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WHAT ABOUT THE NOISE?
Temperature and load testing aside, how does this case sound?
The PSU: Testing a case
with a proprietary PSU always makes me nervous. Most manufacturers
give little or no priority to using quiet PSUs in their cases, and even the
ones that claim to be "quiet" or "silent" are usually not
even close, at least by SPCR standards.
That said, I am extremely impressed
with the included 240W Silverstone PSU. This thing is very quiet for a small
PSU and even holds its own along with some of the quietest PSUs.
It's easily as quiet as a rev A1 400W
Seasonic Super Silencer or a Nexus
NX-3000. Its 80mm x 15mm fan has only
the slightest touch of bearing or clicking noise, no air noise and very, very
little whine. Its a fixed speed PSU so the noise level never goes up, even
under a heavy, sustained load.
What does go up is the temperature of
exhaust air from the PSU. At idle it's pretty cool, but under
load it gets pretty darn hot. I have no external temp monitoring hardware but
I'd estimate that it gets even hotter than a typical Antec True Power PSU under
load, and those Antecs get pretty toasty!
Aluminum Resonance? If you've read other SilentPCReview case reviews, you know that
aluminum cases are not highly regarded for noise. Every aluminum case
that we've tested has had panel resonance issues that just don't happen
with good steel cases. Between the PSU and the all-aluminum construction of the LC-04,
I was eating Xanax like candy while assembling this system.
out that my worries were unfounded. This aluminum case has no
significant resonance that I could detect. The panels are not thicker
than those I've seen in other aluminum cases so that's not the difference
here. The only thing I can attribute the lack of resonance to is the small
size of the case panels. Even the top and bottom of the case have
a smaller area than any panel on a typical aluminum tower case, and the sides
of the LC-04 are very small at 4" x 16" and 4" x 12". Add
the fact that the motherboard, PSU and HDD are bolted directly to the bottom
of the case which probably keeps its resonant frequency much higher than usual
and you have a surprisingly quiet aluminum case. It's the only aluminum case
I've heard that I would be able to live with.
HDD Noise: One definite problem is the hard-mounted HDD. It probably helps keep the drive
cool, as the top and bottom of the case around the
hard drive get quite warm, but it sure doesn't do anything good for the noise. The
80GB Seagate Barracuda IV used in this system is very quiet and a "reference" quiet HDD at SPCR. In a typical system where the
drive is mounted using some sort of decoupling method, these drives have very little idle or seek noise.
In the LC-04,
the Seagate is quite a bit louder than usual. You can hear a bit of idle hum
from a meter away, and the seek noise is noticeably louder than I'm used to.
It became quite bothersome after using the system for a while. If I was
planning on using this case for the long term, I'd definitely mod the mounting
system to decouple the drive. The downside to decoupling the drive is that it
may run warmer. I'd consider the hard-mounted
temperatures to be fairly high already so I wouldn't be too comfortable if the
temps were to go higher. A good alternate drive choice might be one of
the cooler-running Samsung SP80 drives, or perhaps a quiet
2.5" notebook drive.
I'd estimate the overall noise level of this system at around 27-30 dBA.
At one meter, you can hear the seeking sound of the Seagate HDD over any other noise from the case. At 2-3 meters you can just barely hear the HDD
noise and cannot hear the fan noise at all. I suspect that if this case was
placed in a typical Audio/Video rack with glass doors you would not be able
to hear noise from any of its hardware. Of course, you'd have to keep an eye out to make sure the enclosed space doesn't lead to dangerous temperatures.
Considering the growing popularity of Home Theater/PVR's, it is still not
easy to find a suitable size, quiet HTPC case. The quietest cases are generally rather bulky and don't blend well into a Home
Theater system. Designing a small
case that has good airflow and good hardware options is quite a challenge. The smallest, best looking cases generally run quite hot and
only take m-ATX boards and/or half-height PCI cards, limiting their usefulness.
With the LC-04 Silverstone has hit one nearly out of the park. They've designed
a beautiful case that takes full size components, has decent ventilation
and will integrate nicely into a Home Audio/Video system. Yes, the HDD mounting
needs a bit of modding to be truly quiet, and the temps are not super cool,
even with a relatively modest 66W CPU, but that's part of the small case challenge. Judicious component choices are necessary to make a quiet and small HTPC.
The bottom line: The LC-04 Silverstone is a very nice case for a quiet HTPC. Recommended.
* It sure is beautiful!
* Perfect size to blend into existing A/V equipment
* Good ventilation
* Very quiet included PSU
* Takes full size hardware
* Nearly no aluminum resonance
* It sure is beautiful!
* Moderately expensive
* HDD mount transfers noise to case
* Funky Firewire cable
* No Reset button
* Limitations in AGP/PCI configuration
Many thanks to Sundialmicro.com
for the opportunity to review the Silverstone LC-04 case.
* * *
Discuss this this article in the SPCR Forums.
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