X-650: Seasonic hits Gold

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TESTING

For a fuller understanding of ATX power supplies, please read the reference article Power Supply Fundamentals. 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 V4.1. The testing system is a close simulation of a moderate airflow mid-tower PC optimized for low noise.

Acoustic measurements are now performed in our anechoic chamber with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower, with a PC-based spectrum analyzer comprised of SpectraPLUS software with ACO Pacific microphone and M-Audio digital audio interfaces.

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 we test the PSU to full output 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 40W and 300W, 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 power draw of several actual systems under idle and worst-case conditions. Our most power-hungry overclocked 130W TDP processor rig with an ATI Radeon X1950XTX-512 graphics card drew ~256W DC peak 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 dual video cards today might draw as much as another 150~200W, but the total should remain under 500W in extrapolations of our real world measurements.

INTERPRETING TEMPERATURE DATA

It important to keep in mind that PSU 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

The ambient temperature was 21~23°, and the ambient noise level was 11 dBA.

OUTPUT, REGULATION & EFFICIENCY: Seasonic X-650
DC Output Voltage (V) + Current (A)
DC Output
AC Input
Calculated Efficiency
+12V1
+12V2
+5V
+3.3V
-12V
+5VSB
12.25
0.97
12.25
0
5.03
0.96
3.37
1.42
0.1
0.1
22
33
65.1%
12.25
0.97
12.25
1.72
5.03
1.93
3.37
1.42
0.1
0.1
43
55
77.3%
12.23
1.91
12.23
1.71
5.03
1.92
3.36
2.72
0.2
0.2
66
80
82.6%
12.22
1.87
12.22
3.39
5.02
2.84
3.36
2.56
0.3
0.3
92
106
86.6%
12.22
3.79
12.22
4.89
5.02
5.44
3.36
3.88
0.3
0.5
150
170
88.3%
12.19
5.67
12.19
6.55
5.01
5.34
3.36
5.21
0.3
0.7
199
219
90.8%
12.13
8.56
12.13
6.55
5.01
7.90
3.35
6.44
0.4
1.0
251
274
91.7%
12.17
9.47
12.17
9.49
4.98
9.61
3.35
7.56
0.4
1.0
302
329
91.7%
12.14
12.25
12.14
12.32
4.96
12.66
3.34
13.05
0.5
1.2
402
453
88.8%
12.13
14.83
12.13
15.40
4.93
14.44
3.35
14.18
0.5
1.2
501
564
88.9%
12.11
21.20
12.13
21.40
4.95
15.14
3.35
13.87
0.5
1.2
650
744
87.4%
Crossload Test
12.07
21.20
12.05
23.44
5.00
0.98
3.38
0.96
0.5
2.5
557
615
90.6%
+12V Ripple (peak-to-peak): <13mV @ <250W ~ 18mV @ 650W
+5V Ripple (peak-to-peak): <10mV @ <200W ~ 12mV @ 650W
+3.3V Ripple (peak-to-peak): 10mV @ <200W ~ 14mV @ 650W
NOTE: The current and voltage for -12V and +5VSB lines is not measured but based on switch settings. It is a tiny portion of the total, and errors arising from inaccuracies on these lines is <1W.

OTHER DATA SUMMARY: Seasonic X-650
DC Load (W)
22
43
66
92
150
199
251
302
402
501
650
Intake °C
21
21
23
24
30
35
34
32
35
38
42
Exhaust °C
22
22
25
29
35
39
39
39
43
46
56
Temp Rise °C
1
1
2
5
5
4
5
7
8
8
14
SPL (dBA @ 1m)
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
12
13
14
16
31
31
32
Power Factor
0.95
0.96
0.98
0.99
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
AC Power in Standby: 0.3W / 0.1 PF
AC Power with No Load, PSU power On: 7.2W / 0.70 PF
NOTE: The ambient room temperature during testing can vary a few degrees from review to review. Please take this into account when comparing our PSU test data.


1. EFFICIENCY This is a measure of AC-to-DC conversion efficiency. The ATX12V Power Supply Design Guide recommends 80% efficiency or better at all output power loads. 80% efficiency means that to deliver 80W DC output, a PSU draws 100W AC input, and 20W is lost as heat within the PSU. Higher efficiency is preferred for reduced energy consumption and cooler operation. It allows reduced cooling airflow, which translates to lower noise. The 80 Plus Gold standard requires 90% efficiency at 50% of rated load, and 87% efficiency at both 20% load and full rated load.

At the super low 20W load, efficiency was quite good at 65%. Efficiency rose quickly as the load was increased. 80% efficiency was reached around the 60W mark, broke 85% before 90W, and it crested 88% at 150W. It probably reached 87% at 130W (which is 20% of rated power). At 200~400W, the likely operational load for a typical system in which a 650W PSU would be installed, >90% efficiency was reached. With higher load, and higher operational temperature in the SPCR test box, efficiency dropped a bit, but still remained above 87% even at full power, at over 40°C operational temperature.

These are excellent results, as expected, the best efficiency results on any PSU tested thus far. Note that the 80 Plus testing is done at typical room temperature (18~28°C) while our test conditions feed the heat of the PSU output back into its operating ambient, which makes for a much hotter, more demanding high power load test.

2. VOLTAGE REGULATION refers to how stable the output voltages are under various load conditions. The ATX12V Power Supply Design Guide calls for the +12, +5V and +3.3V lines to be maintained within ±5%.

At all load levels, the critical 12V line was within 0.25V (~2%) of 12V, and even at the highest loads, it never dropped below 12V. This is excellent performance. The 3.3V regulation was within 0.07V, while the 5V line was off by 0.05V (2%) at most. The sample exceeded Seasonic's own stringent 3% spec for voltage regulation.

3. AC RIPPLE refers to unwanted "noise" artifacts in the DC output of a switching power supply. It's usually very high in frequency (in the order of 100s of kHz). The peak-to-peak value is measured. The ATX12V Guide allows up to 120mV (peak-to-peak) of AC ripple on the +12V line and 50mV on the +5V and +3.3V lines. Ripple on all the lines was excellent at all power levels, generally staying under 10mV through the lower half of the power range. Even at maximum power, the 12V ripple stayed under 20mV. It's the best ripple we've measured on any PSU test sample.

4. POWER FACTOR is ideal when it measures 1.0. In the most practical sense, PF is a measure of how "difficult" it is for the electric utility to deliver the AC power into your power supply. High PF reduces the AC current draw, which reduces stress on the electric wiring in your home (and elsewhere up the line). It also means you can do with a smaller, cheaper UPS backup; they are priced according to their VA (volt-ampere) rating. Power factor was very good for this model, running no lower than 0.96 at any point during normal load testing.

5. LOW LOAD TESTING revealed no problems starting at very low loads. Our sample had no issue starting up with no load, either, and the power draw was much lower than normal.

6. LOW & 240 VAC PERFORMANCE

The power supply was set to 500W load with 120VAC through the hefty variac in the lab. The variac was then dialed 10V lower every 5 minutes. This is to check the stability of the PSU under brownout conditions where the AC line voltage drops from the 110~120V norm. Most full-range input power supplies achieve higher efficiency with higher AC input voltage. SPCR's lab is equipped with a 240VAC line, which was used to check power supply efficiency for the benefit of those who live in 240VAC mains regions.

Various VAC Inputs: X-650 @ 500W Output
VAC
AC Power
Efficiency
244V
542W
92.3%
120V
563W
88.9%
100V
575W
86.9%

Efficiency improved around 3.4% with 244VAC input at this load. The sample passed the 100VAC minimum input without any issues. Neither voltage regulation nor ripple changed appreciably during the test.

7. TEMPERATURE & COOLING

Initially, we had misgivings about the cooling design in the X-650. Even with 80 Plus Gold efficiency, how could a single wee heatsink on the periphery of the fan's airflow path keep core components cool enough? Yet, testing proved our misgivings were unfounded. Cooling was very good, with °C temperature rise staying in single digits until maximum power. At 650W the temperature rise was still a modest 14°C. The intake temperature moved up/down somewhat during the long test session, dropping when the fan sped up a bit in response to a rise in load/temp, then rising again as heat built up with the next higher load.



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