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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [08.08.03]
Manufactured by: Ahanix, Nexus, Thermaltake, Vantec

Ahanix PSU supplied by: ExoticPC
Nexus PSU supplied by:

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Sound Level Testing

Since there's really no such thing as an affordable sound level meter that can accurately measure levels lower than 20 dBA, I have to play this by ear. Don't worry though, ask anyone and they'll tell you they know nobody more "picky" about fan noise than me :)

To test idle sound levels, I only used the lowest fan speed settings for the manually controlled PSU's. Really, the Xaser's fan spins at 4800 RPM - you KNOW that's going to be loud. Besides, we'll look at cooling performance separately.

Testing was performed in as quiet an environment as possible. Each PSU was connected to a spare motherboard, allowing it to be turned on, one at a time, to directly compare their sound levels. For higher temperature level testing, a 100W light bulb in a lamp was placed directly over the PSU, and comparisons were made once again. While I can't give you direct numbers, I can give you my subjective opinion on each.

Ahanix SilenX: This is quite possibly the quietest power supply I've ever heard! I don't doubt the 14 dBA rating (in idle mode) a bit; this is effectively totally silent. What happens when things start to warm up a bit? Well it's not pretty - the fan in the SilenX quickly ramps up, and starts buzzing at a pretty high level. It's obvious that this PSU is intended for low heat silent PC's.

Nexus NX-3000: Not quite as silent as the SilenX, but definitely a quiet PSU, as you'd expect from a single fan unit. Also expected from single fan units is the fact that the single fan spins really fast once temperatures are increased. Put the Nexus in a high heat system, and you won't be able to enjoy the relatively silent operation at all.

Thermaltake PurePower Xaser: Prior to me first listening, I was expecting the Xaser to be louder than the previous PSU's that are directly marketed for silent computing. This was simply not the case, as I would put it right above the Nexus in terms of idle sound levels. Things held up quite well when I threw 100 watts of heat at it; one fan remained at 1300 RPM, while the other sped up quite a bit. At full load, the Xaser was no louder or quieter than either of the "Silent" power supplies we're looking at today.

Vantec Stealth: I warned you earlier on; the Stealth name must come from the black aluminum 'stealthy' look, and not the sound levels, because the Vantec Stealth is anything but silent. As soon as you turn it on, even in idle mode, you'll immediately notice how loud it is compared to the other power supplies. It doesn't range quite as noticably as the others when the temperature is increased, which makes sense since it's already noisy to begin with. The Vantec Stealth is clearly not to be used in a silent environment. With 3 fans, it's more of a 'go overboard' PSU :)

Let's look at each unit individually again.

Ahanix SilenX: If you're running a low wattage PC, and silence is your *only* concern, then the SilenX is definitely worth looking at. If you're the type who would underclock their components to keep heat down, allowing for a fully fanless environment, the SilenX was made just for you.

Nexus NX-3000: Unfortunately the Nexus is stuck in limbo - it's not quite as silent as the SilenX, and it doesn't have the robust features of the Thermaltake. However it was the most affordable PSU we looked at today (although it was also the leat powerful).

Vantec Stealth: I've said it several times, and I'll say it again - the Stealth is anything but stealthy. It is loud, it is mean, and "SATA Ready!!". Seriously, this is for the crazy modders with crazy overclocked systems, who are going for looks, and the ability to say they have 2 more fans than you do in their PSU :)

Thermaltake PurePower Xaser Edition wins the I AM HARDCORE Award!

That's right, how can I not give this PSU an award? It stands head and shoulders above the crowd: it is fully capable over conquering the silent PSU's in silent mode, and you can crank the fans to whip other PSU's into submission.

It was the only truly SATA Ready PSU in this roundup (although I would have prefered a second adapter). It was the only PSU with a case mounted fan controller (plus you have the option of mounting a controller on the back of your comp if you're out of room up front). It performed well in every aspect we looked at today, plus it looks sweet! Go for a Silver version with a black side to show off in your window, or a black version with a silver side.

Oh yeah, it can be found on Pricewatch for just $70.00 or so (even less if you look around).