PC manufacturers give a lot of info about their PCs; weight, height, how many frames the graphics cards can do, how many watts the PSU kicks out, how many fans there are, how big they are and how fast the turn. Do you know the one thing they all leave out is? The noise they make. Before I bought my Mac Pro I spent a lot of time looking at desktop PCs from other manufacturers. I didn't really need all the processing power of the Pro, but it had other advantages: it was a lot of PC for the money, in the same range if not cheaper than any equivalent machines and the low noise emissions were well documented. I can't think of one other system that even mentioned it.
The noise emissions of my PC mean a lot to me, it doesn't sit that far away and after leaving my previous desktop for a latop a long time ago and getting used to zero noise (unless using the optical drive or trying to do something seriously CPU intensive) I was astounded at the relief I felt every time I switched my desktop off. What triggered this post was that a colleague of mine has just bought a new PC (from an old name, Commodore no less), which is a beast (it's on a par with the Pro to be honest, it has less RAM than mine, but I think the Core 2 Quad is quicker than my twin Xeons, partly because there aren't many multi-CPU apps out there, plus he has a much more powerful graphics card). It arrived Friday so I asked him how he got on over the weekend. Apparently it's got a couple of huge fans and it makes one hell of a racket (presumably to keep that CPU and the graphics card cool). By comparison, the loudest part on my Pro is typically the click of the hard disk.
So, the amount of noise my new PC made was high up the list. Office machines, not usually the highest spec'd things, seem to be pretty quiet, although in an office environment it's hard to tell. I spent a lot of time looking but in the end I found that, basically, PC manufacturers don't care about noise, they're interested in one of two things: price (how cheap they can make and sell) and speed (for those people who want performance and are prepared to pay). It's not just PC manufacturers, the Xbox 360 apparently makes a fair bit of noise (basically a PC in a different box). Apple seems to take a different stance on this (Microsoft and Apple conversations come up a fair bit, one of the guys has gone Mac at home -- laptop, iPod and Apple TV -- and couldn't be happier). I was impressed by how quiet may Mini was, the iMacs are equally so, and I'm very impressed with my current machine too.
I think we need some sort of rating system, maybe they could add a decibel rating, but, to be honest, it means little to me, so maybe there should be a consumer scale (quiet as a mouse - ear bleeding) so we can then judge what we're getting a little more easily and maybe then PC manufacturers will begin to understand that it is far more important than they currently believe it is.