Antec EarthWatts EA 380D Green 380Wby Martin Kaffei on October 2, 2010 7:00 PM EST
Conclusion: No Need for 1.21 KW of Power!
There's certainly an emphasis on reducing power use and costs these days, with some governments pushing legislation to penalize companies that don't at least give some attention to the environment. Antec has worked hard to promote the image of a "green" and environmentally friendly PSU with their updated EarthWatts line—even going so far as to put green in the name and give it a dark green paint job!—but at the end of the day it's the product quality that determines whether something is worth buying. How well does the EarthWatts Green actually do when it comes down to real world metrics with no marketing fluff? Thankfully, Antec acquits itself well and produces an inexpensive yet well-built and efficient PSU.
While the marketing department might tout such benefits as the lack of a power cord and 80 Plus certification, let's be honest: removing the power cord probably did more for the company's bottom line than the environment, and 80 Plus certifications are everywhere. Still, there's nothing wrong with avoiding yet another power cord in the storage bin, and 80 Plus Bronze certification in a 380W PSU is a rarity. The fact of the matter is that many PCs don't have high-end CPUs and GPUs that need boatloads of power, but if you shop around for quality 300W PSUs for such systems, your choices become very limited.
We did a quick search on Newegg for 350W-400W PSUs like the EarthWatts Green to see what we could find. At present, there are eleven such PSUs: three "Standard" 80 Plus, seven Bronze PSUs like the Antec, and one Gold. While you might be tempted to go for the gold, so to speak, the Seasonic X Series SS-400FL comes in with a brutally high cost of $139. For that much money, you can buy three Antec EarthWatts Green PSUs (and still have $5 left for lunch after shipping)! The three 80 Plus Bronze PSUs in this range priced lower than the EarthWatts come from Raidmax, Xigmatek, and Sigma; two of those companies (Raidmax and Sigma) don't exactly have the best reputation in the quality department, and we're more than willing to pay a bit extra for the Antec EarthWatts.
What you get for your $45 is a good PSU for entry-level and midrange systems that won't be heavily overclocked or run multiple GPUs—you can still do a fair amount of overclocking if you're so inclined, though that flies in the face of being green I dare say. The cable lengths are suitable for mid-tower and smaller cases, there are sufficient connectors for the target market, and overall build quality, voltage regulation, and efficiency are very good.
There's been a distinct lack of focus on the "normal" PSU market over the past few years, with more and more companies going for the high margin 700W and higher market. Antec's back-to-basics approach with the EarthWatts line is appreciated, and the price and availability is a great value for what you get. For those that want something reasonable instead of chasing ORB and overclocking records, the Antec EarthWatts EA-380D is a great little PSU that's worth your dollar, and we're presenting it with our Bronze Editor's Choice award. You can buy power supplies that are more efficient, higher capacity, quieter, or cheaper, but there are tradeoffs with any one of those. The EA-380D strikes a nice balance and won't break the bank while meeting your power needs.