Psystar: Just how loud is it? (updated 2x)

Psystar: Just how loud is it? (updated 2x)

Summary: Today was my second day with my spankin' new Psystar Open Computer. Following are some observations.

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Psystar: Just how loud is it?

Today was my second day with my spankin' new Psystar Open Computer. Following are some observations.

I don't have a wireless card in it yet and my desk is too far away from my router to string an Ethernet cable, so I'm offline for the time being and cannot test things like Software Update. I ordered a D-Link DWA-556 draft-n WiFi card which should be here on Saturday.

I noted previously (in a comment) that the motherboard is a Gigabyte S-Series, Model GA-G31M-S3L featuring:

  1. Supports Intel Core 2 multi-core and 45nm processors
  2. Solid capacitors design in CPU VRM
  3. Dual Channel DDR2 800 for outstanding system performance
  4. Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3100 (Intel GMA 3100)
  5. Integrated SATA 3Gb/s interface
  6. Features high speed Gigabit Ethernet
  7. Integrated High Definition audio

The case is an ASUS TM-210 mini tower, (US$55 from NewEgg) featuring:

  1. Power on/off button with blue LED light
  2. All door-covered drive bays
  3. Excellent thermal solution supporting the latest processing platform
  4. Two 5.25" external, two 3.5" external, and three 3.5" internal drive bays

I connected an external FireWire hard drive (an OWC Mercury On-The-Go 500GB) to the Psystar and copied an OS X user account from it using Apple's Migration Assistant. I also booted directly from the external FW drive without issue.

The Samsung 206BW 20” LCD monitor (US$299 from Tekserve) is almost a perfect complement to the Psystar's black case. The Sammy glossy black bezel and hint of aluminum looks like it was designed for the Psystar black case.

I successfully installed iLife and iWork '08 and both went fine. However I noticed that the optical drive is pretty loud when accessing the disc. When just the machine itself is running, sound levels are as follows:

  • In front of the monitor: <50 dBA
  • In front of the tower: <50 dBA
  • Behind the tower (four inches from the power supply): <50 dBA
  • Behind the tower (four inches from the lower fan): 50-51 dBA

This machine is almost silent, folks. In fact, I opened the case and put the sound meter about an inch from the main exhaust fan and the highest reading I could get was 52 dBA, barely. The shutter of the camera (Nikon D80) made it jump to 57 dBA, as a comparison. The fan over the CPU registered <50 dBA.

When an optical disc is inserted the sound level (about four inches from the front of the optical drive door) ranges from 52-54 dBA. While louder than when it's not running (<50 dBA) it's not obnoxious either.

To-do:

  • Install WiFi card
  • Benchmarks
  • Install a better video card (recommendations?)

Anything else you'd like to know?

Update and more pics after the jump...

Update: My original results were taken with a Scosche Boom Stick SPL1000 sound meter which only measures in the C scale (dBC). In the comments, msalzberg suggested that the A scale (dBA) was a more appropriate test. According to this it sounds like he's right:

The most widely used sound level filter is the A scale, which roughly corresponds to the inverse of the 40 dB (at 1 kHz) equal-loudness curve. Using this filter, the sound level meter is thus less sensitive to very high and very low frequencies. Measurements made on this scale are expressed as dBA. The C scale is practically linear over several octaves and is thus suitable for subjective measurements only for very high sound levels.

So I picked up a Radio Shack 33-2055 digital sound level meter and redid the tests on my Open Computer using the A weighting (dBA) scale. Results above.

Psystar: Sound level inside 52 dBA

Here's a reading almost on top of the main exhaust fan (52 dBA).

Psystar: Sound Meters

On the left is the Scosche Boom Stick SPL1000 sound meter which only measures using the C weighting (dBC). On the right is the Radio Shack 33-2055 digital sound level meter which measures using both the C and A weighting.

Topics: Wi-Fi, Hardware, Networking

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30 comments
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  • Oh, and the puck mouse,

    a perfect complement...
    paul@...
    • No Bluetooth...

      It was the only USB mouse that I had around ;)

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Can you restore it?

    Are you provided with any restore DVD? Do you get any instructions for what to do if you can't boot?

    I believe Nvidia video cards work well but I think you need a driver to get quartz extreme support for an off-the-shelf card.
    The driver might already be on your system or you might find it on the net.
    Mac Hosehead
    • Haven't tried restoring...

      I'm a little scared to try to restore it... yet. Everthing's running and I'm not ready to invest that kind of time yet.

      With the system came an original, boxed Leopard DVD (10.5.1), a DVD for the Gigabyte/S-Series motherboard (v.1.05), and a Display Driver software CD from EVGA (v.76.2, Vista/XP).

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
      • I don't think you should try to restore it either...

        From what you described you received I don't see any way you could restore the system. You might consider downloading Kalyway 10.5.2 from mininova.org, a torrent site. I believe that or another one called "Leo4All" was used to install your system (there are others too). Too bad one was not included with your purchase but there might be legal issues.
        Mac Hosehead
        • System Imaging

          You can use the System Rescue CD (Linux) to make a full image backup of the Psystar machine. It supports HFS filesystems.

          http://www.sysresccd.org

          My Linux Magazine article details this in full.

          http://www.linux-mag.com/id/3357/
          jperlow
          • Disk image backup, good idea...

            I would definitely do this before any updates are attempted. It's probably referenced in the Psystar User Manual.
            Mac Hosehead
      • Image the drive

        This guy works for Apple and works on this part time.

        http://www.bombich.com/

        Use netrestore it works better with Leopard currently.
        Axsimulate
        • I'm not sure this would work in this case.

          I have no doubt that this would work on a real mac and I won't argue with the price. But you would need some restore medium that would boot from a PC. The leopard DVD won't help here. I think disk cloning to a spare drive would work.
          Mac Hosehead
  • In this case...

    C-weighting is not appropriate. Take your noise
    measurements again, using A-weighting.
    msalzberg
  • RE: Psystar: Just how loud is it?

    Stock case fan is too loud with the Asus. Install a Vantec SF9225L 92 mm case fan ($7.99; 20dBA; 28 CFM).
    slevin@...
  • First impressions are tough to erase. It's good to hear that it's NOT loud.

    It's good to have someone who actually OWNS one to give an opinion because there's a lot of Mac defenders out there who can't stop bashing on the Psystar for being unbearably loud. I was listening to the Macworld podcast and even though a guy there was giving his review of the Psystar, Chris Breen wouldn't stop trying to push how "it's louder than a hair dryer right. Right? It is, right?".

    I don't know if I'd ever buy one of these, but I am hoping they have some success so that Apple wakes up and offers an affordable tower of their own. So keep up the good work Jason and give us more info on what to expect from this $500 Mac.
    Urkel
    • "punditiots" now should be ashamed

      ... including some apple worshippers and shills bloggers of ZDnet. Glad to see Jason is not one of them. Good article.
      markbn
  • The meter I used...

    The loudness results were from a Scosche Boom Stick SPL1000 sound meter, which (as far as I can tell) only measures in dBC: http://scosche.com/products/productID/582

    MSalzberg suggests that dBA would be a more appropriate test. According to: http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/dB.html
    it sounds like he's right:

    "The most widely used sound level filter is the A scale, which roughly corresponds to the inverse of the 40 dB (at 1 kHz) equal-loudness curve. Using this filter, the sound level meter is thus less sensitive to very high and very low frequencies. Measurements made on this scale are expressed as dBA. The C scale is practically linear over several octaves and is thus suitable for subjective measurements only for very high sound levels."

    I will get a sound meter that will measure dBA and report back with my results. Meanwhile, if anyone can suggest a decent (inexpensive) dBA sound meter. Let me know!

    Thank you,
    Jason
    Jason D. O'Grady
    • You can get a cheap one..

      at Radio Shack, for about $45 (analog, catalog #33-4050) or
      $50 (digital, catalog #33-2055). Get the analog, and save
      the $5.
      msalzberg
  • RE: Psystar: Just how loud is it?

    So retro.
    phatkat
  • What about the illegal use of PC_EFI by Psystar?

    Jason, what is your position on the illegal use of PC_EFI by
    Psystar? Are you actively promoting the violation of software
    licenses? Or do you just don't care? Don't tell me that you
    didn't know about it.

    A fine example your are.

    Read everything about PC_EFI including the licence here:
    www.netkas.org
    sigma2
    • License Violation ???

      netkas re-release under a new license after Psystar started selling them, so I am not sure there is a violation.
      mrlinux
  • Anything else you???d like to know?

    Ok check off quiet, it's off to a pretty good start on that front. How about overall performance, you know, apples to apples?

    Beat that thing senseless and give us your 2c.
    klumper
    • It's a good starting

      Just in case you did not know, other people were making a big deal of the noise because of a user's video. So, definitively the noise issue was important and warranted a blog's post.
      markbn