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Silverstone ST30NF 300W Silent PSU Silverstone ST30NF 300W Silent PSU: Silence is golden as they say, but in Silverstone's case, it's, uh, silver. Will this silent PSU bring it, or will enthusiasts continue to be plagued with noisy PSUs?
Date: February 16, 2006
Provided By:
Written By: Huy Duong
Price:

In our opinion, many manufacturers are putting an honest effort into designing products that either reduce or eliminate noise. We've seen air coolers for CPUs getting bigger, but at the same time quieter. Liquid cooling has traditionally been relatively quiet, and third party video card coolers are taking aim at the noise issue while maintaining good performance.

The humble power supply (PSU) is often glossed over when building a PC, let alone a quiet one, but there have been advances in this area as well. Many PSUs are eliminating the dual or triple 80mm fans we've been used to seeing with single 120mm and more ventilation. While noise has been reduced overall, these setups are still not silent. goes a step further by offering a totally silent PSU that offers modern day connections and is backed by a 300W power rating. This number does seem a bit low considering the 500W+ PSUs we're used to seeing, but numbers aren't always all that matters...

Silverstone ST30NF 300W

The Silverstone ST30NF arrived neatly packed within Silverstone's silver rectangular packaging. Inside, the PSU was wrapped tightly in protective wrap, and other componets stuffed into their own compartments in smaller cardboard boxes. A manual is included that runs over the general features and installation.

The Silverstone ST30NF measures 6in (W) x 3.5in (H) x 5.5in (D), about the same size as your typical ATX PSU. The ST30NF is rated at 300W, featuring an Active PFC, with a total output of 170W on the +3.3v and +5v rail.

Output
+3.3v
+5v
+12v
300W
23A
25A
18A

As we mentioned earlier, the rated output of the ST30NF is 300W, but like clock speeds and performance ratings, plain numbers do not tell the whole story. The Active PFC is a key feature found in many quality PSUs, including the ST30NF. If the PSU draws more power than what the PC needs, or vice versa, this creates the instability or power fluctuations that cause many a computer woe. Basically, the ST30NF is all about efficiency and making sure that the 300W sustained it promises can actually be delivered. In fact, according to Silverstone, depending on the load the ST30NF has a peak power of 400W. This is possible due to the fact that the ST30NF actually has a 560W core (same as their ST56ZF PSU). In the near future, there will be a fan kit that will increase the rating of the ST30NF to 550W.

For a 300W PSU, the Silverstone ST30NF is one of the heavier ones we've handled in quite some time, weighing in at just over 6lbs. The majority of the weight can be attributed to the aluminum construction through and through. The best way to think of it is one giant heatsink.

Since the noise rating equals 0 dBA at all times, you won't find any cooling fans at all in the ST30NF. There are plenty of ventilation holes though, with the larger ones towards the front of the unit. Other than the vents, cooling fins run wild throughout the PSU. I would have expected some larger fins, especially in areas where the main heat components in the PSU reside. Inside the unit are two large aluminum heatsinks linked to another heatsink via a copper heatpipe. This does effectively move the heat around, keeping it from building up in one or two spots. These heatsinks are attached to the main chassis via a thermal pad to maximize the heat transfer.

There aren't an abundance of power connections, but the essentials are there. Silverstone has updated the ST30NF recently, and the changes are reflected with our unit. New to the ST30NF is a 24-pin motherboard connection, long overdue given the requirement for many performance boards. There is also a couple of SATA connections and PCIe power connectors as well. Rounding the connections out are: 6 molex connections, 2 floppy power connectors and the 4-pin +12V connector.

For the user's convenience and safety, there are a couple LEDs on the back of the unit. The power LED is of course useful to see if the unit is even turned on, but the temperature LED isone to keep an eye on after long periods or heavy load. that particular LED turns red (from green) when the temperature passes 55°C.

Testing

MSI P4N Diamond: Intel Pentium 4 560, 2GB Corsair DDR2 8000UL, 2 x Seagate 400GB, Seagate 120GB, 2 x MSI 7800GTX, MSI 16X DL, AOpen CDRW 52X, Koolance PC3-720SL.

To load up the system, we run Prime95 run for 60 minutes, with Folding @ Home running in the background, as well as ripping Jet Li's Hero DVD to the Seagate RAID setup. We also ran a continuous loop of VirusScan and a looping demo of 3DMark05. Voltages and power consumption were monitored with ABRA DM-9700 multimeter.

The comparison PSUs are the Enermax EG701AX and Liberty EL620AWT, the Ultra X-Connect 500W PSU and Cooler Master's RealPower 450W. The P4 560 will be clocked at 18x215 for all testing. All the power supplies were plugged into a Belkin UPS (separately for each test) for the first set of tests. All components were housed in a Cooler Master WaveMaster.

Power Consumption - Load

Power (W)
Silverstone ST30NF
332
Liberty EL620AWT
340
Enermax EG701AX
333
Ultra X-Connect
352
CM RealPower
343

The Silverstone ST30NF finishes on top, followed by the Enermax EG701AX as the most efficient PSUs. All of the systems managed to power our setup without too many problems so long as we remained plugged into a UPS device. Here we can see the ST30NF passing its rated output, thogh we personally would not want to run in it's peak performance for extended periods. The temperature LED was a constant red during this period, but remained stable.

Idle

+3.3v
+5v
+12v
+12v
Silverstone ST30NF
3.28
5.03
12.00
N/A
Liberty EL620AWT
3.30
5.11
12.06
12.09
Enermax EG701AX
3.30
5.08
12.07
12.06
Ultra X-Connect
3.20
4.95
11.85
N/A
CM RealPower
3.26
5.01
12.01
12.03

Load

+3.3v
+5v
+12v
+12v
Silverstone ST30NF
3.26
5.00
11.98
N/A
Liberty EL620AWT
3.29
5.05
12.02
12.01
Enermax EG701AX
3.27
5.02
11.98
11.95
Ultra X-Connect
3.16
4.92
11.72
N/A
CM RealPower
3.26
5.00
11.96
11.97

While the Belkin regulated the power drawn from the wall outlet, you'll still need a decent PSU to provide clean and reliable power to your PC. All of the test PSUs provided enough juice to the system. What is interesting to note is that the Silverstone ST30NF has a very small drop in power from idle to load demonstrating it's ability to maintain power.

Final Words

Silverstone has put together a very nice PSU that not only keeps a steady and reliable flow of power running through the system, but does so without any noise at all. I've read the reviews of Silverstone and similar silent PSUs before, but I will have to say that not hearing a sound from the rear of the case is a bit weird. When we finished testing last week, I worked with Hubert (the head honcho here at VL) on his silent PC project, and although the DVD and hard drive still make noise, to "hear" his silent PC in action is quite amazing. Though the parts aren't bleeding edge, the power performance of the Silverstone ST30NF should have no issues handling the load.

Heat is something we should make mention here as the PSU spent a lot of time with the red temperature light on in the tests. Now, we test in a realistic environment; i.e., in a case, and we noticed a 5°C spike in overall temps compared to the temperature with the Enermax EG701AX PSU. The ST30NF also got searing hot during heavy load. How hot you ask? Our temperature probe had a readout of 51°C... on the outside of the PSU.

The key here is despite the high heat, the PSU never faltered during testing. Before one thinks the ST30NF is constantly on fire, don't worry, it isn't. We were able to play 45 minutes of F.E.A.R. at 1600x1200 and the temperature light never went on. The outer PSU case read 43°C using the thermal probe and the multimeter read a power consumption of 264W.

Initially I had some reservations of how a 300W PSU would handle our test system in real-world testing. Needless to say the Silverstone ST30NF 300W PSU got the job done efficiently and quietly, or should I say silently. It doesn't come cheap, ringing in at , but that's the price you pay for a high quality PSU that does not make any noise at all.

Hit us up in the Forums if you have any questions.

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