Certified Silent Puget Serenity Pro

SPCR Certified Silent PCs | Complete|Mobile Systems
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THE SPCR CERTIFIED PC: A SUMMARY

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 gaming effects.

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.

The Fine Print: 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).

ACOUSTIC & THERMAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is the core of the SPCR certification for a PC. Many tools are 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. Measurements under load were recorded 60 minutes after the tests were started. This is an artificially long time for both CPU and GPU to be at continuous 100% load; it simply does not happen in actual use with real applications, even the most demanding 3D games. With the torture test settings, Prime95 loads up an Intel CPU like no other real application, as does FurMark with any GPU. Together, they represent a more extreme torture test than used by 99% of PC system integrators.

One further challenge since our last Puget system certification is that all the testing is now done at 30°C room ambient temperature. Electric space heaters are used to raise the air temperature in the anechoic chamber to 30°C. The heaters are then turned on/off as necessary to maintain that room ambient during testing. The hot room pushes the cooling capabilities of any PC to extremes, especially with the extended time of the artificial maximum CPU/GPU loads. This was done in response to feedback from users in hot climates as well as vendors considering participation in the SPCR Silent/Quiet PC Certification system. Note that Puget actually cites 30°C as the recommended maximum operational temperature for their systems.

Two other system states were added to the testing:

  • Bluray disc playback, which engages the optical drive, as normally this is a noise source.
  • TMPEnc video encoding of a 60 minute 720p video from WMV to MP4 format. This is to check cooling and noise under a more typical real-use load.
Test Results: Puget Serenity Pro, SPCR Edition
System state
idle
1080p/Bluray
HDD Seek
TMPEnc
Prime95
P95+FM
AC power
76W
83/88W
78W
108W
124W
270W
CPU
36°C
39°C
38°C
49°C
55°C
69°C
GPU
40°C
48°C
48°C
30°C
45°C
76°C
Mainboard
32°C
35°C
35°C
32°C
37°C
46°C
HDD
32°C
32°C
34°C
32°C
32°C
32°C
SPL @1m
11.5
11.5
12
12
12
15
SPL - ISO 7779 Seated User (0.6m)
12.5
12.5
13
14
14
17
SPL = SoundPressure Level in dB, A-weighted
Ambient conditions: 30°C, 10 dBA - Off/Sleep Mode: 0.3W

Max safe temps - CPU: 72°C, GPU: 100°C, HDD: 55°C

For those who wish to compare this Pro against the last Serenity, here are the main test results for the earlier system. Note that the earlier system was tested at a cooler room temperature.

Test Results: Puget Serenity Sandy Bridge, SPCR Edition
Criteria
idle
1080p
Prime95
Prime95+
Furmark
AC power
68W
86W
155W
215W
CPU
30°C
38°C
66°C
69°C
GPU
40°C
48°C
45°C
82°C
Mainboard
38°C
41°C
55°C
63°C
HDD
32°C
32°C
32°C
33°C
SPL - dBA@1m
11
11
12
12.5
SPL - ISO 7779 Seated User Position (0.6m)
12
12
14
15
Ambient conditions: 22°C, 10 dBA - Off/Sleep Mode: 0.3W
Max safe temps - CPU: 80°C, GPU: 100°C, HDD: 55°C

1. Noise

The Puget Serenity Pro SPCR Edition easily qualifies as a Certified Silent PC. The measured sound pressure level of 11.5 dBA@1m at idle and 15 dBA at full system load and 30°C room temperature is very impressive and unprecedented. At idle, it is hard to tell that the system is on using only sonic cues, even sitting next to it (with the system on the floor as it should be). The signature of the sound at full load is smooth, a very subdued broadband whoosh. At low load, the difference between the Serenity Pro and the Serenity will be difficult to hear. At extended full load, it's about 2~2.5 dBA@1m. Audible, but subtle.

The Bluray playback test was added at Puget's request. They worked with ASUS to create an exclusive firmware for this Bluray burner, which keeps it running at slower than normal speed in most conditions. It works: Even with the computer sitting on the desktop close to the user, it is difficult to hear the Buray drive actually working; there is hardly any audible difference from system idle. Using fast forward at 32x made it slightly more audible but it was still not more than a single dB increase.

When accessed, occasional chatter from 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, that chatter is all but inaudble beyond 1m distance. The Antec P183 may be getting long in the tooth in some ways, but there's no denying the acoustic qualities of its composite-layered panels and heavy internal frame.

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.

2. Cooling

The components stayed well under maximum safe limits through most the testing, but under Prime95+Furmark, the CPU got close to Intel's maximum safe recommended temperature of 72°C. No throttling was seen, however, but users may want to monitor component temperatures when running extreme CPU-intensive tasks during hot weather. The GPU, on the other hand, never even got close to its limits; it has over 20°C headroom. Heat-wary gamers need not worry while playing to their heart's content on this machine. All the other component temperatures stayed very modest even under extreme load.

It is interesting to note that the maximum speed of the CPU was only 610 RPM even after an hour of Prime95+Furmark. In contrast, the fans on the Asus Geforce GTX 670 2GB DirectCU II video card reached 2220 RPM during the same test. This suggests the bulk of the noise increase at full load was caused by the video card fans, and therefore, there is some leeway for Puget to adjust the CPU cooling fan up a notch to improve CPU cooling without any noise penalty, as any increase in CPU fan noise can probably be masked by the GPU cooling fans.

3. Power

The idle state AC power consumption of 76W is about what you'd expect for a modern powerful gaming system. The maximum CPU/GPU load power of 270W AC is higher than any previous system from Puget, but significantly lower than the 320W of the AVADirect Quiet Gaming PC with GTX680; that GTX680 is the obvious difference. Until the GPU become seriously engaged, AC power draw is unlikely to exceed the 124W seen in Prime95. Power draw when shut down is an insignificant 0.3W.

4. Performance

No performance benchmarks were run on the system. The high performance of the Intel i7-3770K is already well documented in the tech press; ditto for the nVidia GTX670 and the Intel 520 120gb SSD used as the operating system drive. There were no problem of any kind encountered during our testing. The quick boot time of about 32 seconds (from power button press to actual usability at the desktop) is excellent. Windows 8 Pro 64-bit has yet to be widely accepted among power users, but all variants of Windows 7 continued to offered for Puget PCs.

SPCR Certification Report on Puget Serenity Pro (PDF)

CONCLUSIONS

The Puget Serenity Pro SPCR Edition is a welcome addition to the stable of SPCR Certified Silent PCs. It is meticulously assembled, provides very high gaming performance, draws relatively modest power even at full load, and is extremely quiet even our hot room torture test conditions. As with the last two Puget systems, it is hard to imagine any setting where the system's noise would be audible in normal use. The ambient noise floor in any common human habitation is louder by many decibels. The noise bar has been set to a new low (as in limbo dancing) for a powerful gaming computer.

Puget's practice of cherry picking quieter components from their shelves for SPCR Editions remains unique. This careful selection service, the thoughtful airflow and noise reduction design, and the high performance all combine to make our fourth Serenity PC test sample truly impressive. It bears comparison even with PCs that have no moving parts; some of them will actually have more electronic noise (high pitched, sometimes intermittent whine) than the Serenity Pro. You do pay a premium for all the careful design, component selection and execution, but the sheer luxury of the end result is hard to better, and Puget offers lifetime serice and support.

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Serenity PC page at Puget Custom Computers
The SPCR-certified Silent PC Program
Serenity i7 Sandy Bridge PC, SPCR Edition

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Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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