SilverStone Nightjar 450W / Cooler Master Silent Pro Active M500 review
Quad-core processors and high-end graphics cards need a stable and plentiful supply of power to perform reliably – but that doesn’t mean your PSU needs to be a throbbing monster.
These two models from SilverStone and CoolerMaster are both 80+ certified – meaning they transform mains power down to PC voltages with at least 80% efficiency – but their prime selling point is the promise of silent operation.
SilverStone Nightjar 450W
SilverStone’s bizarrely titled Nightjar 450W (£99 exc VAT from www.afterhours.co.uk) proclaims its “Zero dBA” credentials in big red letters on the box, and it’s an entirely passive design with no fans whatsoever, relying instead on its heavy aluminium frame to dissipate heat.
It offers a single 12V rail, rated at 35A, with +3.3V and +5V rails providing 22A and 15A to a combined maximum of 130W. That’s enough for a powerful desktop PC, though it’s on the low side if you’re building a gaming rig with multiple GPUs. Still, putting all the amperage on a single +12V rail means you don’t need to worry about how you divide up its power.
In addition to a power LED at the rear, SilverStone has sensibly added a temperature LED which glows green at operating temperatures below 55C and amber at higher temperatures. That’s a useful feature, as after prolonged periods of heavy load the Nightjar can become very hot. In fact, in the confines of a case its prodigious heat output could, ironically, force you to raise the speeds of other fans to keep your overall system temperature down.
Cooler Master Silent Pro Active M500
At 500W, the Cooler Master Silent Pro (£64 exc VAT from www.scan.co.uk) is rated slightly more highly than the Nightjar, but the extra power doesn’t go anywhere terribly useful: its +12V rail delivers 34A against the SilverStone’s 35A, while the +3.3V and +5V rails are rated at 20A each, with a combined maximum output of 145W. It does, however, promise greater headroom, with a quoted peak wattage of 620W against the Nightjar’s 500W.
But while the two units are electrically similar, there’s one big difference: as the name implies, the Silent Pro Active doesn’t emulate the Nightjar’s passive design, but opts instead for a large 135mm fan.
This means the Silent Pro isn’t really silent: but in operation we found it wasn’t far off. Even at high load, and with our ear trained to the fan-side of the PSU, we could barely hear a murmur. Put it in a case and it should be all but impossible to detect, especially since there’s a rubberised shim around the PSU’s edges to dampen vibrations – a nice touch.
We also liked the Cooler Master’s modular design. Building a quiet PC is all about maximising airflow with an absolute minimum of obstructions, so the Silent Pro’s flat modular cables are just what’s needed. The SilverStone Nightjar uses bulky captive cables, which are likely to clutter up your case with unused connections.
Add in the fact that the SilverStone PSU comes at a hefty £35 premium over the Cooler Master and the Silent Pro wins the day. It might not be completely silent, but it’s damn close and its modular design and lower operating temperature make it a more practical unit.