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Silent Running: Two Fanless Power Supplies And A Quiet One, Tested

Which Fanless PSU Is Right For You?

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 WX-460FLSST-ST50NF
Street PriceNot 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
  • amuffin
    Seasonic, me gusta :)
    Reply
  • zeratul600
    Why 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
    Reply
  • the1kingbob
    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.
    Reply
  • s3anister
    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 experienceLast time I checked, Americans aren't the only ones who enjoy a silent computing experience...
    Reply
  • amuffin
    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 experienceMany companies that are focused on silence such as Noctua and beQuiet! are not "American."
    Reply
  • Deemo13
    I didn't know they made fanless power supplies....cool beans.
    Reply
  • uruquiora
    Seasonic for the win :)
    Reply
  • mesab66
    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.
    Reply
  • mitko
    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 :)
    Reply
  • belardo
    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.
    Reply