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 This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the low-end and frequently outdated junk you can still find floating around—or perhaps included with an inexpensive case.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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  • wintermute000 - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    after a few psu-go-boom incidents I went seasonic or thermaltake, no exceptions

    not one problem since.

    those stats look shocking compared to your mid-range seasonic/thermaltake product, but like the article says you get what you pay for. Never cheap out on your PSU if you run 24/7 or gaming cards
    Reply
  • jazzisjazz - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    Techsolo Black Mamba STP-550, representative of many budget power supplies
    1 Why am I reading about a psu that I have to be in Italy, Germany, or Poland to buy?
    2 Does sells mean retails for or commonly able to purchase at online or in a local store?
    3 Nothing said about types of certification that would have some useful value to the shopper.
    4 Time spent looking for things to poke fun at would be better spent informing the reader.
    5 Why not tell us what makes it low end and outdated ?
    6 No information on value of 80 plus certification.
    7 Red mist of power supplies ??? meaning?
    8 few changes in the details - are they unimportant?
    9 modular cables, which is a nice feature for the price - would the money spent bringing us
    this feature be better spent on higher quality components
    10 The most expensive but potentially best - let the results bear it out.
    11 another $24 premium over the OCZ and over twice the cost of the Techsolo - fluff
    12 No mention as to why Japanese capacitors,DC to DC converters, and PWM fans might be better.
    13 The best-case hope for the Techsolo Black Mamba is that we'll get an "ultra silent" snake that can deliver the full rated power. I wouldn't bet on it, but more than one user has been tempted into going the cheap route on a PSU. At worst, the Black Mamba is a noisy blindworm that dies at 50% load, but most likely it will land somewhere in between those extremes. - more fluff.
    14 (already mentioned and super-duper - more useless poking fun
    15 the PSU actually looks decent - you do realize you are talking about a budget peice where hopefully the manufacturer has concentrated the most effort on quality design and components right?
    16 even cheap cable sleeving is a bump up over unsleeved cables, after all - does it come at the expense of better quality components?
    17 Shenzhen Xin Wang Electronics Co., LTD. makes the fan, one of those nameless (despite the length of their name) Chinese companies.- you put it across like you know it is poor quality, do you know that?
    18 Will it be silent, and can it keep the PSU cool? We'll find out in a minute - fluff
    19 protective ground wire is connected to a mounting screw of the main PCB—bad idea - how should it be different?
    20 missing a MOV - for what?
    21 Can you see the wire cross-section of phase and neutral conductor? It doesn't look like 550W - because?
    22 so stay away from this product.- any attempt to find out if the unit tested was faulty in manufacturing?
    I give up. I keep hoping that some reviewer somewhere is going to take the budget consumer seriously - - but yet again no
    Reply
  • Phaedrus2129 - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    The answer is: Yes. We know it's crap. We know it's crap from the minute we pick it up, and we know even more the second it's opened up. Was this the best review ever? Hell no. But your questions belie an ignorance of low-end power supplies, what makes them shit, and assumes stupidity on the part of the author. Reply
  • jazzisjazz - Tuesday, November 02, 2010 - link

    Isn't it the purpose of this site to provide useful information to the reader (ignorant or not). If I were ignorant about low end power supplies and..... but smart enough to come to AT for good info I would hope to come away well informed. No assumption about the author or offense intended just frustrated that my little bit of money to spend doesn't seem as important as I hope it would. Not everybody can spend $600 and up, even if we get it done for <$250 after rebates, refurbs, and finding ways to engineer better for $free we still want as much useful info as we can get here at AT. Reply
  • mattll - Wednesday, November 03, 2010 - link

    No, i'll agree with the reader jazzisjazz...the author assumes an electrical engineering background on the part of the reader. I think his point is that he does lack knowledge, and the author's approach is not helpful for improvement.

    And the answer, for a review, is no, you don't know it's crap from the outset. It's a court case, you have to prove the point, not just wink at the reader and share inside jokes. That it could not handle full load is useful information; snide comments on the cable wrappings, or fan grill design, or name of the fan manufacturer, is irrelevant unless and until you can prove that it makes a difference.

    How do you know it's crap from the minute you pick it up? You have to detail out that knowledge, because that's the information you are trying to impart to the reader.

    I thought the reviewer justified objection #1 pretty well. It happened to be a cheapy found in his area; for obvious reasons, ultra-cheap parts are not likely to be internationally available, widely known and long-lasting brandnames.

    The reviewer might have connected #3 to #6, but didn't.

    I agree with #12--the reviewer assumes reader familiarity with these, and even given familiarity, there's a glib assumption of obvious benefit which may not be the case. I think you mentioned Antec's run-in with production problems, and how you've given them credit for getting past them. Why would anyone assume all the manufacturers from a given country are permanently suspect based on one (admittedly widespread) incident?

    #10 speaks to the bias of the article: let the results speak for themselves, or at least try to maintain the appearance that you didn't just say "I like this Antec because I like Antec. And this other crap is crap because we just KNOW it's crap."

    #19 I had to roll my eyes at that. Is there really a shock hazard here? Did it pass UL/CE listing? Sure, it may be good advice to a power supply designer not to do it that way, but is it actually a problem to the consumer? Do you have any proof of that?
    #20 LOL. This is an example of where the author was really speaking to other electrical engineers. You can look up Metal-Oxide Varistors on wikipedia, but that won't help a non-expert much either. More importantly, it's an implementation detail, and as such, it doesn't matter. The (lazy) assumption is that it necessarily affects performance: focus on the performance. Will it be less likely to withstand a transient? Then say or measure that. Will it adversely affect the noise profile? Then say or measure that.
    #21 Again, a glib assumption of insider knowledge. Question: is it really necessary for a computer builder, or even someone choosing a power supply, to be able to identify the phase and neutral conductors on a picture of the power supply, much less be able to approximate their gauge and estimate their current handling capability? No.
    Look. A rule of thumb like this, to say those conductors look pretty slim given the power they are supposed to be able to handle, is mildly useful (about like weighing the power supply). But that's no substitute for actual performance, actual measurement. Prove that it actually results in an inferior product, rather than just insinuating.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    Proper testing of PSUs eliminates the fanboism and shows which PSUs perform well. If you don't understand the test results, design differences or details, then have someone with proper technical expertise explain them to you so you can make an intelligent decision instead of declaring one PSU a clone of another when in fact they are not.

    The technical ignornace that passes for knowledge on the Internet is appalling.
    Reply
  • HangFire - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    Yes, I enjoy proper testing of P/S such as found on jonnyguru, hardocp and lately Hardware Secrets.

    I own a P3, an oscilloscope, and a 500A battery tester. I don't do proper testing, but I do RMA any and all cheap power supplies that don't make PFC, efficiency, cannot deliver rated 12V power, or do not invoke OCP or OPP as spec'ed. I haven't found a Ripple failure that didn't also blow out before their reaching non-existent OCP levels. That is pretty much the level of AT testing as well.

    AT might get there some day. They should read a few dozen jonnyguru reviews to see how its really done. I do like the overcapacity tests AT does, jonnyguru refuses to do that but should, if for nothing else to verify OPP/OCP. Usually they test good power supplies that don't like about having OPP/OCP, but I find the cheap ones often lie about the presence of OPP/OCP, such as the CoolMax that took out a motherboard... the beginning of my journey into power supply testing.
    Reply
  • MeanBruce - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    Selling horror should be illegal, instead it simply hurts the ignorant and uninformed. This is a slime market that I hope to never see again on Anandtech!

    Reply
  • HangFire - Monday, November 01, 2010 - link

    I disagree. I think the major tech sites should blow up an under-spec P/S once a week until they have all been reviewed, sales drop, and they are all taken off the market. There is already plenty of competition in the good-enough-or-better space to take up the slack. Reply
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, November 02, 2010 - link

    There is a lot of crap products in the marketplace. The only means to determine if a PSU can deliver proper electrical power and is of a quality design and construction is with a proper physical inspection and objective, scientific load test conducted by a very knowledgeable tech. Anything less is a waste of time including fanbois opinions. Opinions are worth what you pay for them. Reply

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