QuietPC Product Roundup 19th June 2004
Before we get started we need to explain the format of our reviews over the past six months. Readers will have noted that an entire review is laid out on one long page instead of 15-20 short pages. While it takes longer for a single page of this length to load we have designed the layout so that text appears first and graphics last so you can start reading before completion of loading. We decided not to split over 15-20 pages as many people find it annoying to have interruptions once they start getting into a review. It also means you can use the search option in the menu bar to go straight to parts that are of interest. We'd like our readers to let us know which method they prefer by providing feedback in our Forums. In any case, by the time you finish reading this paragraph the page should have mostly loaded.
QuietPC are still the only company to specialise in offering computer parts that are designed to make a PC sound much more bearable. Gone are the days of the screaming Delta fans and hardcore overclocking mainly due to the narrower margins available these days for speed increases and perhaps also the realisation that excessive PC noise can actually be harmful as well as just annoying. Many journalists find themselves being distracted by PC noise just when they need to concentrate the most and this reviewer is definitely glad to be writing this article on a PC modified by components from QuietPC.
So how well does it perform? We will examine the main sources of noise and vibration and see how well the products perform.
Zalman have been pushing forward the boundaries of low noise computing since they first appeared on the scene and this has culminated in the flagship models above. Here are the official specs:
So what's included in the package?
At first glance the heat sinks seem massive but we were able to fit them to any of our P4 motherboards without problem. Included in the package is a Zalman fan mate controller (would cost about £8 if bought separately) and attachments for both Pentium4 processors and Athlon64 CPUs.
The orb design is very clever and allows the 92mm fan to turn freely and push air through the numerous large fins which have a greater surface area for dissipation than any other design we can think of. The retention mechanism feels spring mounted to dampen vibration and in operation we could not feel any vibration. The fan speed can be set between 1350rpm and 2500rpm with the controller and is completely silent at lower speeds.
The temperature of the CPU between speeds (we tested on a 3GHz P4) was 8 degrees Celsius and the design is so good that we stress tested our machine for 2 hours at the lowest speed on a hot day without any problems. Incidentally the Aluminum and Copper version seemed to perform as well as the all Copper version despite weighing only about half as much. The advantages of the latter model should begin to become apparent as CPU temperatures increase.
One note of caution however, the Copper version exceeds the rated weight for Socket-478 boards and ideally the backplate (provided) should be fitted. We found no problems without the backplate but it can be envisaged that damage may occur during transportation if the backplate is not fitted and the motherboard is vertical.
The Heatpipe is a clever way to apply the technology first seen on SFF PCs like the Shuttle range to cool graphics cards. This is becoming increasingly important as the heat dissipation of the latest VGA cards is approaching that of high end CPUs. Already we have seen Nvidia cards that have coolers taking up an extra PCI slot and the very latest cards actually need a separate power line from the PSU. What's the point of making a CPU silent and having quiet case fans if the graphics card sounds like a vacuum cleaner?
As well as the Heatpipe cooler itself, an ultra quiet fan is available as an extra precaution if the VGA card runs so hot that passive cooling will not suffice. It's really only needed on an ATI Radeon 9800XT and above (and the equivalent Nvidia model). Anything lesser will be fine with just the passive Heatpipe. Here are the official specs:
The fan can either be purchased separately or included as part of a bundle. It fits at right angles to the card (parallel to the motherboard).
There are quite a few components in the package but the full colour instruction booklet makes installation a breeze with even a screwdriver included.
The fan looks trendy and even includes an adaptor with connectors for 3 other fans. We used this to run all 4 of our case fans and connected the Zalman fan directly to the motherboard for monitoring speed. It runs at a reasonable speed and is completely silent in operation.
An overview of fitting is shown on the back of the package with more detailed animated instructions available from the QuietPC web site.
In tests we found that all our VGA cards from a Ti4200 to a Radeon 9800XT were able to run under full load without the fan (we would have used the fan for over clocking though).
This could be the ultimate case fan. It has ceramic bearings and a temperature sensor to adjust speed.
with a fan mate controller it costs about the same and has a built-in automatic
temperature sensor and speed control. Here are the official specs:
The mass of cables shows just how long the temperature sensor can be placed away from the fan. We recommend attaching it to the case sides or top away from direct airflow to get an accurate reading.
Our tests showed 4 of these to be much quieter than 4 Pana Flo fans (our previous champions).
When you need to control the speed of a fan one of these is ideal and allows the speed to be tweaked to levels that are just right. The alternative would be to calculate the value of resistor required for desired speed and solder one in but for non masochists the fan mate is a cheap and elegant solution.
We were very excited when we received this product as its the first true 5.1 Channel surround sound headphone available. Instead of taking a stereo input doing some trickery it actually has 3 phono inputs and six speakers housed in the casing.
The picture above shows just how flexible the frame is and the clear labelling of each connector. The headphones are plugged in just like a 5.1 speaker system. Here are the official specs:
The headphones are very comfortable to wear for extended durations and flexible enough to accommodate any head type.
The key to the 5.1 Channel sound is the extra speaker to the front and behind the two main ones. These provide the front and rear channels. The drawback to this approach is that there is no clear path from the surround speakers to the ear and this manifests as an echo and dulls the image.
We used our two classic reference DVDs (Saving Private Ryan and The Matrix) and found that while the channels were accurately separated there was a certain muffling. We are probably being unduly harsh in comparing this product with speaker systems costing many times more and we cannot overlook the fact that this is the only product of its type on the market and easily beats the quality of pseudo surround headphones costing more.
The headphones really shine when playing games and add a huge element to immersion in any first person game as the user can spin round to counter new threats knowing exactly where they are due to accurate positioning. Once you play a game with these headphones you wont want to be without them.
We have always been a fan of QuietPC and their specialization in this field has brought them an enviable reputation as well as exclusive distribution from many manufacturers. They now have a wide range of products that cater to every aspect of PC noise reduction. The CPU coolers above are so good we use them in four of our PCs. The Heatpipe cooler can silence the loudest cutting edge graphics card and the accoustifan offers the latest case fan technology with automatic speed control. The 5.1 Channel headphones allow enjoyment of surround sound without disturbing neighbors late at night. For their innovative products and unique focus we award QuitPC the Hardware Review Gold Award. Long may they continue bringing us new technology.
We would like to thank QuietPC for providing us with review samples
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