Quiet PC Serenity Z68 Gamer Xtreme review

A very quiet gaming PC featuring an overclocked Core i5 2500K processor
Photo of Quiet PC Serenity Z68 Gamer Xtreme
£1132

As we noted when we last looked at a Quiet PC system, gaming PCs are the most notorious machines – when it comes to making a racket. What with super-sized graphics cards bristling with multiple fans, they can make a noise not too dissimilar to an incoming hovercraft, on a windy day at Dover (if you can still recall those heady pre-channel tunnel days).

However, Quiet PC has been happy to tackle the challenge of building a gaming rig, which isn’t a noise pollution hazard. So, exactly how stealthy does the Serenity Z68 Gamer Xtreme manage to be? We’ll come on to that shortly, but first of all, let’s take a look at the spec of the model that we were sent for a review.

Use the DarkForce…

The system is constructed in a Gelid DarkForce case, which along with the usual vents on the rear and side panel, has a fully ventilated base and case roof with a meshed dust filter. This means a greater airflow and no clogging up of your PC’s innards with dust-balls. It’s a large case, pretty much the same size as a Cooler Master CM690 II, and there’s an expansive transparent window in one side panel, just to show off how neat and tidy the interior cabling is.

Inside the machine it is as spacious as it is neat. An Intel Core i5 2500K processor, the current sweet spot for the gaming PC, is present in a Gigabyte GA-Z68-UD3H-B3 motherboard. The CPU is overclocked to 4.4GHz and cooled by a Thermolab Trinity – a relatively compact cooler which doesn’t obscure anything, the memory slots loaded with 8GB of Corsair DDR3 RAM remaining well clear of it.

There’s a hard drive cage at the front of the machine containing six drive trays, with our review model having a 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 hard disk, sat in one of them. What’s clever is that the cage is split into two sections, of three bays each. If you wish to fit a super-long graphics card, the top section can be removed, to provide the necessary extra space. Above this are four 5.25 inch drive bays, one of which plays host to the optical drive, a Samsung SH-S222 DVD writer.

Perhaps the most important part of the spec for a quiet gaming machine is the graphics card. In this case, Quiet PC has opted for an MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC with 1GB of GDDR5 on board. While this isn’t a fanless product, it offers a substantial amount of extra polygon shifting power over and above Quiet PC’s fanless options, such as the Radeon 6850.

It’s oh, so quiet…

So how much noise does the video card, and the rest of the machine, make when you boot it up? And indeed, when you start running around in Battlefield 3? At idle, the Serenity is very quiet, with the case fans and CPU cooler barely making any noise at all. The 640 Watt Nexus RX-6300 power supply is also virtually silent.

Essentially, all you can hear under normal Windows operation is the whisper of case fans; the only real audible noise is the slight scratching of the Samsung hard disk, when it’s going. Even that’s reasonably quiet for a hard drive, making this PC impressively stealthy. The DVD writer is one of the quieter models we’ve ever heard, too, although it does make some noise when spinning full-tilt (there’s no avoiding that with any optical drive).

What about the level of decibels in terms of gaming? When demanding 3D action sequences have to be rendered, there is a detectable slight extra rush of air from the graphics card’s twin fans, as you might expect. However, the additional noise is minimal and the machine still runs pretty quietly even under full load.

Of course, you have to consider that when gaming, you’ll inevitably have music and sound playing. This will easily drown out any noise from the Serenity Z68 – even at low speaker volumes. That’s a refreshing change from some gaming machines we’ve used, which are still audible above the cacophonous gunfire and explosions, of an urban street combat scenario.

Benchmark battlefield

Speaking of which, the Serenity also proved itself in the performance stakes when it came to the Battlefield 3 frame rates. We recorded an average of 60 frames per second (fps) in full HD with high details, and 50 fps on ultra details, which is still very smooth. Running the IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover “black death” benchmark, the machine managed 49 fps under full details with maximum anti-aliasing.

Stalker: Call of Pripyat’s most punishing benchmark, again on ultra details, saw the Serenity return a result of 66 fps. So, while it’s calm on the surface, it certainly works hard underneath, as these are excellent results. They’re comparable, to some of the best higher-end overclocked gaming PCs we’ve seen in the past, such as the Palicomp Warrior.

We appreciate Quiet PC’s policies in terms of the installation and warranty, too. The Windows 7 Home Premium install is literally bare bones, with not a single thing added or bloating the system, save for a copy of Microsoft Security Essentials – for your free anti-virus needs. This clean installation helps the Serenity run as slickly as possible.

The warranty is a two-year collect-and-return affair, plus Quiet PC operates an “open-case” policy, which means you won’t void your warranty by performing an upgrade. That’s the sort of customer service we like to see.

quietpcserenity

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Company: Quiet PC

Website: http://www.quietpc.com/

Positives
  • Impressively quiet running; yet doesn’t sacrifice power and recorded some excellent benchmarks; quality components.
Negative
  • Scratching hard drive in operation is certainly audible, but it’s quiet enough and a large SSD would really push up the price

Verdict

It’s true that you can get a similar spec machine for a little cheaper than the Z68 Gamer Xtreme, but you won’t get a performance PC, which is as quiet. It’s not just about noise levels, either; it’s the quality of the case, power supply, the build, and there’s tech support to consider. Not to mention some excellent gaming benchmarks, which this rig achieved. All of which, in our book, means the Serenity is definitely a step on the path to gaming bliss and peacefulness.