Eleven enthusiast power supplies compared

Today’s PCs are filled with mind-bendingly complex bits of engineering. Processors with multiple cores pack millions of transistors onto excruciatingly sterile shreds of silicon smaller than the average postage stamp. As if that weren’t impressive enough, those millions of transistors can flip bits billions of times per second—seemingly an entire world’s worth of activity in just the blink of an eye. Chips get even more complex when we dive into the world of graphics, where transistor counts multiply and the number of effective cores working in tandem grows exponentially. Here, the cutting edge really does look and feel the part, and the results can be spectacular.

Not so much for power supplies. At least in terms of the components inside a modern PC, the power supply is relatively simple fare—mere electrical engineering in a world that bears an increasing resemblance to computer science fiction. Yet power supplies are so often done poorly. PSUs with sagging voltages or otherwise dirty power are commonly the root of system stability issues. What’s more, they can effectively spread disease, taking other components with them as they spiral into an untimely demise.

Getting a power supply right shouldn’t be hard; a good PSU needs only to be quiet, efficient, reliable, and deliver enough pristine voltage to satisfy a given wattage requirement. So which power supplies are the quietest and the most efficient? More importantly, whose power is the cleanest? To find out, we’ve pushed 11 enthusiast-oriented PSUs to their limits through a brutal gauntlet of tests. Read on for the results.

Lining up the competition

Power supplies are relatively straightforward products, making them easy to compare. Here are some of the vitals of the 11 units we’ll be looking at today.


Wattage

Cooling

Modular?

80 Plus?

Warranty

Price

Antec EarthWatts
500W
500W 80mm rear No Yes 3 years

Antec Neo HE 550W
550W 80mm rear Yes No 5 years

Antec TruePower
Trio 650W
650W 120mm bottom No No 5 years
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 550W
550W 120mm bottom No Yes 5 years
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 650W
650W 120mm bottom No Yes 5 years
Corsair HX 620W 620W 120mm bottom Yes No 5 years
Enermax
Infiniti 720W
720W 140mm bottom Yes Yes 3 years
OCZ GameXStream
700W
700W 120mm bottom No No 3 years
PC Power &
Cooling Silencer 750W
750W 80mm rear No Yes 5 years
Seasonic S12II
500W
500W 120mm bottom No Yes 3 years $109.99
ThermalTake
Toughpower 700W
700W 140mm bottom Yes No 5 years

As you can see, we’ve limited this batch to models with output ratings between 500 and 750 watts. Sure you can now get PSUs rated for a kilowatt or more, but that much power is only necessary for the most extreme high-end systems. Or perhaps a wildly overclocked Prescott. Most enthusiast systems should be more than comfortable with between 500 and 750W at their disposal.

Incidentally, we tried to get a generic 500W model to throw into the mix, but were thwarted by a general lack of availability. It seems generics don’t typically aspire to output capacities of 500W or greater, and those that do don’t cost much less than brand names with similar wattage ratings. This is a good thing for consumers, of course.

Among the units we’ll be looking at today, PC Power & Cooling’s Silencer packs the most grunt at 750W. 500W models from Antec and Seasonic round out the low end of the wattage spectrum, with everyone else falling into place between those extremes. A higher wattage rating doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality, though. We’ve designed our test suite to ensure lower-wattage models aren’t penalized for bringing fewer watts to the table.

Wattage ratings determine how much power a system can squeeze from a PSU, but a power supply’s actual socket draw is often much higher. This discrepancy is caused by inefficiencies in the power supply’s conversion of AC to DC power. Some do a better job than others, and the industry has come up with an “80 Plus” moniker to denote PSUs that are at least 80% efficient. Only about half of the power supplies in this group have an 80 Plus rating. Interestingly, some of the PSUs that lack the 80 Plus logo still come with claimed efficiency ratings of over 80%. We’ll be testing efficiency ourselves, so we can see whether the 80 Plus-certified units really are more efficient.

Reliability is more difficult to quantify than efficiency, but certainly no less important. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to test long-term reliability for a round-up like this. We can make some assumptions based on the warranty coverage offered by each manufacturer, though. Three years seems to be the standard for enthusiast-oriented PSUs, and you get at least that much coverage with each of the units we’re looking at today. However, Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, and ThermalTake extend their warranty coverage to five years, giving them an edge on that front. Antec also offers fives years of coverage on its Neo HE and TruePower Trio models, but not with the EarthWatts. A longer warranty term doesn’t necessarily guarantee a more reliable power supply, of course, but you’ll at least be guaranteed a replacement for longer should things go south.

Cooling is important for power supplies on two fronts. Not only do PSUs have to cool their own internal components, but they can also suck a lot of hot air out of the rest of the system. These days, most employ 120mm fans mounted at the bottom of the unit to help draw warm air up from inside the case. ThermalTake and Enermax go even further by tapping massive 140mm fans that should be able to move more air at lower—and, more importantly, quieter—fan speeds. At the other end of the spectrum, we have models from Antec and PC Power & Cooling that rely on a single 80mm exhaust fan at the back of the unit. This old-school approach has been around for ages, and we’ll be interested to see how those units’ cooling performance and noise levels compare with the others.

Getting a grip on cabling

Modular power supplies have more recently become popular, and four of the models in our group allow the removal of unused power leads to prevent cable clutter. In fact, each of the units we’ve gathered offers a unique mix of cabling options.


Main power

Aux 12V

PCIe

4-pin peripheral

SATA

4-pin floppy

Antec EarthWatts
500W
20/24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 6 4 1

Antec Neo HE 550W
20/24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 6 41 22

Antec TruePower
Trio 650W
20/24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 83 4 1
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 550W
24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 5 6 1
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 650W
24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 5 6 1
Corsair HX 620W 20/24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 2 x 6/8-pin,
2 x
6-pin
10 84 22
Enermax
Infiniti 720W
24-pin 4/8-pin 6/8-pin,
2 x 6-pin
9 9 22
OCZ GameXStream
700W
20/24-pin 4/8-pin 2 x 6-pin 6 6 2
PC Power &
Cooling Silencer 750W
24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 2 x 6/8-pin,
2 x
6-pin
8 6 1
Seasonic S12II
500W
20/24-pin 4-pin, 8-pin 6/8-pin,
6-pin
9 6 22
ThermalTake
Toughpower 700W
20/24-pin 4/8-pin 6/8-pin,
2 x 6-pin
7 6 2


1. Two of the Neo HE’s four SATA plugs are on an extra lead that can only be used at the expense of leads for one of the PCIe connectors or three peripheral connectors.

2. Floppy connectors come on an adapter that consumes one peripheral connector.

3. Two of the TruePower’s eight peripheral connectors can only be used with system fans.

4. Five of the HX’s eight SATA plugs are on a pair of extra leads that will cost you two peripheral connectors each.

Each power supply in this round-up is equipped with a 24-pin primary power connector, but only six of those connectors can also be used with older 20-pin motherboards. We also see some variation when it comes to auxiliary 12V power connectors. All the power supplies are equipped to provide 4- or 8-pin auxiliary 12V power, but some do so with a hybrid connector, while others opt for individual 4- and 8-pin plugs.

A hybrid 8/6-pin PCIe connector next to a standard 6-pin plug

Be careful not to confuse 12V connectors with the new 8-pin PCIe connectors. The power requirements of high-end graphics cards have eclipsed the capacity of traditional 6-pin PCIe connectors, and just about half of the PSUs we’ve assembled feature at least one 8-pin PCIe connector. In each case, that 8-pin connector is a hybrid design that can also be converted for use with graphics cards that have 6-pin connectors.

Interestingly, only two units in this litter are properly equipped for high-end CrossFire configurations: the Corsair HX 620W and the “CrossFire Edition” of PC Power & Cooling’s Silencer 750W. The rest all have at least two 6-pin PCIe connectors, which is enough for most high-end graphics cards.

Update 10/05/2007 — Cooler Master has bumped the warranty coverage of its Real Power Pro power supplies to five years.

Cable reach

With each PSU’s outputs tallied, we turn our attention to the cables—more specifically, how far they reach. PC enclosures come in all sorts of shapes and sizes these days, and depending on your motherboard and mix of components, some power supply leads can come up a bit short. Literally.

We can’t tell you whether this or that power supply has enough cable length for a given enclosure or system configuration, but with the help of a trusty measuring tape, we can show the maximum cable reach for each PSU. The reach measurements shown for SATA and 4-pin peripheral connectors refer to the reach of the last connector on the longest cable.

These PSUs don’t differ much when it comes to motherboard power connectors. The variances in cable length only amount to a few inches, although in some of today’s upside-down cases, that could be the difference between a configuration that works and one that doesn’t.

The Antec Neo HE, OCZ GameXStream, and Corsair HX provide the longest cable reaches here. Enermax’s Infiniti has a long 12V connector, as well, but its primary power cable is among the shortest.

PCIe cable length is particularly important if you’re running multi-GPU graphics configurations in taller enclosures. Somewhat surprisingly, the relatively modest Seasonic S12II has the longest PCIe power cables of the lot. The Silencer and Neo HE pull up a couple of inches behind, followed by models from Corsair and OCZ.

We really have to roll out the tape measure for the SATA and Molex plugs. OCZ’s GameXStream can reach SATA devices up to 40 inches away from the PSU, while the Toughpower stretches its 4-pin peripheral plugs a full 38 inches. Those two units are joined in the top three by the Silencer, which gives you a 37-inch reach for SATA and 4-pin peripheral plugs.

The Antec, Seasonic, and Enermax units round out the bottom of the pack here, making them somewhat less appropriate for systems with a myriad of hard drives spread throughout a large enclosure.

Longer cable reach is obviously a good thing if you need it. However, in smaller cases it can be a liability, particularly if lots of unused leads must be zip-tied out of the way. That’s not a problem with modular PSUs, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind if you typically use mid-tower or smaller enclosures.

Rated capacities

Each power supply comes with a total wattage rating, but there’s more to it than that. Power is divided among three primary lines at 3.3, 5, and 12 volts, and each of those lines carries a maximum current rating. To complicate things further, all but PC Power & Cooling’s Silencer spread 12V power over multiple rails. Instead of opting for multiple 12V lines, the Silencer offers a single 12V rail with a massive 60-amp capacity.


Maximum output current (A)


DC Output

+3.3V


+5V

+12V

Antec EarthWatts
500W
24 24 17, 17

Antec Neo HE 550W
24 20 18, 18, 18

Antec TruePower
Trio 650W
24 24 19, 19, 19
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 550W
25 20 19, 19, 19
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 650W
25 25 19, 19, 19

Corsair HX 620W
24 30 18, 18, 18

Enermax Infiniti
720W
25 30 28, 28, 30

OCZ GameXStream
700W
36 30 18, 18, 18, 18

PC Power & Cooling
Silencer 750W
24 30 60

Seasonic S12II
500W
24 24 17, 17

ThermalTake
Toughpower 700W
30 28 18, 18, 18, 18

Amperage is only the beginning, though. Through Ohm’s Law, we can determine the maximum wattage for each line, giving us an indication of actual output capacity.

Except it’s not quite as simple as multiplying a line’s voltage by its maximum current. PSUs with multiple 12V rails are limited by how much power can be spread across those multiple lines, and most units also limit how much power can be shared across the 3.3V and 5V lines. Then there’s the total output wattage across the 3.3, 5, and 12V lines, which doesn’t always add up to the maximum wattage of the power supply. Some PSUs reserve a portion of their total wattage capacity for lesser-used voltage lines like the -12V and 5V standby rails.

To make sense of it all, we’ve put together a handy table showing the maximum output power for each PSU’s 3.3, 5, and 12V rails. Where applicable, we’ve also indicated the maximum combined 3.3 and 5V power, the maximum combined 12V power, and how much wattage the PSU can spread across all three main rails.


Maximum output power (W)


DC Output

+3.3V


+5V

+12V

Antec EarthWatts
500W
79.2 120 204, 204
130 408
500

Antec Neo HE 550W
79.2 100 216, 216, 216
504
550

Antec TruePower
Trio 650W
79.2 120 228, 228, 228
624
650
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 550W
82.5 100 228, 228, 228
141 432
550
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 650W
82.5 125 228, 228, 228
191 540
650

Corsair HX 620W
79.2 150 216, 216, 216
170 600
620

Enermax Infiniti
720W
82.5 150 336, 336, 360
160 672
720

OCZ GameXStream
700W
118.8 150 216, 216, 216, 216
155 680
680

PC Power & Cooling
Silencer 750W
79.2 150 720
170
750

Seasonic S12II
500W
79.2 120 204, 204
130 408
500

ThermalTake
Toughpower 700W
99 140 216, 216, 216, 216
180 672
700

These are the power delivery stats that really matter, and as you can see, the units vary quite a bit. Interestingly, only Antec’s Neo HE and TruePower Trio make no mention of limits on combined 3.3 and 5V power. Among the others, CoolerMaster’s 650W Real Power Pro is surprisingly the most generous, boasting 191W of combined 3.3 and 5V output. ThermalTake’s Toughpower comes a close second at 180W, followed by units from Corsair and PC Power & Cooling. The 500W units from Antec and Seasonic predictably round out the low end of the spectrum with combined 3.3 and 5V output ratings of 130W.

Of course, 12 volts is where it’s really at. There, PC Power & Cooling’s Silencer tops the charts with a whopping 720W rating. The GameXStream and Toughpower PSUs aren’t far behind at 680 and 672W, respectively.

Obviously, the higher-wattage PSUs are equipped to deliver more 12V power than the others. What’s more interesting here is how each PSU balances the power it can provide across its 3.3, 5, and 12V lines. In a moment, we’ll see just how well these PSUs react to loads that push their maximum output ratings.

Introducing The Beast

When we set out to revisit power supply coverage, we realized we needed to do more than just plunk a PSU into a test system for some quality time at idle and under load. Testing in a real-world system is essential, of course, but it doesn’t necessarily push a power supply as hard as we’d like. We want to see how a power supply performs when stretched to its limits. Those limits, of course, are the maximum output wattages printed so conveniently on the side of every power supply. Reaching them requires the ability to generate arbitrary loads on a power supply’s various voltage lines. Since load generators for PC power supplies aren’t exactly off-the-shelf retail products, we set about building one from scratch.

My brief flirtation with electrical engineering is long behind me, but TR regular justbrewit has helped us with electrical projects in the past, and he was up to the challenge. JBI even wrote up his experiences building our power supply tester, which we’ve shared below.

Many moons ago, Geoff contacted me with an idea. I believe the origin of the idea was actually a thread on the TR forums, where I had commented on a device he had put together to help measure the power consumption of hard drives. In a nutshell, TR was interested in a device to help them test (and stress-test) PSUs.

The trick is to be able to apply controlled loads to each rail in a repeatable way, and push PSUs to the limits of their rated wattage to see how they behave under stress. With PSU wattages rapidly climbing past the 1 kilowatt mark, this becomes a non-trivial problem; the little off-the-shelf PSU testers you can buy do little more than check whether the voltages are within reasonable limits, under very light (just a few watts) loading.

Introducing The Beast

We kicked around various concepts, including a bank of adjustable high-power rheostats. Eventually I proposed a design to Geoff which was based on banks of binary-weighted load resistors, with individual switches for each load. After a number of tweaks to the initial proposal to accommodate future PSUs (we added provisions for up to four +12V rails), and reduce cost and complexity (support for testing +5VSB and -12V rails was dropped), we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted “The Beast” (as it came to be known) to look like.

The final specs: 0 to 46A on the 3.3V rail, 0 to 62A on the +5V rail, and 0 to 88A on the +12V rails (four 22A rails which can be ganged together), all in calibrated 2A steps. That’s over 1500W of combined load – surely enough to handle all but the most extreme PSUs! A pair of 120mm Sunon fans (powered from their own +12V “wall wart” power brick) keep The Beast from losing its cool.

Banks of resistance abound

Plenty of cooling at the rear

After numerous delays, parts were finally ordered and construction got underway this past January. My basement bathroom was temporarily turned into a makeshift machine (and soldering) shop, since it was too cold to work out in the garage. Geoff shipped me a pair of OCZ PowerStream PSUs to help with testing and calibration — since The Beast is designed to handle over 1000W on the +12V rails alone, I had to gang two conventional PSUs together to test the tester, and ensure that it had adequate cooling!

Wiring for load switches

Further delays ensued when I discovered that the main ATX connector on The Beast’s wiring harness was prone to bent pins, meaning it was not rugged enough to stand up to repeated plugging and unplugging. Some re-engineering of the wiring harness to ensure that the pins remain straight in the housing, plus making the main ATX connector modular (so that it is easily replaceable) took care of that issue.

During testing and calibration, I also managed to destroy a ThermalTake TR2 PSU, when an incorrect switch setting caused me to accidentally exceed the PSU’s combined maximum wattage rating. A popping sound, a flash of light (visible through the PSU’s exhaust fan opening), a puff of smoke, and that was all she wrote. Beast indeed!

A close-up of The Beast’s resistors

In May, the finished Beast was carefully packed, and finally shipped off to Geoff. A few days ago he informed me that it performed quite well during the testing he did for the PSU roundup… and he even managed to avoid blowing any of the PSUs up!

In order to see how each PSU reacts at its limits, we’ll be using The Beast to test them at 50, 75, and 100% of their rated capacities. Our tests will load the 3.3, 5, and 12V rails simultaneously, so we have to keep in mind each PSU’s combined and total power output limits. Those limits dictate our power draw targets at 50, 75, and 100% capacity, and each PSU’s individual rail biases govern how the load is distributed across the 3.3, 5, and 12V rails.

Since The Beast is limited to applying loads in 2A increments, we won’t be able to nail the percentage-based load targets exactly. Instead, we’ve channeled The Price is Right and used amperage loads that come as close to our targets as possible without going over. The chart below shows the amperage loads applied to each rail during testing.


Total loads (Amps)

50%

75%

100%

3.3V

5V

12V

3.3V

5V

12V

3.3V

5V

12V

Antec EarthWatts
500W
6 6 14 10 10 22 14 14 30

Antec Neo HE 550W
8 8 16 14 12 24 18 16 32

Antec TruePower
Trio 650W
8 8 20 14 14 30 18 18 40
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 550W
8 6 16 12 10 24 18 14 34
Cooler Master
Real Power Pro 650W
10 10 20 14 14 30 20 20 40
Corsair HX 620W 6 8 20 10 12 30 14 16 40
Enermax
Infiniti 720W
6 8 24 10 12 36 14 16 48
OCZ GameXStream
700W
8 6 22 12 10 34 16 14 46
PC Power &
Cooling Silencer 750W
6 8 24 10 14 36 14 18 50
Seasonic S12II
500W
6 6 14 10 10 22 14 14 30
ThermalTake
Toughpower 700W
8 8 22 12 12 34 18 16 46

When testing with The Beast, each power supply was hooked up using its primary and auxiliary 12V connectors, two PCIe power connectors, and six 4-pin peripheral connectors. We used a Pico ADC-212 digital oscilloscope to probe 3.3 and 5V wires on the primary power connector. 12V lines were probed in the primary power connector and also with one of the PCIe power connectors. In the graphs on the following pages, 12V power from the primary connector will be marked 12V1, while power from the PCIe connector will be 12V2.

At each load level, we logged DC and AC voltage for 100 seconds after an initial warm-up period where the PSU was under load for five minutes. DC voltages were averaged over that period and tended not to vary much, if at all. Each line’s AC content, otherwise known as ripple, varied quite a bit, as the following example shows.

The graph looks a little scary, but ripple is normal for a power supply. You just don’t want too much of it, and in the example above, the spikes don’t reach 30 millivolts. Because layering the ripple results in multiple lines would make our graphs entirely too difficult to read, and since you probably don’t want to scroll through a dozen individual graphs for each of the 11 PSUs we’re testing, we’ve elected to present ripple content as an average of the absolute value of AC voltages over our 100-second test period. Think of this measure as the average amplitude of the AC ripple results, using zero as a baseline. Ideally there should be no AC content in a DC line, so an average of absolute values should give us a good representation of just how far each PSU strays from that ideal.

In addition to probing each PSU with an oscilloscope, we also used a Watts Up? PRO meter to log power draw at the wall socket. These wattages were averaged across our 100-second test interval, although the results rarely deviated by more than 0.1W during that time. These socket draw results were used to determine each PSU’s efficiency under 50, 75, and 100% loads.

Our testing methods

Testing was conducted in two parts. First, PSUs were run in the system detailed below for a series of power draw, temperature, and noise level tests. They were then hooked up to The Beast to test power delivery and overall efficiency.

All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged.

Processor

Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6GHz
System bus HyperTransport
16-bit/1GHz
Motherboard

Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe Wireless Edition
Bios revision 0906
North bridge nForce 590 SLI SPP
South bridge nForce 590 SLI MCP
Chipset drivers ForceWare 9.35
Memory size 1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type

Corsair CM2X512A-5400UL

DDR2 SDRAM at
742MHz
CAS latency
(CL)
5

RAS to CAS delay
(tRCD)
5
RAS precharge
(tRP)
5
Cycle time
(tRAS)
12
Audio codec Integrated nForce
590 SLI/AD1988B with 5.10.1.4530 drivers
Graphics 2 x

GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB
with ForceWare 162.18 drivers

Hard drives
2 x

Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB
SATA

OS


Windows XP Professional

OS updates
Service Pack 2

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Antec’s EarthWatts 500W
A PSU even Greenpeace could love

Manufacturer Antec
Model EarthWatts 500W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Antec’s EarthWatts power supply is the tree-hugger of the bunch. As one might expect, it’s billed as an energy-efficient model, complete with a leafy green logo. Antec also says it’s the “most environmentally friendly power supply yet.”

Don’t let the eco-friendliness fool you, though; the EarthWatts may be available in wattages as low as 380W, but the model we have in-house today packs 500W, dual 12V rails, and a pair of PCIe power connectors for multi-GPU graphics configurations. Think of it as a turbocharged Toyota Prius—one with all the optional extras, including 80 Plus certification and active power factor correction.

The EarthWatts may be the equivalent of a pimped out Prius, but it certainly doesn’t look the part. One could easily mistake the PSU for a budget generic model, and given the EarthWatts’ $75 street price, you’d at least have the budget part right.

With only an 80mm fan pulling air at the rear, the EarthWatts features extensive venting along one of its internal panels to aid airflow. Unfortunately, that panel sits where most folks tend to stuff the bundle of unused power leads they end up with at the end of a system build. Users will have to be careful not to impede airflow to the vents too much.

Through our load testing, the EarthWatts maintains very consistent DC voltages across each rail. Antec doesn’t nail the 3.3, 5, and 12V lines exactly, but voltages are all within 1% of where they should be, which is an impressive result.

The EarthWatts’ AC ripple content is also consistently low on each rail. AC content averages around 10 millivolts—a drop in the bucket.

Our efficiency testing shows that the EarthWatts’ 80 Plus certification is indeed justified. The PSU never dips below 80%, although efficiency does drop slightly when we apply our 100% load.

Antec’s Neo HE 550W
All things to all people?

Manufacturer Antec
Model Neo HE 550W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Unlike the EarthWatts, Antec’s Neo HE apparently won’t save the planet. Despite lacking 80 Plus certification, though, this PSU still boasts efficiency “up to 85%,” so it probably won’t sneak off and club baby seals in the middle of the night.

What the Neo HE really feels like is an attempt to be all things to all people. The range is available in six models from 380W all the way up to 650W, and with street prices for this 550W model dipping as low as $88, there isn’t much in the way of sticker shock. Nearly $90 for a power supply isn’t cheap, of course, but when you factor in the Neo HE’s five-year warranty, trio of independent 12V rails, active power factor correction, and SLI certification, it starts to look like a pretty sweet deal.

The Neo has a menacing streak, too. With its matte grey finish and black fan grill, this PSU wouldn’t look out of place in a military installation. The fact that the Neo relies on a single 80mm exhaust fan is a little disappointing, though.

Fortunately, the HE’s modular cable system should keep a bundle of unused wires from impeding airflow around its internal venting. Modular cables are the best thing to happen to power supplies in a long, long time, and I have to admit being a little perplexed by the fact that more manufacturers haven’t jumped on the bandwagon.

Even apart from their modular nature, the cables themselves are much nicer the ones attached to Antec’s EarthWatts unit. Each lead is carefully sheathed in black mesh to keep things nice and tidy.

The Neo HE’s DC voltages are spot-on, too. Consistent voltages are maintained across all three rails, although as we saw with the EarthWatts, 12V levels are slightly lower on the primary power connector than they are on one of the PCIe connectors. All voltages are within 1% of their targets, too.

Ripple results are a little more mixed for the Neo, with the PCIe connector’s 12V line showing the least AC content. The rest of the rails show increased ripple under our heaviest load, but even then, we’re looking at no more than 14 millivolts.

Our efficiency testing hints at why the Neo doesn’t carry 80 Plus certification: the PSU falls just shy of 80% efficiency with our most demanding load. Even so, it’s hard to knock the Neo for only hitting 79.9%, especially when it manages over 82% efficiency with lower loads.

Antec’s TruePower Trio 650W
The third musketeer

Manufacturer Antec
Model TruePower Trio 650W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

The TruePower Trio is the third Antec power supply in this round-up, which I suppose is fitting. This model differs enough from the EarthWatts and Neo HE models to warrant inclusion, in part because it’s rated for 650W of total output—more than either of the other Antec units.

Like the Neo HE, the TruePower features three 12V rails and active power factor correction. While the Neo is only certified for dual-card SLI configurations, Antec’s website claims the TruePower carries Quad SLI certification. Don’t put too much stock into that certification, though: with only two PCIe power connectors, the Trio doesn’t actually have enough 6-pin connectors for a Quad SLI rig.

The TruePower looks just as drab as the EarthWatts, but instead of settling for a standard 80mm exhaust fan at the rear, it employs a much larger 120mm fan mounted on its bottom panel (top in the picture.) In conjunction with generous venting at the rear, this larger fan should allow the TruePower to exhaust more warm air from the system, lowering temperatures inside.

Larger fans can move more air at lower speeds than smaller units, so the TruePower should run quieter, as well. Its temperature-based fan speed control can also be tied to system fans by way of a pair of fan-only 4-pin molex connectors.

Unfortunately, the TruePower doesn’t come with modular cables like its Neo HE cousin. You don’t get fancy cable sheathing, either, but Antec’s five-year warranty remains.

Voltage delivery isn’t a problem for the TruePower. In fact, its voltages are closer to their ideal values than either of the other Antec models. There isn’t much deviation as the load ramps from 50 to 100%, either.

The TruePower does provide some more interesting ripple results to look at. With the exception of the PCIe connector’s 12V line, which has hardly any AC content at a 50% load, the general trend shows ripple decreasing as the load on the power supply increases. Even at its worst, average AC content doesn’t eclipse 14 millivolts.

TruePower efficiency looks pretty good overall, although it does drop as the load on the PSU increases. Still, 79.4% efficiency at 100% load is nothing to be ashamed of, particularly for a model that’s over 83% efficient with a lighter load.

Cooler Master’s Real Power Pro 550W
For reals, yo

Manufacturer Cooler Master
Model Real Power Pro 550W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Cooler Master makes loads of power supplies, and we have two units in our group. The first is the Real Power Pro 550W, which currently sells for a little less than $100. This price tag makes the Pro one of the most affordable PSUs of the bunch, but don’t assume Cooler Master has skimped on features. The Pro boasts 80 Plus and SLI certifications and packs a trio of independent 12V rails.

Warranty coverage is limited to three years, though. That’s not quite as nice as the five-year guarantees offered by some other manufacturers, but it should be enough for most folks.

Those with an eye for aesthetics will no doubt appreciate the Pro’s glossy black finish. If you enjoy silence, the unit’s temperature-controlled 120mm fan should catch your eye, as well. Like most PSUs with bottom-mounted cooling fans, the Pro features extensive venting at the rear.

Note the little LED next to the Pro’s power switch. This LED serves as a warning system and will light up if the power supply detects that voltages, temperatures, current, or even the load deviates from acceptable levels.

The Real Power Pro doesn’t come with modular cables. Cooler Master has done a good job of ensuring that all leads are neatly sheathed, though. Sheathing doesn’t affect power delivery, but it makes snaking wires around an enclosure a little easier, and the end result looks a lot nicer.

DC voltages look solid for the Real Power Pro across all three loads. Any deviations from target voltages are at or below 1%, which is quite good.

Ripple is consistent for the Real Power Pro, as well. AC content does trend a little higher than we saw with the Antec models. However, we’re still looking at averages below 18 millivolts overall—well within an acceptable range.

Despite its 80 Plus certification, the Pro only manages 79.4% efficiency under our 100% load. The Pro does better under loads of 50 and 75% of capacity, where it maintains greater than 80% efficiency.

Update 10/05/2007 — Cooler Master has bumped the warranty coverage of its Real Power Pro power supplies to five years.

Cooler Master’s Real Power Pro 650W
+100W

Manufacturer Cooler Master
Model Real Power Pro 650W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

At first glance, Cooler Master’s 650W Real Power Pro looks identical to the 550W model. Both units share a common feature set, including active power factor correction, 80 Plus and SLI certifications, and that handy warning light at the rear. Even their prices are similar, with the 650W model costing about $15 more than the 550W unit.

With 100 additional watts at its disposal, the 650W Real Power Pro is capable of handling 5A more on its 5V line than the 550W model. The 650W unit can also handle an additional 50W of combined 3.3 and 5V power and a whopping 112W of additional 12V power draw.

Not that you’d know by looking at it.

Of course, just because Cooler Master says this 650W model can handle heavier loads than the 550W unit doesn’t make it so. Let me illustrate.

If you turn your attention to 12V2—that’s 12V power from the PCIe connector—you’ll notice it dips to just 10.7V when the PSU is fully loaded. That’s nearly a 6% deviation, the biggest drop in voltage we’ve seen yet.
The Real Power Pro’s performance is otherwise exemplary. Perhaps Cooler Master’s 12V output wattage spec was just a little too optimistic.

Things get even more interesting when we look at ripple voltage. The 12V PCIe line has quite a bit more AC content than the others at 50 and 75% loads, but not because it’s exhibiting abnormally high ripple. Instead, the other lines register incredibly low levels of AC content when the PSU isn’t fully-loaded. Even at full load, AC content doesn’t average out to over 18 millivolts.

The Real Power Pro 650W has no problem maintaining higher than 80% efficiency when loaded to 50 and 75% capacity, but efficiency drops below the 80% mark when the PSU is pushed to its limits. Our calculated 77.5% efficiency at 100% load is actually a little optimistic because the Pro is delivering less voltage than it should on one of its 12V lines.

Update 10/05/2007 — Cooler Master has bumped the warranty coverage of its Real Power Pro power supplies to five years.

Corsair’s HX 620W
Not just memory anymore

Manufacturer Corsair
Model HX 620W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

Better known for its memory products, Corsair recently dipped into the power supply market with its HX 620W. As one might expect given Corsair’s roots, this model is targeted squarely at enthusiasts, packing just about every bell and whistle you’d want—well, every bell and whistle short of an 80 Plus badge, but we’ll see in a moment why that doesn’t matter.

The HX is certified for SLI, and it’s one of only a couple of PSUs in this round-up available with enough 8-pin PCIe connectors to support a Radeon HD 2900 XT CrossFire config. Given its CrossFire capability, the HX’s 620W rating is a little surprising. Other high-end units in this round-up promise 700W or more.

What the HX may lack in output wattage it starts to make up with five years of warranty coverage. The PSU also sports active power factor correction and a temperature-controlled 120mm fan mounted on the bottom panel of the unit.

The HX’s real allure is its modular cabling system. The ability to remove unused leads does wonders for reducing enclosure clutter, and since the HX comes with a few extras, you can juggle its output between 4-pin peripheral and SATA connectors as you see fit.

These aren’t your standard modular cables, either. Most modular PSUs rely on leads that look like they’ve been adapted from traditional units, but the ones bundled with the HX aren’t just sheathed lengths of twisted wires with a PSU hook-up at one end. These cables have a custom-made feel, and their ribbon-like leads don’t require sheathing to stay tidy.

The HX is particularly impressive when we hook it up to The Beast. DC voltages remain flat across all three load levels, with none deviating by much more than 1%.

AC ripple is consistently low, as well. None of the lines register AC content above roughly 12 millivolts, and 3.3 and 5V ripple are at their lowest under our 100% load.

Even without official 80 Plus certification, the HX has no problem maintaining efficiency above 82% across all three load levels. This is highest overall efficiency we’ve seen so far, proving you don’t need an 80 Plus badge to conserve power.

Enermax’s Infiniti 720W
A premium package

Manufacturer Enermax
Model Infiniti 720W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

With a street price hovering near $195, Enermax’s Infiniti PSU is the most expensive model in this comparison. Interestingly, though, the Infiniti’s 720W total output rating isn’t the highest of the bunch. So why does the it cost more than the others?

Because it’s loaded.

To start, the Infiniti comes active power factor correction and certifications for SLI and 80 Plus efficiency. In fact, Enermax promises efficiency between 82 and 85% when the power supply is under a load of at least 20% of its capacity. You also get an 8-pin PCIe connector, should your graphics card’s power requirements exceed that of most folks’ entire systems.

Enermax even throws in a little bling, caging the Infiniti’s monster 140mm fan behind a faux gold grill. The Infiniti is one of only two PSUs in this round-up to sport a 140mm fan, and that should allow it to move more air at lower noise levels than its competitors.

Air moved by this fan should have no problem making its way out the PSU’s hole-riddled back panel. There you’ll also find a status light that reflects the PSU’s general disposition.

Modular cables are also on the menu, and they’re sheathed, mostly. The sheathing only goes about halfway down the PCIe leads and only to the first connector on the SATA and 4-pin peripheral cables, which feels a little chintzy given the Infiniti’s price tag. The PSU’s three-year warranty isn’t anything special, either.

The Infiniti starts to make up ground when we look at its DC voltage delivery. 3.3 and 5V levels are practically flat regardless of the load and within half a percent of their targets. The 12V lines don’t waver much as the load increases, either, although they’re as much as 1.5% shy of nailing 12 volts exactly.

Ripple is a little higher on the Infiniti than we’ve seen with some of the other PSUs, at least at 50 and 75% loads. However, even there, AC content doesn’t average much higher than 18 millivolts. Voltage delivery gets a little cleaner under a 100% load.

Enermax claims the Infiniti’s efficiency is between 82 and 85%, but our own testing doesn’t quite bear that out. The Infiniti certainly isn’t wildly inefficient, though.

OCZ’s GameXStream 700W
Home court advantage

Manufacturer OCZ
Model GameXStream 700W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

We’ve been using OCZ’s GameXStream 700W PSUs in our test rigs for more than a year now. The Benchmarking Sweatshop is home court for this model, and since we’ve been using them for so long, we can tell you that they’ve been very reliable with a wide range of different system configurations. The GameXStream isn’t necessarily any more reliable than the other PSUs in this round-up; we just haven’t been playing with the rest of the field for nearly as long.

The GameXStream is relatively subdued on the surface. You get active power factor correction and SLI certification, but there’s no 80 Plus badge or fancy modular cables. The warranty only lasts three years, so OCZ isn’t breaking any new ground there. What the GameXStream does offer is 700W of output capacity—quite a lot given its affordable $115 street price.

OCZ hasn’t cut corners just to kick out a cheap, high-wattage PSU, though. The GameXStream comes wrapped in black with a 120mm fan in charge of keeping things cool. There’s also an LED tucked away that bathes the unit’s internals in a blue glow when it’s powered on.

All the cables are sheathed, too, and there’s plenty of length to play with.

DC voltages are nice and consistent across all three loads. The 3.3V line is particularly accurate, but all lines are within about 1% of their targets.

What’s particularly impressive about the GameXStream’s voltages is how little AC content seeps into the lines. Over our 100-second test interval, ripple content averages rarely reach double digits in millivolts.

Efficiency is reasonably good, too, although it does drop noticeably when we crank the load up to 100%. This might explain the lack of 80 Plus certification.

PC Power & Cooling’s Silencer 750W
As good as the hype suggests?

Manufacturer PC Power & Cooling
Model Silencer 750W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

We’ve had more requests to review PC Power & Cooling PSUs than any other brand, and for good reason. PC Power & Cooling has a reputation for building some of the best high-performance PSUs around. Is there anything to the hype?

Not at first glance.

Sure, the CrossFire Edition of this Silencer 750W PSU happens to be painted a particularly striking shade of red, but that looks to be more CrossFire branding than PC Power & Cooling flexing its muscles. The muscle is there, though; you just have to look under the hood.

Beneath what looks like (apart from the red, of course) a rather standard PSU lurks a monstrous 12V line capable of pumping out a whopping 720W. Coaxing 60 amps from a single 12V line is impressive enough on its own, but even more so when you consider that all the other PSUs in this round-up—and indeed most of the industry—have to split 12V power between multiple lines to achieve similar output capacity.

Given its grunt, it’s surprising the Silencer isn’t peppered with cooling vents or massive fans. The unit relies on a single 80mm cooling fan at the rear—an odd choice given the Silencer name.

What might surprise most folks about the Silencer is that it really isn’t that expensive. The unit sells for around $170 online, not a drop in the bucket by any means, but not unreasonable given the Silencer’s 750W output rating. Don’t forget PC Power & Cooling’s five-year warranty, either.

Power delivery should be the Silencer’s real strength, and it looks pretty good in our DC voltage tests. The 12V lines are a little low, but still within about 1% of nailing 12 volts exactly. Voltages remain consistent as the load on the PSU increases, as well.

AC ripple isn’t much of a problem for the Silencer. Most of the lines average about 10 millivolts, and the 12V PCIe connector’s AC content drops even lower under heavier loads.

The real kicker comes when we look at efficiency. Forget 80 Plus; the Silencer practically maintains 85% efficiency across our test loads.

Seasonic’s S12II 500W
The high end of efficiency

Manufacturer Seasonic
Model S12II 500W
Price (Street) $110
Availability Now

Seasonic PSUs aren’t particularly prevalent in North America, but the company has a reputation for models with high efficiency and low noise levels. The S12II will have to deliver on both of those fronts to compete with the other PSUs we’ve rounded up, in part because it’s relatively expensive. You can currently find the S12II for sale online for around $110. That’s certainly not outrageous for a high-quality power supply, but it’s a lot to pay for only 500W of total output capacity.

The S12II doesn’t pack a whole lot in terms of extra features, either. Sure you get an 8-pin PCIe connector and plenty of cable length to snake around your system, but the cables aren’t modular, and they’re not fully sheathed. Warranty coverage tops out at a decidedly average three years, too.

An all-black aesthetic might tip the scales in the S12II’s favor, if that sort of thing does it for you. The unit looks quite nice, in an understated sort of way, but a power supply can only have so much visual appeal.

What will be far more important to this PSU’s success is just how quietly that 120mm fan spins. Bottom-mounted 120mm fans seem to be the new standard for enthusiast-oriented models, so the S12II will have plenty of similarly equipped competition in its quest for silence.

The S12II starts to justify its price tag when we look at DC output quality. Voltages are consistent across all three load levels. They’re also all within 1.3% of ideal values.

Ripple looks very good on the S12II, with all lines averaging AC content around 10 millivolts. These results are consistent across all three load levels.

Seasonic proves its point on the efficiency front, too. The S12II manages over 80% efficiency across the board, peaking at 84% when running at three-quarters capacity.

ThermalTake’s Toughpower 700W
Tough enough?

Manufacturer ThermalTake
Model Toughpower 700W
Price (Street)
Availability Now

With a $150 street price, ThermalTake’s 700W Toughpower is one of the more expensive models in this comparo. $150 buys you a lot, though, including 672W of combined 12V power spread over three independent rails. Active power factor correction is also included, as is SLI certification. You even get a five-year warranty.

80 Plus certification isn’t a part of the package, however. ThermalTake does say the Toughpower is up to 85% efficient—a claim we’ll test in a moment. First, let’s have a look at the unit, which is decked out in a glossy black finish.

The Toughpower uses an integrated fan grill that’s a little chunkier than what we’ve seen with other models. I’d worry more about it restricting airflow were it not hiding a 140mm fan.

That big fan should ensure plenty of airflow through the PSU, and there’s loads of venting at the rear of the unit for exhaust. Modular cables should also keep cable clutter from impeding airflow within an enclosure.

ThermalTake nicely sheathes the full length of modular cables included with the Toughpower. One of those leads features an 8-pin PCIe power connector, as well.

DC voltages are very tight on the Toughpower. At worst, they deviate by just 0.85% from target values, and most lines are much closer than that.

The ripple picture isn’t quite as favorable. Here we see AC content averaging over 20 millivolts—more than the other PSUs in this round-up. Even so, the Toughpower is rated for between 50 and 120 millivolts of ripple, depending on the line. We’re well within tolerances.

There’s a 2% drop in efficiency from a 50 to 100% load with the Toughpower. At full capacity, the PSU drops just below the 80% efficiency mark.

Efficiency

We don’t want to make too many direct comparisons between test results gathered from The Beast because each PSU was run under different loads corresponding to its individual specifications. However, efficiency is important enough to make an exception. Here we’ve graphed the efficiencies of each PSU at 50, 75, and 100% capacity to see how they stack up against each other.

PC Power & Cooling is the undisputed king of efficiency, taking the top spot in each load test, and always by at least a full percentage point. Corsair and Seasonic round out the top three overall, followed closely by Antec’s EarthWatts.

A few PSUs stand out at the back of the pack, too. The GameXStream finishes in the bottom two three times, and the Infiniti falls to last place twice. Fortunately, there really isn’t a huge gap in overall efficiency between the best and worst of the lot.

System temperatures

Our next batch of tests deployed the PSUs in a real-world system with a pair of GeForce 8800 GTS cards in SLI and a couple of hard drives. For these tests, the systems first sat at idle for 10 minutes. They were then subjected to a 10-minute load consisting of Prime95, Oblivion, and an IOMeter file server test pattern.

System temperatures were measured using a combination of Nvidia’s nTune system utility for the GPUs and Asus’ PC Probe software for the CPU and motherboard.

The Infiniti’s beefy 140mm fan helps it maintain the lowest temperatures at idle, occasionally by large margins over the rest of the field. Models with 80mm cooling fans didn’t do so well here, with the EarthWatts struggling the most. Even the mighty Silencer runs the system a little warm.

Under load, the differences in temperatures between the PSUs shrink, and the Infiniti loses its hold on the lead. It’s hard to pick an overall winner, particularly because motherboard and GPU temperatures are so close. However, we see nearly a 10-degree spread in CPU temperatures, with the EarthWatts trailing by a full three degrees alone.

The Toughpower, Infiniti, and 550W Real Power Pro enable the lowest CPU temperatures here. Interestingly, the 650W Real Power Pro leaves the CPU five degrees warmer than its lower-wattage counterpart.

Noise levels

Noise levels were measured at idle and under load using an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level meter placed 1″ from the rear of the system and out of the direct path of airflow. You’ll notice “missing” results for some of the PSUs at idle. We’ve omitted them because our meter only registers noise levels above 40 decibels, and most of the field is quieter than that at idle.

Some of the PSUs are louder than 40 dB at idle, though, including models from ThermalTake, Antec, and OCZ. The picture changes somewhat under load. For instance, the GameXStream moves from last place to middle of the pack, and the Earthwatts ranges from under 40 dB to over 54 dB. The Corsair HX and the Silencer 750W stand out in both cases, though.

Power consumption

Power consumption was measured at the wall socket for the entire system, sans monitor or speakers.

14 watts separates the most efficient PSU from the least at idle, with the Neo HE, Silencer, and HX rounding out the top three. The Toughpower is the least frugal at idle, consuming four watts more than the next closest model.

Under load, the gap between the most and least efficient PSU shrinks to only seven watts. PC Power & Cooling, Corsair, and Seasonic round out the top three, but they don’t enjoy much of a margin over the rest of the field.

Conclusions

We’ve covered a lot, so before diving into our conclusions on each power supply we’ve tested, we should take a moment to note some general trends. With few exceptions, all the PSUs in this round-up are pretty good. In fact, only Cooler Master’s 650W Real Power Pro failed to deliver tight voltage tolerances, and then on only one rail in our 100% output capacity test. Ripple wasn’t much of a problem for these PSUs, either. ThermalTake’s Toughpower may have been the worst, but its average AC content was well within acceptable limits. Heck, even overall efficiencies were impressive. The lowest efficiency we observed was 76.7%—just 10 percentage points shy of the highest.

So brand-name PSUs are pretty good in general, it seems. Some are better and worse than others, of course, and to help you sort through this litter we’ve provided a quick summary of our thoughts on where each stands.

Antec EarthWatts 500W — By far the cheapest PSU in this round-up, the EarthWatts looks to be good value for budget-minded environmentalists, especially since its power delivery is solid. Despite leafy-green goodness, the EarthWatts isn’t the most efficient PSU of the bunch. It isn’t that quiet, either, and that pokey 80mm fan has doesn’t move a lot of air. You’re better off saving a few extra dollars for the next PSU on our list.

Antec Neo HE 550W — The Neo HE is a great example of how spending just a little more can pay huge dividends. For less than $20 more than an EarthWatts, you get a five-year warranty, efficiency that’s nearly as good, modular cabling, and an additional 50 watts of output capacity. Only the Neo HE’s relatively high noise levels keep it from an Editor’s Choice award, but it’s good enough for an effective silver medal, our TR Recommended designation.

Antec TruePower Trio 650W — A five-year warranty and 650W output capacity start the TruePower Trio off on the right foot, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of luxury. The Trio lacks modular cables and 8-pin PCIe connectors, and it’s far too loud given its $120 street price. Spending a little bit more will get you a significantly better power supply.

Corsair HX 620W
PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W
September 2007

Cooler Master Real Power Pro 550W — The Real Power Pro wasn’t particularly exceptional or disappointing in our testing. Like most of the field, power delivery was good, if not great. While the others were able to distinguish themselves with high efficiency, low noise levels, or cool system temperatures, the Real Power Pro spent most of its time at the middle or back of the pack. Without a long warranty or modular cables to add to its appeal, the Pro just isn’t compelling value, at least not while it’s selling for $95 online.

Cooler Master Real Power Pro 650W — This 650W flavor feels almost like Cooler Master pushed the Real Power Pro a little too far. The sagging voltage we observed on the 12V PCIe line under 100% load is enough to quash any chance we’d recommend this model, particularly given the strength of the competition. Even if it had managed to maintain adequate voltage on the 12V rail, the 650W Real Power Pro would still be as average as its 550W brother.

Corsair HX 620W — Buying into a company’s first stab at a new class of products is rarely a good idea, but Corsair’s first entry into the power supply world is worth an exception. The enthusiast pedigree shows. With a five-year warranty, the best modular cables we’ve seen, dual 8-pin PCIe connectors, and among the highest efficiency results and lowest noise levels, the HX 620W is arguably the best all-around PSU of the lot. Overall goodness isn’t cheap. In fact, it costs just about $140 online. We think the HX is worth every penny—and worthy of an Editor’s Choice award.

Enermax Infiniti 720W — A nearly $200 price tag makes the Infiniti the most expensive PSU in the round-up, and that sets expectations high. For the most part, Enermax delivers, equipping the Infiniti with a massive fan that’s quiet under load, 720W of output capacity, and modular cables. Yet the whole package doesn’t quite come together, in part because the Infiniti’s comparative efficiency is so low. Given the competition, we’d expect a five-year warranty at this price point, too.

OCZ GameXStream 700W — With a $115 street price, the GameXStream delivers great value in terms of watts per dollar. Unfortunately, unless you’re particularly partial to blue LEDs, there isn’t much else to get excited about. In fact, the GameXStream’s relatively low efficiency and high noise levels are a little disappointing. We can vouch for the GameXStream’s reliability, though, and that counts for something. Just not quite enough.

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W — The Silencer lives up to the hype surrounding PC Power & Cooling, and then some. This PSU just about has it all, including a five-year warranty, clean power delivery, dual 8-pin PCIe connectors, and a truly monstrous 12V rail. Despite using an old-school 80mm fan, noise levels are remarkably low, as well. Throw in the highest efficiencies we’ve seen and you have our second Editor’s Choice recipient. A quality power supply is an investment, and even at around $170 online, the Silencer is a good one.

Seasonic S12II 500W — The S12II is a very good power supply. Even a great one. Power delivery is clean, efficiency is excellent, and noise levels are pretty low. That’s all you really need from a PSU, which is why we don’t so much mind the lack of modular cables, the three-year warranty, or the relatively pedestrian 500W capacity. At least, we wouldn’t mind if the S12II weren’t so expensive. This model is scarce online, which is perhaps why the cheapest we’ve seen it at is $110. At that price, the S12II isn’t a particularly good value. However, it’s still a great power supply, one we’d heartily recommend should you be able to find it for less.

ThermalTake Toughpower 700W — There’s a lot to like about the Toughpower, including its five-year warranty, 700W output capacity, and modular cables. Considering those perks, the unit’s $150 street price looks pretty good. We can even forgive the Toughpower’s comparatively high ripple content since it was well within the PSU’s tolerances. We can’t get past the noise levels, though. The Toughpower is among the loudest of the lot at idle and under load—a problem its direct competitors don’t share.

And so The Beast’s first run through a pack of power supplies comes to a close. Weeks of testing hasn’t been kind to this lot, but it’s given Corsair’s HX 620W, PC Power & Cooling’s Silencer 750W, Antec’s Neo HE 550W, and Seasonic’s S12II 500W the opportunity to set themselves apart.

Update 10/05/2007 — Cooler Master has bumped the warranty coverage of its Real Power Pro power supplies to five years. The longer warranty adds value, particularly to the 550W model, but it doesn’t change our overall recommendations.

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