Sheets
OS
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Warranty
Lifetime Labor, 1 year parts
Price
Starts at $1250.00
As tested, June 2010: $2542.00

The Antec CP-850 is a unique extremely quiet power supply designed specifically
to work in the P183 case, and all the fans (except for the 120mm stock fan on
the Traquilo cooler) are proven Scythe S-Flex models. The component choices
are well thought out, and the end result should be a very quiet, speedy computer.

The sample system came in a huge box. The PC was inside a second carton, the
original carton of the Antec P183 case, with shock damping on the corners. The
double-boxing and double shock-damping made this Puget PC virtually impossible
to damage in transit. Finally, the interior of the PC was also packed full with
custom-fitted foam to ensure that no internal components can get loose in transit.


Huge heavy carton took up a lot of the front hallway.


The Puget Serenity was in a second carton, which was shock mounted in
the first carton. At the top was a box containing accessories.


Those accessories included every unused part from every component in the
PC, along with a folder of detailed documentation. Details such as every
assembly, testing, software installation, and packing/ shipping step performed,
signed off by each person responsible — as well as results on all
the burn-in tests and various performance benchmarks — were provided.
It’s one of the most thoroughly documented computers we’ve encountered.


A loud sticker on the front panel of the Puget Serenity warns the user
to open the case and remove additional packing before powering up.


This is the custom-fitted packing foam that must be removed from inside
the case. It ensures that parts like the video card or CPU heatsink cannot
fall loose and bounce around inside in transit.

Serenity
PC page at Puget Custom Computers

Serenity
SPCR Edition

The Puget Serenity looks no different on the outside than any other in an Antec
P183 case. The looks of the case are basically minimalist, with some stylized
front vents to ensure excellent airflow even with the front door closed. By
today’s gaming box standards, it’s not particularly big, although it is a bit
larger than the generic mid-tower.


The P183 has a low key, minimalist look. It has excellent airflow through
the front, even with the door closed, due to generous vents on the sides
and front of the door. If this popular case is new to you, please see
our
review
.


With the door is open, it’s clear that the entire front becomes an intake.
Note the acoustic damping on the inside of the door. The door can be opened
270° and magnets will keep it against the side panel.


The most notable features on the back is the taller-than-usual CP-850
power supply. The slot for the speed switches of the original Antec fans
is closed up, as is the top fan vent, with some dark sound damping material.

Serenity
PC page at Puget Custom Computers

Serenity
SPCR Edition

It’s inside where Puget’s custom work really shows up, starting with the AcoustiPack
acoustic damping that lines much of the interior panels.


Inside, AcoustiPack acoustic damping lines both side covers, the top
panel, and the front door. The damping is cut and fitted so that the side
panel will close properly against the tight-fitting divider between the
upper and lower sections of the case.


This view shows the cooling systems perfectly: In the PSU chamber, the
in-line 120mm fan of the CP-0850 power supply cools ont only itself but
also provides a steady if modest cooling flow of air across the hard drive
and SSD. Driectly above, the 120mm intake fan blows air from the front
across both sides of the video card, with the hot air exhausting at least
partly through the ventiliated PCI slot covers. Up on top, the CPU heatsink
fan and case exhaust fan are lined up almost perfectly, providing push-pull
airflow for the heatsink, while still ensuring airflow for other components
on the motherboard. The open front vents on the front panel is where the
airflow originates.


Here’s a good view of the intake fan for the top chamber, the Gelid Tranquilo
heatsink/fan, the passively cooled HD5750 video card, both SSD and HDD
in the lower chamber, and the CP-850 power supply.

Serenity
PC page at Puget Custom Computers

Serenity
SPCR Edition

ACOUSTIC & THERMAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is the core of the SPCR certification for a PC. Many tools were used to
analyze the system:

The basic approach is to assess the noise, thermal and power characteristics
at idle, and then at full CPU and GPU loads. The testing was conducted entirely
in the SPCR anechoic chamber, with the door open to ensure adequate room ventilation
when noise measurements or recordings were not being performed.

Test Results: Customized Puget Serenity PC
Criteria
idle
1080p play
Prime95
Prime95+
Furmark
AC power
70W
80~86W
173~180W
232~240W
CPU
28°C
35~37°C
55°C
55°C
GPU
33°C
40~42°C
44°C
68°C
Mainboard
30°C
35~37°C
35°C
55°C
HDD
26°C
26°C
26°C
27°C
SPL – dBA@1m
14
18
18
18
SPL – ISO 7779 Seated User Position
16
20
20
20
Ambient conditions: 20°C, 10 dBA – Sleep Mode
Power: 3.4W

Max safe temps – CPU: >80°C, GPU: >90°C, HDD: >55°C

1. Noise

This is a very quiet computer system. The measured sound pressure level of
just 14 dBA@1m at idle and 18 dBA after an hour at full system load is about
as low as we’ve measured. The ISO 7779 computer noise standard’s defined "Seated
User Position" SPL places the microphone about 0.6m away from the top/front
of the PC, which explains the 2 dBA higher readings. This is an unrealistically
close distance for a PC in a case as large as the Antec P183, which is designed
for placement on the floor; few users would put it on top of the desk.

The source of the increased noise at load was the CPU fan, which went from
about 680rpm at idle to 1030rpm at full load. Neither the exhaust or the intake
fan changed speed during testing; a calibrated strobe light showed both fans
to be spinning at 750~760rpm. The fan in the power supply also did not change
speed or noise throughout the testing. At idle, the PC is quiet enough that
the ambient noise level in almost any normal room will mask it and make it
inaudible. In the anechoic chamber, you have to get within about two feet
of the front panel to hear it at all. In a carpeted 20’x10′ office, when set
atop a desk two feet away from the keyboard and monitor, the noise is audible
as a smooth, low level, broadband sound with a touch of tonality in the lower
frequencies. When accessed, occasional chatter from the the hard drive can
be heard, but at a very low level, with peaks getting no higher than 1 dBA@1m
above the norm. Placed on a carpeted floor under a desk, any noise from the
PC becomes difficult to discern.


The frequency spectrum of the Serenity shows a bit of a tonal peak
at ~90Hz, which is the fundamental frequency of the WD Green hard drive,
and another around 200Hz. The overall level is very modest; the highest
peak barely crests 0 dBA.


At full system load, the dominant tonal peak is at 150~200 Hz, caused
mostly by the CPU cooler fan. The relatively low requency of this peak
makes it relatively benign. Most people are much less bothered by lower
frequency noise compared to a high frequency noise of the same SPL.

Audio Recording

This recording was 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. It represents
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

  • Puget
    Serenity PC
    — System at idle, 14 dBA@1m, and at full CPU/GPU
    load, 18 dBA@1m

The recording starts with 7 seconds of ambient noise, followed by 10 second
segments at various states. For the most realistic
results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is barely audible,
back the volume control off a touch to make it just inaudible, then don’t
change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

2. Cooling

The temperatures of the various components stayed ridiculously low throughout
the testing. Despite its low noise, this PC is very well cooled. There is
at least 15°C headroom for every component; in other words, even at 35°C
ambient temperature, all the components would remain cool enough to keep running
at full load. Under such conditions, the CPU fan can be expected to rise beyond
1030rpm, as it is controlled by the Q-Fan controller in the BIOS of the Asus
motherboard, set to "Silent" mode. Exactly how much louder it will
get is not possible to determine without a hot room capable of 35°C. Suffice
it to say the overall noise cannot go above ~25 dBA@1m, which is the measured
system SPL when the CPU fan is set manually to its maximum speed of ~1,500rpm.
Puget expressly states that this PC is designed for quiet operation in an
ambient of up to 30°C.

3. Power

The idle state AC power consumption of 70W is fairly modest for a system
with the computing power of an Intel i7-860 CPU and the graphics capability
of the ATI HD5750, a mid-level gaming card. While the maximum CPU/GPU load
power of 240W will not win any green prizes, it’s apropos for a system with
these components. The AntecCP-850’s efficiency is shy of the best, but it’s
quite good, nearly 85% at the 240W AC power draw level (according to our
own review
). More moderate use, such as playing a 1080p HD video, barely
riased the power level 15W over the idle.

4. Performance

No conventional performance benchmarks were run on the system. The high performance
characteristics of the Intel i7-830, the ATI HD5750 video card and the Intel
SSD are all very well documented in dozens of tech web sites. For reference
sake, the Windows Experience Index was a high 7.3. There were no problem of
any kind encountered during our testing. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit provides
a mature, smoothly operating environment, with full access to the 4 GB of
installed RAM. The quick boot time of under 35 seconds (from power button
press to actual usability at the desktop) made possible by the Intel SSD was
nice to see, as well as the effective and quick sleep mode, where the minuscule
3.4W power draw makes powering the system off/on almost completely unnecessary.

CONCLUSIONS

The Puget Serenity is a welcome addition to SPCR-certified silent PCs. It is
a carefully crafted high performance computer that compares well with any other
computer of similar components in mid-2010, with an acoustic footprint that
is very small. The noise of this system will hardly be audible in many environments,
and certainly not in any ordinary office. At the same time, the Serenity is
as well cooled as any PC around, which bodes well for a long and stable usable
life.

* * *

Serenity
PC page at Puget Custom Computers

Serenity
SPCR Edition

The SPCR-certified Silent
PC Program

The Serenity SPCR Edition has been improved with no
increase in price. It is amazingly, substantially quieter than the original
reviewed above — already a very quiet machine. See the new review here:
Puget Serenity, SPCR Edition
v.2

* * *

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