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September 2, 2003 -- by Mike Chin
The Super Tornado 300 is the second of three new "Super" family of power supplies from Seasonic. Regular SPCR readers will recall the Super Silencer 400 reviewed a little over a month ago. The Super Silencer 400 was notable for its low noise and excellent efficiency, which measured 78%, meeting Seasonic's claim.
The Super Tornado is based on the same circuit topology. What is different is the use of a 120mm fan to increase airflow and cooling potential. This does necessitate a host of mechanical changes, including reduced height heatsinks and components to accommodate the 1" depth of the fan, a completely different case and so on. This is not the first 120mm fan PSU to be reviewed at SPCR; the Fortron-Source 120mm fan 350W Aurora review published just a few days ago is the first.
The name Tornado will probably raise the eyebrows of most silent PC enthusiasts. It does not inspire confidence about the noise level of this power supply. In fact, this model is rated for a noise level of just 22 dBA (at one meter, one assumes...), which is 3 dBA quieter than the Super Silencer. The idea Seasonic appear to have been trying to get across is that the 120mm fan has as much or more cooling power than the noisy multiple-80mm fan PSUs which have become so common. There are at least 2 other models slated for release in the fall -- a 350W and a 400W model.
As with the Super Silencer, the Super Tornado features a new box design that grabs your attention and sells you on its features. Most of the images in this section come from the box.
The main cover photo shows a stamped fan grill for the big120mm fan. This stamped grill is remarkable in that it really does not appear to pose any more airflow resistance than the wire grill preferred on better quality PSUs. There are the phrases "Ultra Cool 120mm Fan" (in case you didn't notice the big fan?) and "Energy Saving" (Again, one wants to ask why throw ultra into the mix when super is already in the name?!)... and 8 feature icons:
1) 120mm fan -- let's not beat this one into the ground... but one additional advantage claimed for this 120mm fan PSU is that in a tower case, the stress on the bearing is more even, meaning that it should last longer than axial fans mounted perpendicular to gravity (as with conventional 80mm fan PSUs)..
2) S2FC - 22 dBA. Seasonic's excellent fan control circuit; and they're claiming a noise level of 22 dBA, although no distance or power level is cited anywhere. The S2FC circuit was described in detail in the review of the SS-300-APFC. In essence, it keeps a relatively powerful fan running at extremely low speed until and unless a fairly high load and temperature is reached. After that point, the rate of fan speed change follows an exponential curve so that the maximum RPM / airflow is saved for the highest load. In this way, the PSU runs very quietly under normal and even fairly demanding loads, yet has the full cooling power of the fan when it is needed.
3) Ultra Ventilation. Refers to the open mesh used for the air exhaust grill, which is said to allow a high 80% free flow.
4) Active PFC - 99%. The high AC/DC conversion efficiency is combined with Active Power Factor Correction for a PF of 0.99. This results in extremely low energy waste, as explained in detail on the back of the box.
5) 80% Efficiency. In PSUs, this specification refers to how much power is lost when converting AC voltage to DC voltage. A voltage and power output level is usually specified. The 80% efficiency rating is for 240V, at full power. The rating for 120V is 78%; it is almost always lower for the 120VAC input. Regardless, these are the highest efficiency numbers I have seen claimed for any PC PSU, except for the previously reviewed Super Silencer 400. The most common number seen is 65%, with 70% being the "standard" number claimed for more high-end PSUs.
6) Forward Converter. This is a reference to more advanced circuitry that replaces the usual bridge rectifier circuit. I understand that it is what makes the high 78% / 80% efficiency possible.
7) Free Input: 100-240VAC. This refers to automatic AC input circuitry which allows the unit to run without manual switching at any AC voltage from 100V to 240V.
8) Doctor Cable. First seen in the Super Silencer 400, it's a cable management kit consisting of a spiral cable cover made of translucent soft plastic, a handful of zap-straps (locking cable ties) and a large cable mount. The image below from one of the box side panels tells the story. The parts themselves are commonplace in electronics parts stores, but its inclusion in the PSU package is unique. It's practical, generous and well thought out.
9) Warranty coverage is provided for a period of 3 years, which is very generous. Seasonic has an on-line RMA system to expedite service if and when it becomes necessary. The warranty card refers to http://www.seasonic.com.tw/usa/index.jsp. Full details of the warranty can be seen there.
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