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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  • Kaleid - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    should have a 500rpm fan added to it, 79C is not cool.
  • 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.
  • 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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