Antec Neo HE 430 power supply

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COMPARISON

For some time now, our standard for a quiet power supply has been the Seasonic S12 series, which combines an excellent fan with an excellent fan controller. Both the fan and the fan controller of the Neo HE are very good, so it is worthwhile comparing it directly against the S12 to see just how good they are. The data in the following table has been taken from the reviews for the S12-430 and the S12-500/600. For the S12-430, the data for the most recent revision was used.

SPL Comparison (in dBA@1m): Antec Neo HE vs. Seasonic S12
Target Output Power
65W
90W
150W
200W
250W
300W
430W
Antec Neo HE 430
(Ambient 21°C/19 dBA@1m)
20
20
21
26
31
37
40
Seasonic S12-430
(Ambient 21°C/19 dBA@1m)
20
20
22
25
29
32
37
Seasonic S12-500
(Ambient 21°C/18 dBA@1m)
21
21
22
25
28
34
39

This comparison shows that, in terms of noise, these power supplies are pretty close. At 200W output and lower (which encompasses the majority of systems), the measured noise levels are virtually identical. The only trend that seems to distinguish the Neo HE is that it may start out slightly quieter and then ramp up a bit faster.

CONCLUSIONS

Ironically, the feature that initially caught our attention turned out to be one of the weaker features of the Neo HE 430. In spite of the "HE" in its name, it did not prove to be exceptionally efficient, although it is quite good.

The best feature of the Neo HE turned out to be one that we didn't anticipate at all: Quiet performance. The marketing material for the Neo HE allude to "whisper-quiet cooling", but we've seen this claim way too often to even raise an eyebrow. For once, the claim is justified: At long last, Seasonic has serious competition for the title of quietest fan-cooled PSU. The smoothness of its Adda 80mm fan is unchallenged in recent memory; it is one of the smoothest stock 80mm fans we've heard in any PSU. The Neo HE 430's claim of 18 dBA@1m is very close to the money, and our sample remained quiet to a fairly high power load. It is the quietest 80mm fan PSU we've tested.

The noise performance alone is a good enough reason to recommend the Neo HE, but it is attractive in many other ways. Many people will appreciate the convenience of detachable cables. Its internal cooling is very good, as is the voltage regulation. Toss active PFC and auto-adjusting AC input voltage into the mix, and you have a power supply that looks like a winner. The Antec Neo HE 430 earns a strong recommendation.

Much thanks to Antec for the opportunity to examine this power supply.

Link to Antec P150 Mid Tower case review. (It comes with a Neo HE 430 PSU.)

* * *

POSTSCRIPT: A SECOND SAMPLE
October 20, 2005 by Mike Chin

A day after this review was posted, a representative from Antec asked whether we could take a look at a second sample. They were concerned about readers' reactions to the lower than claimed efficiency we reported for the first sample. To summarize, our results were substantially lower than they had obtained with numerous randomly chosen samples.

We've written often about how sample variance is the bugaboo of all product reviewers; obviously, it's an issue for the companies that provide samples of their products for review, too. Two hardly represents a big sampling, and the results may raise more question than they answer, but we decided to grant Antec's request. The sample arrive a few days ago, and we managed to squeeze this test into our schedule. Here are the efficiency results compared between the first and second samples.

ANTEC NEO HE 430 EFFICIENCY

Original Sample
Output (W)
41.7
64.2
90.7
150.0
199.1
256.4
288.3
425.1
Efficiency
67.3%
75.5%
76.2%
79.0%
77.8%
77.2%
75.9%
72.0%
Second Sample Output (W)
41.9
65.0
91.9
151.8
202.1
261.4
296.0
425.4
Efficiency
68.7%
74.7%
76.6%
80.3%
79.6%
79.0%
77.9%
75.3%
Difference
+0.7%
-0.8%
+0.4%
+1.3%
+1.8%
+1.8%
+2.0%
+3.3%

ANALYSIS

We obtained slightly higher efficiency results for the second sample, particularly at output loads above 150W. The differences seen up to 150W were under 1%, which is within the margin of error of our testing. At 150W output and above, the second sample reached slightly higher efficiency and maintained a slightly flatter efficiency curve all the way to maximum output. Its efficiency at higher load fell off less than the first simple did. Some of the difference was due to the output voltages dropping slightly less than with the original. In some cases, the unit simply delivered greater output for a given AC input, or required less AC input power for a given power output, especially at the top two output levels.

It's clear that the second sample does perform a touch better. But, there is not likely to be any difference in performance, stability or longevity between a system that employs the first sample and an identical system that employs the second. The higher output loads will be encountered in most systems only during peaks, and the first sample had no trouble delivering the power; it was just not as efficient in delivering power at higher levels.

One quibble we have with Antec's marketing of the Neo HE models is the bold claim on top of their list of features: Highly efficient (up to 85%). This claim may well be true for most samples when fed with 220~240VAC, but if these sample are at all representative, it is certainly not true in areas where the AC voltage 120V. We think the claim is too much of a stretch.

* * *

POSTSCRIPT 2: NeoHE INCOMPATIBILITIES
December 21, 2005 by Mike Chin

In the weeks following this review, it came to our attention via discussions in many forums (including SPCR's) that there was a compatibility issue, initially between some Asus nVidia nForce4 chipset motherboards and some NeoHE power supplies. There was also talk some other motherboards from other brands not working with the NeoHE and other PSU brands/models, and some talk of these motherboards not working with other PSU brands/models, also. There was also mention of some Asus P5 (Intel) series boards not working well with some NeoHeE samples. Incompatibilities with other Intel boards from other brands were also mentioned. There was even talk of damage to a few motherboards.

The most common scenario is that with the affected units, the motherboard powers up, but then shuts down within a minute or two. Sometimes the motherboard fails to boot. The symptoms appear to vary.

The discussions about these incompatibility issues ranged far and wide all over the web sites where the likely DIY enthusiast buyers of the NeoHE / P150 would wander. We watched and read in amazement, as we had no experience with any of these issues with any of the motherboards used with either of our two NeoHE 430 PSU samples initially. This changed in December.

In the first week of December, we obtained two Asus motherboards: A8N32-SLI Deluxe and A8N-SLI Premium. Both are high end Athlon 64 nF4 chipset socket 939 boards. They were used in two different system builds and worked fine with several power supplies on hand in the lab. Neither of these boards worked with the single NeoHE430 PSU on hand, however. We contacted Antec to report that we, too, seemed to have a bad sample. As mentioned, the original samples worked fine on several other motherboards in the lab, although none were nF4 models. The motherboards included socket 478, 775, 754 and 939 models using Intel, nVidia (NF3) and VIA chipsets.

Yesterday, we received two new NeoHE430 PSUs from Antec. We also received a 500W and a 550W model in the series. These are said to have been revised to eliminate all previous incompatibility problems. All these new samples worked normally on our two Asus boards.

Our new samples are identical in appearance to the original, both outside and inside, as far as we can tell. Antec tells us that in future, revised units will be diffentiated from the original version with some kind of tag or label. The NeoHE430 in the P150 case and the retail box NeoHE PSUs currently shipping from Antec's primary warehouse in the US (to distributors and dealers) are said to be the revised version. EU warehouses will soon have the revised ones as well. NeoHE supplies in the rest of the world are served directly from Antec's Hong Kong shipping center, and they have already been shipping the revised units for a couple of weeks.

Much of the NeoHE stock currently in the retail channels are from the original production run, however. Antec says a total recall is not justified, because the incompatibility only applies to some NeoHE power supplies with mostly Asus motherboards.

Antec advises customers to contact them directly should they have problems with a NeoHE power supply. They will ensure a speedy no-cost replacement.

* * *

A poll on NeoHE reliability has been started in the SPCR forums. If you own one, please report your experience there, whether good or bad.

These are serious lapses in reliability, as far as we can tell, and the consumer's risk of being exposed to them by buying an Antec NeoHE power supply is still quite high. Even though our own experience with NeoHE samples is limited and not really that bad, based on the overwhelming user feedback on web forums, including SPCR's, we have to issue a warning that you buy an Antec NeoHE at your risk at this time. Until it's clear that the problematic early production batch(es?) are gone from retail stocks, it's probably wise to avoid the NeoHE, especially if you plan on using an Asus motherboard. It's really unfortunate, as a working NeoHE is likely the best quiet 80mm fan retail PSU available today.

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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