Silent PC Review is dedicated to reviews, news and information about silent computers and components, as well as their energy efficiency and thermal performance.

An Interview with Shuttle

The Silent Front
Ken Huang of Shuttle Inc. discusses the origins of SFF and the impact of Microsoft's MCE 2005 public release, noise and aluminum cases, AV component style versus the toaster shape, SFF system integration and Shuttle's future. SPCR's first interview article, with SPCR-centric questions on acoustics.

Thermalright XP-90 CPU Heatsink

Cooling
Thermalright's XP-90 CPU heatsink, which features four heatpipes, thin aluminum fins and a nickel-plated copper base, was released at the same time as the XP-120. It is essentially an XP-120 shrunk to work with a 92mm fan for those who cannot accommodate a 120mm fan. Amazingly light, a little cheaper, and much easier to install: How does it perform with a quiet fan like the Nexus 92? SPCR puts the XP-90 through its paces and brings you the full monty, complete with high resolution sound files.

mCubed T-Balancer: The Ultimate Fan Controller


mCubed offers a multiple fan control system called the T-Balancer which is sophisticated enough for even the most demanding users. The T-Balancer is a small microprocessor-controlled external hardware unit that can reside inside the PC and connects via USB. Control is via Windows-based software. We have had a model in the lab for weeks; in lieu of a full review, here's a quick preview. The feature set is so rich that only a few key elements can be touched on here:

  • 4 separate configurable fan output channels, each with independent tach signal output to mainboard
  • Accurate speed control in manual or automatic mode via editable response curves
  • Fans can be slowed to an absolute speed minimum of 2% depending on model
  • Adaptive PWM allows adjustment of frequency for every fan model, with analog smoothing and filtering for quiet smooth operation
  • Definable hysteresis allow smooth operation even at steep response curves, no "up and down"
  • 0 rpm possible: if temperature rises, the controller speeds up the fan according to the response curve
  • Up to 8 temperature sensors

Ultra X-Connect 500W PSU

Power
The Ultra X-Connect 500 PSU is said to have preceded the Antec NeoPower 480 reviewed here some weeks ago. Their similarity is a Modular Cable Connection System that allows you to use only the output cables and connectors you need. The X-Connect is a bit more showy and uses two 80mm fans instead of the NeoPower's single 120mm fan. What other differences are there, and is it suitable for quiet computing? The Ultra X-Connect 500 review features our first sound recordings of PSUs so you can judge the acoustics for yourself.

Review: CoolerMaster Ultra Vortex HSF

Cooling
The Ultra Vortex is a recent addition to CoolerMaster's enthusiast HSF line, one that addresses the quiet market -- at least in the promotional material and packaging. It is also one of an increasing number of cross-platform HSF. This one works for socket 478 and the AMD K8 sockets. An all copper radial heatsink with thin fins and a 92mm fan: Reminiscent of a Zalman 7000, isn't it? How does it compare? The Ultra Vortex review, complete with MP3 sound files that you can listen to and judge for yourself.

Calibrate Your CPU Temp Reporting

Cooling
Intelligent thermal management is the key to silent computing, but CPU temperature reporting mechanisms in current processors and motherboards are inaccurate, with results that can vary by 10°C or more. The causes of the inaccuracies are complex, but correcting them to a more reasonable margin of error is not terribly difficult. Russ shows you how.

AMD A64 90nm power consumption measured

The Tech Report gives us a quick comparison of power consumption between a new 90nm core A64-3500+ against a current 130nm version and a P4 Prescott 90nm at 3.4GHz.. The quick & dirty: "Our die-shrunk Athlon 64 came out looking pretty darned good." Under load on three different apps, the total system AC power draw ranged 146W~151W for the 90nm core vs 175~179W for the 130nm core. 19-28W in AC is a very sizeable difference, suggesting at least 12~19W less power draw between the CPUs. These numbers translate to cooler measured CPU temps as well. The P4-3.4 is not even in the running, efficiency-wise, with total system AC power draw at 23-236W.

Archive: SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour

Reference|Recommended | The Silent Front
Sometimes it is still a rat's nest of equipment, computers, components, wires and other assorted geeky things that my home office was before the launch of SPCR. But 30 months later, the SPCR lab has taken over the downstairs kitchen and half of the adjoining TV/den. A lot of equipment, instrumentation and plain old stuff has been acquired. The most recent additions to the lab include various audio equipment acquired for the purpose of making sound recordings of computers and components. Here's a short tour through the SPCR lab.

Nexus PFT-3600 P4 Cooler

Cooling
The PFT-3600 is a P4 Cooler with a 70mm fan skivved from a single piece of aluminum. Compact, light and easy to install, it is from Nexus, one of quiet computing's few truly well-established brands. Read the Nexus PFT-3600 review here.

Antec Phantom 350: Super-efficient Fanless PSU

Power
Click here for the Antec Phantom 350 review. The Antec Phantom fanless PSU was rumoured about almost a year ago. It's finally been released. Its big claim to fame? Extremely high efficiency. Higher than any other PSU tested by SPCR -- by no small margin. Click here for the Antec Phantom 350 review.

Scythe NCU-2000 Fanless CPU Cooler

Cooling
Scythe continues its tradition of unusual innovation in silent computing components. The NCU-2000 is an update of a HS designed to run completely fanless. This huge model uses flat heatpipes, widely spaced thin fins and a copper base that can rotate so the fins are correctly oriented regardless of CPU socket orientation on socket 478 or A64. Yet it's just 505 grams, a hundred grams lighter than the original NCU-1000; is it better?

Thermalright XP-120: 1st 120mm fan CPU heatsink

Cooling
With Intel CPUs far exceeding the 100W mark, you knew it was going to come to this, sooner or later: A massive heatsink designed to work with a 120mm fan for a new level of cooling. Thermalright is the first out of the gate with their XP120. Thin aluminum fins, a very large radiant surface, copper base and heatpipes. Simply put: Its performance sweeps aside every other HS.

SilverStone ST30NF Fanless ATX12V PSU

Power
The SilverStone ST30NF is probably the most sophisticated fanless PSU we've examined thus far. It weighs 6 lbs, uses a heatpipe cooling system, has twin LEDs for operational and temperature status, Active PFC, and even looks really slick. Rated at just 250W (for 120VAC input) but priced at US$159. Hmmm...

Apple iMac G5: Super Small & Very Quiet

Apple's new iMac G5 unveiled today is built into the back of 17" and 20" LCD monitors just 2" and 2.2" in depth and feature a 1.6 or 1.8 GHz G5 processor. Although Apple have not claimed this, it qualifies for the world's smallest desktop computer: The PC portion of the iMac has no footprint to speak of, and the monitor is only marginally deeper than some LCD monitors. The iMac G5 is considerably smaller and sleeker than similar LCD monitor + computer integrations from the PC world. The features and connectivity offered compete well with the very best SFF PCs offer.

All of this would be moot for SPCR if it was noisy, but Apple claims to have paid close attention to acoustics once again:

"The speaker grill [at the bottom edge of the monitor/pc] lets a trio of ultra-quiet blowers draw cool air into the system. These custom heat dissipaters can rotate at speeds as low as a few hundred RPM. Advanced thermal software spins them as fast or slow as needed... the iMac G5 measures less than 25dB when idle (at the same distance of 50cm, a whisper in a quiet room measures more than 30dB). A slit in the back of the case allows heat to rise out the top."

If true, this is quieter than any SFF PC except fanless units such as those from Hush, NiveusMedia, etc. The iMac G5 seems like a clever adaptation and application of notebook technology; surely PC makers could do similar? Now for a review sample. .. Discuss this news in the SPCR forum.

X-bit Labs examines power consumption of current VGA cards

A follow-up to an earlier piece on ATI cards' power consumption, this new X-bit Labs article examines current nVidia cards and compares them with ATI cards for power consumption. Detailed analysis of heat sources in a PC is of interest to anyone concerned about thermal and noise management, which is at the core of silent computing. Actually measuring VGA cards' power is a challenge that few web sites have attempted in the past. Definitely worth a read.