Puget Custom Pentium-M Rig: A Silent WC System

Complete|Mobile Systems
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May 29, 2005 by Devon Cooke with Mike Chin

Product
Custom-built Quiet Watercooled System
Manufacturer
Puget Custom Computers
Selling Price
~US$3700

Buying a computer from a large system integrator like Dell or Gateway allows a certain degree of customization without having to build the system yourself. Most of the time, however, this customization is limited to tweaking the system specs; it's not usually possible to ask for a water-cooled system or a fanless power supply, for example. Most crucially, it's impossible to get them to customize one of these systems for silence.

To purchase a pre-built system that is quiet, a smaller system integrator like Puget Custom Computers may be the best choice. There is a premium to pay for having your system built by hand from standard retail parts, but the customization that is possible is unmatched by larger companies. Puget will build you a system using the exact parts you select and even do some limited mods at your request.

Begin with a basic concept for your system — of interest to us is the "Quiet Computer" — and their website will present you with a list of recommended components to choose from. Once you've made your selection you can tweak your build by adding any product in their database, not just their recommended products. You can also add specialized configuration requests via well-placed comment boxes. This completed, you can either purchase the system outright, or submit your configuration for review.

The review process is done through e-mail, and adds a personal touch that is uncommon on the internet. While asking for a review is a bit like asking a salesperson whether you've bought the "right" system, it is nice to have a real person overseeing your order to make sure you haven't made any glaring errors. It's also helpful to have a source of advice ? building a quiet system successfully can require a lot of trial and error, especially without any firsthand knowledge of the products involved.

Rather than ordering a quiet system according to our specs, we gave Puget Custom Computers carte blanche to build us a quiet system that shows what his company can do. The system he delivered is somewhat familiar; many of the components appear on SPCR's recommended lists. No expense was spared in Jon's attempt to build the absolute quietest system possible. However, the biggest surprise about the system is that it does something that we've often advised against: It's 100% fanless. Water cooling eliminates the need for fans on the CPU and VGA card, and a fanless Antec Phantom makes a power supply fan unnecessary. A massive (and passive) radiator mounted on the side of the case dissipates the heat carried by the water without requiring any active airflow. The only sources of noise are the hard drive and the water pump.


The system is double-boxed for shipping security.


A wide assortment of software, cables, and manuals was found inside a large static bag.

The system arrived in a large white box packed inside another, even larger white box. At first we thought that the extra attention to packing material was just because of the weight of the system — it weighs 70+ pounds out of the box — but according to the Puget web site this packaging is standard for every system they ship.

Included with the system was an accessory bag containing all of the assorted goodies that are included in the retail packages for the motherboard and VGA card, as well as a copy of Windows XP Pro (SP2).

SPECIFICATIONS

The following components were installed in the system:

PUGET CUSTOM COMPUTER CONFIGURATION
Motherboard
Aopen i915GMm-HFS
CPU
Intel Pentium M 760 2.0GHz
RAM
OCZ PC2-4200 Performance DC - 2 x 512MB
Video Card
ATI PCI-E Radeon X800 XL 256MB DDR3
Hard Drive
Samsung MP0804H 80GB 5400RPM (Notebook Drive)
CD/DVD-RW
Plextor PX-716A/SW 16x Dual Layer DVD+RW/-RW
Case
Silverstone TJ06 (Silver)
Power Supply
Antec Phantom 350
Cooling
Passive Water Cooling w/ Innovatek Konvekt-O-Matic radiator +
Aquastream rev 3.0 water pump
Waterblocks
Koolance VID-AT1-V06 ATI X800/X850 (VGA)
Koolance GPU-180-L06 (Chipset)
Hard Drive Enclosure
Smart Drive 2002C
Damping Material
Acousti Products Acoustipack

The Puget system is more than the sum of its components. These particular parts could be purchased and built in almost any high-end computer shop. What makes the Puget system special are the additional modifications that were made to the system in the name of silence. The most obvious of these is the massive radiator that is mounted on the side of the case, but several other mods were done:

  • Soft rubber feet were applied to the case to reduce vibration.
  • Acoustipack damping material was applied to the interior of the case.
  • The hard drive was enclosed in a Smart Drive 2002C enclosure, and installed on the floor of the case.
  • A passive water cooling system was installed with waterblocks on the CPU, GPU and northbridge.
  • The water pump was enclosed in a rubber box and installed on the floor of the case.

Puget Custom Computers includes a standard one year warranty on every system they sell. It can be optionally extended to two or three years. In addition to covering hardware repairs and replacement as necessary, it also covers shipping to and from their warehouse. They also have a 30 day return policy, money back, no questions asked and no restocking fee. However, their return policy doesn't include shipping. After 30 days systems can only be returned by special exception, and the return value is the current market value of the hardware minus 15% restocking.



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