Fanless PSU Torture Test Roundup

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A search for fanless computer PSUs with online retail engines turns up familiar names but not many: Amacrox, Silentmaxx, Fortron-Source Power (FSP), Silverstone, Coolmax, and SilenX. The first two are differently-badged variants of the fanless PSU made by FSP as the Zen. We've reviewed both the eariler 300W FSP Zen and a more recent 400W model under the Silentmaxx brand. We also had several samples of the fanless PSUs currently available (Silverston and FSP), but since they had been in use in the lab for some time, with unknown attendant wear and tear, we decided to obtain brand new units. Rather than contact the manufacturers and wait for available freebie samples, we purchased several from a couple of different sources. The only one not purchased was the Seasonic SS-400FL, which is a retail package sample that came directly from Seasonic. (A note for those who are suspicious of gift horses: There is absolutely no indication that Seasonic has ever "tweaked" free review samples for unusually good performance. In a quiet power supply, the only really tweakable thing might be the fan or fan controller; in this case, there's no fan at all.)

The fanless contenders:

  • Seasonic X-series SS-400FL
  • Silentmaxx fanless 560W — a rebadged Fortron-Source Power (FSP) Zen 400W
  • SilenX Luxurae 460W
  • Silverstone Nightjar ST40NF
  • Coolmax CF-480B

As far as we know, there are no other fanless ATX12V power supplies available on the retain market.

These five boxes are representative of all the fanless PSU lines available to the DIY computer builder today. Clockwise from top: Silentmaxx fanless 560W, Seasonic X-series SS-400FL, SilenX Luxurae 460W, Silverstone Nightjar ST40NF, and Coolmax CF-480B. There's some question whether SilenX is still actively offering the Luxurae series.

One thing that became clear during our online shopping for these samples is that computer retailers generally don't carry fanless PSUs. There are only a few sources in the US or Canada, and they are only a bit more numerous in the EU. Why? A quick, somewhat random survey was done of a handful of computer component retailers in the US and Canada, mostly by phone. Where a marketing or stock manager was available, here are the things he/she had to say:

"The returns killed us when we carried the '______' fanless power supply. Anything close to a 10% return rate we drop like a hot potato."

"The demand is just not there, we need a certain number of turns to justify carrying the inventory. Now, we bring in small numbers when orders come in."

"Reliability, user confidence and demand hasn't been good, so we stopped carrying them."

"No one really cares, so many fan-cooled power supplies are already so quiet. We carry a couple and maintain small quantities, the Silverstone is our best seller but it's still just a trickle."

Any new fanless PSU must overcome the history of the fanless breed and the skepticism of retailers.


The silent PC DIY enthusiast is an obvious target market, but it isn't that big. So what are the other potential markets for fanless PSUs?

  • Specialist system integrators who build high end silent systems, especially home theater PCs where buyers tend to be well-heeled and less price-conscious.
  • Specialist laboratory PCs that must not add to either noise or airflow in the test rooms.
  • Digital audio workstations for music production.
  • Hospital PCs where high reliability, low noise and no airflow are all highly valued. In a premium PSU, the fan is the least reliable part. Aside from the usual bearing-related issues, PSU makers report that fan-related returns include regular instances where the fan blades rub against its own wires, causing an annoying noise.

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