Sparkle Power SPI220LE 80 Plus FlexATX PSU

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MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

Each of these recording start with 6~10 seconds of silence to let you hear the ambient sound of the room, followed by 10 seconds of the product's noise.

  • Sparkle Power SPI220LE at 40W output, 20 dBA@1m: One meter
  • Sparkle Power SPI220LE at 65W output, 21 dBA@1m: One meter
  • Sparkle Power SPI220LE at 90W output, 24 dBA@1m: One meter

Sound Recordings of PSU Comparatives

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

CONCLUSIONS

The Sparkle Power SPI220LE is the lowest capacity 80 Plus approved power supply we've tested thus far. Our sample meets the 80 Plus requirements, and it is 80% efficient even down to very low 40W load, which is better than almost all other PSUs.

Other parameters such as voltage regulation, power factor, ripple and low load performance were all fine. The low weight and small size adds one additional benefit: All things being equal, an electronic device with lower mass and size generally requires less energy and material resources to manufacture than a larger, heavier device. As 75% of the environmental impact of a PC (and hence its components) occurs during manufacturing and distribution before the user ever turns it on, this environmental benefit is probably more significant than higher efficiency. The SPI220LE is a decent all-in-one alternative to the more complex, multi-part picoPSU in terms of energy efficiency. The noise character precludes it from being viable for real quiet PC fans, however.

The small size of the Sparkle carries a stiff price for silent PC enthusiasts: A very small fan that cannot stay quiet once it spins up, along with a fan controller that's far too quick to make changes to fan speed. While the overall "loudness level" or SPL is modest, the quality of that noise is poor, being quite annoying the moment it spins up. This seems almost unavoidable in the form factor used; if a 40mm fan must be used, we see no way the power supply can be made significantly quieter. Such a small fan must spin at high speed to effect any real cooling in such tight quarters as found in the SPI220LE. We'd like to be proven wrong; perhaps there is a 40x15mm fan somewhere out there that can move enough air without the objectionable noise quality of this Delta. Still, for those who are not addicted to the concept of a silent computer, the noise of this PSU is probably not unacceptable, especially if it can be kept cool with good case airflow.

It must be admitted that as output power drops, the effect of improvements in efficiency becomes increasingly trivial. At 100W load, the difference between 80% and 65% efficiency is 29W, which most people would be happy to save. At 50W load the same efficiency difference translates to 14.5W, still not insignificant. At 20W load, where the SPI220E's efficiency was 73%, its advantage over the Corsair VX450's 61% efficiency was just 5.4W at the AC outlet. Some would say this difference is still worth seeking out, especially for a low power system that's meant to stay on most of the time. Others might shrug and say, at this point, other differences between the power supplies take precedence.

We applaud SPI's effort to offer an 80 Plus approved power supply with such a low rated power. It's nice to see any counterpoint to the kilowatt PSUs being churned out on the insane end of the market. We'd be even more delighted if the unit came reconfigured in a form factor such as ATX12V or SFX12V that would allow the use of at least an 80x25mm size fan... along with a better behaved thermal fan controller. (We hope SPI takes our hint!)

Much thanks to Sparkle Power International for this review sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
Power Supply Fundamentals
Recommended Power Supplies
Power Distribution within Six PCs
SPCR PSU Test Rig V.4
Corsair VX450W
Seasonic SS-300SFD 80 Plus: Little Big PSU

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