CES 2005: A Silencentric Summation

The Silent Front
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» HUSH Technologies showcased new Pentium M, Athlon 64 and full ATX/BTX Pentium 4 systems, all fanless.

The Pentium-M based unit below has the same sleek low profile as the EPIA M one that launched the company. The taller black one further below is an A64 machine.

Ed: And then there's the humongous full ATX offering. According to their chief engineer, whom I spoke with, the demo model is ATX layout with full ATX mainboard and Prescott, fanless! They also plan a BTX version, which is ~3cm deeper to accomodate necessary modifications for BTX compliance.

One important tidbit is that the power supplies are a proprietary design. They are shaped long and narrow, as wide as the case and mounted right behind the front panel. They contracted the same engineer who designs power supplies for Mark Levinson high performance audio equipment, and a typical efficiency of 86-92% with active power factor correction is claimed!

Russ: Last year's CES was the first time I got to see Hush's product line firsthand. I was simply blown away. They're beautiful units, well designed, and well crafted. This year, Hush's theme was certainly more evolution than revolution. Their new models keep up with the year's new crop of CPU's and VGA cards, to be sure, but beyond that the units are not significantly different from the ones SPCR has reviewed previously. That is not meant as a criticism: There's no need to fix something that isn't broken, and Hush's refined case styling is certainly not something that needs updating.

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» ZALMAN continued their silence-oriented market leadership role with a slew of new releases.

Ed: Zalman had a few interesting items for display in ABIT's booth over at the central pavilion tents. The Fatal1ty ATX enclosure below, and the Fatal1ty CPU and GPU coolers. The red coating on the coolers is not paint, but a thin layer of red ceramic that, according to Zalman's CTO, actually improves thermal transfer efficiency, particularly at lower air flows. While the Fatal1ty series is more performance than silence-oriented, crafty SPCR members can likely extract excellent low-noise thermal performance from the Fatal1ty coolers with a simple fan swap.

Zalman also displayed their new, improved TNN-500AF fanless ATX enclosure. The primary improvement is a new front fascia behind the front door. Also improved were the hard drive mounting system. New "thermal transfer blocks" that install on the underside of the mainboard transport heat from hotter mainboard components, such as the power MOSFETs, to the metal panel / heatsink that the board is mounted to. Prescott is apparently cooled fine in the new TNN-500AF.

A new, optional stereo amplifier card allows the end user to attach loudspeakers directly to the computer, without a separate integrated amp. There is also a multimedia software suite that transforms the machine into an HTPC, with support for TV tuner, DVD playback, music/photo/video playback and camcorder control; the remote can be used to start or shutdown the system itself, even in the event of a crash or system freeze! Finally, the perforated top panel of the case now has an additional baffle panel to prevent dust from getting in through the vents.

Russ: One other revision present in the AF is the PSU. It is now 400 watt, and features active voltage regulation: The PSU self-adjusts to maintain close tolerances on the various voltage lines, as reported from an on-motherboard sensor. (I thought it looked like that sensor wire bundle from the PSU connected to the SMBus, but did anyone else get a better look at it?)

The really interesting thing from Zalman was the TNN300, of course. Unfortunately, their CTO basically forbid us from making any public statements on that item until its actual release later on.

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