Recommended Power Supplies
Submitted by Mike Chin on Fri, 2012-02-10 09:36.
Power | Reference|Recommended
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- Feb 10, 2012 - Added Seasonic X1050, Kingwin STR-500, LZW-550 and LZW-1000; too many models retired from lists to list.
- Feb 19, 2011 - Demoted Nexus Value 430 to recommended
- Sept 26, 2010 - Added Corsair AX850, Antec TP750
- Aug 15, 2010 - Added Seasonic X-400 Fanless
- May 14, 2010 - Added Enermax Modu/Pro87+ 500W
- Jan 12, 2010 - Added Nexus NX-5000, Enermax Eco80+ 500W
and Winmate 130W DD-24AX DC-DC Module
- October 18, 2009 - Added Seasonic X-650.
- September 8, 2009 - Complete overhaul of ranking system
- Updated March 14, 2009 - Added Nexus Value 430 and Silverstone
- Updated Dec 20, 2008 - A slew of changes - Added Seasonic M12D-850W,
Sparkle Power SPI250EP, TX650W. SilverStone Decathlon DA700, Antec Signature
- Updated March 16, 2008 - Added Corsair TX650W.
- Updated March 2, 2008 - Added Seasonic MII-430 & SII-380,
Enermax Modu82+ 625; retired several now-discontinued models, and shuffled
rankings as necessary.
- Updated Aug 16, 2007 - Added Corsair VX450W
- Updated July 28, 2007 - Added two models to recommended
lists and retired a few older now-discontinued models
Dec 1, 2006
Until today, these recommended PSU lists were part of the Power Supply Fundamentals article. The lists and the fundamentals article have been separated for practical reasons. The single article was just getting too long and cumbersome. Separating them means it's a bit easier to update them more frequently. You're strongly urged to read Power Supply Fundamentals for a fuller understanding of the complexities around power supplies.
PRODUCTS CHANGE, often without notice. The information provided here is accurate at time of posting, but there is no way to guarantee that the samples we review are exactly the same as the ones you buy. There are just too many variables. Manufacturers often change or discontinue products, and change model names without notice. For a bigger sampling, please check the SPCR Forums for comments by owners/users.
GUIDE TO THE LISTS
The recommended PSUs are divided into three power categories:
- Up to 380W
- 381W to 650W
- Higher than 650W
There are two recommended ranks: Editor's Choice and SPCR Recommended. In previous iterations of this reference list, power supplies were ranked numerically on two scales of 1-10 for noise and quality. Now, the fine gradations have been put aside in preference for broader groupings. Products ranked as Editor's Choice are "best in class" for the various parameters we consider most important: Low noise, high efficiency, high build quality, good value, useful features (more or less in that order). As of February 2012, most EC products are 80 Plus Gold or higher efficiency. Those that are Recommended are just that: Recommended for low noise and good performance on the other parameters.
The rationale for the broader groupings is as follows: PSUs that measure within a couple of decibels of each other (especially at below typical ambient levels) at low and mid power loads cannot be authoritatively differentiated in the context of a real PC system. So many other factors come into play: The ambient noise and temperature, the components being powered, typical usage patterns of the operator, etc. A PSU ranked 9 in the old system might have performed identically to one rated 8.5, depending on conditions. In other words, the fine differentiations could only be identified under our lab test conditions, not necessarily in real use by typical users. Hence, those ranking were not always useful.
Now, when a product is an Editor's Choice, you know that it's exceptional in most of the parameters that we consider important. Finding one that's "perfect" or "ideal" should not be critical because you will get similar results with any of them. If it is important to choose a product that's "ideal" for you, we encourage you to read all the relevant reviews carefully and use your own judgement.
- The Date indicates when the model was added to the list.
- Order of listing: The products are ordered by increasing power rating, from top to bottom
- Items in bright yellow
cells are new entries in the particular list.
NOTES ON FANLESS PSUs
The ATX case design designates a certain portion of case cooling to the PSU; the ATX design specification assumes a PSU with a fan. Even though most of the fanless models listed here conform physically to ATX PSU standards, this does not mean they are suitable drop-in substitutes for any system. Due to the reduced airflow not only in the PSU but also through the system, thermal management is a serious consideration for successful use of fanless PSUs.
Ironically, the absence of a cooling fan in the PSU may require the addition of another case fan in the system. Fanless PSUs are generally more suitable for systems that run cooler and draw less power. Before opting for a fanless PSU, we urge you to read all the fanless PSU reviews and the associated forum discussions thoroughly. Plan for adequate system cooling and be prepared to experiment and fine-tune the system for thermal safety.
Keep in mind that we strongly weigh the acoustic performance at <200W when assessing the units for noise. This is because systems typically do not draw more than 200W, even at maximum power. Those seeking quiet systems should do everything possible to minimize power draw because low heat makes low noise much easier to achieve. For higher power PSUs, the noise performance >200W is considered as well, but the <200W is still weighted more heavily, because the vast majority of systems run at much less than full load >90% of the time. (Typically, the load is about at idle 90% of the time.)
In actual use, the difference between a fanless PSU and quiet fan cooled PSU is marginal, as the system using a fanless PSU still needs an exhaust fan which may sometimes have to spin slightly higher than the one in a similar system with a fan-cooled PSU. It is only when systems with the quietest fanned PSUs are pushed beyond ramp-up point of their fan controller that they become significantly noisier than systems with fanless PSU. However, the fanless PSU system will be more stressed thermally unless it has airflow from case fans in which case, their acoustic advantage shrinks again.
REAL TIME PRICING information on the products can be found using the SPCR Shopping Engine (in the left column, or just click the link).
* * *
SPCR EDITOR'S CHOICE POWER SUPPLIES
| Up to 380W
|| The picoPSU is tiny
70 of them fit inside the casing of a normal ATX power supply. Its footprint
is that of a 20-pin ATX connector. It provides regulated +5V, +3.3V and
+5VSB lines. It passes +12V from an external AC/DC power brick, which can
be fanless. There are several models, rated for up to 150W. Perfect for
silent mini PC projects. Main weakness is reliance on power brick for 12V
line regulation (except for more expensive in-car version.) Reviewed.
Does not include AC/DC adapter, $30~$40. Aug 14/06
DD-24AX DC-DC Module
||Fanless high efficiency DC-DC converter
for use with 18~28V AC-DC adapter, best for advanced PC hobbyists and silencers.
An alternative to the picoPSU. Added Jan 12/10. Review
powerful small form factor (SFX) PSU with Seasonic's excellent fan controller,
slightly marred by a mediocre fan. Reviewed.
|381 to 650W
X-400 Fanless (SS-400FL)
||A most impressive 80 Plus Gold efficient
PSU, fanless or fanned. Stellar electrical performance, extremely sturdy
and well-executed build, all-detachable cables delightfully user-friendly,
and tough under extreme heat over long hours of excessive load. Along with Kingwin STR-500, best
fanless PSU, more than just an X-series PSU without a fan. Silence <500W, with a trace of electronic noise at full power. The fanless X-460 is similarly recommended. August 13/10
||Gold 80 Plus efficiency
matches Seasonic X series. The 500W models are the among most efficient
ATX12V PSUs with a sensible power rating, with excellent noise/power curve.
||Fanless 80 Plus Platinum model with maximum 93% efficiency. Excellent electrical performance. Silent below 500W with trace of electronic noise at full power. Fanless PC enthusiasts can choose between this one and Seasonic X models. Added Feb 2012.
|Kingwin LZW-550 Platinum
||80 Plus Platinum model with maximum 93% efficiency. Silent below 500W with no fan movement, super quiet even at full load. The enitre line seems worthy. Added Feb 2012.
||First 80 Plus Gold
PSU on market with superb performance, totally modular cabling with patented DC/DC
converter + output connector PCB offers fanless operation at lower loads
and extremely quiet fan-cooled operation at mid-to-high power levels, with
>90% efficiency at mid-power levels. Entire X-series is worthy. Oct 18/09.
||Extension of great 80 Plus Gold X-series design into KW model. >90% efficiency. Excellent build quality, completely modular cabling. Silent below 500W, as fan does not spin; very quiet to ~700W. First ever incidence of a PSU with NO electronic noise. 1250W model also available. Added Feb 2012.
|Kingwin LZW-1000 Platinum
||80 Plus Platinum model with maximum 94% efficiency. Silent below 500W with no fan movement, super quiet at 700W and just 25 dBA even at 1000W! Excellent electrical performance. Like Seasonic X1050, NO electronic noise, though the physical presentation is a step down. Easy to believe that the other models in the LZW series share the same properties as the 550 and the 1000. Added Feb 2012.
||80 Plus Gold model made by Seasonic
based on the X-series. Same great electrical performance. Only difference
from X-series seems to be straight voltage control fan instead of PWM. Totally
modular cabling with patented DC/DC converter + output connector PCB offers
fanless operation at lower loads and extremely quiet fan-cooled operation
at mid-to-high power levels. Dramatically increased quiet power range in
thermally advanced case. The rest of the AX range seem to share the same basic characteristics, and Seasonic X-series lineage. Sept 26/2010.
||An innovative PSU
with 120mm in-line fan only compatible with four large Antec cases, the
CP-850 is just about as quiet as the Nexus Value 430 at lower power, stays
extremely quiet and cool in those cases to >600W, with exactingly clean,
regulated voltages lines at a price that's a pittance for such quiet, abundant,
performance. Relatively modest 85% efficiency (in 2012) for an Editor's Choice. CP-1000 not tested but offers similar performance. Sept 08/09
* * *
|Caution: Not Brothers Under Their Skin
When it comes to the noise they make, PSUs of the same brand, even of the same series, are not that closely related sometimes. While some PSU brands are pretty consistently quiet (Seasonic is a good example), individual models still vary. Some brands are less consistent. This is especially true of brands whose power supplies are made for them by OEMs, often more than one at the same time, for the same or similar series. Which brands have their PSUs made by other companies? Why almost all of them all but three names on our recommended lists: Seasonic and Fortron-Source / Sparkle (closely related), who actually manufacture their own products. Enermax used to, but some of their products are now subcontracted out; we don't know what percentage or to who.
So be warned. Don't assume that since Super Quiet 500 received an Editor's Choice award, the same brand's Ultra Silent 1000 must be very quiet too. If we have not reviewed it, if it's not on these lists, it's best not to assume. At least inquire in the forums. SPCR does not make assessments of products without examining them, and we generally choose not to review products that don't meet our minimum requirements for "quiet". The reviews take a great deal of time and effort, and we prefer to save it for better products. So... sometimes "holes" in our recommendations of products in a series may exist because those models simply did not make the grade.
* * *
SPCR RECOMMENDED POWER SUPPLIES
| Up to 380W
||Very quiet 200W with sleeve-bearing
fan in smaller case (SFX form factor) for Flex-ATX case, smart S2FC fan
control for minimum noise. P4 12V connector. Good for custom small form
factor systems (used in Breadbox
PC) and as replacement for eMachine, HP, and other OEM PCs. 9/02.
|Sparkle Power SPI250EP
||80 Plus means 80% efficiency even
at a low 50W load. Decently quiet in stock form, it's a perfect 250W OEM
model for modders to silence even further for a low power, high efficiency
May be hard to find at any price. Dec19/08.
|The second generation S12 seems mostly
to be a refresh of the first, with only a few significant changes, including
incrementally higher efficiency. Seasonic's trademark fan control system
reamins just about the best in the business: Very quiet from idle to some
300W or higher, yet with good cooling when needed. Reviewed.
|381 to 650W
|Silentmaxx Fanless 400W MX460-PFL01
|A higher power version of the Fortron
Zen, sold under a different label. It exhibited similar characteristics
and higher output. Like the original, pretty solid and silent, but with a trqace of electronic noise at higher loads. Reviewed.
ATX12V power supply from silent component pioneer Nexus is a
quiet champ, offers unexceptional but yeoman-like performance. Efficiency isn't the best, and we've had a few reports of standby issues. Reviewed. Mar
||Modular cabling, high efficiency, excellent electrical
performance, and acoustics that are incrementally quieter than most of the
best. Pro 82+ offers same performance w/o detachable cables. Reviewed.
March 2/08. Caution: Some users report early fan noise
problems. Demoted from Editor's Choice due to plethora of higher efficiency competition with similar acoustics in Feb 2012.
excellent electrical performance, compact size, and acoustics that rank
with the best. Review
Added Jan 12/10.
|2nd gen of Seasonic modular cable
PSUs consists of only two models at the moment, the 430 and 500. They've
lost the secondary 60mm fan, which is a plus, but may still have higher
than usual turbulence noise at high load (compared to other Seasonics) due
to a plastic fan baffle. Still excellent noise and electronic performance.
650 (and 850)
two-board design for improved cooling with an 80mm in-line fan, superb build
and component quality, Antec's first collaboration with Delta Electronics
is one of the most interested PSU to come along in years. It's also highly
efficient and very quiet. Reviewed.
Dec 20/08. Note: The 850 was not reviewed, but we know
from hands-on experience that it has the same qualities as the 650. Demoted from Editor's Choice due to plethora of higher efficiency competition with similar acoustics in Feb 2012.
TruePower New TP750
|Virtually silent to ~250W load, pretty
quiet to near 400W, and better in a thermally advanced case. It's another
one made by Seasonic. Modular design with good 86% maximum efficiency, with
very good electrical performance and modest pricing. For those with lower
power needs, 650W and 550W models have the same heatsinks, so should have
the same noise/power curve. Sept 26/2010
|SilverStone Decathlon DA700
|It's quite quiet to about 300W load,
beyond which the fan ramps up to high speed quickly. A modular design with
good efficiency, our sample may have had a subtly damaged fan. Dec 20/08.
|Coolermaster Silent Pro M700W
||High efficiency, good build quility,
low noise at lower power, marred by too linear a fan controller. Still,
it can be easily integrated into a quiet system, getting louder only when
pushed to gaming power levels. Sept 09.
||Another one with a 135mm that very
quiet at low and mid loads even if a bit fast to ramp up as power load increaes.
Still very quiet at full and near full load. Sept 09.
Please go to the next page for the Retired Recommended PSUs.
Articles of Related Interest
Power Supply Fundamentals
Power Distribution within Six PCs
Desktop CPU Power Survey,
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