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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  • mino - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Yes, the article is clearly misleading and no having the time to spend on newegg hunt I had assumed EXACTLY as you have. (comments excluded)

    What is worse, the AT stuff is pushing it absurd by arguing that since it is $1400 (best case), saying $1000 is "alright". Sheesh.
  • mino - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Just seen Dustin's comment down the way ... thanks for the open mind!
  • gigahertz20 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    No matter how you spin it, this computer is over priced. Most AT readers build their own machines anyways, but this article was interesting anyways since I've never heard of Puget Systems.

    No way am I, or the 90% or so of AT readers going to pay such a premium for this when I can do it myself.

    What I would like to see is a DIY article on how to silence a desktop computer. What cases/power supplies/fans/etc. are the best to get. I'm one of those that have always sacrificed performance for silence, I can't wait until I can build an affordable computer some day and have it dead silent in a room that has 0 audible noise.
  • OneArmedScissorB - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    That's been possible for quite some time. The more expensive socket 1366 i7s are pretty much the only CPUs left that will actually run hot, so you can turn the fan way down. The only passive video cards are almost always under $200. Lower power PSUs are easy to get away with now, and make very little heat and don't need their fans to spin up much. Only one case fan is really necessary, and it can run a low speed. 2.5" HDDs are available in very high capacites. SSDs are steadily dropping. Most everything runs cool stock and you don't need a bunch of aftermarket heatsinks slapped on every component.

    It's actually cheaper to build a very quiet computer than the middle of the road noise makers I see most people come up with. Too many people overdo the power supply, overclock their CPU when it's not even accomplishing anything, and don't adjust their fans.
  • BigDan - Sunday, February 13, 2011 - link

    It really is so simple to build a quiet computer these days. I have one of those 1366 boards and I have the Silverstone Raven 01 case which is tall and roomy but, its panels fit tight and aside from the temp replacement fan on my o/c'd 950 [3.8Ghz] which is the stock one the H50 came with. It is dead quiet or it was when I had another pair of fans on it that died. It may take time but its sometimes worth the wait for something you want. I built it in 1 year at a savings of $1000.00 usd by shopping around.

    Now Puget Systems stuff is too expensive, comparing their top of the line system to a real company like Digital Storm and there is a huge difference. DS also offers a 3,4 or five year warranty.
  • mino - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    This computer is not a DYI build.

    Go find us another of-the-shelf box with these parameters on the market and we may START talking about the price.

    i7 980X is very expensive. But over(what?)priced? A Xeon ?

    The same goes for this build.
  • MeanBruce - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I would put that $421 into better components and spend a weekend having a blast away from the gf, just chicken wings Fosters lager some cool films in the background and all those sweet unboxings! But that's just me.
  • MeanBruce - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    1 year parts and labor? I just RMAd a mobo to Intel 2.5years into warranty, they sent me out a new board no problem. My psu has 7years behind it video card 3years, like I said do it yourself will cost so much less per year down the road AND better quieter higher performing even better looking components, nuf said pal!
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I was right with you until the Foster's comment. Yuck. You do know that actual Australians consider it a crap beer that they ship over to the US and market well?

    I was on vacation last year during the SuperBowl and a large family from Australia was staying near us. We had some great conversations during the trip and one was how they get marketed to us with our "bad" beers and vice-versa. :)
  • MeanBruce - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Fosters does make a green can lager that I agree is pretty yuk, but the blue label in bottles is pretty good!!! Just substitute Fosters lager for a fine wine or frozen margaritas or Budweiser still that's a great weekend, and it's ok if the gf hangs around ya have to take a few breaks to clear your mind, right? ;)

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