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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  • MeanBruce - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    You don't need an Anechoic Chamber, all you need is a pair of ears in good working condition!
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I have been focusing more on quiet parts for years. But it is really tough to find quiet parts at a decent price. SilentPC review is almost worthless because of the outrageous prices of the parts that they review. sigh.
  • HangFire - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Huh? Do you have examples?

    WD Green drives are hardly pricey. You only need one or two CPU fans, so while $19 each may be "twice the price" of a noisy fan, it is still not a lot of money. I picked up my Mugen 2 for $55 plus shipping, and better deals have been had for that item. It works so well I had to turn off the BIOS alarm because the PWMA CPU fan kept dropping below 100RPM and the CPU idles 2C above ambient. A P183 costs less than most Lian Li's and certainly a lot less than a ThermalTake Level 10. Since most silent builds don't use a big card like a GTX 580 the total system costs are usually less than a mid-range gaming rig.

    The only nearly "pricey" item I can see at SPCR is the Seasonic X-400 Power Supply. Given that you are getting a Gold Rating and fanless operation, in a P/S with a long warranty and very high quality capacitors, with low ripple and tight regulation, it is obvious you are getting what you pay for. The overall system longevity and reliability is worth it, especially compared to bargain gaming power supplies, many of which have false ratings. If you are comparing it price-wise to a same-wattage low end Rosewill or a Diablotek, well, anyone who buys something like that gets what they deserve when the magic smoke comes out.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    I'm mainly thinking of power supplies and fans. In the case of fans, a few years back I bought one they recommended and it wasnt nearly as quiet as I expected. Things could be different now but I feel like an idiot dropping $20+ on a fan anyway.

    With power supplies, I was looking for a good quiet reasonably priced 300W supply. Something that is only going to be powering a dual core with 2 drives and a HD5670. Nothing big. And when I did find one, I would go to newegg and the thing would have a horrible rating with lots of DOAs and "died after 2 weeks" type comments. It is hard to pull the trigger and pay $60 for a 300 watt psu that people are having problems with. I think $60 is pretty steep for a 300W supply, even if it is very quiet. If I pay that much I want it to be a 5 star product.
  • HangFire - Monday, February 14, 2011 - link

    SPCR is the place to go for noise reviews. For Power Supply quality reviews, there is jonnyguru and [H]ardOCP. Not Anandtech, and certainly not Tom's.

    Just a few years ago, buying a quality power supply for a decent price was very difficult. Part of the problem is that it costs almost as much to build a 300W P/S as a 600W (same number of components, same labor, same shipping, same marketing, same return rate, slightly different rating on components), yet the market will not pay as much. Since then, competition (mainly between Antec and Corsair) has given us several reasonable choices.

    The existence of $15 power supplies colors the users opinion as well, and the existence of $15 P/S that sell for $60 doesn't help either. Keeping in mind that cheap P/S often are missing advertised features (like Over Current Protection), don't meet ATX specs (typically voltage regulation at rated wattage), and are missing A/C filtering components (lots of noise put back on the mains). Getting all this stuff right costs money. Doing it very quietly costs more.

    As for loud fans and a dead P/S, everyone has bad luck, that is what RMA's are for. Sure, we are usually out the shipping, but we can let our displeasure be known in reviews and forums, and by buying the competitor's products.

    But your idea that SPCR is almost worthless and reviews primarily outrageously expensive products is silly. Compared to cutting edge performance products, almost everything on SPCR is cheap.
  • PartEleven - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I frequent SPCR, and I have no idea where you got this opinion. They suggest some of the most reasonably-priced parts out of all of the tech sites I've read. Which parts are you looking at? And for that matter, what's your idea of "reasonably priced"? You're not going to get quality quiet parts for the bargain-basement $1 per fan price you find on deal sites.
  • Golgatha - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    They replaced some case fans, used an aftermarket cooler with a more silent fan, and cut some foam to fit inside an Antec case. This + service (last I checked the individual components are warrantied by the manufacturers) != a $1000 markup. Also, at this price point it should come with a SSD.
  • Golgatha - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Sorry, my mistake, it does some with a SSD. Still the parts list is lacking for the price they want.
  • HangFire - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Wow, you made the same point as Dustin, and even got the cost differential wrong the same amount, too. Good job!
  • KayDat - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I guess that means you don't fall under Puget's target market. There are certain markets where silent computer is important. Noise is often a forgotten aspect when people build computers, basically as long as it doesn't sound like an outright vacuum cleaner/blow dryer, people accept it.
    While you could buy identical parts for much much cheaper, they cherry pick their parts to iron out batch variation and electrical noise in motherboards and power supplies. They have anechoic chambers for testing. The list goes on. Clearly, it's not something an average Joe can do off New Egg. That might not mean much to many, especially the readership of AT, but it is important to some.

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