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Puget Systems Serenity Core i5 HTPC Review - Essentially Silent

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Puget Systems

Performance, Sound Levels and Conclusions

To be perfectly honest with you, we know exactly how this story is going to pan out - we have tested the Core i5-2500K and it provides more than enough power for your computing needs, especially for a home theater PC, with the exception of any kind of gaming capability.  

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You want play Angry Birds on the TV?  Sure, it can handle that.  Battlefield 3?  Not so much.

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Our CPU-based rendering tests indicate that the performance of the Puget Systems Serenity HTPC fall right in line with our previous results.

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These are great PC Mark Vantage scores that are helped tremendously by the inclusion of a 120GB SSD as the boot drive.  

Sound Levels

So the main feature of the Serenity is its nearly-silent running volumes.  We ran our system under a full load for about an hour to get the temperatures nice and hot and used our sound level meter to see what it came in at:

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To be honest with you, we had a hard time even noticing that the system was on, let alone running under a full load!  The ambient room sound level was 31 dB even!  Again, just as we saw in our previous Serenity review, the key selling point here is a silent running machine and for picky users like those that are interested in upgrading their home theater, that is a must have!

Conclusions

The Puget Systems Serenity HTPC is a quality PC built with a single purpose - quiet computing.  Performance of the build didn't really go out beyond what we expected though the included Core i5-2500k processor means you shouldn't have to worry about any kind of CPU bottlenecks for any media playback or processing.  The inclusion of an SSD as the boot drive gives the system as fast startup time for those of you that don't want to keep it powered up 24 hours a day.  

For those of you asking, yes you can add a discrete graphics card to the Serenity HTPC though it takes you out of the "Serenity" line and back into the world of a completely custom PC.  The only cards listed as "Quiet" though are the GeForce GT 210 and the GT 430 - both of which aren't on my list of great gaming cards.  It appears that Puget is very worried about the nearly silent running volume of the system being spoiled and thus the Serenity name as well.

Some users might also wonder why an HTPC is being sold that doesn't integrate a TV Tuner card of any kind.  In truth, there is some merit to that discussion but I would wager to guess that many current users are streaming most of their content through their HTPC to their TV via the Internet rather than over-the-air or even cable/satellite systems.  If you want, you have the option to either add a basic USB TV tuner or the quad-tuner Ceton card for another $376.  The options are there if you want them!

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The cost of the system we tested currently sells for about $1800 - a quick system build with the same parts at Newegg brought us to about $1400 and that was BEFORE the cost of the AcoustiPack material, hard drive noise dampening enclosure, upgraded case fans (all valued at $234 from Puget Systems) and of course, the warranty.  There are still users that are going to scoff at the price difference there but I really believe a growing number of users are willing to pay the premium in order to get the peace of mind along with it - in particular for a specific use-case like the Serenity HTPC. 

If you are looking for a quiet system to add to your home theater, and don't need gaming as one of the features, then we would highly recommend looking to Puget Systems and their Serenity line of systems. 

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November 8, 2011 | 02:19 PM - Posted by Buyers (not verified)

For any DIY'ers interested in building this setup on their own, Ryan's estimate of $1400 is about right. I NewEgg'd the same parts (as best i could) for ~$1,320+shipping. Was the cooler the Scythe Big Shuriken 2? And which Seasonic PSU? I priced an M12II-620 (way overkill, but both a cheap and good psu).

A couple notes:
1)Newegg has the silver version of the case that includes a 380W PSU (Antec EarthWatts) and 2 tri-speed 120mm fans which are silent on low speed (assuming same fan as in my 300 case). The pictures in the article also only show a single 120mm Scythe side fan. Not replacing these would save ~$105.
2)Currently HDD prices are inflated due to flooding. Assuming prices come back down when that's over, the price for a 1.5TB will drop $50 or more.
3)The Corsair Force Series 3 120GB offers better performance for cheaper price. Save $30 over the Intel SSD.

So, stock PSU and fans, and better/cheaper SSD brings the price down to $1,185 +shipping, AcoustiPack (~$30), and hdd damping box. A little less when HDD prices come back down.

November 9, 2011 | 04:39 AM - Posted by Sharpe (not verified)

Shouldn't a HTPC be able to do run 24p properly?

November 10, 2011 | 03:45 PM - Posted by Justice (not verified)

So.... where's the testing of bluray and HD decoding? It's a HTPC after all right?

November 21, 2011 | 08:05 PM - Posted by Gyser (not verified)

I personally had Ironside computers build an HTPC for much less than this. They don't sell it on their website, but they did such an awesome job on my desktop that I figured I might as well ask them. Turns out they can custom build them for you, and they build a really nice one for me for about $1100. and it does everything I need for a HTPC. Check them out yourselves at IronsideComputers.com.

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