Since SPCR was launched in April 2002, the market for quiet computer components has expanded many times. But the number of options and sources for quiet computers is still woefully small. SPCR partners with commercial system integrators who offer complete PCs built to our stringent acoustic standards. There are two defining standards: Silent and Quiet. Updated June 2012.
- Updated June 20, 2012
- Updated June 3, 2010
- Nov 30, 2006 by Mike
Since SPCR was launched in April 2002, the market for quiet computer components
has grown explosively. Back then, there was really no such thing as quiet computer
components, just a few companies offering a few odd things. Now there is an
identifiable quiet component sector, and almost every component
maker offers something promoted as quiet. It would be immodest
to suggest that SPCR was the catalyst for the growth of this sector. We did
help accelerate things quite a bit, but the trend had already begun.
The situation is quite different with complete systems, however. Now,
as in 2002, there are still very few companies that offer truly quiet or silent
systems. Among mainstream brands, we can still only identify a handful of PCs
as being truly quiet. Not many big brands pay computer acoustics much more attention
than lip service. Now, as back then, the torch is carried by a small number
of system integrators who have dedicated time, attention and care to the challenge
of making and selling quiet PC.
Quiet Systems for Friends
Over the years, I have personally built many quiet or silent custom systems
for relatives, friends and acquaintances, SPCR visitors and forum members; the
total numbers 40~50. Increasingly, when these custom system build requests come
in, I am unable or unwilling to comply. There’s only so much time in the day,
and my days are fuller than ever.
Some SPCR readers complain that as good as the site is for information about components and "how to", it doesn’t really help those who are unwilling or unable to do it themselves. Yet, SPCR instills in most visitors a yearning for quiet computers. Some have turned to system integrators who promise quiet, and while many are happy with the end result, some still remain unsatisfied, feeling that their system is noise reduced but not truly quiet like the custom rigs built by SPCR staff and DIYers.
This laser-cut aluminum logo goes some SPCR-certified system.
SPCR Certified Systems
This is the backdrop against which the project I am now writing about came
to fruition. The idea is simple:
- Apply the best, most proven quiet computing concepts and techniques to the
best quiet components available,
- Work with commercial system integrators to develop, test and build these
quiet systems, then
- Test and verify the systems’ low noise, thermal and power consumption qualities
in SPCR’s 11 dBA hemi-anechoic
… for those who wish to enjoy silent computing without having to building
a PC for themselves.
In many ways, these SPCR-certified systems are better than the ones I build
personally. Commercial system integrators can offer…
- Consistent assembly and production quality
- Warranty service
- Prompt service and delivery
- Much cheaper shipping (often free)
A huge aspect of this initiative is to provide consumer confidence:
- that the acoustic claims made about the vendor’s quiet PC are valid and
confirmed by SPCR, and
- that every system shipped consistently meets the published acoustic standards.
There are two classes of SPCR Certified PCs:
- SILENT PC: 15 dBA@1m or lower SPL with the system in idle, 20 dBA@1m
or lower at maximum load.
The noise level of this class of SPCR certified PC is low enough that in most
environments and most workloads, it is effectively inaudible. Even at maximum
possible load (with both video card and CPU running full tilt simultaneously),
it remains very quiet.
- QUIET PC: 20 dBA@1m or lower SPL with the system in idle, 27
dBA@1m or lower at maximum load.
The idle noise level of this class of SPCR certified PC is low enough that in most
environments and most workloads, it is very quiet; it may even be inaudible,
like some SPCR Certified Silent PCs. At full load (most notably extreme 3D gaming
or extended video processing), it is still quiet, although definitely audible.
This certification is designed for gaming enthusiasts who want their PC to
be very quiet in normal use but don’t mind a bit of noise in exchange for
very high performance during game play when headphones or speakers are sounding
All SPCR Certified PCs must also meet these criteria:
- No rapid changes in noise. The noise level increases or decreases
gradually so that the change itself does not become a source of annoyance.
- No prominent tonal peaks. These are narrow frequency peaks
that sound like pure tones. Especially in the middle and higher frequencies,
they can be extremely annoying even if low in amplitude.
- Maintain acoustic levels and safe operating temperature for all components
even under high load, in ambient temperature up to 30°C. The reference
system submitted by the vendor is tested by SPCR in a hemi-anechoic chamber
with the air temperature at 30°C.
- Each certification is valid for a period of 18 months from
the date of testing, or until the core components are no longer available.
- The vendor may offer component alternatives that differ from those
used in the reference system tested by SPCR, but must ensure that
their acoustic or thermal properties cause the overall noise level to rise no more than 2 dBA SPL above the reference sample or beyond the SPL requirements of the certification class (ie, Silent or Quiet).
* * *
FAQ about SPCR-designed Computers
Why should I buy an SPCR-certified computer rather than one that’s
advertised as being quiet or silent by some other vendor or brand?
There’s no claim made for SPCR-certified systems being the only quiet
computers available. However, standards for noise levels in computers
are not enforced or monitored, and advertising is rife with misinformation
and incomplete information about computer noise. With a SPCR-certified
computer system, you are assured of the high standards for acoustics employed
on this web site. The descriptions and analysis here about the certified
systems are honest and rigorous. Mike Chin, who helps to create the reference
designs, has assembled more than 40 unique quiet PC systems over the past
12 years. He’s also the primary design consultant of several highly successful
quiet PC cases for Antec, such as the P180 series and the Fusion.
Since SPCR has a vested interest in the sale of these systems,
how can these "reviews" be neutral or fair?
SPCR has succeeded by telling the truth about the acoustics of computer
products. There’s nothing to be gained by changing this approach now,
and much to be lost. You can always judge for yourself; the vendors
offer various customer satisfaction policies.
Does SPCR offer a guarantee about the acoustics of these systems?
Can I contact Mike Chin if I have problems with one of these systems?
SPCR certifies the acoustic properties of the reference sample system.
The assembly, quality control, distribution, sale and support of these
systems is entirely in the hands of the vendors. When you buy one of these
systems, you are entering into an agreement with the vendor, not with
SPCR or Mike Chin.
What if the system I get does not have the same components as described here?
The short life cycle of many computer components means that this is almost
inevitable sometimes. Unless specifically requested by the buyer, substitutions
will be done only when it effects no increase in the noise level of the
system above the tested reference sample.
What if I order more powerful component options for the system?
The acoustics are assured for the particular configuration of the systems
tested and reported on here. If optional components (such as a more powerful
CPU or graphics card) impact the acoustics, it is mentioned. The vendors
are careful to ensure that the optional components do not exceed the thermal/power
envelope of the certified model unless specifically requested by the buyer.
* * *
this initiative in the SPCR Forums.