Introducing the Puget Systems Serenity SPCR Edition

This is our second review unit from the Washington-based Puget Systems (our first was several years ago when they were first starting out), and it's a doozy. While the P67/H67 chipset recall has proven to be a boot to the collective breadbasket of the industry, we were fortunate enough to get the Serenity SPCR Edition in before the recall hit, and Puget was kind enough to let us review it anyhow. That seems reasonable, since the SATA bug in the chipset isn't liable to affect any of our test results outside of PCMark, leaving us with an opportunity to show you a remarkable system that you'll be able to get your hands on in the near future.

Puget Systems' has also issued a post discussing how they'll handle systems with the SNB chipset bug. The short summary is that they'll let you continue to use your system and send it in for a replacement motherboard when those become available, or they'll ship you a PCIe SATA controller to use in place of the affected SATA ports. It's a nice change of pace from the motherboard side of things, as Puget Systems will let you use your new system now, and get the problem fixed in the next few months with a minimum of hassle. With that out of the way, let's look at the system we received for review.

Puget Systems' Serenity line of computers are designed to maximize silent operation, with the SPCR Edition being the quietest system in their lineup. This tower is designed in cooperation with Silent PC Review and independently certified by them to run at a staggeringly low 11db; the regular Serenity models have a noise ceiling of 20db, which is still impressively quiet. If you're wondering whether the Serenity SPCR lives up to that claim, we can't tell you: the unit is inaudible unless you put your ear against the side (even under heavy load), and operates below the noise floor of my apartment at any hour. Simply put, we're not equipped to measure the noise level of something this quiet. So how is our review unit outfitted?

Puget Systems Serenity SPCR Edition Specifications
Chassis Antec P183 (Customized)
Processor Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.3GHz
(spec: 4x3.3GHz, 32nm, 6MB L3, 95W)
Motherboard ASUS P8P67 Pro Motherboard with P67 chipset
Memory 2x4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 @ 1333MHz (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics PowerColor Radeon HD 5750 1024MB GDDR5 with Passive Cooler
(720 Stream Processors, 700MHz Core, 4.6GHz RAM, 128-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Intel X25-M 34nm Gen 2 120GB SSD
Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
Optical Drive(s) ASUS DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Intel Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD Audio
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Digital and optical out
Front Side Optical Drive
2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side 2x PS/2
Digital and optical out
2x eSATA
6x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
2x USB 3.0
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 19.9" x 20.25" x 8.1" (WxDxH)
Weight 31 lbs (case only)
Extras Antec CP-850 850W Power Supply
Gelid Tranquilo CPU Cooler
Scythe Silent Fans
Silent Case Modification
Warranty 1-year limited warranty and lifetime phone support
Pricing SPCR Edition starts at $1,550
Review system quoted at $2,149

For most of this review we were able to handpick and outfit the tower with the components of our choice; as a result the Intel Core i5-2500K we chose didn't ship overclocked and Puget Systems doesn't offer overclocking on this model (though you can still do it yourself). By now you already know that Sandy Bridge processors are the fastest clock-for-clock on the market, and also among the most efficient (which our thermal and power consumption testing will bear out).

If you're a little bit underwhelmed by the Radeon HD 5750 in our review unit, don't be. This 5750 is arguably the fastest passively-cooled card on the market (only the Sparkle GTS 450 really competes), and is included in this build for what should be obvious reasons. Our rep did tell us that a passively-cooled Radeon HD 6850 is in the works right now; when that becomes available expect it to be offered with the Serenity SPCR Edition. That said, just because it's fanless doesn't mean it's slower: this 5750 runs at spec.

As for the parts we didn't choose, most of them make sense, though the lack of a card reader is disappointing when most of the review units we've seen include one as a matter of course. An SSD is a shoo-in with no moving parts to produce noise—though you could argue for using a SandForce-based drive instead of the Intel one—and the inclusion of the Western Digital Caviar Green sacrifices some performance in the name of silent running. A basic DVD+/-RW combo drive instead of a Blu-ray drive was disappointing, but the upgrades are at least available for a reasonable price. Puget Systems claims on their website to test individual components and cherry pick them and I can believe it. And finally, a brief thumbs up for including 8GB of DDR3 instead of 4GB in the review unit. This really should be standard and it's perplexing why so many of our review towers don't ship with 8GB at this point.

Finally, wrapping everything up is the Antec P183 enclosure. The P183 is often regarded as among the quietest cases available, but as you'll see Puget Systems takes it a few steps further in the name of silent operation. If I could really complain about anything, the Antec CP-850 power supply seems like gross overkill for a machine with specs this modest. You'll see in our power consumption testing that it's not really an issue, though.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • PartEleven - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Oh I'm not assuming. I know.

    You suggested using an Asus 6870 DirectCu. At stock settings. SilentPCReview measured the sound of the Asus EAH6850 DirectCU @ 15db idle. That's 50% louder than this system. Try again.
  • erple2 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Why spend 1+Million dollars on a Bugatti Veyron when you can buy an inexpensive Hyundai to drive from point A to B? They Hyundai will even carry more people than the Bugatti. It'll also get substantially better Gas Mileage. In stop and go traffic, you won't be able to tell that the Bugatti can go zero to ludicrous speeds faster than the Hyundai can get to 60. Does that mean that the Bugatti is be sold? Clearly, you're not the target market.

    You're comparing apples to oranges. In just about every instance in the world, optimizing for one specific vector (in this case, actually silent operation) tends to drive the cost up exponentially beyond a certain point. You as the consumer have to decide whether that cost is worthwhile. Do $50,000 speakers sound better than a $5000 speaker? To someone willing to spend that much, it might (protip - generally only highly trained ears can tell the difference). Does that mean that I'm the target market for a 50k speaker? No. I don't have a highly tuned and trained ear (though I'd be willing to bet that many people that buy the 50k speaker also don't have trained ears, but that's another discussion).

    Ultimately, your computer will be faster. But it will also be louder. And may not be as well assembled (though that depends on your skill level). Plus, if you have any problems with your computer, you get to call the 12 different manufacturers of each of the components to get it fixed.
  • strikeback03 - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Another parallel is that if you are going to drive the Veyron legally and only on public roads, the only thing it does better than the Hyundai is draw attention. None of its strengths are evident in that usage model. This computer system seems similar - outside of some specific circumstances (music recording, theater use) the average user doesn't have a quiet enough workspace that the difference between an 11dB system and a 20dB system matters. So the biggest benefit would be the ability to brag in forums about your 11dB system.

    It would be interesting to see if purchasing these same components (minus the custom foam and such) off the shelf and assembling would produce a system that is still inaudible in the majority of homes.
  • nikclev - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    While I don't dispute that the corsair AX 850 is a great PSU, I disagree that it is much better than the CP-850. They are both great PSU's, the antec has slightly less ripple and the corsair has slightly better regulation according to johnny guru. With only performance in mind, they are both excellent PSU's.

    The antec is only usable in certain antec cases, but is around $120 retail. The Corsair is around $200 retail. With value in mind, the antec is a much better psu than the corsair IF you have an antec case to put it in.
  • PartEleven - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    What the title says. I've noticed more than a few comments on this article from people interested in a tech site that reviews parts for their quietness to help them build a silent gaming machine. That's pretty much exactly what SPCR does. Go check them out!

    And if you've already checked them out and wrote them off as ridiculous or useless, I'd like to know why? Why are all of their reviews invalid? Why are they so terrible? Why, if they provide the kind of analysis some people want so much, are they still ignored so much?

    Just curious.
  • KayDat - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    I suspect most people don't really understand the difference between 'quiet' and 'silent'. Most people grew up and live around noisy PC's, where anything that isn't a blow dryer is reasonably quiet. Perhaps many don't understand the implications of quiet computing? Of course, technically the Puget SPCR build isn't really 'silent' either, but for practical intents and purposes, it is.
    Of course, quiet computing is a slippery slope; once you start, there's a good chance you won't be satisfied until you reach silent, as each time you lower the noise floor, you become accustomed to the noise, and feel like going for more (that is, less noise ;)
    BTW, nice seeing other SPCRers kicking around on the net, PartEleven =]
  • Dug - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    What I don't think most of you understand is that a majority of people have no interest in building or setting up a computer. What these guys do is an art and they have the experience to do it correctly.
    If you walk down the street I'll bet there may be 1 in a 1000 people that actually build there own.
    So the price they have is not bad for the experience, attention to detail, and support.

    Sure parts can be bought separately for less, but this can be said about anything.
    You can put together a car for less than buying one made by a manufacturer, but how many of you go and do that?

    How many of you have had to take calls from family members or friends. You may think its no big deal, but if you made something for them, you are responsible. And believe me, tech support is no fun and its not cheap. Not to mention running web site, ordering products, marketing, etc. This is a small business for higher end clients.

    To go from 11dBA at idle to 12 dBA at full load is no easy feat. Most of you building your own don't care about that subtle difference, but I know a lot of people that do.

    I think they've done an outstanding job and should be commended for bringing this type of machine to market.
  • bigbob123456 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Give me 6 hours and I'll put this same system together and only charge you $180 in labor, since that's what I currently make in 6 hours. It's one thing to put a car together from scratch, but a sound proofed computer needs little more than a screwdriver, some adhesive, and time. Therefore your analogy is terrible.

    Furthermore the other costs you mention, website, parts, marketing, tech support, etc are largely capitalized long term expenses and distributed over the sale of money systems. No matter how you spin it, this system is overpriced and not built as well as it could be (quality + part selection)
  • KayDat - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I really think people here don't understand the true meaning of 11dB. It is for all intents and purposes, silent. The average bedroom at night sits at around 30dB. 11dB is FAR below the sound floor of most situations.
    Is this system something that everyone needs? Probably not. But some do, and it is desirable to others.

    You make it sound like Puget sit on their hands and charge people for them to do it; silent computing isn't as simple as screwdriver, adhesive and time. Your argument that "this system is...not built as well as it could be" also falls short; the AT review affirms many times that this is a solid machine, and that Puget did a top notch job. Their parts selection aren't aimed at 12yo ricers or the average gamer, but those looking for a silent computer.

    Would I buy this computer? Probably not. Neither would the majority of the AT readership. Sure, I could buy all the identical parts, and put together a system that might be fairly quiet, but it probably won't reach 11dB, EVEN WITH IDENTICAL PARTS. There are batch differences in all computer parts, from fans to motherboards and graphics cards, resulting in different sound profiles and electrical noise. Puget spend time hand picking their parts, ensuring you get a quietest parts. If you're interested in silent/quiet computing, I suggest you come visit SPCR and spend some time reading some of their articles and posts in the forums.
  • Dug - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    You forgot a lot of things.
    You have to research the parts and test to make sure you can claim that 11dba
    You have to use your own money to order the parts.
    Unpack everything and put it together.
    Hope that the parts you ordered work- oh wait one doesn't so you have to spend the time for rma.
    Now install Windows and all updates- install things like flash, adobe reader, etc.
    Test- test- test. Because you don't want to find out 2 hours later the ram isn't good, certain fan isn't at spec, etc
    Supply set up instructions.
    Now package everything up and set up shipping.
    Hope that you aren't scammed from a bad visa.
    And last, are you going to provide 1yr support for that $180 when the person doesn't know how to plug in the mouse?
    Now you have to pay for rent, electricity, water, payroll, taxes, advertising, etc.
    Good luck on only chargin $180 profit. You won't make it long.

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