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 This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the low-end and frequently outdated junk you can still find floating around—or perhaps included with an inexpensive case.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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  • jimhsu - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Silentpcreview also does high quality PSU reviews, though aimed at a slightly different market (hence the name). They do review performance PSUs though. Reply
  • Mathieu Bourgie - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    There's also the EggXpert (NewEgg forums) Tiered Power Supply List that's a good reference (http://www.eggxpert.com/forums/thread/323050.aspx)... as well as *cough* shameless plug *cough* my own article on the subject "Warning: 6 Surefire Ways of Blowing Up Your Computer Due to an Inadequate Power Supply" located here: http://www.hardware-revolution.com/warning-6-suref...
    Due for an update for the recommendations at the end, rest is still pretty much valid.
    Reply
  • Phaedrus2129 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    The EggXpert list a terrible reference, out of date and full of mistakes. Reply
  • tomoyo - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    There's an amazing amount of mediocre/crap psus that are in the Tier 2 section, and yet there's also some very good psus that are somehow Tier 4. I'd say a mostly useless list. Reply
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    +1 for SilentPCReview's PSU reviews, though I'd say it's not necessarily a niche for audiophiles/noise-reducing obsessive-compulsives as the name may suggest: they only have one page (of 5-7) for acoustics. The rest is a knowledgeable analysis with some of the most detailed electrical testing and thermal torture testing. Reply
  • erple2 - Wednesday, November 03, 2010 - link

    The folks at pcper.com are also particularly good at doing proper PSU reviews. They're one of the only ones I know of that do an analysis of cross-loading - ie heavily load one rail and see how it affects the voltage at the other leads (3.3, 5, 12). They're also a group that I've come to rely on for solid PSU reviews. Now if only they'd do more testing ... Reply
  • Phaedrus2129 - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    There should have been some comment on the immediately obvious signs that the TechSolo was going to be mediocre. First thing pointed out should have been the "P4PFC" on the label. This indicates that A.) This PSU is actually an ATX12V 1.x era unit, since it's advertising "P4" or "Pentium 4 compatibility", and second having "PFC" after the P4 indicates that this is a platform that doesn't come with PFC as stock, indicating that it's a lower-end unit.

    Did the TechSolo fail on the primary or secondary side (before or after the transformer)? If it failed on the primary (perhaps the rectifying bridge went nuclear?) then it would be unlikely, though still possible, for it to kill components. If it was a secondary side component that failed then this PSU is a potential time bomb waiting to wipe out your PC.
    Reply
  • mmatis - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    on September 12th from Newegg ($64.99 with free shipping and $20 MIR), the OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY doesn't seem like a bad buy to me. But then it's just running an AMD X4, a couple of hard drives, optical drive, and low end video card. Reply
  • slickr - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Good job in this review, though I would like to see more PSU reviews and possibly include A-Power supplies. Reply
  • Beenthere - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    There are a lot of posers in the PSU market including some non PSU based companies adding questionable PSUs to the product mix. I'll continue to just buy PC Power and Cooling PSUs which are the gold standard of the PC industry. No guessing required with a PCPC PSU. They perform as advertised and are guaranteed for 5-7 yrs. depending on model. Reply

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