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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  • Anchen - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    What the hell i the waste? It's not like an 850W psu draws more power, it'll only use as much as the system needs. It comes out cheaper, is effectively silent. And if you knew anything about PSU's you know you certainly don't want to continuously run at 90% of your PSU's capacity which if you were gaming with a single 6970 you would. A PSU's best efficiency is at 50% load. Reply
  • HangFire - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - link

    "Seasonic X-400. Game,set,match. No fan, will go up to 400watts. Whats Puget excuse?"

    flemeister already answered your question. They are counting on the always-on CP-850 for needed airflow. An X-400 would be silent but would only add heat to the case, not remove it.

    Now... What excuse for your continued ignorance?
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Who called it a gaming machine? Do you think that is all Anandtech can review? Reply
  • michal1980 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Look at the gaming review done on this machine. Look at the author's off base, ignornant comments on 30fps. And the rant about 100-150fps. For the writer/anandtech to ever try to stretch this into a gaming machine is crap. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    I don't think they were trying to call it a gaming machine at all. They were putting it through their standard suite of tests, which includes games. This is the same as putting an Atom netbook through the standard laptop test suite, even though they know it will be producing single-digit FPS scores and is completely unsuited to that use. I did not read this article as trying to show this was any more than adequate as a gaming platform, it seemed clear to me that the point of this build is a lot of CPU power in as silent a rig as possible. Obviously if gaming is your primary use, unless you game in a crypt with sound off this probably shouldn't be how you spend $2k.

    Also, 16FPS was in 1 game at their Ultra preset. You could have chosen to point out the 53 FPS it scored in the chart above the one you referenced, which would be just as much of an outlier.
    Reply
  • pcfxer - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Parts cost money, but I guarantee no one on here could achieve the same thing with the amount of research and testing that has been applied to this system. Apparently people want Engineers to work for free.

    IBM doesn't charge you only for parts, GM/ford/etc don't charge you just for parts and your local bike shop doesn't charge for just parts. YES! Unless you have an anechoic chamber with a noise floor below 10dB and years of experience (engineering degree or two) you can achieve this.

    The chamber costs money, the engineer costs money, the time costs money. DEAL WITH IT! You couldn't do better!
    Reply
  • MeanBruce - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    You are right, and you are wrong! Puget should get paid for the work they have done on this PC, absolutely!!! Out of all the parlor shop groups they really seem to know what they are doing, and for those Silent Enthusiasts out there who don't want to put together a PC this is a great way to go, certified 11db is well worth the price if you haven't experienced a PC this quiet it will change your entire computing experience!! But please don't let people believe you cannot do this yourself, you can, without an enginneering degree and without a sound chamber! My loudest component was a 10db Noctua fan that I replaced with a 6db Noctua fan, 200mm case fans attenuated down to 8db, rear case fan 6db, video card fan in auto mode 1335rpm again between 8 and 10db, how do I know? Because it's quieter than my 10db fan and louder than my 6db fan! CPU cooler Noctua NH-D14, it's so large so much surface area it needs no fan 0db. Ssd 0db! You don't need a degree or have to hire an engineer to put together an sub-10db PC, if you enjoy putting a PC together just do it yourself! ;) Reply
  • mino - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    But!
    You would need a brain. Those are a much harder to get than degrees.
    Reply
  • PartEleven - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Wait? What? SPCR's own anechoic chamber has a noise floor of 10.21 db. Even they have a hard time measuring the noise from this system.

    In reading your post it sounds like you are basing your own system's sound using your own subjective hearing and comparing it to a fan advertised at 10db. You fail to realize that nearly every sound rating advertised on the package of a fan is misleading at best. There's no way your system is 10db.
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Nor do sound waves exist in a vacuum in the real world. More than one fan will create a multiplying effect leading to a db measure higher than the "rating" of any single fan. Reply

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