Steiger Dynamics Maven Pure Custom PC Review: Game In Silence

Have you ever asked yourself why you need so many boxes in your living room? The cable box, the DVR, the gaming console, the Blu-ray player, the little silent-but-weak PC substitute that checks your Facebook page or Twitter feed—you don’t need all of that, right? Cable companies have gotten on-board with video recorders the size of small PCs, and console makers include Blu-ray drives. And then you can always retreat to your desk for PC gaming, right?

I’ve always said that a home theater PC should be able to do everything all of those other devices do, and faced strong push-back for it from those who think set-top boxes only need to play back media, silently. That a media PC should be limited in order to assure complete silence. That even a few decibels of noise audible in a quiet room is too much. Rather than continue arguing, I ditched the plans I had for covering living room entertainment, put away my own HTPC, and kept on writing reviews of more traditional desktop-class hardware.

Maybe I gave up too easily? Steiger Dynamics figured out that a strong message reaches beyond the silent movement's din (irony?) and into the hearts of true performance geeks. Here we have a machine that gives the impression of silence, relying on the logic that most people either can’t or have great difficulty discerning sound pressure levels lower than 16 decibels in natural environments.

Configurable Components
CPUIntel Core i5-4690K: 3.5-3.9 GHz, Four Cores, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache
DRAMCorsair CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9: DDR3-1866, C9
GraphicsEVGA 02G-P4-2771-KR GeForce GTX 770 2 GB
System Drive2x Kingston HyperX 3K SH103S3/120G in RAID 0
Storage DriveWD Red WD30EFRX 3 TB, 5400 RPM, 64 MB Cache
Optical DrivePanasonic UJ265: 6x BD-R, 8x DVD±R
MotherboardAsus Z97-AR: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express
ChassisSteiger Dynamics Maven
CPU CoolerCorsair H60 (CW-9060007-WW) Closed-Loop Liquid
Power SupplySeasonic SS-660XP2: 660 W Modular, 80 PLUS Platinum
Chassis Features
Expansion SlotsSeven
Internal Bays3x 3.5", 2x 2.5"
External Bay1x Slim/Slot-loading ODD
Power BayPS/2
Front Panel I/O2x USB 3.0, Headphone, Microphone, SD Card Interface
Fans2x 92 mm Intake (side), 1x 140/120 mm Exhaust (top)
Motherboard Features
External Peripheral4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
External Audio5x Analog, Digital Optical
External VideoDisplayPort, HDMI
Internal Ports6x SATA 6Gb/s (Shares SATA-E, M.2), 2x USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0
Internal Slots2x PCIe 3.0 (16+0 or 8+8 paths), 1x PCIe x2 (long), 2x PCIe x1 (Shares M.2)
Maximum Memory4x DDR3-1333 to DDR3-3200 (all standard capacities)
Gigabit EthernetIntel I218V PHY
Wireless NetworkGigabyte GC-WB867D-I: Intel 7260 802.11ac / BT 4.0 combo
Audio ControllerRealtek ALC892 DAC, 7.1+ 2 channels rear/front, DTS Connect
Other Features
Dimensions7.0" (H), 17.1" (W), 15.8" (D), 26.9 Pounds
WarrantyTwo-year parts replacement, 45-day free shipping, lifetime tech support
Optional three-year parts, three-years free shipping, lifetime tech (add $199)
Additional ServicesOverclocking (4.3 GHz at 1.17 V) $49
Custom single sleeved power supply / drive cables and management $99
SoftwareMicrosoft Windows 8.1 Pro OEM ($110)
CyberLink PowerDVD 14 Ultra ($59)

The price for this machine is only $330 over the self-built option, with us using the closest-matching $400 OrigenAE case. If you subtract the $49 overclock fee and $99 cable service, Steiger only has about $189 in mark-up. And even if we deduct another $80 for the LED panel not present on the special Maven case, we’re still impressed by the value Steiger Dynamics offers the high-end PC market. But is the machine equally impressive?

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  • lunyone
    Did I miss the price on this?
    "The price for this machine is only $330 over the self-built option, with us using the closest-matching $400 OrigenAE case. If you subtract the $49 overclock fee and $99 cable service, Steiger only has about $189 in mark-up."
  • ta152h
    This seems like a solution looking for a problem.

    Quiet PCs are great, and most of the early ones were completely quiet. But, for gaming? It's not as clear. For the same performance I can save a load of money, or get much better performance for the price.

    For listening to Mozart's g minor string quintette? Great. For blowing up bridge or shooting aliens with a machine gun? I'm just not sure sound matters as much. For a living room box that does most things fine, and is quiet, I'll take a 35 watt Kaveri, and still have enough money left over to make a more powerful machine than this $2600 monster.

    I also don't understand the relatively cheap processor. For $2600 (which is what the ad says, but the author never seemed to mention, so it's hard to be sure), the processor should be the i7-4970K. Haswell-E might work too, but probably the 4970K would be best.

    Someone is going to want this, but I think it's very limited in scope. Silence, or near silence, is great for computers, but for different segments. Most gamers want performance for their dollar, and this falls short.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Did I miss the price on this?
    "The price for this machine is only $330 over the self-built option, with us using the closest-matching $400 OrigenAE case. If you subtract the $49 overclock fee and $99 cable service, Steiger only has about $189 in mark-up."
    $2578 like the link above it shows, for this exact configuration. The base price for this system is $999, so you can see it has a lot of upgrades.

    The next guy after you suggested using cheaper parts. We have the SBM for that.
  • lunyone
    Quote:
    $2578 like the link above it shows, for this exact configuration. The base price for this system is $999, so you can see it has a lot of upgrades.

    The next guy after you suggested using cheaper parts. We have the SBM for that.

    I thought is was an ad price listed like the ads listed on other pages, so I guess I just assumed that was an ad price :)
    For a gaming/htpc I think this is just too much $. I would have went with something below $6-800, but that is just me.
  • photonboy
    In what universe is this a good value?

    You can build a quieter computer with a better video card (GTX970) for about HALF THE PRICE. I built a system and here are the only noise elements:
    1) Noctua cooler (runs at 300RPM in idle)
    2) BeQuiet PSU (inaudible)
    3) Asus Strix GTX970 (has 0dB mode)

    I don't have the card yet but it would be completely silent unless doing heavy gaming. My system can't be heard from one foot away in a silent room.

    Other:
    - 2xRAID0 for SSD is pointless in the real-world.
    - not sure where that "16dB" number came from considering the PC has a pump, a radiator fan, and a GTX770. That's pretty much impossible.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    In what universe is this a good value?

    You can build a quieter computer with a better video card (GTX970) for about HALF THE PRICE. I built a system and here are the only noise elements:
    1) Noctua cooler (runs at 300RPM in idle)
    2) BeQuiet PSU (inaudible)
    3) Asus Strix GTX970 (has 0dB mode)

    I don't have the card yet but it would be completely silent unless doing heavy gaming. My system can't be heard from one foot away in a silent room.
    I don't think you understand. It's the build cost that's a good value. You can pick your own parts. Well, except for the case.

    Your response is like someone saying "How can you call $8 for two 8 oz Fillet Mignons a good deal? I just paid $4 for a pound of hamburger!"

    Anonymous said:

    Other:
    - 2xRAID0 for SSD is pointless in the real-world.
    - not sure where that "16dB" number came from considering the PC has a pump, a radiator fan, and a GTX770. That's pretty much impossible.
    I see you didn't read the article. There's a page called "Power, Heat, and Noise". If you choose to scroll to the bottom of that page, you'll see something that's impossible. And then maybe you'll understand why the company used all these overpriced parts.

    What you won't be able to explain is how they're "overcharging" for this exact configuration. Which means, as a builder, they're offering you a good rate. Aka, a fair deal.
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    In what universe is this a good value?
    ...
    - not sure where that "16dB" number came from considering the PC has a pump, a radiator fan, and a GTX770. That's pretty much impossible.
    In what universe is it a good idea to repeat the question seven minutes after I answered it?
  • Pikime
    the problem with having a high performance machine in the lounge room like this is it would be more effective (granted maybe not more simple) to have your existing desktop rig (as i presume most people interested in tv gaming on a pc) to stream to a tiny actually silent box. for the media stuff you can even get a raspberry pi to run xbmc and stick it behind you tv and stream from a NAS or other big computer, for the gaming you could get something more powerful like a NUC and steam stream or limelight or similar in home streaming which is starting to take off now
  • photonboy
    Crashman,
    If you read the conclusion he says the cost is only a couple hundred dollars more than building your own which I disagree with so I think it's fair to comment on his "value" comment.

    *I just added up the cost of all the parts, and NOT COUNTING THE CASE but including the software the total comes to $1500 USD.

    The cost to buy this machine with these specs was almost $2600. Now if we use $300 for a similar case since I don't think you can buy the case on its own the price difference comes to about $800USD.

    *So you can build the same EXACT setup with a difference case and save $800USD by doing it yourself. That is hardly "a couple hundred dollars" difference as stated in the article.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Crashman,
    If you read the conclusion he says the cost is only a couple hundred dollars more than building your own which I disagree with so I think it's fair to comment on his "value" comment.

    *I just added up the cost of all the parts, and NOT COUNTING THE CASE but including the software the total comes to $1500 USD.

    The cost to buy this machine with these specs was almost $2600. Now if we use $300 for a similar case since I don't think you can buy the case on its own the price difference comes to about $800USD.

    *So you can build the same EXACT setup with a difference case and save $800USD by doing it yourself. That is hardly "a couple hundred dollars" difference as stated in the article.

    I added up the cost of all the parts when I wrote the article:

    Processor 235
    Graphics 350
    Motherboard 150
    Memory 180
    System Drive 150
    Power 145
    Wi-Fi 33

    System Drive 125
    CPU Cooler 65
    Storage Drive 125
    Optical 90
    case 400
    OS 100
    Playback SW 100
    Overclock 0
    Cable Sleeving 0
    2248

    Prices might have changed a little since I wrote the article, but I bet you'd find any large changes in a component price are eventually picked up by this builder. Moreover, I priced the parts using Google product search and top venders (Newegg, Tigerdirect, Directron, etc) wherever applicable (case and ODD were only available from small venders) on the SAME DAY that I priced the finished system at Steiger Dynamics.

    Look, nobody likes to admit they're wrong, that's why I kept a record of all the part prices when I made those calculations. I wanted to be sure that when someone came in here to question my analysis, I'd have the data to prove its validity.
  • voltagetoe
    I've got noisy/normal parts inside a selfmade plywood / glass wool case that's placed under a sofa (usb hub wired away from it). The machine is totally silent for real- under any circumstances. Wouldn't even need the sofa on top to be dead silent. Uses 4x 180mm fans that are placed inside veered tunnels to kill all sound reflections. Many people who work with audio have started to build their own cases because the industry has brutally ripped them over the years by selling expensive so called silent components and cases - it's has all been bs. Go DIY.
  • Crashman
    Now about the noise. You'd think an underground bunker would be supremely quiet, right? And it was, for the most part. Yet when I was testing this machine, it was so quiet that I could hear the passing of overhead spy drones.

    Hey, I did say this was an underground bunker :) Next you'll tell me it was a regular airplane. They got to you, didn't they...
  • vertexx
    Very nice. This system caters to a different crowd than most of the posters here. Your power, heat and noise section clearly portrays the value in this setup, plus the build quality .

    All of you critics can put your gaudy cheap-ass builds in your living room. I'll take something like this or my own home-built SG08 based build for mine.

    People with money typically don't have the time to build their own PC. This one clearly caters to them, and it represents a good value for the performance and the aesthetic.
  • Haravikk
    I think it still sacrifices too much to try to be all things in one; if you want a quiet media centre PC then you can't beat an Akasa Euler case with a suitable Haswell processor. With no moving parts besides an HDD (not even that if you use an SSD) you can build a totally silent system that can easily handle modern media centre demands (streaming/downloadable HD content with full HDMI 1080p output with HD audio). If you want to do gaming as well then you can built a separate system and stream to the media centre (you could even install SteamOS for that purpose), with a gaming machine in another room you can still have total silence provided your network is up to the task, but without sacrificing performance. If having the TV tuner is a must then there are USB adapter cables that work just fine, rather than the bulkier boxes; you can even actually fit some PCI cards inside the Akasa Euler if you only have an mSATA drive and the card's the right shape, though that requires some cutting.
  • dwatterworth
    Why not ditch the liquid cooler for the CPU and apply that to a AIO GPU cooling solution so more graphics power could be utilized? A devils canyon CPU on any decent down-draft air cooler will fit perfectly and will be much more quiet than the liquid cooler for activities that require silence.

    I'd think the best way to achieve a totally silent yet powerful HTPC would be to utilize a laptop-type tech to power down the GPU entirely and switch to integrated graphics so only the air cooler on the CPU is spinning.
  • photonboy
    1) I apologize for the repeated comment. That was accidental. In fact, I could have phrased things better overall.

    2) I somehow skipped over the noise page. My fault; had some issues with my browser. My only concern would be that, despite the noise rating you would still hear the pump as I've used that cooler before and could hear it in a silent room.

    I still think a good Noctua cooler would make more sense.

    3) PRICING.
    Quite a difference in pricing I guess because I used PCPartpicker. I chose an EVGA GTX770 for example and it was about $100 cheaper. I also estimated $300 for the case but you said $400. It's my understanding you can't buy it separately.

    Summary:
    Again, I perhaps worded things incorrectly but my POINT was meant to be you could build something just as quiet (in my opinion) with basically the same parts for a lot cheaper.

    For example, here's my $1600 build using a similar Silverstone case and almost exactly the other main components (not counting extra software): http://pcpartpicker.com/p/VjWWmG

    I know it's a "boutique" case so you're paying for that but I guess we disagree in the way the word "VALUE" is used when I can build almost the same thing for a lot cheaper.

    Anyway, I apologize if offense was taken.
  • qlum
    I think the noise tests should have included another typical htpc situation and that is inside an enclosed television cabinet because that is quite often the situation you put your htpc in, limited room to breathe.
  • surphninja
    Ehh. Does your HTPC need to be this powerful? Seems easier (and way cheaper) to just build a lower end pc that's capable of playing 4k video, and then just use Steam's in-home streaming with your hefty gaming pc doing all the heavy lifting from the other room.

    That's the setup I've got going anyway. Using integrated graphics, an ssd, the stock cpu cooler, and a silent case fan, I barely get any noise out of my HTPC. It's actually way quieter than my playstation and xbox. (It may help that I've got a door on the front of my entertainment cabinet, with a quiet fan setup on the back.)
  • hannibal
    Well this is reasonable good looking (aka hifi) and reasonable silent. Not so bad at all. Of course you can make this cheaper, but I have seen much worse ready prebuild machines.
  • dmitche3
    No support for M-Discs??? Obsolete already?