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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  • kevith - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I read the review at SPCR a while ago.

    If one could talk about "craftsmanship" when referring to building computers, these guys would be he Formula 1 techs of quiet computer building. These guys' work doesn't come cheap, I don't really find the price all that monstrous, when I consider the hours spent.

    I'm a muscician, and ths is the first ever, real quiet, almost silent machine I've ever seen even near this pricepoint. And I'm sure I could live with the 20 dB "hurricane" of the little-brother, at an even friendlier price. And I'd probably go with a graphics card with one of modern, very quiet aftermarket supercoolers.

    (There's one little catch in musicproduction-PC's, regarding to graphics cards. I use Nuendo, a high-end, 2.500 $ DAW. As for now, I have an XFX HD4770. And, as most moderne graphics cards, it throttles itself when doing 2D-work, in my case from 750 mHz to 250 mHz core. While work in the DAW isn't 3D, it actually has some pretty demanding tasks, graphics-wise: When you zoom in and out in the editor window with a lot of tracks open; When you move large chunks of audio-material; When you pan across a whole song; When you use the Mixer-window that has a lot of real-time moving details like meters, graphs etc. These, and a lot of other operations you do all the time, will put so much strain on the video-card, that the low-performance clock isn't really enough, causing glitches, delays and brief lock-ups in the system. Of course, this is amplified the more tracks you have. I'd wish I could control these frequencies, but only the high-performance can be altered in AMD Overdrive, as soon as you return to 2D-work, the core-clock will drop to 250. Just to say, that the graphics card should be researched and considered thoroughly, even in a music-production machine.)

    I live in Europe, so I can't buy it anyways.

    However, I really dig the article, it's VERY inspiring, this is a project I'm definitely going to copy for my next build.

    Tear it apart and give us some nice close-ups of the sound-dampening details... Just kidding:-)
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Check out ATI tool. It is a free, beta program that allows for changing both 2D and 3D frequencies independently. Most of us use it to downclock our numbers, but in your situation you could ramp up the 2D clocks. Google Tech Power Up and Ati Tool and you'll get a link to the program. It's still a beta that is probably never going to see a final release but for a lot of us it offers something that is not available anywhere else.

  • 7Enigma - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    One thing I forgot to mention. You need to select the SAME frequency for low, medium, and high, or else you get a screen flickering bug on some cards (mine included). But if you set all the 2D (or 3D) settings to the same frequency the issue goes away.
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    And I'm an idiot. I meant gpu tool, not ati tool (they are different programs). Everything else still applies though that I mentioned in the previous posts. Just go here:
  • rpsgc - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Tell them to start using higher end video cards with aftermarket coolers. AC Accelero Xtreme Plus, Accelero Twin Turbo Pro, Gelid Icy Vision, Thermalright Shaman, Thermalright Spitfire, etc.

    With such a slew of great coolers, there's no reason not to use them, and not to use more powerful video cards.
  • KayDat - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    I'm speaking particularly for the SPCR build, but with a computer at such a low noise floor, a lot of graphics coolers (yes, even third party ones) may be positively noisy in comparison. Yes, the option would be nice, but Puget spend time cherry picking parts for SPCR build, they wouldn't put in parts that aren't up to scratch.
  • Taft12 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Any of those coolers would obliterate the 11dB they were able to obtain. You might not realize what an achievement that is, but suffice to say passive GPU cooling is a must.
  • kmmatney - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    I have a somwhat similar setup, with an Antec P-182 case, that I built for silence. I have an HD4890 that was completely unbearable witht he stock fan. I placed in an Accelero on it, along with a silent, low-speed fan blowing across it , and its both silent and stays cool.
  • michal1980 - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    why did they pick a 850W PSU? System runs low power, was so smartly desgined, and then they drop this beast in there? Why? Imho, stupidy.

    Futhermore, seems like there was some ass-kissing in this review

    "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... 30 frames per second ...framerate should still be your baseline for acceptable performance"

    Where did this pc hit 100 fps? Yes over 100fps would be academic. Over 60fps could be academic, 16fps for 2 grand? I'll tell you what that is, pathic. As are most of the graphic tests. The performance isn't good, its SAD.

    30 frames per second a human eye limit, you just panadoring to Puget, for its pathic attempt at a 'performance' machine. Please get back to us, when you get some balls to call things as they are. For a gaming pc this is sad.

    Maybe next time they should go for zero dB, solid state drives, a slow passivle cold pc. heck slap an ipad in case, look man this thing makes no sound. No one can tell the difference between this and a performance pc. just 3 grand.
  • nikclev - Thursday, February 10, 2011 - link

    Just commenting on the choice of power supply. The CP-850 is the smallest that antec makes in the CPX (or whatever they call it) proprietary form factor. Basically bigger dimensions, it allows for a bigger fan and more room inside the PSU. It also performs extremely well and is considerably cheaper than most other high quality PSUs in the same wattage range. Every review I've seen of the CP power supplies lists it as one of the best when it comes to voltage stability and lack of ripple/noise/etc. And yes, it is more power supply than this system needs. I think that is a good thing. Too many computer manufacturers use power supplies that do not allow any room for expansion/cap ageing purely to save money.

    I agree with you to a point about the lack of gaming performance.I think in this case silence was priority number one. I've owned several high performance graphics cards and purposely set in game settings lower than I had to, just to keep the thing quiet.

    I agree with the review, It seems like an excellent computer with boutique quality AND price tag, but lacking in the warranty department. (At least when you compare advertised numbers with other manufacturers)

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