550W Roundup: Three PSUs at Different Pricesby Martin Kaffei on October 28, 2010 4:00 PM EST
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 This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the low-end and frequently outdated junk you can still find floating around—or perhaps included with an inexpensive case.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.
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Phaedrus2129 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkExcept guess what, PC Power & Cooling was bought by OCZ in 2007, and in 2010 they discontinued the Silencer and Turbocool lines permanently, and replaced them with the "Silencer Mk. II" line. It's the same thing as OCZ's "Z-Series Gold", only cost-down with some last minute jerry-rigged fixes that belie the half-arsed engineering involved, sold for half again as much as the superior OCZ counterparts.
Proof that relying on a brand remaining consistently good for all time is a bad idea.
tomoyo - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkNot sure where you've been, but pc power has been THE posers for a long time now. They got bought out as phaedrus just mentioned by OCZ years back and haven't made a great psu in many years.
Beenthere - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkYou need to know which PC Power and Cooling PSUs to purchase and they aren't the pseudo OCZ models.
tomoyo - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkUh what, an old ass turbocool 860 or 1200 that's massively overpriced, very loud, and overhyped...and also old as hell?
I would never recommend PC Power to any modern computer user right now. Any high end Seasonic would blow it out of the water 15 different ways.
Beenthere - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkKnowledge is power...
tomoyo - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkUh that is exactly a pseudo ocz model.
tomoyo - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkAlso see the following review conclusion for why the silencer Mk II disappoints - http://www.hardocp.com/article/2010/08/10/pc_power...
mattll - Wednesday, November 3, 2010 - linkThis review highlights what I think is the weakness of these PSU reviews.
First, there's the issue of silly ripple testing. There is a spec for ripple. If you are inside the spec, that is good enough. There is nothing superior about having less ripple, it is a design choice. Sure, you can measure it on your o-scope, but show me ANY affect on system performance as long as the PSU is inside the spec. There is none. All the rest is an assumption, unsupported by any data, that designing to a smaller ripple somehow indicates better performance. Prove it, in the system outside the PSU. In the absence of such proof, I think such tests are simply means by which reviewers can assign bogus performance metrics to parts which are simply good enough, to satisfy perfectionists who want proof that their choice is superior.
Second, there's the disassembly of the unit and the smug remarks on build quality, with copious amounts of electrical engineering jargon. That jargon exists only to convince the reader the reviewer is knowledgeable.
That's good to know, but it doesn't make the reviewer or the review correct. All the snarky comments about how some unit doesn't meet the reviewers exalted standards for solder quality or cap ESR is puerile, useless crap. Look: can you _measure_ something wrong? If so, comment on that instead. Is the reviewer assuming his exalted standards will play out in the reliability or performance of the product? Prove it!
The measures of output noise, efficiency, ability to carry full load, withstand hot conditions: those are valuable pieces of information. Cost is of course important. Even ripple measurements are fine, as long as you understand that inside the standard there's no difference. Build quality, though, is a subjective measurement very poorly linked to any data on reliability. If reviewers can't be bothered to find anything more substantive on reliability, they should at least have the humility to recognize the limitations of build quality observations and not be too dogmatic about it.
With regard to this PCPC review, the reviewer seemed to fixate on a production mod capacitor jumpered rather than designed into the circuit board. Boohoo, cry me a river. Did it make any performance difference? If the reviewer hadn't opened the case, was there any actual functional difference? Is there any data, any data at all to indicate such a jumpered capacitor would be any less reliable? Chances are, many customers would actually get the next rev circuit board with the cap in place. At any rate, the generous warranty meant the manufacturer was putting its money behind it. Likely each jumpered unit was subjected to more rigorous testing because of the custom work.
In short, the whole review obsessed on silly, subjective details while acknowledging the performance was fine. If they thought the unit was overpriced relative to performance, that would be fine, but that wasn't their complaint. The reviewer was probably biased because of his previous experiences with PCPC, but that's the danger of subjective metrics.
Disclaimer: I don't work in the PSU industry, although I have a degree in that area. I don't own or have any vested interest in any of those products.
Calin - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkBought an 350W, 12 cm fan Seasonic power supply for some $100, in the times when the Athlon 4600+ (dual cores) were the mainstream from AMD - maybe three years ago, maybe more.
Very happy I've been with it
sprockkets - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkNo mention of the weight of the power supplies? That's usually a dead giveaway.