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Which Fanless PSU Is Right For You?

Silent Running: Two Fanless Power Supplies And A Quiet One, Tested
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Buy an actively-cooled power supply designed with low-noise in mind, or choose a fanless model. The choices are nearly the same, unless your hearing is acute. Of course, you could argue that if PSUs like the ones from Seasonic and SilverStone deliver high-quality DC power, just like the solutions with fans, why not go all-passive and cut the noise altogether?

Although it is true that the fanless power supplies from Seasonic and SilverStone are perfectly silent and ran in our test lab for extended periods of time, they did heat up about 50 degrees Fahrenheit above the ambient temperature. In an air-conditioned room, that shouldn't be a problem.

However, if you're in a room that gets beat-up by the sun all day or lacks A/C entirely, the thermal situation can get somewhat dicey, and a fanless power supply may very well hit its design limits. In that case, it's better to have a fan blowing through your power supply than to suffer the instability of an overheated component. It's worth noting that a PSU with a fan typically costs less than one without, due to the necessary measures to keep the passive unit cool enough.

But if you insist on absolute silence for your next build, Seasonic's X-460 rises to the top of our recommendation list. Its workmanship is excellent, and its price/performance ratio is quite good.

Manufacturerbe quiet!SeasonicSilverStone
Model Name and Numberbe quiet! Straight Power E9 CM 480 W
X-460FLSST-ST50NF
Street Price
Not available in U.S.
$130$200
Power Certification80 PLUS Gold80 PLUS Gold80 PLUS Bronze
Dimensions (WxDxH)150 x 180 x 86 mm150 x 160 x 86 mm150 x 160 x 86 mm
Weight2.6 kg2.77 kg3.5 kg
Operating Temperatureup to 40 °C0°C–50°C0°C–45°C
WarrantyFive YearsFive YearsThree Years
Power Specifications
SpecificationATX12V v2.31ATX12V v2.3ATX12V v2.3
Specified Output Power480 W460 W500 W
Max. Peak Output550 Wn/a550 W
AC Input100 - 240 V100 - 240 V110 - 240 V
AC Voltage SelectionAuto voltageAuto voltageAuto voltage
DC Output +3.3V24 A20 A18 A
DC Output +5V22 A20 A18 A
DC Output +12V (#1)18 A38 A38 A
DC Output +12V (#2)18 An/an/a
DC Output +12V (#3)18 An/an/a
DC Output +12V (#4)18 An/an/a
DC Output -12V0.3 A0.5 A0.5 A
DC Power +12V Combined456 W456 W456 W
PFCactiveactiveactive
Specified Hold-Up Time19 ms> 17 ms16 ms
MTBF300 000 hours> 100 000 hours50 000 hours
Cooling Specifications
Main Fan135 mmN/AN/A
Main Fan Speedup to 1200 RPMN/AN/A
Secondary FanN/AN/AN/A
Secondary Fan SpeedN/AN/AN/A
Connectors
20+4 pin Motherboard1x (55 cm)1x (60 cm)1x (55 cm)
CPU1x (55 cm)1x (65 cm)1x 55 cm)
PCI Express 6-pin/6+2-pin (Graphics)0/2x (55 cm)0/2 (60 cm)1/1x (55-70 cm)
Molex 4-pin (Peripherals)4x (85–100 cm)5x (45-75 cm)6x (50–80 cm)
SATA Power8x (55–100 cm)5x (45-75 cm)6x (50–80 cm)
4-pin Floppy1x (115 cm)2x (90 cm)2x (95 cm)
Product Specifics
AccessoriesScrews, Velcro Strips, Cables TiesScrews, Velcro Strips, Cables TiesScrews, Velcro Strips, Cables Ties
Cable ManagementYesYes, Fully ModularNo
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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    s3anister , July 20, 2012 5:55 AM
    zeratul600Why does americans are so picky about the noise rate??? i never stop to think about that! it has never become an obstacle to enjoy my pc experience

    Last time I checked, Americans aren't the only ones who enjoy a silent computing experience...
  • 17 Hide
    amuffin , July 20, 2012 6:02 AM
    zeratul600Why does americans are so picky about the noise rate??? i never stop to think about that! it has never become an obstacle to enjoy my pc experience

    Many companies that are focused on silence such as Noctua and beQuiet! are not "American."
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    amuffin , July 20, 2012 4:41 AM
    Seasonic, me gusta :) 
  • 7 Hide
    the1kingbob , July 20, 2012 5:50 AM
    Fan noise has never bothered me much, which maybe why I own two 4870s... one of which has a jet plane I mean reference cooler on it..... sadly my wife doesn't care much for the noise, which lead me to buy her wireless headphones :) 

    I think it is quite neat that they have fanless option. I would never take the risk, but if I did I would chose seasonic, my 750W has done me well.
  • 20 Hide
    s3anister , July 20, 2012 5:55 AM
    zeratul600Why does americans are so picky about the noise rate??? i never stop to think about that! it has never become an obstacle to enjoy my pc experience

    Last time I checked, Americans aren't the only ones who enjoy a silent computing experience...
  • 17 Hide
    amuffin , July 20, 2012 6:02 AM
    zeratul600Why does americans are so picky about the noise rate??? i never stop to think about that! it has never become an obstacle to enjoy my pc experience

    Many companies that are focused on silence such as Noctua and beQuiet! are not "American."
  • 0 Hide
    Deemo13 , July 20, 2012 6:24 AM
    I didn't know they made fanless power supplies....cool beans.
  • 4 Hide
    uruquiora , July 20, 2012 6:34 AM
    Seasonic for the win :) 
  • 4 Hide
    mesab66 , July 20, 2012 7:14 AM
    ZERTUL600......FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF FOLKS, PERSISTANT/RELENTLESS NOISE QUICKLY BECOMES VERY ANNOYING!!..........give 100 folk a choice of 2 pc rooms - one near silent and one, noisy as hell. Riddle me this....how many go for the quiet room?
    --> argument over.
  • 1 Hide
    mitko , July 20, 2012 7:58 AM
    A year ago I built a water cooled system with an i7 2600k and 2 x Radeon 6990. The whole point of the water cooling was to make things extra quiet, which it did, except for the power supply. I tried two different Corsair AX1200 units before switching to a Nexus RX1100. The power supply is still BY FAR the noisiest component in the computer. Does anyone have a suggestion how to reduce the noise? I could not find any currently manufactured water cooled PSUs. Do you think it is possible to use 2 low-noise PSUs to power components on the same motherboard? Any other ideas are also welcome. I need at least a 1100W PSU, as I've actually measured the power consumption to be 1067W at 100% CPU and GPU load.

    For the record I am not an American and I don't live in the US :) 
  • 9 Hide
    belardo , July 20, 2012 8:56 AM
    In a quality modern PSU... can anyone really hear the PSUs?

    I've been buying Corsair and even $45 Thermaltake 500... and I cannot hear them... with the cover open. The problems with FANLESS PSUs and GPUs is that they become heat-sinks... sure they are quiet, but everything around them gets warm. You need to blow the hot air out.

    Going from a fanless GPU to something with a huge fan (H.I.S. brand) - the fans barely makes noise and use a rear exhaust and I can run the system fans at a lower speed.


    Mitko: get soundproofing material, apply to inside of case. Put case on floor.

    My case is on the desk, a foot or so away from me... its no louder than the A/C vent blowing air in the room.
  • 0 Hide
    jassenjj , July 20, 2012 8:58 AM
    There are some things to consider with fanless PSUs:
    1. The heat stress is the factor No. 1 for the lifespan of the capacitors, no matter if they are conductive polymer or very high quality electrolytic brand.
    2. The case should use more higher intake flow to make sure that the power supply's heat does not enter the case.
    3. A noise level of 10-13 dB can be tolerated for the sake of sustainability and avoiding the risk of heating up your case with the heat from from the PSU.

    Personally, in the last 10 years I admire Seasonic for their stile... But I would use a passive solution that is still in the PC case just for a while.
  • 2 Hide
    razor512 , July 20, 2012 10:06 AM
    the main difference with a silent PSU is the capacitor rating. Most noise ones use 1000 hour 105C capacitors, while a high end silent one will use caps that are in the range of 10,000 hour 105c, or even 125c

    most of the voltage regulators are mostly the same though they may add a larger heatsink on them.

    you could pretty much turn a standard PSU into a silent one by swapping the caps and heatsinks. High quality capacitors are about 3-5 times more expensive (may take the cost of a single cap from 5 cents, to around 15-20 cents)
  • 2 Hide
    waxdart , July 20, 2012 10:16 AM
    razor512the main difference with a silent PSU is the capacitor rating. Most noise ones use 1000 hour 105C capacitors, while a high end silent one will use caps that are in the range of 10,000 hour 105c, or even 125cmost of the voltage regulators are mostly the same though they may add a larger heatsink on them.you could pretty much turn a standard PSU into a silent one by swapping the caps and heatsinks. High quality capacitors are about 3-5 times more expensive (may take the cost of a single cap from 5 cents, to around 15-20 cents)


    Yeap, and you get a better, more reliable, energy efficient bit of kit too. Bit I don't think I'll be having a go a swapping them :) 
  • 3 Hide
    freggo , July 20, 2012 11:52 AM
    zeratul600Why does americans are so picky about the noise rate??? i never stop to think about that! it has never become an obstacle to enjoy my pc experience


    Not an 'American' thing, but a medical one. Noise pollution is becoming more and more of a problem; and affects long term hearing quality.
    No wonder people can no longer hear the difference between an MP3 and a CD recording.
  • 3 Hide
    willard , July 20, 2012 12:07 PM
    Seasonic's X series units are pretty damn good. I've got the X650, and its fan doesn't even turn on until you apply a substantial load to the unit. Even then, it's still inaudible over the other noise in my case.

    Every now and then you can find it on sale for $120. A steal for the best 650W PSU in the world.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 20, 2012 2:22 PM
    I've been using a fanless psu in my HTPC for a few years now. A computer in the living room has different noise thresholds from a gaming PC.
  • 0 Hide
    vmem , July 20, 2012 2:31 PM
    I ordered the seasonic just last night, needless to say, this article makes me feel very good about my purchase decision :) 

    it'll be used in an HTPC/home media server. to those that have doubts about the usefulness of such a PSU, I will ask: "what's the point of having that nice audio system in your living room if all you're gonna hear is fan noise in the background?"
  • 0 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , July 20, 2012 3:37 PM
    I kinda wanted to see the KingWin 500W Stryker being compared to other fan-less units. Since it has 42 amps and it is platinum rated, it should be the best silent PSU in the market.
  • 0 Hide
    majorlag , July 20, 2012 5:54 PM
    I am currently using the Seasonic x400 fanless in my silent fanless HTPC system. And a x560 in my desktop build. One of the best power supply brands I have ever used. Currently my pick for new systems being built.

    Another article is what got me hooked http://www.silentpcreview.com/Seasonic_X-400_Fanless_PSU, they basically had to resort to a hair dryer to make the thermal protection trip. A very good power supply that can put up with alot of heat before having to shut down.
  • -4 Hide
    nebun , July 20, 2012 6:09 PM
    amuffinSeasonic, me gusta

    translate please...don't understand...thanks in advance
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