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We could spend a couple hundred words here comparing the ST45NF to other power supplies, both fan cooled and fanless. But there's really no point. It's quieter than any fan cooled PSU, and quieter than most of the fanless ones, too, in its low level of electronic buzz.
The more relevant discussion concerns how quietly you could cool the rest of your system. The ST45NF cannot really cool itself much beyond 100~150W load without a bit of help. The single 120mm fan exhaust in our simulated PC case was left at minimal speed (around 500rpm) to over 200W load, then adjusted up incrementally to ~11V at full load. The temperature figures reflect this increase in fan speed.
The real question is which would be quieter:
- A system with the ST45NF with minimal noise components, or...
- A similar system with a super-quiet fan-cooled PSU (like the Enermax Modu82+)?
It is probably possible for a careful, experienced builder to assemble an adequately cooled 200~300W peak demand PC with the ST45NF that is a touch quieter than it would be with a fan-cooled PSU. Just how much quieter would depend on the exact component details. Other components in the system still require some cooling, so a fanless systems is usually impractical. Would the residual noise of those other components (hard drives and fans) be enough to mask the difference between a fanless PSU versus a fan-cooled PSU that stays very quiet to a fairly high load? Is the ambient noise level of the room low enough to allow you to appreciate this difference?
These are questions that silent PC fanatics will have to consider along with the hefty price of the ST45NF.
At any given point in time, there are usually very few fanless computer power supplies on the market. At some point in the past few years, the number of brands might have reached five: Antec, FSP, Silverstone, Silentmaxx and Coolmax. Currently the number is down to two: Silentmaxx (which uses rebranded FSP models) and Silverstone (which as you know from this review, offer units made by Etasis). They are more expensive, probably fail more often due at least partly to user misunderstanding about cooling requirements, and harder to sell. Yet, they persist.
Of all the fanless PSUs we've examined over the years, the Silverstone "Nightjar" series have stood the test of time. It's simply unheard of for a component in the PC retail business to last five years essentially unchanged, which is a testament to the solid design of the original ST30NF.
The Silverstone ST45NF is a natural improvement over the lower power ST30NF. It is substantially more efficient and well deserving of its Bronze 80 Plus tag. It is one of the most efficient PSUs we've tested, in fact. For a unit rated at just 400W output (with 115VAC input), our sample's performance was outstanding, suggesting both robust longevity and good thermal design. The conservatism of Silverstone's power rating pays off here. About the only lack you might point out is modular cables; at the asking price, this feature would not be unreasonable to expect.
Acoustically, there's no way to make a PSU any quieter. The noise exhibited by our test sample was essentially nil. It made no appreciable noise in normal testing or use.
These facts have to be balanced by its price, which is much higher than any normally cooled 450W model, and by the awareness that residual noise from other components in the system may erase the noise advantage. For some readers, the balance may tilt too far for the ST45NF to be a viable purchase. For others, it's a step closer to the holy grail of a noiseless system without any moving parts, especially if a solid state drive is also in use. In some ways, the ST45NF is like a specialized, high performance, soft-top roadster: Use it well and it can give you an experience unmatched by other cars.
Much thanks to Silverstone for this review sample.
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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
Power Supply Fundamentals
Recommended Power Supplies
SPCR PSU Test Rig V.4
Antec Signature 650
Enermax Modu82+ 625W
Silentmaxx Fanless 400W MX460-PFL01
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