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
eSATA
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side 2x PS/2
Digital and optical out
2x eSATA
6x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
Ethernet
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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  • OblivionLord - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    SPCR Edition starts at $1,550
    Review system quoted at $2,149

    I'm going to say that this system certainly does not merit the cost. If the goal of this case is to be purely based on performance while being silent then ehhh. I'm sure someone would rather venture off into the newer upcoming iMac with a Sandy Bridge for this amount of money since it's basically the same performance being a 'silent' computer which sells around the same price point and is just as useless in gaming as this system. On the other hand, this system is a desktop and can fit the upcoming passively cooled HD6850 which will greatly best the iMac in gaming. This may sound great and all, but this newer 6850 will more than likely greatly increase the overall cost by a few extra hundred or so.

    After all that said, the iMac still is a more attractive buy since, if we compare the current $1.5k iMac 21.5", it takes up less space and already comes with a monitor which to me is just a much more selling point than this system.

    I dislike Macs btw hehe

    Then again, this company could just be show boating to say that they have the quietest custom pre-built desktop mid tower system that still uses fans and they realize that only a few people would really buy it. hehe

    As far as what a pc builder can do themselves... here are pics of my case..
    http://good-times.webshots.com/album/569810263ZkDm...
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    This system does not contain $1000 worth of parts. This system contains ~$1400 worth of parts at a minimum.

    Elsewhere in the comments section Dustin claims that the $1000 figure was for "equivalent hardware performance." That would be an interesting comparison to make, but that's not what the article says the $1000 figure is for. The article flat out says that there is "$1000 in parts here".

    There's really no way to sugar coat this - the article is flat out wrong, by an almost 150% margin. Furthermore, this was not a typo or other honest mistake; Dustin has verified in the comments that $1000 is what he intended to write. When a casual reader can verify in <5min that a review is spewing bullshit, something is seriously fucking wrong.

    I don't know how you're going to fix this, but at a minimum I"d say a rewrite/rewording of the conclusion and a public apology to Puget Systems is in order - they were kind enough to trust AT with a system to review, and AT turned around and flat out lied about the value of that system to AT's readership. Classy.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    You guys are right, I messed up. I've updated the conclusion page of the article to reflect it. Reply
  • GeorgeH - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Mistakes happen. If Puget Systems is OK with how this one has been handled (they're the ones that might have been in for some real world hurt here) then it's all good. Reply
  • Taft12 - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Puget Systems could give 2 shits about getting slammed in this comment section - the exposure from this article is pure $$$$$ Reply
  • Osamede - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Why does anyone need a fridge-sized, 31 lb behemoth of a computer in this day and age. Companies like Synology and QNAP manage to package 4-drive desktop units aka "NAS" in something barely bigger than a load of full sized bread.

    So this thing here is a porker and could slim down a lot. Even with the silencing effects.
    Reply
  • KayDat - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Why do people use PC towers at all? Why don't we all move to laptops, all-in-ones (ala iMac) and mini-ITX form factors? Lack of airflow, limited space means limited features (full ATX board with graphics card), tower cooler for the CPU allowing minimal fan speed while having cool temps, the list goes on. Sure you could try running a comparible system in a small box like a Shuttle, but when was the last time you saw a silent shoebox computer? Most Shuttle computers I've seen run both hot AND loud. Reply
  • Sagrim - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    A simple answer, and one that can be debated.

    Air flow/circulation. This case has 1 PSU fan (attached) that pulls air in through the front and across the already cool HDDs (Green HDD + SSD). Has 1 mid/front fan (located behind top cage), to blow air past the fanless Crossfire cards, 1 fan attached to the CPU cooler, and 1 exhaust fan at the back of the case. The top vent fan is blocked off with sound dampening material (and, achieved better cooling results with it covered).

    Arguably, this is a quiet case with rather good airflow potentials considering it isn't a small case requiring air holes all over the place, and massive side panel fans. It achieves excellent cooling with minimal noise, and heat. Smaller cases create more heat, and require more fans, or for fans to spin faster due to ushering out the heat. Which, in turn causes more noise.

    Larger cases are able to sidestep the issue of heat to a great degree when smaller cases require more ways to get rid of the heat (more fans, more vents, more noise, etc).
    Reply
  • HangFire - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    So some slam it for not having a 6890. Now it is too big, heavy, and I suppose, way too fast.

    Maybe we're just talking about different target markets here.
    Reply
  • mariush - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    It's designed to be a silent pc yet they screw almost everything up...

    Power supply... why would you need 850 watts?

    The system uses 60w idle and 200w load so it's obvious 400-500 watts is enough even with slight overclocking - they could have used the amazing Seasonic 460w that's completely passive and it's 80+ GOLD, 90-92% efficiency... see newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817151099

    Or if they really wanted they could have used the regular Seasonic X-560 or X-650 (that I own), which are both completely passive at less than 20% load.

    Nothing special about the video card, it's passive from the factory - I have a stock radeon 4850 with Accelero S1 Rev 2 passive kit mounted on it - 40 C idle, 60-65C load... they could have added a more powerful video card, if they custom mounted a proper passive cooler .

    They could have mounted a faster hard drive on a 5.25" bracket below the dvd drive, on some silicon pads or some sort of noise dampening mechanismsm because that's what you'll hear during operation, the interrupted noise of the disk heads - your ears get used to the constant buzz of the coolers and don't notice them after a while, especially at such low speed.
    Reply

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