What's Enough Power Phases?

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What's Enough Power Phases?

Postposted on Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:09 am

Well the topic is pretty self-eplanatory. I'm eagerly awaiting the Ivy Bridge launch for my next build. In the mean time, I've been treated to the Z77 chipset launch so I've gotten a good taste of whats going to be available at launch as far as motherobards are concerned. The two I've picked out are the Asus Maximus V Gene and the ASRock Extreme4-M.

The problem I'm having is that the ASRock only has 4+2+...2? power phases whereas the Asus board has 8+4+2 phases. I know that more power phases = better overclocking stability, less VRM wear, cooler VRM operation, "smoother power delivery", etc. etc. But what I don't know is how much this difference really means in real life. I'm not the gamer I used to be, and the Maximus V seems like much more than I really need. I am however partial to Asus and ASRock mobos because they are feature rich, have the best UEFI's, good fan controls, and I like their aesthetics (for what it's worth). I also want to move to mATX, which generally sacrifice a few phases compared to ATX boards.

I'm just trying to figure out whether or not the Maximus V is really worth the extra $70 for me. I will overclock my future i5-3570K keeping stock voltages, but I'm never going to be shooting for any records. I am planning on keeping this computer for 3 generations (2nd generation after Haswell). The Maximus V looks like a better board all around (as it should be) but I'm trying to be practial here and am thinking that the ASRock board might be closer matched to my needs. I can afford either board, but $70 is $70. I can always use that money to make a good dent into my HTPC upgrade later this year.

Maybe the P8Z77 M Pro is a good compromise between the two? It has a 6+2+2 phase design. Please help me decide, PLEASE
Last edited by DPete27 on Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's Enough Power Phases?

Postposted on Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:53 am

That is a really good question, and a tough one to answer since without knowing exact power requirements of the Intel chip, and the power supply design itself, it may simply be another "tick" on the specifications list and not off up much advantage.

More phases in a power supply means more inductors and more FET switches, which usually translates into greater power efficiency with smaller inductors (each inductor/transistor responsible for less power delivery), It also translates into a supply better able to respond to instantaneous "gulps" in current from high-speed processors if the same switching frequency is used as a lower-phase count supply. To overcome less phases in a supply for a high-speed processor, switching frequency is increased. The tradeoff becomes lower efficiency as frequency goes up due to quiescent current of the supply increasing (gate charge losses, etc).

However with more phases/parts comes a lower MTBF value of the power supply. Generally if all else is equal and the design practices are sound, a higher number of phases ONLY means similar power efficiency with smaller inductors and cheaper transistors. The tradeoff otherwise means less phases requires larger inductors if the (switching frequency) * (num phases) is the same.

Maybe the design will not use cheaper transistors and the same inductors as used in the lower phase-count version, but that is unlikely in consumer designs.

One other thing, higher number of phases makes it easier to design a high-current low-voltage supply due to the smaller inductors. I personally would prefer more phases as it would give me a warm, fuzzy feeling, but not at the cost of $70.
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Re: What's Enough Power Phases?

Postposted on Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:50 pm

liquidsquid wrote:I personally would prefer more phases as it would give me a warm, fuzzy feeling, but not at the cost of $70.
With that in mind, what ELSE does the Maximus V Gene buy you?

Let's say the extra phases was worth 25 bucks (just a random number, insert your own figure if you want). Going strictly by Newegg's spec sheet, what you're getting for the other $45 is:
-higher possible out of the box memory speeds
"SupremeFX III" audio, which should be slightly better than the Crab on the ASRock
-swaps 2 USB 2.0 for 3.0
-More CPU and Chassis fan connectors
-onboard power/reset buttons (these are neat but won't see much use outside of out of case testing)
-onboard DisplayPort instead of DVI
-If the picture is complete, more stuff in the box:
    -4 more SATA cables (might be SATA 6Gbs, not sure)
    -a door knob... thing (what is this called again?)
    -USB header raiser
    -Front Port/Power header that lets you plug everything into it first before you plug it into the motherboard (useful for cramped cases)

It's not a huge number of extras. Still, the above, along with the reasons you stated in favor of the Gene, coupled with the fact that I've had an exceptional experience with the Maximus II Formula in the past (wish I could have afforded a Maximus IV Extreme-V for my SB build, but no), mean that I would go for the Gene in this situation.
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Re: What's Enough Power Phases?

Postposted on Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:35 pm

If you really plan on keeping the board for 3+ years I would just go with the Asus and never look back; you already know you'll be happy with it.
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Re: What's Enough Power Phases?

Postposted on Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:51 pm

@Penguin: I hear ya. The SupremeFX III is definetly a step above the Realtek 898. That being said though, I bought a Xonar DG a while ago and didn't notice much improvement over my integrated Reatek 888 audio on my current Gigabyte mobo. I just don't think my speakers are good enough. (2.1 logitech for $75 five years ago)

I don't have any intention of overclocking RAM. I'll only have 2-3 case fans and the CPU fan in the new case I plan on buying. Two extra USB 3.0 would be nice, but I think I can get by with 2 front and 2 rear.

Its just hard for me to resist nice things. Like I said in my OP, realistically, I probably wont need any of the extra features the Maximus V brings to the table. But it looks better (which I realize doesn't mean much once its inside a case w/o a window), has better quality components, more features, and let's not forget the additional CPU power phases (reason for this post). The Maximus V (and all Asus ROG boards) is definetly aimed at the high-end enthusiast/gaming/overclocking crowd. The 4+2+...2? phases on the ASRock just seemed a bit low to me. (I'm still looking for people to weigh in on that)

I've seen a lot of reviews/comparisons/owners saying good things and favoring ASRock boards in the past year or so. I kind of want to give "the little guy" a chance. On the other hand, it goes without saying that Asus definetly has a reputation for being one of the best in the business. The Maximus V costs a fair bit more, but I was looking at it like "maybe I'll spoil myself a bit this time." If I can get this power phase issue ironed out, I should have an easier time making a decision. I know the benefits of all the other features except that.
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