TR’s power supply comparo

THE MAJORITY OF attention in PC enthusiast media is dedicated to graphics cards, processors, chipsets, and motherboards. Honestly, I don’t blame them, or us, for spending more time on the industry’s more interesting and—dare I say—sexy developments than on some of the more mundane happenings and products. However, a product doesn’t have to be sexy to be incredibly important.

Power supplies are generally not thought of as the most interesting PC components, but they can often be the most vital, especially for system stability when you’re pushing your hardware to its limits. You see, the power supply is responsible for keeping all of your PC’s flashy goodies fed with ample quantities of steady, clean power. Without a good power supply, your high-end system could be reduced to a mess of crashes and instability.

Over the years, I’ve seen numerous systems whose laundry list of problems were all remedied by swapping out an underpowered or low-quality generic power supply. Even the latest problems with ATI’s Radeon 9700 Pro have been attributed, by some, to poor quality and low-wattage power supplies in users’ systems. As our systems get more and more powerful, we’re going to need more and more clean, quality power to keep them running. Today we’ve rounded up four very different power supplies from Antec, Thermaltake, and Vantec. Which is easiest on your wallet and ears, and which is able to provide the most consistent power under load? Let’s get started and find out.


Cause chicks dig a dude with power supplies
…well, at least the kinda chick that’d go out with me

Antec TruePower 380W and TruePower 550W

Manufacturer Antec
Model TruePower 380W
TruePower 550W
Price (street) US$70 (380W)
US$100 (550W)
Availability Now

Both ends of the spectrum
Antec is well known for their full line of PC cases which we’ve previously reviewed. The nice thing about buying an Antec case is that you get an Antec power supply inside, which is one of the reasons I find myself recommending Antec’s cases over and over again, especially for consumers who may not be savvy enough to pick out a good power supply on their own. Far too often I see swank aluminum cases at local shops decked out with all sorts of eye candy, packed with generic, no-name power supplies that frankly, I just don’t trust on high-performance systems. We actually have a couple of Antec’s latest line of TruePower power supplies in house for this comparison, one comes in at 380W, and the other at 550W. Having two power supply models from the same manufacturer with differing wattage ratings will give us an opportunity to more directly compare wattage overall, since the Antec power supplies both share a common TruePower feature set.


Switch, plug, and two fans

Antec’s TruePower power supplies look, well, much like other power supplies. In addition to the standard rear 80mm exhaust fan, Antec sticks a second 90mm fan on what ends up being the bottom of the power supply. For whatever reason, the two fans are different colors, but you’ll have to peer beyond the fan grill to notice the difference.


Why is the internal fan clear?

Here’s a shot from the rear. You can see some additional venting on parts of the power supply that get decent airflow within the case, and you can see just how much space that 90mm fan takes up on a power supply of this size.

Power supplies generally offer temperature-controlled fans these days, but Antec claims its Low Noise Technology is better than the rest and results in lower operating noise levels than the competition. We’ll test that claim later on.

TruePower power supplies also have two special MOLEX connectors designed to work only with case fans. These additional connectors give the power supply control over the speed of your case fans, which will go up and down in line with what the power supply’s own fans are doing.


The missing switch

Antec doesn’t allow users to adjust fan speeds, so everything is controlled by the power supply’s thermal sensors. Power supply temperature isn’t necessarily an indicator of overall case temperature, so you might not want case fans positioned around something like your hard drives relying on the power supply to control their speed.

Believe it or not, I have not one, but two older Antec power supplies that don’t have their own power switches. Not having that switch can sometimes really be a pain, and I’m glad to see that Antec has one included on its TruePower series. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to yank the cord on my other Antec power supplies because I crashed a system on a testbed that didn’t have a normal power switch hooked up in the first place. Of course, not having a switch in the first place is my fault, but it’s nice to know that Antec’s new power supplies have my back now.

Despite their differing voltage ratings, the 380W and 550W TruePower units have the same number of MOLEX connectors and offer the same amount of cable reach for each. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as there’s enough of each.


7 MOLEX, 2 FDD, and 2 fan-only MOLEX connectors


Sheathed and shrink-wrapped

Seven MOLEX connectors and two FDD power connectors should be enough most systems, especially if you use the extra two fan-only MOLEX connectors that Antec provides. The power supplies’ MOLEX connector reach tops out at 32″, which should suit all but the tallest full tower cases, even if you’re running hard drives mounted at the bottom of the case where air tends to be the coolest. Finally, we have Antec’s sheathed motherboard power cord, which can reach power connectors a full 22 inches away from the power supply itself. The length is nice, and should be adequate for most case and motherboard setups. The sheathing itself is pretty slick, and the ends are nicely secured with heat shrink tubing, which puts a nice finishing touch on the whole package. Sheathing loose cables can really clean up internal cabling, which in turn can help out with air flow inside a case. A case’s internals also look a lot nicer with clean cable sheathing, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re trying to color-coordinate, at least the black sheath will hide the rainbow of wires that makes up a standard motherboard power supply cable.

Thermaltake Purepower 360W

Manufacturer Thermaltake
Model Purepower 360W
Price (street) US$58
Availability Now

Going solo
550W is probably a waste for the vast majority of even enthusiasts’ high-end rigs, but there are plenty of mid-range power supplies with more timid, but sufficient, power ratings. In this comparison, we’re looking at Thermaltake’s latest Purepower 360W unit, and even though there’s really not much to a power supply, the Thermaltake unit manages to distinguish itself in a few areas. The Purepower 360W is also the lowest-rated power supply in our test, which should make stress testing quite interesting. I’m not lucky enough to have a multi-drive, SCSI-equipped, dual-Athlon test system, but as you’ll see later I did manage to assemble a nice stack of hardware for our stress tests. But back to the Purepower 360W, which is pictured below.


A single fan and vents ‘o plenty

Wait, aren’t we missing a fan here?

The Purepower 360W’s most unique trait is its single-fan design, which eschews the second and sometimes third internal fans that some manufacturers are putting on their power supplies. Single-fan power supplies aren’t new by any stretch, and I’ve got a small collection of 200-250W power supplies that are years old and also feature only a single rear exhaust fan. However, I don’t think I’ve seen any 300W+ power supplies with only a single fan, and I wish you the best of luck getting all but the most bare systems stable on one of my old 250W power supplies.


Listen to the sound of a whole lot of venting

Extensive venting is used throughout the Purepower 360W’s external casing to make up for the lack of a second fan, but I wouldn’t expect airflow within a case to be nearly as good with only a single exhaust fan spinning away. One benefit to a single-fan design is lower sound levels, however. All that internal venting should, for all intents and purposes, be silent when compared to the noise created by an auxiliary fan.

The real question, of course, is whether or not the single fan can keep the power supply cool enough under load, and whether the fan speeds necessary to do so with a single fan produce less noise than a dual-fan setup. We’ll get into some noise testing a little later, but it’s something to keep in mind as we discuss the power supplies.


Even if you’re all thumbs…

I haven’t dealt with Thermaltake power supplies before, so I was relieved to find that Thermaltake does offer an external power switch on its Purepower 360W. And it’s a big sucker. There’s no way you’re going to miss this one, even if you do have to contort your body into an awkward position just to flail around behind your case in the hopes of hitting the switch.

I should note that the particular Purepower 360W power supply we’re testing features Thermaltake’s Passive PFC technology, which uses parallel capacitors to help regulate output current. All of the power supplies we’re testing today actually feature power correction technology, so Thermaltake doesn’t get a leg up on the competition in terms of features. However, since Purepower models are available with and without Passive PFC, it’s worth noting.

The Purepower 360W offers the lowest wattage rating of the power supplies we’re testing today, and it has the fewest number of MOLEX connectors to match.


6 MOLEX and 2 FDD plugs in a tangled mess

There’s a total of six MOLEX connectors to play with, plus two connectors for FDD power. The MOLEX connectors have 28″ of working reach, so you shouldn’t have to worry about reaching all of your hard drives.

All the standard motherboard power plugs are there, but Thermaltake has left the motherboard power cable bare. Given that many of Thermaltake’s products are coolers and cases targeted at enthusiasts, I was expecting a sheath over the power cable, but all you get is a couple of zip-ties to hold things together along the cable’s 20 inches of bundled wire. The zip ties still hold the wires together, but it’s not the most elegant solution.

Vantec Stealth 520W

Manufacturer Vantec
Model Stealth 520W
Price (MSRP) US$149
Availability Soon

Back in black
The Vantec name rings familiar, but there’s a lot more going on here than simply slapping an extra letter on one of Antec’s power supplies. In fact, the Vantec Stealth 520W is the most unique power supply in this comparison. The Stealth 520W is targeted squarely at high-performance enthusiasts and overclockers with a sense of style, but that’s perhaps the most fickle crowd Vantec could possibly target. Gobs of power without a huge noise penalty are hard enough to balance, but throwing aesthetics into the mix makes things that much more difficult. Believe it or not, some people not only want, but demand personality, performance, and good looks. Greedy bastards. Can Vantec keep them satisfied with the Stealth 520W?


The Stealth’s looks won’t slip under your radar

The first thing you’ll notice about the Stealth 520W is its all-black aluminum casing. The conductive properties of aluminum could give the Stealth 520W an edge when it comes to cooling, and no one can deny that the black just looks cool. Well, cool for something you’re going to bury inside your case and never see unless you have a case window. Thankfully, there’s more to the Stealth 520W than a slick exterior; this baby’s got substance, too.


The only power supply we’re testing with three fans in total

Part of the Stealth 520W’s substance lies in its fans—all three of them. The Stealth 520W is the only power supply in this comparison sporting three cooling fans, each of which measures 80mm in diameter. As part of its ode to aesthetics, the fan blades are translucent, and the grills nice and shiny. I was half expecting some really trick laser-cut custom fan grills on the Stealth 520W, at least for the rear exhaust fan.

With three fans spinning, the Stealth 520W should be able to keep itself cool and do a pretty effective job pulling rising hot air out of the top of your case. Three fans, however, aren’t going to be silent, but Vantec has that base covered.


Three fan speed settings

Vantec provides a fan speed switch right on the back of the PSU to let you control the speed of all three fans at once. Unlike some power supplies, which Vantec points out only let you throttle the speed of the rear exhaust fan, Vantec’s switch affects all three of the power supply’s fans, though you can’t set the speed of each individually. Control over fan speeds can have a definite impact on overall noise levels, which will be especially useful for those living in cramped quarters who want to keep their systems crunching Folding@Home all night long and actually have the environment quiet enough to sleep in.


The extra plug

At the rear of the power supply, you’ll also find the now-ubiquitous power supply on/off switch and a three-prong plug for peripheral devices. As someone with far too many power bars and surge suppressors filled to capacity, the extra plug is something I can really appreciate. No, you won’t be able to plug in large, boxy power adapters because of the way the plug is oriented, but any normal-sized plug will fit and not get in the way.

Peripheral devices are moving towards pulling power directly from your PC via, for example, your USB ports, so the need to plug in a huge number of peripherals is diminishing, somewhat. However, it will likely be quite some time before monitors start pulling juice from system ports, so the Stealth 520W’s extra plug will certainly come in handy there. Heck, with graphics cards like ATI’s Radeon 9700 Pro requiring extra internal power connections, there’s no telling what kinds of power and plug requirements we’ll see from future products.

None of the other power supplies in this comparison feature the extra rear panel plug, and Vantec also provides a few extra connectors on the inside.


Count ’em: 10 MOLEX and 2 FDD plugs

Vantec serves up 10 full MOLEX connectors on the Stealth 520W and throws in the standard two FDD power plugs for good measure. If you’re using a power supply this stacked, I’d wager you’re far more likely to be plugging a graphics card into one of those FDD power connectors than a dated floppy drive. Users with full tower cases rejoice; the Stealth 520W’s longest MOLEX connector will reach a full 42″, which should be enough to hit even hard drives buried on the bottom of massive cases.


Vantec’s motherboard plug adapter

With an eye towards broader compatibility with different motherboards, the Stealth 520W actually features a 24-pin rather than 20-pin motherboard connector. Vantec ships a 24-to-20 pin adapter in the box, which means that the Stealth 520W retains compatibility with virtually any available motherboard. However, Tyan’s S2466, S2462 dual-Athlon server boards, and S2603 i860 boards are not compatible with the power connector, which is disappointing. I don’t mind high-end server boards like the MPX and i860-based Thunder series being unsupported, since that class of motherboard definitely has special needs given integrated features like on-board SCSI, but it really hurts that Vantec doesn’t officially support the Tiger MPX, which is a solid platform for SMP enthusiasts.

The 24-pin adapter is able to give the Stealth 520W’s motherboard power cord a little extra reach, and you can plug in a motherboard a full 30 inches away from the PSU itself. To foil that kind of reach, motherboard manufacturers are going to have to really mess up power plug positioning.


Sheathed and zip-tied

Like Antec, Vantec wraps its motherboard power cord in a plastic sheath, this time zip-tied at each end. The zip ties aren’t quite as slick as Antec’s heat shrink wrapping, but they do the trick.

Maximum outputs
We generally classify power supplies by their total output wattage, but sometimes there’s a little more going on with output wattages under the hood that requires a closer look.

Maximum output (W)
+3.3V +5V +12V Total
Antec TruePower 380W 92.4 175 216 360
Antec TruePower 550W 105.6 200 288 530
Thermaltake Purepower 360W 220 204 360
Vantec Stealth 520W 260 336 520

As you can see, the Thermaltake and Vantec power supplies share wattage between the 3.3 and 5V lines. Antec, however, isn’t limited because it has dedicated output circuitry for each voltage line. So, while the other power supplies in this comparison have to share wattage between the 3.3 and 5V lines, Antec’s TruePower power supplies are deliver set, unshared wattages on each line.

With a balanced load spread over all three voltage lines, none of the power supplies should have problems. However, Antec’s TruePower units have an edge with devices on the 3.3 and 5V lines because the lines don’t share power. You can load up with 3.3V devices and not have to worry about cannibalizing wattage from the 5V line, and vice versa.

Since we’ve covered voltage, we might as well go over current output with a fancy little chart.

Maximum output current (A)
+3.3V +5V +12V -5V -12V -5V Standby
Antec TruePower 380W 28 35 18 0.5 1.0 2.0
Antec TruePower 550W 32 40 24 0.5 1.0 2.0
Thermaltake Purepower 360W 28 35 17 0.3 0.8 2.0
Vantec Stealth 520W 26 52 28 1.0 0.8 2.5

The highs and lows are spread all over the maximum current output chart, with each manufacturer favoring a different voltage line. And, of course, the lower the wattage, the lower the output currents are going to be.

Our testing methods
To test the power supplies, I packed a system to the gills with all sorts of extra hardware, even an old Voodoo2 12MB. The test system was filled to simulate extreme loads and push the power supplies to their limits. Sure we could have run a low-end system with only a couple of PCI cards and a single hard drive and optical drive, but I’m not sure anyone is looking at 550W power supplies for that kind of setup.

Motherboard

Albatron KX400+ Pro

Processor

AMD Athlon XP 2100+

Front-side bus

2x133MHz

Chipset

VIA KT333

North bridge

VIA VT8367

South bridge

VIA VT8235

Memory size

768MB (3 DIMMs)

Memory type

CAS 2.5 PC2700 DDR SDRAM

Graphics

GeForce4 Ti 4600
Diamond Monster Voodoo2 12MB

Audio

Hercules Muse LT
Hercules Muse 5.1 DVD

Networking

D-Link 10/100MBit NIC (two cards)

RAID

3ware Escalade 7500-4

Storage

IBM 60GXP 40GB 7200RPM ATA/100 hard drive
LiteOn 40X DVD-ROM
Samsung SW-240 40X CD-R/RW
Samsung SM-332 DVD-ROM/CD-R/RW

Operating System

Windows XP Professional

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Testing power supply performance is quite a bit different than what you’re used to seeing with video cards, processors, or chipsets. There are two relatively simple tests, whose methods you can find described in the next section. The above test applications were used to stress test the system while we measured voltages and noise levels.

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1024×768 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests. Most of the 3D gaming tests used the high detail image quality settings in 32-bit color.

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.

Actual voltages
Power supplies should provide consistent, accurate voltage on their 3.3, 5, and 12 volt lines. If voltages are way off or fluctuate wildly, system components could be damaged. So, to find out exactly what each power supply puts out on the 3.3, 5, and 12 volt rails, we broke out a digital multi-meter and did some testing.

All of the power supplies exhibited stable, fluctuation-free voltages at idle and under load, but there was some slight variation in what voltages each unit actually supplied. Let’s see how each power supply did in our tests.

Both Antec and Vantec’s power supplies deliver close, consistent voltages over the 3.3V rail. Thermaltake’s Purepower 360W is out by 3.5% at idle and while under load, which is actually inside Thermaltake’s advertised tolerance for 3.3V output.

On the 5V rail, things are pretty tight. Only the Thermaltake and Vantec power supplies falter, ever so slightly, under load, but they’re both running acceptably close to the 5V target. The Vantec Stealth 520W is running a little low at idle and under load, but it’s well within its 5% tolerance.

Both Antec power supplies come in a little low on the 12V rail, but only by 1.1%, which is well within Antec’s 3% tolerance here. The Vantec and Thermaltake power supplies are actually farther from 12V than Antec’s, but both are within their manufacturers’ 5% output tolerances.

Just for fun, I threw an old, generic, 300W power supply into the test system just to see how it would run. Well, it didn’t. That generic 300W power supply has run low-end systems with fairly sparse hardware specs quite well in the past, and it will probably run low-end systems without fail in the future, but the purpose of our stress testing was to reveal weakness under extreme loads, not light ones.

Noise levels
The power supplies we’re testing today have a lot of diversity when it comes to the number of fans. Vantec’s Stealth has three fans and a variable fan speed switch. Antec packs two fans on their 550 and 380W power supplies, and Thermaltake keeps things cool with only a single fan and a whole lot of venting.

To test noise levels, we fired up our test system and placed a decibel meter three inches from each power supply’s rear fan. We ran the system at idle and under load, and you’ll find the results below. Since the Vantec Stealth 520W has three different fan speed settings, you’ll find scores for each speed setting.

Even with the slowest fan speed setting, Vantec’s Stealth 520W is noticeably louder than the rest of the field. It might not be quite as loud as the Stealth bomber, but it’s up there. Despite having two fans, Antec’s TruePower models are barely louder than the single-fan Thermaltake Purepower 360W at idle, and they actually produce less noise under load. However, the noise levels under load between the Antecs and the Thermaltake are really quite close overall.

Crash testing
This power supply review over at Lost Circuits inspired me to take my testing one step further and perform a short-out crash test to verify the safety features of each power supply. The test involves shorting out the 12V line to ground while the system is under full load, which means it’s not exactly for the faint of heart. I don’t recommend performing this test yourself, since you risk, at worst, frying your system’s components and possibly causing harm to yourself in the process. I repeat: do not try this at home, The Tech Report isn’t liable for any harm to you or your system just because you wanted to see a few sparks.

I set out to cobble together an expendable test system for crash testing—something I could afford to lose, just in case. Thank god for Socket 423 Pentium 4 processors and RDRAM!

With each unit, I loaded up the system and shorted out the 12V line. Pop. After a few minutes, each of the power supplies booted up and ran as if nothing had happened at all. Just to be sure everything was in working order, I tested the voltages again to make sure there were no wild fluctuations, and there weren’t. Each power supply survived with nothing more than a few sparks to show for it.

Long-term testing
We really weren’t able to do any long-term testing on the power supplies, since long term in this case should really mean years rather than months or weeks. However, we did beat on the power supplies as much as we could to try and bring them to their knees. It’s not a substitute for real long-term testing, but by the time we’d be done with that, you might not even be able to purchase the power supplies in question.

We’ll continue abusing each of the power supplies and post an update if we encounter any problems down the road.

Conclusion
All in all, I was quite impressed with all the power supplies in this comparison. They each offer something unique, and which one is right for you largely depends on your needs. For the purposes of my following recommendations, I’m only going to consider the power supplies I’ve actually tested, but keep in mind that each manufacturer offers a wider range of wattages for each power supply model, and the pricing for each is different. If you’re short on cash, Thermaltake’s Purepower 360W is the cheapest of the bunch. Even with its seemingly meager 360W power rating, it was still able to handle our stress testing without complaint. A single fan makes the Purepower 360W the quietest power supply in the comparison, at least under load, so it’s not a bad buy for $58.

Only 360W of power might seem pokey to some of you, and if you’re running an overclocked multi-processor rig with SCSI or RAID and a bunch of drives, the Vantec Stealth 520W should keep your devices fed with ample amounts of juice. If you’re running a hot system, the three fans should keep internal case temperatures lower than a dual or single-fan power supply, but you’re going to pay a high price in noise, even with the slowest fan speed setting. Still, the Stealth is as close as a power supply is going to get to having style, and it does boast the highest number of power connectors and the longest cable lengths. Sex appeal doesn’t come cheap, though. The suggested retail price for the Stealth 520W, which has yet to hit the online marketplace, is $149US.


Antec TruePower 380 & 550W
September 2002

Antec’s exterior may be boring, but there’s a lot of cool stuff going on under the hood, and even the 550W power supply is nice and quiet. Both Antec models are also quite reasonably priced; the 380W model is available for $70US, while its 550W big brother can be had for only $100. That’s a pretty sweet deal for power supplies with dedicated output circuitry, tight tolerances, and impressively low noise levels under load.

I’m happy to make both the Antec TruePower power supplies we tested today our Editor’s Choice. Pick whichever suits your wattage needs, and you won’t be disappointed. The low-wattage end of the TruePower line is perfect for anyone looking to power a low to mid-range system that might have otherwise been subjected to a generic power supply. The high-wattage end of the line should be enough to keep all but the most image-conscious enthusiasts powered, stable, and happy.

Comments closed
    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    I’d like some clarification on how the sound level tests were performed. If the db meter was in fact placed 3 inches away from the back of the PSU then the sound pressure level was NOT measured. You measured turbulence instead.. the air blowing on the db meter will throw everything off. If however the db meter was positioned in such a way that no air was blowing on it, then the results should be accurate.

    The reasone why I bring this up is I’ve measured a loud sparkle PSU before and was barely able to make the meter twitch over 60db with the meter less than one inch away from the fan.. but not in the path of the blowing air. When the PSU fan was blowing on the meter then I had results similar to these…

    Dan

    • primitive.notion
    • 17 years ago

    #42 (Collective,) yes, the PC Power & Cooling supply was bought ~3yrs ago when the Powerman fans went bad.

    #43, perhaps you would be interested in some basic training:
    §[< http://www.largeprintreviews.com/manners.html<]§

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    What a crap review. First, why even WASTE putting together systems to test load? Folks, this is REALLY easy:

    You need 12v and 5v volt load source. You can keep wiring in parallel to keep the voltage the same but increase the wattage and use a decent multimeter (Fluke) to take DC AMP/VOLT readings. Next go for a measurement of what is called AC Ripple (AC on a DC Circuit). One potential source to load a PSU with: Light bulbs. And before any of you laugh, this is a simple exersize in electrical engineering, ask any 1st year student. Remember OHM’s Law.

    • TheCollective
    • 17 years ago

    Hmmm, Well, I have used mostly the 300W but am currently running my server off of one of the 250’s. How long ago was this? Is it the 3 years you speak of having the Power and PC Cooling? If so then InWin may have changed their quality recently. I have only been using them for about 1 1/2 years.

    • primitive.notion
    • 17 years ago

    Powerman ratings were both 250W.

    The first came with my InWin mini-tower.
    The second was a free refurbished replacement
    for the first.

    Glad you’ve had success with your Powermans.
    I was not. Both died with fan problems.

    • TheCollective
    • 17 years ago

    [quote]After two cheapo Powerman supplies went bad, I did some research and spent some money. Bought the PC Power & Cooling Silencer 275.[/quote]
    I have built countless systems around PowerMan powersupplies and had zero problems. They are In-Win’s house brand and have always provided me with flawless performance in either Athlon or Pentium 4 systems. What rating were yours and where did you get them from?

    • primitive.notion
    • 17 years ago

    Another thanks to Brian Wilcox for all that info.
    Especially liked your Directron link.

    • primitive.notion
    • 17 years ago

    After two cheapo Powerman supplies went bad, I did some research and spent some money. Bought the PC Power & Cooling Silencer 275.

    Pros:
    Quieter than PC Power’s own high-pitched K1 CPU-Cooler.

    The best thing: Lots and lots of high-quality connectors, both long and short.

    Outstanding support. Had a question about my order and also wanted to know proper placement of the 110 Alert Heat Alarm. Both times, the woman who answered my call answered questions quickly, courteously, from memory, without reading a script.

    Now 3 years old and still running strong.

    Cons:
    Not totally silent, try finding one that is.
    After two years and no cleaning, fans become
    slightly noisier when system is pushed.
    Shipping took a little over a week.

    • Dodger
    • 17 years ago

    Thanks for the info!

    • Dodger
    • 17 years ago

    dbwilcox, if PC Power and Cooling power supplies are just Sparkle Power Supplies with better fans, how come…

    a) PC Power and Cooling offers 475W and 600W power supplies while Sparkle doesn’t.
    b) None of the specs line up at all on models that offer the same wattage (different line line tolerances and amps on each rail)
    c) PC Power and Cooling has a much better reputation in the business.

    • EasyRhino
    • 17 years ago

    I also think it would be a good idea to try to burn two CD’s at once, just to be cruel.

    I also think that the oscilloscope stuff would be useful. However, someone would have to explain EVERYTHING to me.

    I think that hooking up lots of hard drives would be a good way to increase the load. Heck, eventually, some PSU’s may fail and others may succeed.

    I think the overclocking thing is a good idea. Find a system with exorbitant power requirements, and quality components. That would probably give you the best “spread” in overclocking results, if any.

    Oh, and if I’m not mistaken, Athlon’s are hard on 5V, and P4’s on 12V, right?

    ER

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    *[

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    Ok, this is officially the crappiest report TR has ever done.

    Four units reviewed? [i]Four?[/i] No power curves. Poor table explanations. “Facts” and figures that don’t add up. The list goes on and on…

    …and just what, exactly, does Diss’s scary-looking girlfriend have to do with power supplies?

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    *[http://search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?cgiurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcgi.ebay.com%2Fws%2F&krd=1&from=R8&MfcISAPICommand=GetResult&ht=1&SortProperty=MetaEndSort&query=oscilloscope<]§

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    *[http://www.hansworkshop.com/article_powerspecs.html<]§ ? Some more quantitative testing methods.

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    Hmm,

    You know I still wonder if the 200W PSU in my Shuttle SS51 is sufficient. I’m OC’ing a Northwood (no voltage tweak needed), have a GF4 in it, a 7200RPM drive, and an optical drive.

    I wouldn’t think that it would be sufficient, but I’ve had no problems thus far and Shuttle has said that it’s even sufficient for use with a 9700Pro

    TDawg

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    *[

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    I second AG#12’s comment about using a scope. I always put a new PSU on my Tektronix to see what the noise level on each output looks like under load. You’d be amazed at the variation in quality — from < 20mV “clean” DC to horrible ripple over 200mV that could cause system instability or even damage. I don’t think a PSU review is complete without electrical noise measurements.

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    *[

    • RyanVM
    • 17 years ago

    What kind of warranties do the various PSU’s carry? Having been (literally) burned by an Enermax 530W PSU, I would like to know what the various manufacturers will do to replace a dead unit. Oh well, the Antec 400W unit I’ve been running since that fateful day has served me well 🙂

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    Oh goodie, we’ve got the first table straightened out.

    Care to tackle the next? Or do we just scatter numbers into the cells at whim?

    • indeego
    • 17 years ago

    [quote]
    Over the years, I’ve seen numerous systems whose laundry list of problems were all remedied by swapping out an underpowered or low-quality generic power supply. Even the latest problems with ATI’s Radeon 9700 Pro have been attributed, by some, to poor quality and low-wattage power supplies in users’ systems.
    [/quote]

    I concur with his statement. Ever since the ‘thlon came out, skimping on a generic power supply is a no-no.

    I like the Antec’s so far, never really tried anything else since I’ve been buildingg{…}g

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    Please consider testing the generics and “second tier” psu, I know there is a difference, but nothing you wrote convinced me to spend the extra money on a name brand, other then being allowed to say I’ve got a name brand psu in my computer. And thats just trendy.

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    Thanks for the gf shot — it’s been missing from too many reviews lately. 😛

    • monaco
    • 17 years ago

    For those of us who do not have monster full-tower cases, the gigantor-length ATX and Molex leads are a pain in the ass. All they do is add resistance and waste power, not too mention clutter up the inside of the case and murder airflow.

    I was forced to return a PSU not too long ago because the leads were all too damn long. Long leads are a big plus for the tall-case crew, but a huge huge downer for the mid-ATX owners. Well, for me, anyway.

    Also- every single PSU I have used shows a drop on the +5V line when you increase the CPU’s Vcore. The size of the drop is my barometer for the PSU’s quality level. Next time try cranking the vcore as high as you can and watch those numbers plummet. I’ve got 2 PSUs here, a cheapie and an Enermax- both perform identically, until you start raising the vcore. Guess which one poops out!

    Good article otherwise- I hope to see more! As well as more in-depth testing. This is a great place to start, and I’m sure the next PSU article will have twice as many graphs 😀

    • Dodger
    • 17 years ago

    Upon further consideration, I have to ask the same question as MadManOriginal. Do those optical drives draw a lot of power when they aren’t spinning? I mean isn’t it the motors that draw the power? Perhaps burning a CD, copying files to the hard drive from the DVD-ROM, etc would have pulled some more power off of them? Overclocking would have been nice too.

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    Your output power per rail chart and the amperage per rail chart figures do not add up for the antec PS. For example to get 360 watts on the 3.3v rail you would need well over 100 amps. Why don’t these #’s jive?

    • Damage
    • 17 years ago

    Guys:

    I appreciate the constructive part of your criticisms. This is our first shot at a PSU review, so we’re just figuring out the landscape. We can take what we learn here and use it for future reviews, which seems like a good idea, because some of what I’m hearing is: “Test more PSUs!”

    That said, we can’t always test everything, and our resources for buying test units and testing equipment are limited, so please bear with us as we do the best we can. Thanks.

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    *[

    • TheCollective
    • 17 years ago

    Well, I suggested it in the IRC channel last night but Damage was AFK and I didn’t read his response to my suggestion (if there was one). I suggested including a few “generic” PSU’s to see exactly how bad they really are compared to the quality units. A review like this one with only top end units is OK but it doesn’t address the issue of most PC-builders sacrificing 30 bucks per unit or so to go with a cheap power supply. Those results would be very useful.

    I like the idea of Internal case temperature monitoring while each PSU is in use. The difference in case temps VS noise on the Vantec unit would be particularly interesting.

    One more thing you could have done is burn a CD on each of the CD drives at the same time while running your “load” test. This would have had them doing something useful and bring the HDD into play as well.

    Overall a good article. It could use some more meat, though.

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    Using a digital multimeter to measure the voltages is not very good… You should use a (digital) oscilloscope to see exactly the peaks and valleys for the voltage.

    I would compare this to using the Serious Sam “graph” benchmark instead of only listing a FPS score…

    • Steel
    • 17 years ago

    AG 9: Sound levels are on page 6, maybe you should read a little more carefully before posting an inflammatory comment (or is your post a parody of a typical gerbil response?). And I can’t think of an easy (or cheap) way to test current level, response time or ripple off the top of my head. Perhaps you’d care to enlighten us?

    • Steel
    • 17 years ago

    Cool article. One thing I didn’t see mentioned is what type of fans they used (sleeve or ball bearing). The best power supply in the world isn’t much use if the fan starts groaning or just [i]stops spinning[/i] a few months after you get it. It’s amazing how hot even the most basic system can get when the power supply fan quits.

    If you plan on any more PS reviews I wouldn’t mind seeing my old standby, PC Power & Cooling, thrown into the mix. 😉

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    This was a parody, right?

    That is about the only explaination that would explain the silliest set of numbers seen in a long time! Did anybody proof-read that mess?

    Any thought and research into general PSU design to prevent promulgating nonsense and to understand the actual rail trade-offs involved?

    Does the ‘load’ have a value? Without knowing the amps on each rail, totally meaningless!

    And heaven forfend that we should discuss ripple, response times, sound levels etc & etc.

    This entire thing says no more than “These PSUs are OK.”

    • Anonymous
    • 17 years ago

    After reading your review I glanced down at my own system….240W power supply surely not enough. However I have had this paticular power block for 4 years and a few months ago was running the following system.

    AMD Athlon 700
    Creative DVD IDE
    2 x Quantum Fiaball HDD
    1 X Zip drive IDE
    Adaptec SCSI Card
    Yamaha SCSI CDRW
    IBM SCSI HDD
    Geforce 2 GTS
    Creative Live + Digital card
    Creative Dxr3
    Kingston T100 Network card
    Hauppauge TV card
    USB 2 card
    Fujitsu USB powered modem.

    I have to say that although the power block was only 240W (Quite a lot at the time of purchase) it did cost

    • indeego
    • 17 years ago

    I usually only worry about Power supplies for a server/RAID/SCSI setup, where redundancy is concerned and you will be thinking about adding up your power use very carefully both on the power supply and the utility/UPS supply.

    Could also run each of these supplies through a UPS/line conditioner that can tell you exactly how much power is being drawn and how it responds to full CPU/disk/memory as opposed to idle.

    Just nit picking. I just came for the chick’s wirey headg{<.<}g

    • MadManOriginal
    • 17 years ago

    One thing missing from this article is case temperatures for each power supply. Since these PSU’s are targeted at enthusiasts, case temperature should be included IMO.

    Also, waht about overclocking tests? Running systems at higher CPU voltages and motherboard speeds would help to show whythese power supplies might vary under even more extreme loads.

    Finally, what was the point of having multiple optical drives if they were not running at the time of the test? Do they draw power when not reading discs?

    Not trying to be harsh, just trying to add some things for future articles 🙂 Good job, must be a low time for hardware if you need to review power supllies, hehe.

    • JohnnyQ
    • 17 years ago

    From the article:
    [q]I set out to cobble together an expendable test system for crash testing

    • Jerry S.
    • 17 years ago

    It would be interesting to see if there is any difference in how far a single system can overclock, given different power supplies. Obviously a weak and/or poor quality PSU can cause instability in many new setups, but do any of these quality PSUs distinguish themselves when it comes to pushing a system out of spec?

    Thanks for the great article!

    • Dodger
    • 17 years ago

    Thank you, thank you thank you!!!! I’m in the market for a new power supply, and I was just looking at the TruePowers yesterday trying to decide if they would do! Another great article from the Tech-Report. Wish you’d had more brands though…like an Enermax and a Sparkle and a PC Power and Cooling.

    • claymonkey
    • 17 years ago

    I would have loved to see some Allied power supplies in the mix. They are cheap, but both I and a bunch of others have noticed they run just as well, if not better than the more expensive brands. I’ve had many Antecs and even an Enermax die on me, but these two Allied’s I have are running strong.

    On that note it’s great seeing a review of this kind. Keep it up

    • indeego
    • 17 years ago

    Medusa rocksg{

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