Corsair Gold: AX850 Power Supply

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TESTING

For a fuller understanding of ATX power supplies, please read the reference article Power Supply Fundamentals. Those who seek source materials can find Intel's various PSU design guides at Form Factors.

For a complete rundown of testing equipment and procedures, please refer to SPCR's PSU Test Platform V4.1. The testing system is a close simulation of a moderate airflow mid-tower PC optimized for low noise.

Acoustic measurements are now performed in our anechoic chamber with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower, with a PC-based spectrum analyzer comprised of SpectraPLUS software with ACO Pacific microphone and M-Audio digital audio interfaces.

In the test rig, the ambient temperature of the PSU varies proportionately with its output load, which is exactly the way it is in a real PC environment. But there is the added benefit of a high power load tester which allows incremental load testing all the way to full power for any non-industrial PC power supply. Both fan noise and voltage are measured at various standard loads. It is, in general, a very demanding test, as the operating ambient temperature of the PSU often reaches >40°C at full power. This is impossible to achieve with an open test bench setup.

The 120mm fan responsible for "case airflow" is deliberately run at a steady low level (6~7V) when the system is run at "low" loads. When the test loads become greater, the 120mm fan is turned up to a higher speed, but one that doesn't affect the noise level of the overall system. Anyone who is running a system that draws 400W or more would definitely want more than 20CFM of airflow through their case, and at this point, the noise level of the exhaust fan is typically not the greatest concern.

Great effort has been made to devise as realistic an operating environment for the PSU as possible, but the thermal and noise results obtained here still cannot be considered absolute. There are too many variables in PCs and too many possible combinations of components for any single test environment to provide infallible results. And there is always the bugaboo of sample variance. These results are akin to a resume, a few detailed photographs, and some short sound bites of someone you've never met. You'll probably get a pretty good overall representation, but it is not quite the same as an extended meeting in person.

REAL SYSTEM POWER NEEDS: While we test the PSU to full output in order to verify the manufacturer's claims, real desktop PCs simply do not require anywhere near this level of power. The most pertinent range of DC output power is between about 40W and 300W, because it is the power range where most systems will be working most of the time. To illustrate this point, we conducted system tests to measure the power draw of several actual systems under idle and worst-case conditions. Our most power-hungry overclocked 130W TDP processor rig with an ATI Radeon X1950XTX-512 graphics card drew ~256W DC peak from the power supply under full load — well within the capabilities of any modern power supply. Please follow the link provided above to see the details. It is true that very elaborate systems with the most power hungry dual video cards today might draw as much as another 150~200W, but the total should remain under 500W in extrapolations of our real world measurements.

INTERPRETING TEMPERATURE DATA

It important to keep in mind that PSU fan speed varies with temperature, not output load. A power supply generates more heat as output increases, but is not the only the only factor that affects fan speed. Ambient temperature and case airflow have almost as much effect. Our test rig represents a challenging thermal situation for a power supply: A large portion of the heat generated inside the case must be exhausted through the power supply, which causes a corresponding increase in fan speed.

When examining thermal data, the most important indicator of cooling efficiency is the difference between intake and exhaust. Because the heat generated in the PSU loader by the output of the PSU is always the same for a given power level, the intake temperature should be roughly the same between different tests. The only external variable is the ambient room temperature. The temperature of the exhaust air from the PSU is affected by several factors:

  • Intake temperature (determined by ambient temperature and power output level)
  • Efficiency of the PSU (how much heat it generates while producing the required output)
  • The effectiveness of the PSU's cooling system, which is comprised of:
    • Overall mechanical and airflow design
    • Size, shape and overall surface area of heatsinks
    • Fan(s) and fan speed control circuit

The thermal rise in the power supply is really the only indicator we have about all of the above. This is why the intake temperature is important: It represents the ambient temperature around the power supply itself. Subtracting the intake temperature from the exhaust temperature gives a reasonable gauge of the effectiveness of the power supply's cooling system. This is the only temperature number that is comparable between different reviews, as it is unaffected by the ambient temperature.

TEST RESULTS

The ambient temperature was 21~23°, and the ambient noise level was ~10.5 dBA.

OUTPUT, REGULATION & EFFICIENCY: Corsair AX850
DC Output Voltage (V) + Current (A)
DC Output
AC Input
Calculated Efficiency
+12V1
+12V2
+5V
+3.3V
-12V
+5VSB
12.23
0.97
12.23
0
5.02
0.96
3.39
0.97
0.1
0.1
22
33
65.5%
12.23
0.97
12.23
1.72
5.02
1.93
3.39
0.97
0.1
0.1
43
55
77.3%
12.23
1.91
12.23
1.71
5.02
1.92
3.39
2.68
0.2
0.2
65
79
82.5%
12.20
3.45
12.20
1.87
5.02
2.84
3.36
2.62
0.3
0.3
90
108
83.5%
12.20
4.95
12.20
4.72
4.99
5.44
3.36
3.64
0.3
0.5
151
173
87.4%
12.19
6.63
12.19
5.58
4.98
5.34
3.35
4.41
0.3
0.7
200
223
89.6%
12.16
7.97
12.16
7.67
4.96
7.90
3.35
7.45
0.4
1.0
251
278
90.4%
12.13
10.43
12.13
7.93
4.95
9.61
3.33
8.75
0.4
1.0
300
333
90.0%
12.13
11.05
12.13
13.98
4.93
12.66
3.29
10.83
0.5
1.0
400
449
89.0%
12.10
15.91
12.10
15.68
4.91
14.44
3.28
13.30
0.5
1.2
501
568
88.2%
12.10
21.20
12.10
21.40
4.86
15.14
3.24
20.10
0.5
1.2
702
814
86.3%
12.08
21.20
12.08
21.40
4.86
15.14
3.24
21.00
0.5
2.0
851
1020
83.4%
Crossload Test
12.07
21.20
12.05
23.44
5.00
0.98
3.38
0.96
0.5
2.5
553
614
90.1%
+12V Ripple (peak-to-peak): <13mV @ <250W ~ 28mV @ 850W
+5V Ripple (peak-to-peak): <10mV @ <200W ~ 18mV @ 850W
+3.3V Ripple (peak-to-peak): 10mV @ <200W ~ 19mV @ 850W
NOTE: The current and voltage for -12V and +5VSB lines is not measured but based on switch settings. It is a tiny portion of the total, and errors arising from inaccuracies on these lines is <1W.

OTHER DATA SUMMARY: Corsair AX850
DC Load (W)
22
43
66
92
150
199
251
302
402
501
700
850
Intake °C
21
21
23
24
29
33
34
33
36
38
42
44
Exhaust °C
22
22
25
29
35
40
42
39
43
46
58
62
Temp Rise °C
1
1
2
5
6
7
5
7
8
8
14
18
Fan (V)
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
2.9
3.4
6.0
6.6
11
11.3
11.3
SPL (dBA@1m)
<10
<10
<10
<10
<10
12
15
18
25
38
39
39
Power Factor
0.95
0.96
0.98
0.99
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
AC Power in Standby: 0.3W
AC Power with No Load, PSU power On: 8W
NOTE: The ambient room temperature during testing can vary a few degrees from review to review. Please take this into account when comparing our PSU test data.


1. EFFICIENCY This is a measure of AC-to-DC conversion efficiency. The ATX12V Power Supply Design Guide recommends 80% efficiency or better at all output power loads. 80% efficiency means that to deliver 80W DC output, a PSU draws 100W AC input, and 20W is lost as heat within the PSU. Higher efficiency is preferred for reduced energy consumption and cooler operation. It allows reduced cooling airflow, which translates to lower noise. The 80 Plus Gold standard requires 90% efficiency at 50% of rated load, and 87% efficiency at both 20% load and full rated load.

At the super low 20W load, efficiency was quite good at 65%. Efficiency rose quickly as the load was increased. 80% efficiency was reached around the 55W mark, broke 87% by 150W (easily meeting the 87% requirement at 20% load, which is 170W), and it reached 90% at 250W. At 200~350W, ~90% efficiency was maintained. With higher load and higher operational temperature in the SPCR test box, efficiency dropped a bit. At 50% load (425W), with temperature at 35~38°C in our hotbox, 90% efficiency was not quite reached; it was just shy of 89%. At full power, the efficiency dopped down to 83.4%, a full 3.6% under the 87% required by 80 Plus Gold — but by then the internal temperature of the hotbox was 44°C.

The failure of our sample to meet 90% efficiency at midpower is somewhat unusual, but the drop at full power is not. The 80 Plus validation testing is done at typical room temperature (18~28°C) while SPCR's test setup feeds the heat of the PSU output back into its operating ambient, which makes for a much hotter, more demanding and realistic high power load test. Most PSUs with 400W+ rating that we test do not match full power 80 Plus efficiency test results due to our extremely hot conditions.

2. VOLTAGE REGULATION refers to how stable the output voltages are under various load conditions. The ATX12V Power Supply Design Guide calls for the +12, +5V and +3.3V lines to be maintained within ±5%.

At all load levels, the critical 12V line was within 0.23V (1.9%) of 12V, and even at the highest loads, it never dropped below 12.08V. This is excellent performance. The 3.3V regulation was within 0.06V (1.8%), while the 5V line was off -0.14V (2.8%) at full load. These are excellent results.

3. AC RIPPLE refers to unwanted "noise" artifacts in the DC output of a switching power supply. It's usually very high in frequency (in the order of 100s of kHz). The peak-to-peak value is measured. The ATX12V Guide allows up to 120mV (peak-to-peak) of AC ripple on the +12V line and 50mV on the +5V and +3.3V lines. Ripple on all the lines was excellent at all power levels, generally staying under 15mV through the lower half of the power range. Even at maximum power, the 12V ripple stayed at just 28mV. It's about the best ripple we've measured on any PSU.

4. POWER FACTOR is ideal when it measures 1.0. In the most practical sense, PF is a measure of how "difficult" it is for the electric utility to deliver the AC power into your power supply. High PF reduces the AC current draw, which reduces stress on the electric wiring in your home (and elsewhere up the line). It also means you can do with a smaller, cheaper UPS backup; they are priced according to their VA (volt-ampere) rating. Power factor was very good for this model, running at or close to 1.0 through most of the loads and no lower than 0.89 even at just 20W load.

5. LOW LOAD TESTING revealed no problems starting at very low loads. Our sample had no issue starting up with no load, either, and the power draw was much lower than normal. The 0.3W power draw in standby (power switch on but computer off) is excellent.

6. LOW & 240 VAC PERFORMANCE

The power supply was set to 300W and 730W load at various AC input voltages. Most full-range input power supplies achieve higher efficiency with higher AC input voltage. SPCR's lab is equipped with a 240VAC line, which was used to check power supply efficiency for the benefit of those who live in 240VAC mains regions. We also used a hefty variac to check the stability of the PSU under brownout conditions where the AC line voltage drops from the 120V norm.

Various VAC Inputs: Corsair X850
VAC
AC Power
DC Output
Efficiency
244V
822W
730W
88.8%
120V
859W
730W
85.0%
244V
326W
300W
91.9%
120V
333W
300W
90.0%
100V
339W
300W
88.4%

Efficiency improved around 3.8% with 244VAC input at 730W load. The sample passed the 100VAC minimum input at 300W load without any issues. Neither voltage regulation nor ripple changed appreciably during these tests.

7. TEMPERATURE & COOLING

High efficiency kept the PSU very cool even when the fan did not spin, at loads below ~200W. Interestingly, as the fan sped up and cooled the PSU, there were points where the temperature rise was lower despite higher output load. Temperature rise was kept to single digit numbers till past 500W, which is quite good. Once the hotbox temperature rose past ~40°C, the rise went into double digits, but still topped out at only 18°C at full power with the intake temperature at 44°C.



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