- Review Price: £1666.00
Here at TrustedReviews we like the idea of quiet PCs. In fact it wasn’t too long ago that we wrote a feature – Silent Solution – detailing how to make your PC as quiet as possible. But even if you follow the same route that we did in that feature, you still won’t have a truly silent machine, although it will be far quieter than it was before. Even large, low rpm fans still produce noise, and although you can get power supplies with variable fan speeds, they will still add to the noise pollution in your room. If you want a PC that’s truly silent, you need it to be completely passive, and that means that you can’t go for your run of the mill, mix and match PC build – you’re going to have to go to a specialist and one such specialist is Hush Technologies.
The Hush ATX system is a full PC built using pretty standard components, but without the use of a single fan. This isn’t the first totally passive system we’ve seen though. A while back we looked at the Poweroid 1204 which was based on a Zalman fanless case. This was a very impressive system, but it was very large and designed to be used as a performance PC, despite its silent operation. Hush on the other hand, designs its own system cases, and is more interested in the style conscious consumer who wants something that makes a visual impression rather than an audible one.
Leaving aside the fact that this Hush is a silent PC, let’s look at it from a purely aesthetic point of view. Quite simply, there wasn’t anyone in the TrustedReviews offices that didn’t think that the Hush looked superb. Finished in solid aluminium with a brushed finish, the Hush wouldn’t look out of place in any living room – no matter how much high-end AV equipment you happen to have in there. But unlike many PCs, the Hush’s beauty is far more than skin deep. The build quality of the Hush is nothing short of staggering, and at the risk of sounding stereotypical, the whole package has a feel of precision German engineering – like the PC equivalent of a Porsche Carrera GT.
The system case isn’t just finished in brushed aluminium, the case is constructed from solid billets of aluminium and if you’ve got a bad back, you better get someone else to lift it for you – this is one heavy PC. It’s the sides of the case that add weight, both visually and literally. Both sides of the case are constructed from solid aluminium fins, designed specifically to dissipate heat from inside. Looking closely at the fins you’ll see that Hush’s attention to detail is admirable, with each fin ridged for ultimate heat exchange. The top of the case has 28 round holes in it, with an aluminium grille behind them. Once again, this helps heat escape from inside the chassis and once again it looks great.
The front fascia is also carved from a single billet of aluminium and is about a centimetre thick. On the left of the fascia you’ll find a round power button that glows blue when the machine is on. Although blue lights are becoming somewhat passé on technology products these days, the Hush pulls it off with aplomb. On the right of the fascia, is an optical drive. Since Hush builds to order, you can choose whether you want a vanilla CD-ROM drive, a CD/DVD combo or a DVD writer. Obviously with a machine like this it’s worth going for the DVD writer, since you’re probably going to want to burn content either recorded from TV or downloaded from a digital camcorder to disc. The drives used are notebook versions which means they’re slim and quiet – of course the tray has a solid piece of aluminium attached to it to keep those minimalist lines in order. Beneath the optical drive you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, two six-pin FireWire ports, as well as mic and headphone sockets.
At the rear you’ll find a full range of audio ports including optical digital input and output, coaxial digital output, mic, line-in, line-out and three more outputs for full 7.1-channel surround. Being that there’s a standard AOpen motherboard inside the case, you get a full array of on-board ports – there are two PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0, two serial ports, a parallel port and a network port for the on-board Gigabit Ethernet controller. There are only two backing plate slots for expansion cards and they are both occupied. One is filled by the graphics card – an ATI Radeon 9600XT with D-SUB and DVI connectors, while the other is filled with a digital TV tuner card. The latter is a great addition and will allow you to watch all the Freeview channels with a clear and sharp image. The inclusion of a DAB tuner reinforces the Hush’s credentials as a stylish entertainment PC, but unfortunately the lack of a remote control for the tuner if a bit of a problem – you’re not going to want to plug a keyboard and mouse in every time you want to watch TV after all. That said, the card does make the Hush a great device for watching and recording your favourite TV shows, and you can buy a version of the Hush ATX that does come with a remote.
The Radeon 9600 XT also sports ViVo functionality so you’ll be able to record analogue video signals too from older camcorders or from satellite boxes. There’s a supplied cable with both S-Video and composite video in and out, along with an S-Video cable for connecting the Hush to your TV.
Access to the inside of the case is granted by removing six machined screws that require a special tool. The tool is supplied with the system and is made of plastic to ensure that you don’t inadvertently scratch your Hush work of art. Once you lift the cover you’ll realise that the expert design continues within the chassis. Of course there’s no CPU fan, instead there’s a heatsink complete with a large heatpipe that’s routed to the side of the case for heat dissipation through the fins. There’s also a passive heatsink on the motherboard chipset with a heatpipe routed to the other side of the case. Of course the fan has been removed from the graphics card and replaced with, yep you guessed it, a heatsink and heatpipe assembly with the heatpipe routed to the side of the chassis.
The hard disk is encased in a sound-reducing enclosure that’s also mounted to the side of the case while the fanless power supply sits beneath it, making sure that all excess heat is routed through those pretty fins on the outside.
A real indication of innovation is the way that the graphics card and TV tuner are attached. Both cards plug into a single riser card – the riser card in turn slides into the AGP slot and the adjacent PCI slot, allowing both cards to communicate with their correct connectors, while at the same time being turned 90 through degrees.
Because the power supply is mounted at the front of the system instead of the rear, the external power cable is plugged into a remote socket. Power is then routed to the PSU via a braided cable, to ensure as little interference as possible.
The AOpen motherboard has four DIMM slots, two of which were filled with 256MB modules. Although we like to see PCs with 1GB of memory these days, considering the target market for the Hush, we weren’t too worried about the memory complement. Hiding under the CPU heatsink was a 2.6GHz Pentium 4, but Hush has now dropped this chip from its range and will be offering a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 instead.
So, the Hush is beautifully designed and constructed, but is it quiet? Well the simple answer is yes, it’s pretty much totally silent. If you place your ear against the case you can just about hear the hard drive spinning, but that’s about it. Obviously when the hard disk is being accessed there’s a bit more noise, but you really can’t tell whether this machine is powered on if the screen is off.
It’s actually quite hard to review a machine like the Hush ATX, because the standard evaluation points of Performance, Features and Value don’t really apply in the way that they do with other PCs. Judged in its own context, the performance of the Hush is excellent, because it is totally silent, but remains beautiful to look at and is a fraction of the size of the Poweroid we looked at before. And as for features – again, as a standard PC, the features seem a bit sparse, but then the construction of the chassis both inside and out are the key features of this machine, and here it truly excels.
Finally there’s the issue of value, and it has to be said that this is a very expensive system. Being a German company Hush prices its products in Euros, so we ran the price through a currency converter and came up with a total of £1665.87, but that’s without an operating system or shipping costs. The system we saw shipped with Windows XP Professional, but Hush also offers Windows XP Home and Linux – or you could buy a system without an OS and install your own. Of course we’ve looked at PCs that cost far more than this in the past, but you have to remember that this one ships without a monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers or any other peripherals – you’re getting the system box and that’s it. However, it’s that issue of context again, and you have to remember that this is a specialist product and the type of person that wants one has already decided that a standard PC is not right for them, and they’re most likely willing to pay for the privilege of having zero noise pollution.
So, what we’re looking at here is the Hush ATX system as an entity, rather than the box sitting in the labs right now. You can choose pretty much any configuration you like, and for someone that’s decided that a silent PC is what they want, the need to customise it exactly is probably strong. Here at TrustedReviews we’ve pretty much all decided to ask Santa for a Hush ATX for Christmas, but our dream configurations will probably all be different and that’s what makes the Hush even more desirable.
The design and engineering departments at Hush Technologies deserve some recognition, because this is one stunning piece of hardware. Even if the design and construction were purely cosmetic, rich technology style junkies would be queuing up for a Hush machine. But the fact that these PCs look this good for a reason, just makes you want it more. The Hush ATX is a totally silent PC, which is a good attribute for something that deserves to be in a design museum.
Score in detail