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 Post subject: Dell's new Optiplex 980 EcoKit sound specs. Silent or not?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:14 am 
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Location: Barcelona, Spain
Hello Everyone,

I have landed on these forums in my search for a compact and silent desktop PC to replace my Lenovo T61 laptop at home. But since I have become lazy with the years and I do not wish to assemble it myself, I have ended up considering the new Dell Optiplex 980. I am writing to request feedback from the experts in the room on the technical specs listed by Dell: is this machine silent or is it not?

Here are the specs for the Optiplex 980 SFF I am interested in (page 50):
http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/pr ... -guide.pdf

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Note that the EcoKit configuration listed by Dell is supposed to reduce noise levels. This is an interesting new customization option offered by Dell. This is what they have to say about it:

"The DellTM OptiPlexTM 980 offers unique configurations that can improve energy efficiency and reduce overall acoustical levels while at the same time increasing the amount of recycled content used in the system. Comparison testing shows that an OptiPlex 980 with the EcoKit option produces 50% less noise than an industry competing comparable system.

What enables the Dell EcoKit?

* High-performance efficient heat sink, enabling thermals to be optimized
* Fan assemblies molded out of BFR/CFR/PVC-Free plastics and contains 69% Post Consumed Recycled Content
* Custom BIOS to optimize fan curve
* Unique hardware configuration options to help reduce acoustical noise

Hardware Requirements:

* Dual Core Processors
* 90% Efficient Power Supply (active PFC, wide-ranging)
* 2.5" form factor energy efficient mobile hard drives
* Intel® CoreTM 2 Duo processors (dual-core)
* Integrated graphics
* 4GB or less of system memory"

I am considering one of these configurations, if I am able to forego the quad-core temptation. Also, quad-core configurations require purchasing a discrete graphics card from Dell, but they do not list if these cards are passively cooled or not (although the Radeon 3550 and 4550 options probably are).

By the way, my Lenovo T61 has a rated sound emission of 36db, and I am perfectly happy with it in my room.

Thoughts, feedback, impressions most welcome!


Last edited by rasterian on Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:51 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:15 am 
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This is my post number 2!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:15 am 
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This is my post number 3!


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 3:18 am 
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This is my post number 4! So now I am allowed to post URL links on the forum. :-)
Edited original post.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:06 pm 
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It's hard to correlate Sound Power to any of the SPL measurements we do at SPCR... but Dell provides Sound Pressure at Operator Position measurements in the doc you linked, just beneath the Sound Power tables. Based on that, if you place the machine on the floor beside the desk, they're citing 18 dBA for the EcoKit model, which is very quiet. 2-5 dBA higher for the standard model, depending on the particular task. Also 6-7 dBA louder when placed on the desk.

So, get the EcoKit, put it on the floor beside the desk... and it should be pretty quiet.

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Editor/Publisher, SPCR
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:47 pm 
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Mike,

Thanks for your thoughts. Based on your suggestion and the numbers that Dell provides, it is clear that sound emission from the machine is "only" part of the problem. Location of the machine with respect to the user should certainly make a difference.

Also, I have been checking reviews and specifications for Dell´s older Optiplex machines. There seem to be small incremental improvements over the models, but according to Dell´s numbers the major difference is made by the EcoKit. I also suspect that part of the variations in Dell´s numbers for a given model are due to adding discrete graphics cards with additional fans (i.e. idle power consumption does not vary much between some quad-core and dual-core chips), but this cannot be disentangled from the data, unfortunately. Based on online reviews, the machines don´t seem too noisy to start with, but that is of course not the silent PC crowd!


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 3:13 am 
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In case anyone is interested, this is what I have concluded from careful analysis of Dell´s published data:

The idle threshold sound emission from the Optiplex 760 line is around 37db.

The comparable idle threshold sound emission from the Optiplex 960 and 980 product lines marginally improved down to 35-36db (this difference should be almost imperceptible).

The above is for dual core systems with integrated graphics and 3,5 inch hard drives. The EcoKit available for the 960 & 980 with 2,5 inch drive configurations brings that down by another 5db, to 30db.

Dell quotes higher idle sound emission figures for other configurations, but those seem to be mostly driven by graphics card fans.

I suspect that, leaving aside the EcoKit, discrete graphics cards with fans and 3,5 hard drives (instead of 2,5 units) are contributing the most to sound emissions here. I am guessing that a quad-core with a 2,5 inch drive (or SSD) and a passively cooled graphics card would also meet 35db at idle (of course, it would be more noisy under full load than a dual-core).

Hope someone else finds this research helpful!


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