blogs

Silent News, Dec 22/05

Quiet HDD: Seagate 7200.9 drives have been reviewed at The Tech Report. The good news for silent PC aficionados: The 160BG single-platter model boasts the lowest sound output of any drive the Tech Report has ever tested. (Note: SPCR has a review of some single-platter drives in the works, including this one.)

Fan Control: The T-Balancer's baby brother, the miniNG, has hit the streets, and ThinkComputers.org's test bench. With only 2 fan/pump headers, this could be a useful alternative to the T-Balancer, as long as the rather primitive interface doesn't overshadow the excellent feature set.

Solid-state Storage: During HKEPC’s Techday 2005, Giga-byte launched the second revision of their successful RAM-based storage solution, the i-RAM 2. Whereas the first version used DDR1 and ran off a SATA I connection, the i-RAM 2 sports DDR2 memory, twice the DIMM slots for a total capacity of 16 GB, and uses a SATA II connection.. According to news site VR-Zone , you can even connect it to an external SATA connection (eSATA) or put it in a 5.25” bay for convenience.

VIA Nano-ITX Embedded Motherboard

Nano-ITX has been in development for a long time, and finally it's being released, with the first sightings in Japan's Akiba (with pictures). Nano-ITX (specifications) offers the smallest "standard" boards to date, and tightly integrates a new onboard UniChrome video chipset with component HDTV support, a re-designed "Luke" CoreFusion CPU, SATA support. It retains the AES/PadLock, while offering new powersaving features. The CPU/Northbridge heatsink is moved to allow better integration into fanless cases. The new Nano-ITX boads will come in two flavors, one being an 800MHz fanless, the other a 1GHz active cooled variant. It's an amazing level of integration in a tiny package.

The problem is price. A Froogle product search provided only a few links, with the lowest price at US$382.91. For computing performance that's stomped by any current processor+motherboard from AMD or Intel, this is not an attractive price. It only makes sense if the tiny size and X86 processor are what you seek.

New Audio/Video section added

There are only two articles in it, the recent Squeezebox review and one of a Zalman headphone. More will come soon.

The premise is simple: SPCR has spent the last four years showing people that computers can be quiet and even silent, and how to make (or buy) them that way. Now it's time to look more at what you can do with a quiet or silent computer -- other than just working or gaming with it. Audio/video is the natural arena for us to enter, especially given my long interest in music & audio.

The general focus will be on "convergence" audio / video components, the products that are finally bringing the industry's long-yearned-for dream of a digital home into the practical realm for ordinary consumers. We'll be looking at more media PCs, both DIY and fully assembled, as well as components such as appropriate speaker systems, amplifiers, etc. We may even get into things like HDTV monitors, and multi-room media distribution systems.

Stay with us, I think it will get even more fun.

Vancouver Gets Sound Smart

In the Dec 2005 issue of Vancouver's CityNews newsletter is a surprisingly progressive item of interest to anti-noise citizens everywhere:

Noise is often an inescapable part of living in a city the size of Vancouver. But, there are ways to make some noisy situations more manageable. The City of Vancouver has created Soundsmart, a three-part series for residents concerned about noise. The Soundsmart brochure is a brief rundown on noise basics. There’s also a 20-page comprehensive noise guide that helps you understand noise, and offers do-it-yourself ideas for reducing noise in your home. Both are available for free to Vancouver residents at City Hall. An in-depth 100-page noise control manual is available for $20. All three Soundsmart publications may be downoaded for free online at www.vancouver.ca/soundsmart.

All of these are very worthwhile downloads, especially the very in-depth Noise Control Manual. It is a pleasure to see one's own city take such initiative in a matter that's so often glossed over.

SPCR's Lab Clearance Sale

Forum regulars know it's a great way to pick up barely used, high performance quiet PC components reviewed by SPCR at very low prices. Check out the current items on sale at SPCR's Lab Clearance Corner.

The Deaf iPod Generation?

Canada's Maclean's magazine reported in its Dec 1 issue that over 27 million users around the world risk hearing damage because of the iPod's ability to play as loudly as 112 dB -- "louder than a chain saw" -- for hours on end. Reportedly, the EU has a 100-decibel cap on portable music players, but there's no such limit in the US or Canada.

Preview of Intel's Yonah... Vs. AMD X2

Anand managed to get hold of an early "Yonah" dual-core Pentium-M derivative processor from Intel, and a motherboard to go with it. The bad: It's not compatible with existing CPU sockets/boards. The good: Performance in most benchmarks is close to AMD X2-3800+, and power consumption is quite a bit lower at load. It's not clear whether the 108W and 144W comparison refers to AC power to the system or DC (I suspect the former).

How close this sample is to the production model, who can say? Still, it looks like AMD has a new target to shoot for; Yonah is supposed to be relased some time in the first half of 2006, perhaps even the first quarter. Anandtech's Yonah report.

Notebook Hard Drive Roundup

Today's show is brought to you by the letters H and D, and the number 7! Storage Review recently finished a fairly comprehensive review of 2.5" hard drives, rating 7 units from Fujitsu, Samsung, Hitachi, Western Digital, and Seagate based on performance, power dissipation, and sound pressure levels -- still measured from the unlikely distance of 3mm.

Upcoming Articles & Reviews at SPCR

In response to popular demand, here is a list of articles and reviews we are working on or planning, in possible chronological order. Delivery is not guaranteed! I'll try to keep it uptodate. Posted articles will get deleted, new articles added to the bottom.

Silverstone PSU Muffler

Silverstone recently released their PP02 "Power Supply Muffler". While it may not silence your loud PSU, at about $15 it also won't empty your wallet. Of course, there is nothing new under the silent sun: Muffled Computing has been making and selling many variants of this basic concept for years.

Quiet 7800GTX-512 Vidcard, too?

Previews and reviews of the 512 MB nVidia Geforce 7800 GTX video card flooded the web over the past 24 hours. While it is clearly not a silent solution, the reference card's 92mm fanned slot-venting cooling solution has been praised for its low noise. Perhaps the makers of video cards, the last bastion of the "Performance at any (noise) cost" mentality, have finally started to take acoustics seriously across the product line. The availability of low-noise video card solutions has grown by leaps and bounds in recent weeks.

ASUS Offers Silent X1600 Gaming Vidcard

Asus recently announced the imminent release of the EAX1600XT Silent/TVD/256M, the latest and fastest of their gaming graphics cards to feature fanless, silent cooling using a system of heatpipes and massive cooling fins. The new card is based on the ATI 1600XT Pro graphic engine, the 2nd tier model of ATI's latest X1000 series. Previous fanless gaming cards by Asus have included both ATI and nVidia GPUs: the Extreme AX700/800 Silencer ("Reverse Cool") and Extreme N6600GT Silencer, all with big passive heatpipe/heatsink cooling.

Dualcore Shootout, Noise & Efficiency on... ZDNet!

ZDNet, not often vocal in the CPU wars, just published a comparison between the AMD 3800+ and the Intel D 820. Its conclusion leaves little room for doubt and echoes the opin of innumerable enthusiast review sites:

AMD currently offers the most attractive dual core option. The entry level Athlon 64 X2 3800+ may cost $87 more than its Intel counterpart, the Pentium D 820, but the AMD chip is a much better performer. It also uses considerably less power. A typical Athlon 64 X2 3800+ system uses less than 100W, while an equivalent Intel-based system uses about 50 per cent more, so it will be easier to build a quiet office PC around an AMD dual core chip. The lower electricity cost could also be a significant factor in enterprises with several thousand PCs.

Note the SPCR-esque references to quiet and reduced energy consumption — this is very worthy of note, as it appears in one of the most mainstream of tech publications. The number of people this message can reach is phenomenal compared to SPCR's typical audience size.

S3's New Chrome 25 & 27 GPUs

S3 Graphics announced their latest GPU's, the PCIe Chrome S27 and S25. "Advanced 90nm lead-free manufacturing enables unprecedented 700Mhz core frequency for Chrome S27 and industry-leading performance per watt across the series, enabling silent yet powerful 8 pixel shader performance." High performance paired with low heat is certainly good news on the noise front, provided that the final products bear out the marketing claims.

News from the Web

TrustedReviews says the AOpen MZ915-M half-height P-M SFF is a "very small and quiet system" but perhaps just "a stopgap" till AOpen's mini-PC is released. We tend to disagree with the latter view. The French site Matbe.com did a more thorough review comparing this AOpen against the Shuttle SD11G5 earlier this month. FYI, we reviewed the Shuttle recently, and we're working on a MZ915-M review right now.

The T-Balancer fan controller received plenty of rave reviews from SPCR forum members; now it may have some competition. According to BigBruin, the Sunbeamtech Theta TP-101 offers even more connections than the T-Balancer, though there are still as some software kinks to work out.

Bjorn3d has a pair of HIS graphics cards (the overclocked x800GT and x800GTO flavours) on the test bench, and while they don't test noise levels in the review, these are ATI cards with the highly regarded Arctic Cooling vidcard coolers factory-installed. Sounds like a good deal, if you can find them.

Intel seems to have taken the first step in their "performance-per-watt" quest with their new line of Pentium 4s. Buried in the AnandTech overclocking review is a very interesting tidbit; a new Cedar Mill P4 system draws about almost 20% less power than a Prescott system at the same clock speeds.

XML feed