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 This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the low-end and frequently outdated junk you can still find floating around—or perhaps included with an inexpensive case.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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  • Phaedrus2129 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Except many of the highest-quality units are only of moderate weight due to requiring fewer components; and some of the crappiest units are now being sold with iron weights inside to make them heavier.

    Weight is a very poor test, actually opening the power supply up and looking with a critical eye is a thousand times better. I would disregard entirely any reviewer who uses weight as a factor in evaluating PSU quality.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    If it is such a poor test, why not then compare the weight and find out?
    It isn't as poor as you want it to be for arguments sake.
    Reply
  • Phaedrus2129 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Then all the PSUs with passive power factor correction would be hailed the best because of the weight added by the massive PFC coil. Vs. APFC units with lighter, but more effective components (couple switching transistors, a small coil, shares the primary capacitor, and a controller IC, still weighs less than a PPFC coil). Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Bud, it's just a simple metric. Like you know, how a standard InWin PowerMan 350w PS weighs 2 lbs 10 oz and a standard FSP 300w power supply weights 3 lbs 5 oz.

    Besides, I wouldn't compare a passive vs. active PFC power supply anyhow and make that mistake.
    Reply
  • Phaedrus2129 - Saturday, October 30, 2010 - link

    I can see just recording the weight for posterity's sake, but one should *not* use weight as a metric of quality or performance. All more weight indicates is more components, heavier heatsinks, thicker wiring, heavier housing. For making a split-second field judgment, sure, but it is made completely redundant by opening the power supply up to appraise components and quality.

    I can tell far more about a PSU's quality from a quick glance at the secondary-side rectifiers than from measuring its weight.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    I really liked seeing the comparison of the three. I would have liked to of seen a 4th super high end PSu thrown in, but it may have been a bit redundant.

    As for the low end, there are certainly better supplies out there for that price. You can even get lower end Antec's (like the 430 Basiq) for the same price as the one that blew up and while its not as good as the better Antec's, its better than the chinese no-name stuff.
    Reply
  • benedict - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    The review is clearly biased towards the higher-end PSUs. I don't dare say the reviewer deliberately picked a very poor part just to prove his point. There are some very decent PSUs for 30-40 euro that don't blow up at 50% load. For example, the FSP Saga II achieves 80%+ efficiency, costs about 40 euro and is very silent. Please, show some real part in the value price section and not some handpicked garbage. Reply
  • Phaedrus2129 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    This unit is actually above average for "garbage" power supplies. If he were intentionally picking a terrible PSU he'd choose something from Leadman, or Sunpro, that will blow up at 250W and have ripple in the 300mV+ range on all rails. Reply
  • marvdmartian - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    In almost 10 years now of building my own systems, I have only ever been 'stung' by 2 power supplies. Both of them were Antecs, which died long before they should have, and both of them took out a motherboard while they were at it.

    Needless to say, I'm somewhat reluctant to ever trust an Antec psu to power my systems. Fool me twice, shame on me......fool me 3 times? I don't think so!!

    OCZ would get my vote in this competition, hands down.
    Reply
  • mmatis - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Especially since NewEgg is offering it with a $15 MIR through 31 October. It has 433 reviews on their site and gets 5 eggs. Reply

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