The Candidates

The following review is another look at seeing if you really get what you pay for—or if you can get high quality without breaking the bank. For this roundup we have three power supplies rated at 550W, but with different prices. Will the most expensive unit deliver the best results? Can a cheaper product deliver the quality you need, and make up the difference by trimming the packaging and contents? Read on to find it out.

The first product comes from Techsolo Europa B.V., a brand from the Netherlands. Our US readers most likely haven't encountered the brand, but they sell cheap power supplies, PCI controller cards, and cases in Italy, Germany and Poland. We've got their Techsolo Black Mamba STP-550, representative of many budget power supplies. In Germany this PSU sells for around 30€ (39.18$; Oct. 22, 2010). Imagine our surprise to find that Techsolo advertises CE-certification as a "feature" (you need CE to sell power supplies in Europe). The PSU has passive PFC as well as a "silent" 140mm fan for cooling. More "interesting" features are high stability on  all rails (+3.3V, +5V, +12V) and an On/Off Switch. It just keeps getting better! This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the low-end and frequently outdated junk you can still find floating around—or perhaps included with an inexpensive case. You'll note that there's no 80 Plus certification on this one, which isn't too surprising considering the target market.

The second unit is a power supply from OCZ Technology Group. They're now famous for their SSDs and RAM, but they have many power supplies as well. Today we'll look at the OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY, priced at 64.99$ online—a $26 upgrade from our Techsolo sample. It looks like the Red Mist of power supplies with a red LED-fan and label. Otherwise, OCZ is using the same topology from their ModXStream Pro 500W with a few changes in the details. The 80 Plus certification is standard for any decent PSU today, but maybe that's enough to beat up on the Techsolo. Another advantage is the modular cables, which is a nice feature for the price.

The most expensive but potentially best power supply in this small comparison test is the new Antec TruePower New TP-550. You can get the product for 89.99$ online, another $24 premium over the OCZ and over twice the cost of the Techsolo. Antec uses Japanese capacitors, a DC-to-DC Converter for the smaller rails, a PWM-fan from ADDA for cooling, and a partially modular cable management. With 80 Plus Bronze certification, the TruePower New should be more efficient than the other two power supplies, but is it clearly better?

As usual we will look at the voltage regulation and quality, noise levels, and check out the internal design. Over the course of our roundup, we'll find out if these PSUs perform according to expectations, or if there are a few surprises in the mix.

Techsolo Black Mamba STP-550
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  • Spivonious - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    I really did laugh out loud when I came across "quadratic ventilation". Just say they're square holes.
  • Spazweasel - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    It's interesting to see a conclusion that recommends reading a lot of reviews... the fact is, there have been very few power supply reviews compared to other PC components.

    Consider. With video cards, most manufacturers closely adhere to reference designs, differing only in cooler design (sometimes) and factory overclocks (sometimes). Yet upon the release of a new video chipset, we see reviews comparing offerings from several different manufacturers. Are we really expecting any real differences between, say, a 675Mhz 460 GTX from Palit compared to a 675Mhz 460 GTX from Asus, other than the noise and effectiveness of the fan? Yet we get that question examined and answered, in considerable detail. Video cards are sexy and fun to test.

    However, with power supplies, it's inverted. It's clear that there are *substantial* differences between power supplies from different manufacturers, and that pricing does not track quality particularly well. Power supplies would benefit *more* from reviews comparing similarly-specced products from a wide variety of manufacturers. Yet we see very few power supply reviews. Anandtech has the best power supply reviews I've seen, examining real performance with repeatable, deeply technical benchmarks and tests, as opposed to "my computer turned on with it, the LEDs are pretty, Gold Editor Award" we see elsewhere. Anyone can install FRAPS and Speedfan then run timedemos and Furmark and call it a video card review. It takes skill and understanding and specialized equipment to test a power supply well. Anandtech has that skill; many other review sites do not. Your duty is clear!

    I'd like to see more power supply reviews of this caliber, with the same intent to examine *all* major manufacturers that is given to video cards. As pointed out in the article, it can be just as important to spend wisely here as in other components, and I would therefore like to see proportionate coverage in power supplies.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    We had Christoph Katzer doing this sort of PSU review on a regular basis for a while, but then he had some other stuff come up that pulled him away. He ended up recommending Martin for his replacement and has helped (I think) Martin get set up for PSU testing. I expect we will have at least a few PSU reviews each month going forward, so we'll hopefully be able to cover more of the market as time goes by.
  • dertechie - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Most sites honestly just do not have the equipment or the skills to test the things (and I prefer they don't review them rather than test them poorly). Anand and Tom's have recently gotten back into it, but I know HardwareSecrets and HardOCP do a lot of PSU reviews with the proper gear, and I hear that JohnnyGuru does as well, but I haven't looked there myself. Most PSUs pass, but I've read enough reviews that there's no way I will buy an unreviewed unit for a build. Too many PSUs from otherwise reputable companies that failed, exploded, melted, took out the reviewer's wattmeter, or all of the above simultaneously.
  • Spazweasel - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Agreed. Some power supply vendors manufacture their own high-end power supplies but subcontract the mass-market stuff, often with no way to tell other than a trained eye which has seen that particular PCB layout before. Plus, any manufacturer can have a run of bad supplies, particularly if a component vendor lets them down (remember the capacitor issues a few years back which were traced back to a supplier that sold to many manufacturers ?).

    I have my own short list of power supplies that I use for my own and for friends' builds.

    Antec EA380D for HTPC/entry level gaming rigs (it really is as quiet as the review says!)
    OCZ 500MXSP for mainstream gaming rigs
    Corsair 620HX for premium gaming rigs (my main gaming rig has this one, and has given flawless service... 8800GT SLI, E8500, everything OC by about 20%, rock-steady)

    Anyone going higher-end than that doesn't need my advice.
  • Phaedrus2129 - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    I personally haven't seen a company manufacture its own high end, and outsource mass market things. Use different manufacturers, yes, but not manufacture some in-house and others OEMd. Antec did try that briefly, but found that running a factory was hard work and shut it down within a couple years.

    Maybe you're thinking of one of these brands?

    PC Power & Cooling - Did not make own PSUs, despite best efforts to convince public otherwise. Used SeaSonic, Win-Tact, and FSP.
    Thermaltake - High end is CWT, low-end is crappy HEC and FSP stuff
    Antec - Have used CWT, Delta, SeaSonic, Enhance, FSP, and briefly their own factory, but never did what you described
    Corsair - SeaSonic and CWT, and Flextronics for the AX1200
    OCZ - Mainly FSP and Sirfa/Sirtec, though some older units were from Impervio and 3Y
    Enermax - All PSUs made in-house, though they did outsource once or twice... Never made it a habit though.
    SeaSonic - All made in-house

    Those are the common ones I could see someone having misconceptions about... What brands were you thinking of that made their own high-end and outsourced the rest?

    Also, FYI, the Corsair HX620 is discontinued.
  • Spazweasel - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    The 620HX may be discontinued but it's still readily available.
  • tomoyo - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Actually the HX620 still exists, you can buy it on newegg right now. Which is kinda dumb because it's basically been replaced by the HX650 (updated version of HX620).
  • Spazweasel - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    See, this is the kind of thing I'd like to know. Is the HX650 based upon a new design? Does it have anything to do with the 620, did Corsair just up-rate it, or is my experience with the HX620 irrelevant to the HX650? We've seen that we can't just make the blanket assumption that good experience with one P/S model from a given manufacturer is a good indicator of other models.

    My own knowledge of the HX620:

    1. It has all the juice I need for my system. Under load, the wattmeter on my UPS says my system pulls about 240-250 watts, so it's lightly stressed, but that still would have blown up under the tender ministrations of the Techsolo.
    2. I've never had any problems with this power supply. It's given perfect service.
    3. Corsair has treated me right. I managed to misplace the modular cables which I didn't use as part of the original build. When I needed those cables due to additional hard drives and adding the second 8800GT, I called them up and asked how I could order more cables. They sent me a full set of modular cables without charge (not even postage), and the cables arrived in 2 days.

    I'm inclined to believe that the HX650 would be as good, but.... review! I wanna review! :)
  • Phaedrus2129 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Both are made by SeaSonic. The HX620 is a SeaSonic S12, which was SeaSonic's main high-end platform until it became mid-range.

    The HX650 is S12E, which is basically just an updated version with higher efficiency. Same performance otherwise. Still a decent unit. Usually a bit pricey for its performance though.

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