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Poweroid 1204 silent PC

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Review Usually the beige box that houses all your PC components is the least remarkable part of a system, but not so with the Poweroid 1204. This is the first PC to hit the shores of the UK based on the Zalman TNN 500A. So why is this case so special? Well, for starters it's not beige, but much more importantly, it is completely noiseless, writes Lars-Göran Nilsson.

The silent operation has been achieved using some very unique construction methods, as even the sides of the case act as large heatsinks. Internally the design is also very different, and Zalman has fitted a custom-made fan-less power supply. But the most impressive aspect of the TNN 500A is the heatpipe configuration used to cool the processor and graphics card.

Heatpipes have been used in laptops for a good few years now and are designed to dissipate heat by transferring it away from the areas generating it. As far as the TNN 500A is concerned, the heat is transported from the CPU and graphics card to the sides of the case, which, due to its construction acts as a massive heatsink and dissipates the heat out in to the surrounding room. You might wonder why this hasn't been done before and the easy explanation is that it's a very expensive and complicated solution. The TNN 500A on its own is expected to cost over £815 inc VAT, which is very expensive for a PC case. But for those that want a near inaudible PC this is the way forward and one of the only options available.

The nosiest components fitted are the two optical drives and the hard disk. Even though Poweroid has used one of the new Western Digital hard drives with fluid dynamic bearings to reduce noise further, you can still hear it, but only faintly. Poweroid hasn't stopped here though, as the hard drive is mounted in a special cradle that prevents any operational vibrations from spoiling the silence.

The TNN 500A is no looker; in fact it's more reminiscent of a small pedestal server than your average PC case, especially as you can move it around the room on its four wheels. These can be retracted in favor for four massive rubber stands that are designed to remove any vibration noise from the PC onto the surface it's standing on. There are even two large carry handles on the top if you want to pick the whole unit up.

It is a shame that Zalman hasn't managed to add some kind of cover panel around the drive bays as it looks quite messy when you open the front door. Behind the door you'll find two USB 2.0 ports as well as power and reset buttons. There's even a third button that allows you to switch on a set of blue LEDs that light up the inside of the TNN 500A. Unfortunately, the LEDs are not bright enough to illuminate the whole of the case internals and it seems like a curious addition that adds to the cost of an already expensive solution.

The 1204 looks quite messy inside, too, but with the design limitations and the long heatpipes, it would be very hard to make it tidy internally. But tidy internals are less of an issue with this case, since there is no airflow that can be obstructed and thus reduce system cooling. As the TNN 500A has a door at the front and back, all cables are routed through special openings below and above these. There are four in the bottom and four in the top at both the front and the back so you'll have plenty of access for all sorts of cabling.

The TNN 500A is the type of case you build once and then leave it alone, as it takes quite a lot of effort to open it and change any of the components inside. One of the sides can be opened by removing six allen bolts, but access is still fairly limited compared with modern ATX cases.

During our weeklong test the system never seemed to get especially hot, apart from the hard drive, but this is common with today's high-end drives and shouldn't be of any concern. Due to the way the TNN 500A has been designed to act as a giant heatsink the outside does get warm, but never hot to the touch. However, it's worth noting that good ventilation is needed around this case to get the heat away from it, so you don't want it pushed into a corner.

Poweroid has done a good job configuring the 1204 and for your money you get an Asus P4C800 Deluxe motherboard, a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor and 1GB of PC3200 memory. This is a very good base specification, but due to limitations in the current implementation of the TNN 500A you're limited in your choice of graphics card. Because of this Poweroid has fitted a Gainward Geforce FX5700 Ultra Golden Sample graphics card which is fine for all but the hardcore gamers out there. The Gainward card offers D-SUB and DVI outputs as well as S-Video out. A massive 250GB Western Digital hard drive with the aforementioned fluid dynamic bearings is the main storage drive, with an LG 4081B super multi DVD writer as the main back-up device and a 16x Sony DVD-ROM drive to boot.

A Creative SoundBlaster Audigy ZS 7.1 soundcard with Firewire and a 56Kbps modem has also been fitted. But Poweroid doesn't supply any speakers, keyboard, mouse or monitor at the price listed above.

The 1204 is a very fast machine due to the components used, but I can't pin-point the target market that Poweroid is aiming this specific configuration at, but as this is a demo system that is meant to show off the TNN 500A more than the components I won't dwell on this too much.

This is a product that is very hard to sum up, as it is horrendously expensive, even taking the high specifications into account. But for those that need a computer that makes almost no noise this is an ideal solution. In environments like sound recording studios, a machine like this one would be highly desirable.

The TNN 500A is the first of its kind and a revolution in quiet computing, but how successful it will be only time can tell. Hopefully Zalman will develop a version of the TNN 500A that is more accessible and affordable to the mass market, as it's a great concept, and everyone would love to have a truly quiet PC.

With regards to the Poweroid 1204 there is little to fault this system as it has been designed to show off the TNN 500A, but at £1879 inc VAT it's a little outside most peoples' budget. Poweroid provides custom made solutions based on the TNN 500A, so if you want a truly silent PC, you can have one built to your own specifications.

Verdict

The Zalman TNN 500A is a huge leap towards the noiseless PC and Poweroid can build you any system you want inside one of these boxes. With the complete removal of cooling fans it is truly a ground breaking product. Let's hope that Zalman can somehow get the price down.

Poweroid 1204
Rating 80%
Price £1879
More info The Poweroid web site

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