Antec EarthWatts 430: Green Computing Hits Mainstream

Power
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October 30, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Product
Antec Earth Watts 430 EA-430
80 Plus Certified ATX12V v2.2 compliant power supply
Manufacturer
Antec
MSRP
430: US$79.95;
380: US$64.95;
500: US$99.95

Efficiency has always been an important feature of good quality power supplies, but, thanks to the development of the 80 Plus program — and the publicity and marketing opportunities it makes possible — there is now a market niche devoted solely to efficient power supplies. At least, that seems to be what power supply sellers, Antec among them, are hoping. Antec helped get the bandwagon rolling with the Neo HE, released in late 2005, and now they've come back to the table with a model that promises to be even more efficient: The Earth Watts series.

In the year since the release of the Neo HE, Antec has done their homework and realized that efficient power supplies appeal to a formerly unrecognized market segment: Green computing. Now you can discuss the health merits of banning trans fats, help research obscure proteins in the name of science, and save the environment at the same time! Well... perhaps things are a little more complicated than that, but the Earth Watts is definitely designed to appeal to those who use their computer for all that is good and right (and I'm not talking about joining the Alliance in World of Warcraft).

The Earth Watts is not the first "environmentally-friendly" power supply we've looked at. FSP's Green PS also purported to be good for the environment — mainly by complying with RoHS before all of the cool kids started doing it. Despite its environmental pretensions, the Earth Watts doesn't even mention RoHS in its marketing — RoHS is now required in the EU, so it no longer anything special.

Instead, the Earth Watts uses its efficiency — it's 80 Plus certified — and the fact that it has active power factor correction to support its claim to being Green. There's no question that both of these can help reduce power costs, but they don't set the Earth Watts apart as much as you might think. Other high end power supplies also boast these features, and the development of efficiency as a selling point should mean that more 80 Plus power supplies will be seen in the future.

APPEARANCES

The Earth Watts is packaged in a serene, nature-themed box that is in keeping with the environmental theme of the power supply itself. It's slick — but it doesn't send quite the same message as the plain, unbleached cardboard box that the FSP Green PS came in.


Clean greens and blues suggest purity and tranquility in the environment.


No extras to speak of.

Inside the box, the selection of extras is spare, with nothing above and beyond the essentials necessary for using the power supply. The power supply is protected by two recycled cardboard ends that are probably better for the environment than plastic bubble wrap — the most common packing material. It's worth noting that Antec's other power supplies come packed in a similar way.

FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS

Antec Earth Watts EA-430 Feature Highlights (from Antec's web site)
FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT
80mm low noise cooling fan
Low noise to the standard set by the Neo HE?
Dual 12V outputs: 12V2 for Motherboard and peripherals; 12V1 for processor As required by ATX12V 2.0.
Industrial-grade protection circuitry prevents damage resulting from short circuits, power overloads, over voltage, and under voltage
The usual protection circuits
80 PLUS® certified Certified to be at least 80% efficient at 20% (86W), 50% (215W), and 100% (430W) output.
4 SATA connectors
Standard these days.
PCI-E connector: one for 380W and 430W, two for 500W
Also standard.
Safety approvals: UL, CUL, FCC, TÜV, CE, CB, C-tick, CCC Worthwhile.
Universal input Nice to have, but hardly a deal-maker in most parts of the world.
Active Power Factor Correction (PFC)
A boost converter to maintain a constant DC bus voltage while drawing a current always in phase with and at the same frequency as the line voltage. Benefits for AC power delivery; reduces input AC current and can allow a smaller UPS to be used.
PF value up to 99% See comment on active PFC above.
AQ3 Antec Quality three-year parts and labor warranty Antec's customer service seems generally well-regarded.

SPECIFICATIONS

OUTPUT SPECIFICATIONS: Antec Earth Watts 430
AC Input
100-240V ~7A; 50/60 Hz
DC Output
+3.3V
+5V
+12V1
+12V2
-12V
+5VSB
Maximum Output Current
20A
20A
17A
17A
0.8A
2.5A
Minimum Output Current
0.3A
0.5A
1A
1A
0A
0A

Maximum Combined

130W
360W
9.6W
12.5W
430W

The 360W combined rating for the +12V rails is the most important specification, and it should provide enough power for just about any system that can be built with the available cable sets. With only one PCIe connector and no support for dual CPU systems, it will be difficult if not impossible to overload the Earth Watts.

The secondary lines are a little weaker than usual, although the 20A supplied on each of them is still far in excess of what a modern system requires. However, it is conceivable that a very powerful older system that draws CPU power from the +5V line might cause a bit of a struggle, especially given the minimum load requirements on both the +12V lines.



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