Corsair VX450W: Quiet Value PSU

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TESTING

For a fuller understanding of ATX power supplies, please read the reference article Power Supply Fundamentals & Recommended Units. 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 V.4. The testing system is a close simulation of a moderate airflow mid-tower PC optimized for low noise.

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 our testing loads the PSU to full output (even 600W!) 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 65W and 250W, 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 maximum power draw that an actual system can draw under worst-case conditions. Our most power-hungry Intel 670 (P4-3.8) processor rig with nVidia 6800GT video card drew ~214W DC 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 video card today could draw as much as another 60~100W, but the total still remains well under 400W in extrapolations of our real world measurements. As for high end dual video card gaming rigs... well, to be realistic, they have no place in silent computing today.

SPCR's high fidelity sound recording system was used to create MP3 sound files of this PSU. As with the setup for recording fans, the position of the mic was 3" from the exhaust vent at a 45° angle, outside the airflow turbulence area. The photo below shows the setup (a different PSU is being recorded). All other noise sources in the room were turned off while making the sound recordings.

INTERPRETING TEMPERATURE DATA

It important to keep in mind that 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

Two samples were tested. The results were virtually identical, with less than 1% variance for every parameter. One was picked at random to post results for, as neither could be said to be better or worse. Ambient conditions during testing were 23°C and 18 dBA. AC input was 119V, 60Hz.

Note that even though the VX450W has only one 12V line, two separate load banks were used for the 12V loading. The SPCR load tester does not have the capacity to load up 33A on a single 12V line. Hence the 12V1 and 12V2 columns.

OUTPUT, VOLTAGE REGULATION & EFFICIENCY: Corsair VX450W
DC Output Voltage (V) + Current (A)
Total DC Output
AC Input
Calculated Efficiency
+12V1
+12V2
+5V
+3.3V
-12V
+5VSB
12.20
0.97
12.20
0
5.05
0.97
3.26
0.93
0.1
0.1
21.5
35
61.3%
12.20
0.97
12.20
1.72
5.05
0.97
3.26
0.93
0.1
0.2
42.9
59
72.8%
12.20
1.89
12.20
1.72
5.05
1.94
3.26
1.79
0.2
0.4
64.1
81
79.1%
12.20
1.86
12.20
3.45
5.05
2.85
3.26
1.79
0.2
0.5
89.8
112
80.1%
12.20
4.77
12.20
4.96
5.05
2.85
3.32
3.58
0.2
0.6
150.4
182
82.6%
12.20
5.61
12.20
6.67
5.05
4.45
3.30
5.10
0.4
1.1
199.2
235
84.8%
12.10
8.43
12.10
6.65
4.98
6.98
3.30
7.17
0.4
1.4
252.5
303
83.3%
12.08
9.23
12.08
9.55
4.96
6.99
3.28
8.21
0.5
1.7
302.9
365
83.0%
12.08
10.91
12.08
11.12
4.95
7.84
3.26
9.06
0.6
2.0
351.4
427
82.3%
12.08
10.98
12.00
12.81
4.93
10.47
3.35
10.73
0.7
2.4
394.1
482
81.8%
12.08
12.90
11.93
14.11
4.91
12.71
3.32
12.78
0.7
2.5
451.0
563
80.1%
Crossload Test
11.65
16.55
11.65
16.00
5.15
0.98
3.27
0.9
.5
2.0
398.2
484
82.3%
+12V Ripple (peak-to-peak): 18mV @ 90W ~ 39mV @ 451W (max)
+5V Ripple (peak-to-peak): 15mV @ 90W ~ 18mV @ 451W (max)
+3.3V Ripple (peak-to-peak): 9mV @ 90W ~ 12mV @ 451W (max)
NOTE: The current and voltage for -12V and +5VSB lines is not measured but based on switch settings of the DBS-2100 PS Loader. It is a tiny portion of the total, and potential errors arising from inaccuracies on these lines is <1W.


OTHER DATA SUMMARY: Corsair VX450W
DC Output (W)
21.5
42.9
64.1
89.8
150.4
199.2
252.5
302.9
351.4
394.1
451.0
Intake Temp (°C)
23
23
24
25
27
28
29
31
33
33
33
Exhaust Temp (°C)
26
26
28
32
36
39
43
45
46
49
49
Temp Rise (°C)
3
3
4
7
9
11
14
14
13
16
16
Fan Voltage (V)
4.06
4.06
4.06
4.06
4.08
4.10
4.84
5.80
7.70
9.52
11.1
SPL (dBA@1m)
21
21
21
21
21
21
22
26
35
44
50
Power Factor
0.94
0.99
1.00
1.00
0.99
0.99
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
AC Power in Standby: 0.5W / 0.13 PF
AC Power with No Load, PSU power On: 11.6W / 0.81 PF
NOTE: The ambient room temperature during testing can vary a few degrees from review to review. Please take this into account when comparing PSU test data.

 

ANALYSIS

1. EFFICIENCY was excellent across the board. Even at the super low output load of just 21,5W, it was a surprisingly high 61%. This compares favorably with the HX620W's 49.5% efficiency at the same power load. By ~40W, efficiency had reached 73%. The benchmark 80% efficiency was seen at 90W output, but as the 64W load showed 79.1%, it's possible that the 80% mark was reached as low as 70 or 75W. The peak of ~85% was centered at about 200W, and >80% efficiency was maintained to full rated 450W output. Both samples could have qualified for 80 Plus (although neither have official 80 Plus certification).

2. VOLTAGE REGULATION was excellent. At virtually all loads, all the voltages were just about dead on, within a minuscule -0.1V and +0.2V range. The worst voltage drop of 0.35V on the 12V line occurred during the extreme crossloading test. This represents a drop of 2.9%, which excellent for the very worst single variance, as up to 5% (0.6V) is allowed.

3. RIPPLE (measured peak-to-peak) fell well within the limits specified by the ATX standards. The highest ripple occurred at full load, where it reached 39mv on the 12V lines. To put that in perspective, the ATX12V requires +12V ripple to be below 120 mV, and below 50mV on the +5V and +3.3V.

4. POWER FACTOR was excellent thanks to the active power factor correction circuit, staying at or very close to the theoretical maximum of 1.0.

5. LOW LOAD PERFORMANCE

Standby and no-load performance were both reasonably efficient, with standby coming in well under one watt, and no-load at 11.6W and 15.5W for the two samples. Neither sample had any issues starting up with no load at all.

6. LOW AC VOLTAGE PERFORMANCE

The power supply was set to 351W load with 120VAC through the hefty variac in the lab. The variac was then dialed 10V lower every 10 minutes. The VX450X is rated for operation 90~260VAC, a wider range than the usual 100~240VAC. We pushed it down to 80VAC. We also checked the efficiency at 240VAC input for the sake of readers in the 220~250VAC world.

Low VAC Test: Corsair VX450W @ 351W Output
VAC
AC Current
AC Power
Efficiency
244V
1.73A
410W
85.6%
120V
3.56A
426W
82.4%
110V
3.88A
430W
81.6%
100V
4.24A
432W
81.2%
90V
4.80A
437W
80.3%
80V
5.43A
443W
79.2%

The VX450W stood up to the drops in AC voltage admirably, even when operating at 80VAC. Neither voltage regulation nor ripple changed measurably during the test, and efficiency dropped only marginally. At 244VAC, efficiency improved at the 351W load to 86.2% (from 82.4% for 120VAC). That's a 3.2% advantage compared to the 120VAC input.



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