Introduction

While we've reviewed many higher-end (and higher-cost) power supplies, we've neglected the lower power segment. We hope to address that omission with today's roundup of four units ranging from 400W to 450W. Not many manufacturers these days make units rated at less than 500W - especially if we're talking about high-quality power supplies. Seasonic - both on their own and as an OEM manufacturer - is one of the few companies that continue to supply this market segment. We recently tested Seasonic's 330W and 500W models and found they were more than capable of powering most decent systems. There are far more midrange and lower systems on the market than high-end systems, so we thought it prudent to look at several competing models from other companies.


The type of components used in a computer determines the power requirements for the system. If you want to build an extreme performance, highly overclocked computer then you will need a large (and high-quality) power supply. On the other hand, if you're mostly going to be doing office work, most of the "best" power supplies are complete overkill. In fact, even most higher-end systems rarely require more than 500W of power. So why do we have these 1000W+ PSUs? In a word: profit. Assuming you're not going to be running multiple graphics cards or a significant number of hard drives, one of the power supplies we're looking at today -- or something similar to them -- should be ideal.

Because of the potential for greater profits, power supplies with lower ratings are getting rare -- not many manufacturers that want to produce these units anymore. We talked to Silverstone not too long ago about a 300W version of their Element series. The conclusion was that the price for the production is similar to higher-end power supplies and it wouldn't make sense to build these power supplies anymore. That seems surreal when we think about the number of users that don't need more than 500W, but it appears that the minimum price for a quality power supply -- regardless of wattage -- has bottomed out at around $65. That's not to say you can't find cheaper power supplies out there, but the quality of such units is at best... suspect, as we will see shortly.


As usual, we are testing with our Chroma programmable loads to load each rail to a specific amount. This is important to get truly accurate results and not merely approximate values. We conduct tests in two different temperature environments. One is normal room temperature of 25-26°C, while the second environment goes from room temperature and increases steadily up to 50°C. Especially during the higher temperatures we will see how good the power supplies are and what whether or not they're truly worth your hard-won clams. Components inside will perform much worse at higher temperatures, but we expect any good quality PSU to deal with such test conditions without failing.

On the DC output graphics, we show the range of highest and lowest voltage. There is usually a bit of variance, particularly with multiple 12V rails, but with a PSU roundup we want to convey as much information as possible without simply bombarding our readers with graphs and charts. In essence, we will show the voltage range on each rail at various load points. This is especially easier to read and understand when you have multiple 12V rails since we will show them all in one graph together.

Note: If you would like to know more about our testing methodology, equipment, and environment, please read our PSU testing overview.

Antec Earthwatts 430W
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  • Christoph Katzer - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    Yup and before the use of very bulky heatsinks made the power supplies heavier. Today the components are better and the heatsinks are getting smaller again (Seasonic and FSP standard design for example). Reply
  • Pale Rider - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    It's easily the best of the "lower" power choices. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    We already reviewed the Seasonic 330W and 500W, and given that Seasonic is the ODM of the Corsair and Antec units... except while Corsair is basically identical to the Seasonic model, Antec messed around with the fan to cut costs or something. 430W S12II and 450VX are pretty much the same PSU. Reply
  • Modular - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    Page 2: "360W combined equates to 15A when both are "fully" loaded."
    -Should read 30A fully loaded.

    Page 5: "The original design used two 17A 12V rails (as does the Earthwatts)"
    -Per this review http://www.jonnyguru.com/review_details.php?id=51&...">http://www.jonnyguru.com/review_details.php?id=51&... the Earthwatts line isn't really 2 12v rails either. No biggie, but just wanted to clarify.

    The Ultra is listed as a V-Series when it's actually the XVS, which is basically a step above the V-Series in that it has the flex cables and is modular.

    Overall this was a pretty informative review. I'm glad that you included heat sink temps and fan noise, and it's really good to see the ripple included.
    Reply
  • drebo - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    In the retail computer sales business, I don't consider a $60 430W power supply to be a "Budget" power supply. That's more of a midrange, and is generally overkill for most of the computers sold. Even the Ultra is too expensive to bother with for most of my customers.

    I'd like to see a true budget roundup. Powersupplies in the $20-30 range. Like those from Athenatech or Maxtop(Q-Max) or even the lower-end Thermaltakes. I realize that they're going to be pretty crappy results, but I think it's important to see, comparitively, how they do. If it were up to me, all of my customers would be using Antec EarthWatts power supplies, but they don't understand why the extra money is necessary. With information like this, it would be far easier to convince them to spend the extra $20.
    Reply
  • magreen - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    I second that call for lower cost PSU roundups. I was under the impression that FSP makes decent enough PSUs. Can you include reviews of their 350W, 400W and 450W models? They won't have active PFC, but let's be honest, most users don't care at all about that. Reply
  • Iger - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    +1 actually. I'd really like to understand what kind of performance can one expect from a low-end psu. Then again, Ultra probably answers the question, at least vaguely. I just wish we'd have a bigger choise of psus in europe... And better prices <sigh> Reply
  • Christoph Katzer - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    No choice in Europe? Which country are you living in? Most shops are sending the stuff all around Europe already and you'll probably find even more in Ebay.

    The problem with a low end PSU roundup is that I am living in Europe as well and it will not be easy to convince a company to send me their stuff when the shipping is triple the cost of the actual product. But let us find a way and in the beginning of next year we will see what we can do...
    Reply
  • xsilver - Wednesday, November 07, 2007 - link

    Also, has it been investigated whether there are differences between varying PSU's coming off the assembly line?
    I would like to think that the high end manufacturers could produce identical products but Im not so sure the QC of the cheapo PSU's will give u the same PSU every time. eg. some cheap psu's seem to live on through torrid abuse and yet some just die only after 1 month of use.
    Reply
  • Super Nade - Tuesday, November 06, 2007 - link

    Hi,

    Why did you guys cut down on the internal component analysis? Hate to see a single picture and a few cursory words about the internal architecture. Load testing aside, I find everything else a bit boring. You had a nice thing going looking at the components, why cull it? If you decided to shorten the reviews, you could have trimmed the part about acoustics. ;)

    Regards,

    Super Nade
    OCForums
    Reply

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