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Arctic Cooling Silentium T2

Date: May 29, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

Hate loud computer noise? Arctic Cooling has an all-in-one solution that already has the proper fan layout and directional airflow you need. However, it also has it’s fair share of problems. Does the bad outweigh the good, in this ‘case’?



Introduction


Before I received this case, I had no idea what was in store. I didn’t read up on it, or even know what it looked like. After doing a little research before pulling it out of the box, it was clear the goals the case has. Many people would love to make their PC quieter, or have better airflow but do not want to plan it out. Of course, it’s not too hard to figure out a good airflow scheme for your PC, but many just don’t want to bother. Or, it could be that the fans you use are far too loud, and that’s often the case.

The ultimate goal of the Silentium series is to provide a case that offers the best thermodynamics to give the best possible cooling with the lowest noise. Before we jump into what the case offers from a features perspective, let’s first go over the specifications.

It’s quickly obvious that this is not a big case. In fact, it’s rather small looking compared to others I have around. Up until now, I have been using the NZXT Lexa on that system, which I already found to be somewhat small. The Silentium T2 is even smaller, all around. It’s still able to house your standard size ATX motherboard though, in addition to micro-ATX.

There are six drive bays available, but only two are available for your CD-Rom drives, or HDD enclosures. Two floppy drive bays are available also, if you still have a need for that. Honestly, I would have found 3 large drive bays and 1 small drive bay to be better, but this is ok. This case is not designed for a gamers rig, but more for a standard use system, or an HTPC.

Like many other cases on the market, this one includes a power supply. There is a catch though. This is a ‘special’ power supply, that cannot easily be removed. There’s actually no point of wanting to remove it, but we will get into that later. Luckily, it’s made by a reputable manufacturer, because I am always skeptical of using a PSU included with any case. I’ve had very bad luck with that in the past.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s check out what we get when the case arrives.

What we get

UPS guy came, UPS guy left and all I got was a huge white box! It’s odd actually, because on the box it states that it should not be stood up during shipping, but rather lying down. I have no real idea why this is, but I did indeed receive it lying down.

After opening, the first thing I saw was a 20 to 24 pin motherboard adapter. This rubbed me the wrong way already, because I hate using adapters for anything. They only add clutter to the inside of your PC. Either way, once that and the big piece of foam was removed, I removed the case. I have to say, the packing job is quite good. Thick styrofoam and gray foam were used to protect the case.

The first part I inspected was the black base used to sit the entire case on top of. The case is meant to sit on this base, and really has to unless you want to do some modifications. The bottom of the case has two large feet used to connect with the base so that they stay together. Sadly, I found the first real problem this quickly though. The base was cracked in one corner, and rather forcefully it looks. As you can see in the picture, it doesn’t even look like this was just an accident, but rather someone being rough with it. There was _no_ damage to the packaging at all though, so I really have no idea when or how this could have happened.

Let’s work backwards, shall we? Looking underneath the case, you can see those two feet I was talking about. Also though, there are two sets of honeycomb shaped airways. One is used to let fresh air in, and the other let’s warm air out. Behind the mesh that exports warm air, you will see some components. That is actually the included power supply, and you can definitely say it’s not an every day one.

You can see what the case looks like when it’s standing in it’s base.. cracked corner and all. Looking at the case from the front though, it’s actually pretty clean and classy looking, if not simplistic. The large black strip includes the USB ports, audio, firewire and of course the power and reset. There’s even a place on the front for a small sticker, if you feel like using one. Usually AC includes one with their products, but one was not included with the case.



Further features

The front door opens up, not by magnet, but rather by a plastic clip. I tend to dislike these, because after long time use, they will usually break off. Either way, after opening the door, you will see the 2 large and 2 small drive bays.

In the back, you will notice that there are two fans where the PSU usually goes. These are both 80mm quiet fans that suck warm air out of the computer. What you may also notice, is the power plug. You don’t? It’s way down there in the bottom right-hand corner. It actually took me a minute to find it.

Inside is where all the accessories can be had. There’s the power cable, drive brackets, plastic cord keepers and a hard drive enclosure.

The hard drive enclosure is one of the selling points of the case, because it allows you to mount your harddrive vertically, out of the way of other components. The enclosure ‘hangs’ by four small rubber bands, to help with minimizing vibration and noise.

With a closer look at the PSU, you can see that it is a 350W Seasonic, which has a peak power of 450W. 350W is quite a small power supply for any modern system, which leads me to my second gripe. Though this case is not designed for powerful computers, 350W is just not that large of a power supply. 500W is the size most modern systems should use. The ding here though, is that you are stuck with the 350W PSU, because you are unable to remove it. Even if you get it removed, there’s no point unless you plan on modifying another PSU to fit in the small enclosure.

For yet another gripe.. the power supply connectors. While there are a total of 6 4-Pin Molexes, there is only 1 S-ATA connecter, 1 Floppy drive connecter and 1 4-Pin adapter. As mentioned earlier, it also includes a 20-Pin motherboard connector. Considering that most modern motherboards have 24-Pin connections, you will need to use the included adapter, which only will block some airflow… a problem this case is supposed to avoid. In addition, there is _no_ PCI-E power connector. If you use a PCI-E card, you will need to use the PCI-E adapter that came with it when you purchased it. If you don’t have that adapter, you are screwed.

Changes I would have made would have been to decrease the 4-Pin Molexes to 4 instead of six. Who really uses all 6 pins nowadays with SATA on the rise? I would never consider throwing that many ATA hard drives in such a small case anyway. To make up for the two lost Molexes, an additional SATA would be nice, in addition to a PCI-E connecter. Lastly, and this is just being picky, an 8-Pin motherboard connecter would have been great, for the new motherboards that use them.

Well, I was disappointed with the case so far. Hopefully the installation will go smooth to make up for it.



Installation

The first thing I wanted to do was remove the hard drive enclosure, so that I could install the the hard drive before anything else. One thing I quickly noticed about the case is the lack of instructions. There are none whatsoever. You will have to go to the website in order for instructions, but I didn’t bother. Considering this is such a unique case, I was playing it by ear. Removing the enclosure was not simple.. I was trying to get it out by removing the rubber bands, but that wasn’t happening. A few minutes and a bloody thumb later, I finally got the enclosure removed.

Looking back now though, it was stupid to take the enclosure out to begin with. Removing the front piece off the enclosure should allow you to easily install the hard drive without any issues. Why I didn’t consider this at the time.. I have no idea. However, that plastic covering on the enclosure was also giving me problems. It would not easily come off, and I ended up accidentally breaking the tabs on each side before it would eventually come off. After this pain [literally], I decided to not bother with the enclosure anymore. If you were in the same situation as me and removed the enclosure from the case, or even broke the rubber bands, AC was kind enough to include new bands in the package.

When the time came to install the motherboard, I realized I was in for some fun. There is _not_ a lot of room to move around in there.. at all. After removing the cables from the cable holder in the case, it does allow you more room to move around, but not much. Happily though, the pre-installed motherboard mounts were in the correct position, so all I had to do was set the board in and screw it tight. This is where I learned my second lesson of the day. Never, and I mean never, try to shift around your motherboard into place by holding onto the cooler… when it’s a 9500. Band-Aid had a good customer this day.

Installing the CD-Rom and hard drive contrasted the rest of the installation, because it was very easy. The front panel can pull right off by pulling a few tabs. Once it’s off, you can install the two green brackets on your CD-Roms and then push it into place. Because I decided against the HDD enclosure, I planned on installing the HDD in the floppy bay. If you install a hard drive here like I did, it will not be seen when you open the front panel. You are installing below the area where the floppies would be installed. So you do not have to worry about seeing the drive every time you want to put in a CD-Rom.

Once everything was into place, the front panel was put back on. After a few minor installation extras, such as the motherboard power switch, power cables and all that good stuff, I was ready to go.

Overall, I can’t say I was impressed by the installation. Granted, at first I made it harder than it had to be, but in the end, it just wouldn’t have been an easy install for anyone. Pulling off the front panel to install a drive, even a hard drive in the floppy area, is odd. The NZXT Lexa for instance, allows you to install it just by opening the drive bay door. That just makes things easier. One problem I really disliked was having to go through many boxes to find a PCI-E adapter. Without question, PCI-E adapters should be on _any_ new power supply, without question.

Arctic Cooling designed the case in a very specific manner, so that air will enter properly, and leave swiftly. All four of the included fans are used for exporting warm air from the case, while fresh air comes into the case on it’s own, from the back and underneath. Because the installed power supply is open ended on both ends, it allows the warm air to escape quickly.

To test the case out, I mainly focused on CPU and motherboard temps. To do this, I ran an instance of Prime95 Small FFT on each CPU core along with PC Mark 05 looped for a 3 hour period. I recorded all temps using Lavalys Everest 2.80, which does a good job of spitting out such results to a simple HTML file.

During all testing, the ambient room temp was a constant 80°F (27°C).

Compared to the Lexa case, the Silentium did a fair job of keeping everything fairly cool. What’s interesting though, are the higher temps overall at 2.8GHz. The average temps for both 2.8GHz and 3.92GHz were pretty much the same. It looks as though it’s warm to begin with, but increasing the clock speed didn’t really raise it much higher. Either way, it still beat out the Lexa by 4°C on average.

The Silentium proves better Motherboard temps as well, taking a full 4°C off the max.

The big question is, Is the Silentium T2 quiet? Generally, this will depend on other components in your computer, especially the CPU cooler. With all other noise in the room off, the computer was definitely noticeable, but it was less noisy than my watercooled system. It’s hard to describe just how noisy it is, but it’s certainly quieter than others out there, but not by a large margin.

The Zalman 9500AT and Evercool RH-VHC GPU cooler add to the noise, and without them the case could prove even quiet. The included four fans are very quiet though. So if you have other quiet fans to keep your components cool, it could prove to be a very, very quiet system.



PSU Tests, Conclusion

As to the small power supply, it held up far better than I had thought it would. To stress it, I ran two instances of SuperPi, two instances of Prime95 and a loop of 3D Mark 06 for 6 hours.

I am very impressed with the performance of the power supply. Near all components were running during the 6 hours, including the power hungry dual core CPU. The largest delta was 0.05, better than anyone could expect out of a PSU that’s included with a case.

Conclusion

Overall, this case has it’s share of pros and cons. Sadly, I feel that the cons outweigh the pros, because I was quite frustrated by the end of installation. The case doesn’t offer incredible cooling, but it keeps everything pretty quiet, which was the primary goal.

Some of the problems I ran into, could have been prevented had their been instructions included with the case. The Arctic Cooling website is not exactly that user friendly, so it took me a while before I found out the instruction manual was available in PDF form. Of course, that doesn’t help anyone who is building their first computer who don’t have access to the internet and a printer.

In it’s favor though, the case does have good styling. It’s not amazing, but it isn’t supposed to be. The thermodynamics are well thought out, but it doesn’t really seem to give us a huge advantage at all, which could be due to our already high ambient temps (80°F).

The power supply is probably the biggest gripe of them all though. Granted, it has a peak power of 450W, but it lacks many connecters. If you have more than one S-ATA drive, you are out of luck without a power adapter. The same goes for a PCI-E card that requires a 6-Pin connecter. I truly believe they should have held back on so many Molex connecters and instead included extra S-ATA and a PCI-E connecter. A 24-Pin and 8-Pin connectors able to break off into 20-Pin and 4-Pin, respectively, would have been a huge benefit.

In the end, this is a solid case, but it seems to be strictly suited for an HTPC user with an outdated setup. If the power supply was bulkier and had more necessary connectors, the overall score would be much better. However, as it stands, I am giving the Silentium T2 a 6 out of 10.

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June 2 Addendum – Response from Arctic Cooling

I am sorry to hear that the Silentium T2 did not meet your expectations.

After inquiring it did seem that the ADI had sent you an old case which was for RMA (damaged platform, no manual,older version of sidewall, newer ones came out 8 months ago and are easier to remove). It was set aside and person responsible mistook it as the case to send to you.

To address the questions you had:

PSU: Our current PSU is powerful enough for most configurations. We tested it in a system with Pentium D840 and ATI X1900XT VGA board. This system draws max. 215 Watts from the PSU. We tested with synthetic benchmarks as well as the 3D Mark 2005. Just recently we wanted to make sure to have enough margin (power wise) for our system we show at the Computex. Our PSU passed loads of up to 450 Watts continuously and 23 Amp. at 12V. Probably a lot of “500 Watt” PSU had failed these tests. There will be just very few configurations that are not working with our PSU (e.g. quad SLI). Further it offers a Power Factor Correction (PFC
) value of 99%. This assures that you just pay the real consumption because apparent and real power are practically the same. A high efficiency of over 75% also shows that we are not talking about a cheap PSU.

It is correct that we just offer a 20 Pin mainboard and a 4 pin CPU power plug. But there is no mainboard that doesn’t work without our PSU. No adapter must be used, 4 pins of the socket will keep empty.

The PSU issues will be solved when we launch a 650Watt PSU (over 85% efficiency) second half of this year.

PCI adaptors are not included in our PSU for the VGA cards as the high end board manufacturers include a PCIe adapter, so it is not necessary for the PC case manufacturer to do so.

Further my engineer noticed that your had installed the Zalman CPU Cooler the wrong way round. It would have been better to use our Freezer 7 Pro as you would have achieved much better CPU temperatures and aligning would have been correct since this is also explained in the Freezer 7 Pro installation instructions.

We will be coming out with a revision 2 model of our Silentiums second half of this year. The platform (plastic bottom) will be secured to the case, HDD will include a passive heatsink which will be set horizontally rather than vertically. It will be enclosed with a vibration absorption material and PSU will have one 120mm fan to exhaust air out of the case at the front.


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