Gaming Performance

It's not going to surprise anyone to see the Puget Serenity take last place in all of these tests; the second-slowest gaming system we've reviewed sports a Radeon with more than twice the number of stream processors, more than twice the memory bandwidth, and higher clocks to boot. That said, many of the really high scores we've seen are largely academic: can anyone really tell the difference between 100 frames per second and 150? Without getting into the ridiculous argument of whether or not the human eye can see more than 30 frames per second (if it's not supposed to be able to, I'm pretty sure most of the video geeks in the readership—myself included—are superhumans), that framerate should still be your baseline for acceptable performance.

Outside of the stunningly CPU-limited StarCraft II, Puget Systems's Serenity is able to at least beat the 30fps mark by a fairly healthy margin. I like to see framerates in at least the forties to ensure smooth gameplay, but any of these games are perfectly playable at our "High" preset, which is basically running them at maximum or near-maximum (as in the case of Call of Pripyat) settings, 1080p, and no anti-aliasing (excepting Left 4 Dead 2). Knowing that we're a little bit close to our ceiling, let's see what happens when we do kick anti-aliasing in with our "Ultra" preset.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is pushing its luck and Call of Pripyat is fairly punishing even on our other systems, but for the most part these games (outside of Call of Pripyat) remain playable and fluid. Shifting the bottleneck back to the video card in StarCraft II sends the Serenity tumbling back to the bottom of the heap, but even then it's still very playable. Gamers looking for extra frames may want to disable anti-aliasing in that title anyhow, as the image quality difference is negligible when the performance impact is taken into account. Suffice it to say these settings are basically the threshold for the Radeon HD 5750, and while performance is good, the 6850 is going to be a welcome upgrade.

Application and Futuremark Performance Build, Noise, Heat, and Power Consumption


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  • Kaleid - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    should have a 500rpm fan added to it, 79C is not cool. Reply
  • flemeister - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    It's well within spec. Also, a fan mounted on the video card would need to be mounted horizontally, which would encourage ticking/scraping noises from the fan (I've got a similar rig, gone through this stage before). These noises would be noticeable in a rig this quiet.

    And if you choose a fan that's not susceptible to such noises, you encounter motor noise, a buzzing sound that reminds you why Puget chose the sleeve-bearing Scythe Slipstream fans - they sound absolutely perfect: no buzzing, no unwanted noise at all. I'm using three of the 800RPM models in my rig as we speak, and I couldn't be happier with them!
  • coffeejunkee - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Nice try but there is only one way to go with this configuration: Thermalright HR-02 on the cpu and HR-03 GT on the gpu. It won't get more quiet than this. Reply
  • Chris Peredun - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    I know Dustin didn't want to go into the "30fps" discussion, but I'm really, really tired of seeing that statement getting bandied about the Internet.

    There is a very, very clear difference between 60 and 30fps. If you disagree, I'm afraid you are simply wrong.


    I said it.

    *draws line in the sand*
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, February 12, 2011 - link

    There absolutely is and I believe I suggested as much.

    That said, in my experience (and for most of the industry) 30fps seems to be the magic number for playable smooth framerate in gaming. Certain games look like crap at 30, though, while others (Crysis) can actually dip below it and still feel pretty smooth.
  • Chris Peredun - Saturday, February 12, 2011 - link

    *shakes head and respectfully gestures to the other side of the line*

    The confusion is that ~24fps (and around 30fps) is the lower threshold of motion, where you stop seeing individual frames and start seeing continuous movement.

    Yes, 30fps is smooth. Yes, it's playable. But 60fps is noticably better, especially when the game is fast-paced. Something like WoW won't suffer nearly as bad as a twitch FPS, for example.

    The easiest way to relate the 60-vs-30 argument is to ask people if they can see the difference between something like a live-action sports event or soap-opera (both typically shot and broadcast 60fps) and a "major network TV show" typically shot and broadcast at 24/30fps.

    Or have a look at the sample video here, recorded from Way Back When UT2004 was considered new:

    If you're *happy* with 30fps, you've probably saved a lot of money on video cards over the years by not needing anything above that. But please don't try to write it off as an academic difference. 100 vs 150, I'll accept as being academic simply because most people still run 60Hz monitors.
  • ClagMaster - Sunday, February 13, 2011 - link

    "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."

    Thats mighty magnamimous of you that you gove a "brief thumbs up" have 8 GB of memory on your review unit.

    Your comment is silly.

    I seriously wonder if you ever used over 30% (2.4 GB) of that memory in your test reviews.

    There are plenty of people who have used PC's for 25 years who consider 32-bit Operating Systems and 4 GB of DDR3 memory more than adequate for most mainstream applications which includes DVD and BlueRay encoding.

    How about you load a 32-bit Windows XP Home or Pro OS on this nice quiet Sandy Bridge Boutique PC with 4 GB of DDR3 memory and see how much more efficient this computer would be.

    Just do it and post the results.
  • HangFire - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    "Just do it and post the results."

    I hope they do.

    I've run XP and 7 on identical systems, and even the same system. XP has inexplicable delays in bootup and network operations that don't plague 7. Having an extra 4GB of dynamically available disk cache really helps in SSD/HDD systems.
  • xbmchtpcfan - Sunday, February 13, 2011 - link

    I think one important aspect that everyone is failing to call out is what is your time worth to you? Many of you talk about putting together your own rig for cheaper, yet fail to realize you are spending your time to do that. What is that time worth to you? Many of you will just chalk this time up to a 'hobby', but I have lots of hobbies, spending time with my family and friends among the top.

    And yes, I am technically competent enough to order all the parts and put a somewhat silent machine together for a cheaper base cost. But between researching, ordering the parts, assembling, testing, etc, how much time will I really put into this?

    Since most of you want to put dollars next to it, I'll give an example of something with dollar value. If you could consult in your field of expertise, is the 30 hours spent better than consulting on the side for, say, $50 an hour? Now your opportunity cost is $1500 of lost revenue vs an additional cost of $700 (rough estimates) for the Puget system.

    Given the above example, many of you will say that if you are able to consult for $50 an hour outside of your normal day job, than you can probably afford to pay whatever you want, so let's take look at non-monetary examples. Is it time better spent than staining your deck? Landscaping? Is it time better spent than reading to your daughter or watching her walk for the first time?

    The answer to all of these may be yes to you, but to others, they may have different priorities and different hobbies that they like to do. If you want to know what types of target consumers Puget is looking for, it's the ones that realize that their time is worth something and that there is an opportunity cost associated with anything that requires your time and effort.

    As for me, I am in this market, so for me, it is about reviewing all the boutique shops that offer this type of quiet machine and factoring in everything they have to offer based on the price of the system. From what I can tell, Puget is near or at the top of the list. I'll likely wait for the Sandy Bridge fiasco to blow over and see what Puget does with the Radeon HD 6850 to get a little more gaming power out of a silent machine. So there you have it, one AT reader that is in the target market.

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