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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  • MattM_Super - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I would love an article that focused on building a quiet powerful gaming rig. Some info about DIY sound insulation and how it affects noise and thermals in the case would be great. A guide to building a quiet water cooling system would also be nice. In all the reviews I have read, box kit water coolers end up being louder than high end air coolers. Reply
  • KayDat - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    You could check out SPCR (silentpcreview.com), the guys who Puget worked with to build this system. They've been around for ages, lots of info there. The founder, Mike Chin actually took part in the design of the original Antec P180, (arguably) kick starting the whole silent/quiet computing in the commercial market. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I doubt water cooling is the way to get the absolute quietest type of system.

    You're always having to run a pump, and no matter how you hide it away, it's still essentially quite a large and powerful rotational mass compared to a fan.

    I bet this system is quieter than anything you could build with water cooling.
    Reply
  • PartEleven - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Air cooling is the absolute quietest solution. Water cooling has the benefit of a lower sound-to-cooling power ratio as you scale up, but if you're talking about the absolute lowest noise possible, air cooling wins. It's why Puget went with air cooling in this system. Piroroadkill was right: with water cooling there's always going to be a pump. While they may be quiet, I've never encountered one as quiet as properly tuned fans. Reply
  • Martin Schou - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    "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 what happened to Gigabyte's Radeon HD 5770 Silent Cell, that made it slower than a 5750? I was going to use it in my own HTPC/mid range gaming PC, but it's a bit on the large side and wouldn't fit in my case (height wise)
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I couldn't find it for purchase. NewEgg only lists the Powercolor 5750 and Sparkle GTS 450. In fact a visit just now to Google Shopping reveals exactly one vendor selling the Silent Cell 5770, across the pond. Reply
  • ganjha - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Gigabyte's Radeon HD 5770 Silent cell has reached EOL I've been told by distributors in my country. It's a shame since I used it in quite a few silent builds, and the cards meant to replace it all use the Windforce 2X/3X cooling. Reply
  • Martin Schou - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Ahh. That explains it. I bought mine in Sweden in late January (2011), and it didn't seem like an issue, but that could just be left over stock; however when I just checked there are about 30 stores that claims to have them in stock.

    Rather odd though - usually we're the ones being left out, not the US.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    For something that's EOL stores listing it as being in stock might not mean anything. I tried getting a case a few years ago after the non-window version went EOL. About a dozen vendors claimed to have it in stock, but after a few days refunded my money saying their distributer couldn't find it (one took about 3 weeks and a dispute filed with my CC company); about a month after that only half of them removed the case from their list of available parts. Reply
  • Taft12 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Many vendors (most in fact) will just copy and paste their distributors lists onto their website and wait for the orders to roll in. They spend little effort maintaining their site when distributors run out of stock. It is par for the course in this business and unless you can confirm ACTUAL stock from one or more other vendors, don't bother placing the order. Call them first at least! Reply

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