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Antec NeoPower 480 PSU

July 12, 2004 by Mike Chin

Product
Antec NeoPower 480

ATX12V v2.0 power supply
Manufacturer
Antec Inc.
MSRP
US$149; street price will probably be lower

Antec has never been timid when it comes to self-promotion. Their marketing team managed to suggest a tongue-in-cheek association between an aluminum case and jet fighter planes, promised that using their case will induce drooling envy among your friends, and in a current ad that's running in SPCR, makes a connection between your snoring girlfriend and a quiet computer.

What they've done this time is to name a power supply after pop cinema culture's most recent futuristic savior icon. NeoPower 480: Is it The One?



Light-colored text on monitor-green: Does it look familiar?



More Matrix-inspired graphics on the back of the box.

Aside from the obvious Matrix / Neo references, what's different with this new product from the biggest retail brand for cases and PSUs? In short, quite a lot:

  • First retail PSU with 120mm fan for Antec.
  • First retail PSU with ActivePFC for Antec.
  • First retail PSU with ATX12V v2.0 compliance for Antec.
  • First retail PSU with detachable, customizable peripheral output cables — for any brand, as far as I know.

The sharp-eyed will have noticed the funny terminations on the PSU in the box photo above. Let's jump straight into the heart of the matter and and look at what they are. First an overview shot:



Yes, those are output terminals.


Only the 2x12V, fan speed monitor and main 24-pin ATX connectors are on unremoveable cables.



The output terminals: 4 for peripherals and 1 for fans only.



The exhaust end: Very unrestricted airflow grill and no 110/220VAC switch.

The concept behind the detachable output cables is simple:

  • Use only the cables / connectors you need.
  • Minimize the wiring mess in the case for better airflow and presentation.
  • Allow users to customize connectors / cables as needed for their application.

It's an idea that has been discussed in the SPCR forums, and possibly implemented by a DIY go-getter somewhere. Now, here it is in neat, factory-manufactured form. The NeoPower will also be available in a lower power format, a 380W version. It is such an obvious benefit that you can't help think, It's the way PSUs should always have been! This kind of reaction is the mark of a Very Good Idea.

FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS

A product sheet was unavailable so this information is culled from the very comprehensive multilingual manual.

FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT

ATX12V V2.0 Intel PSU Guide compliance with 24-pin main connector

The latest standard, good for PCI Express compliance.

Advanced Cable Management System allows you to use only the output cables that you need to reduce clutter and improve airflow

The NeoPower's unique feature.
Fan Only output for thermal control of case fans by PSU Same clever feature found in the PSUs included with their quiet cases.
PSU Fan RPM sense output Common for high end PSUs.

Universal Input AC Voltage allows use anywhere in the world without worrying about a switch.

Nice, but more useful for inventory control than for users: PC users don't travel between different AC zones w/their ATX PCs.

Active PFC for >0.9 Power Factor, resulting in improved energy efficiency and reduced current load on AC delivery systems.

Definitely a plus. ALL PSUs should have APFC, especially higher power units.
Protections against Overvoltage, Undervoltage, Short-Circuit, Over-current, Overload, and Over-temperature
Pretty complete!

Safety / EMI Approvals: IEC, FCC-B, UL, CSA, EN certification

Generally, the more the better.

SPECIFICATIONS

Antec NeoPower 480 PSU Specifications
AC Input
100-240VAC ±10% @ 8A, 47~63 Hz
DC Line
+3.3V
+5V
+12V1*
+12V2
-12V
+5Vsb
Max Output
30A
38A
18A
16A
1A
2A
Min Load
0.3A
0.4A
0.4A
0.3A
0
0
Regulation
±3%
±3%
±3%
±3%
±5%
±5%
Ripple & Noise
50mV
50mV
120mV
120mV
120mV
50mV
Max Power
99W
190W
216W
192W
12W
10W
384W
460W
22W
* 12V1 line feeds only the main 2x12V connector


Other Antec NeoPower 480 Specifications
Ambient Operating Temperature 0 to +50°C
Power Efficiency 70% (min) at full and typical loads

60% (min) at light load

VISUAL ANALYSIS



Another view: There are no holes in the PSU casing except for those that you see here.



There's a lot in the box.

The items in the photo above are obvious enough: A manual, the PSU itself, AC cable, a bag of cables, and two little bags of extra connectors. The last couple items deserve a bit more attention however.



These are clip-and-lock connectors (2 Molex & 2 SATA) that can be added to existing cable sets.



Close-up of foolproof terminals on PSU: They only go in one way.

Most cables above are terminated with the 6-pin PSU plug on one end.

The tape measure at the bottom of the photo is extended to three feet.
1) 2 x 32" cable w/ 3 standard 4-pin power connectors
2) 32" cable w/ 2 SATA connectors
3) 20" cable w/ 3 standard 4-pin power connectors
4) 18" cable w/ 2-conductor 4-pin power connectors marked fan only
5) 24" cable w/ 6-pin PCI Express graphic card connector
6) Took desperate leap to escape from photoshoot; last seen on the run w/ 11)
7) 6" splitter cable w/ 4-pin connector to 2 floppy drive connectors
8) 24-pin to 20-pin ATX adapter
9) AC cord
10) The spare SATA and 4-pin standard connectors already detailed

The 6-pin connector adopted for the PSU output terminal appears sturdy and locks reasonably tightly, but somewhat less tightly than the 2x12V Aux power connector to the motherboard. Only 4 of the 6 terminals are actually used.

UNDER THE HOOD

As with all 120mm fan PSUs, heatsinks in the NeoPower 480 are short. They are also not very wide, whatever that observation is worth.



HS are no bigger than the ones in the 2-fan Antec PSUs.



The back panel is the only appropriate place to mount the output connectors.



Things are packed pretty tightly in there.



Antec's usual brand of fan. Rated at 0.38A, this one can probably move >60 CFM.

TEST RESULTS

For a complete rundown of testing equipment and procedures, please refer to the article SPCR's Revised PSU Testing System. It 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 actual output load, which is exactly the way it is in a real PC environment. But there is the added benefit of a precise 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 loads. It is, in general, a very demanding test, as the operating ambient temperature of the PSU often reaches 40°C or more at full power. This is impossible to achieve with an open test bench setup.

The testing was conducted in the "sound lab", a 20' x 10' x 8'(ceiling) carpeted den with heavy drapes across windows on one of the short walls. Acoustics are well damped.

Ambient conditions during testing were 22°C and 17 dBA, with input of 119VAC / 60 Hz measured at the AC outlet.

ANTEC NEOPOWER 480 TEST RESULTS
DC Output (W)
65
90
150
200
250
300
400
460
AC Input (W)
110
142
220
276
336
390
515
596
Efficiency
59%
63%
68%
72%
74%
77%
78%
77%
Intake Temp (°C)
27
27
31
32
32
33
35
38
PSU Exhaust (°C)
32
36
43
44
45
46
50
53
Fan Voltage
4.3
4.4
5.6
7.5
8.9
10
10.9
10.9
Noise (dBA/1m)
20
20
27
35
40
43
44
44
NOTE: The ambient room temperature during testing varies a few degrees from review to review. Please take this into account when comparing PSU test data.

1. VOLTAGE REGULATION was very good, within the tight ±3% claimed. Throughout the range of test power output levels, the range was as follows:

  • +12V: 11.88 ~ 12.28V
  • +5V: 4.86~ 5.11V
  • +3.3V: 3.21 ~ 3.38V

2. AC-to-DC Conversion EFFICIENCY was acceptable to excellent, varying more than most recent tested PSUs depending on power output. It was poor to mediocre at the

3. POWER OUTPUT: The unit ran with good stability at all output levels. The full 460W output was confirmed.

4. POWER FACTOR was excellent, always 0.98~0.99, regardless of power load. This is a much better result than the PF of 0.74 seen with the only other APFC PSU from Antec seen before, the one included with the Antec Aria SFF case.

5. FAN VOLTAGE / NOISE: It is very quiet at the ~4V start, subjectively and in terms of measured dBA. The fan voltage stays close to that level till approaching the 150W output or ~30°C intake temperature. The jump between 90W and 150W is just a bit over a volt, but the noise increase is 7 dBA/1m. It is plainly audible. Just another 1°C and 50W higher, and the noise level has hit 35 dBA, which is too loud in my opinion.

The fan has some minor chatter at very low speed, but is obscured beneath the whoosh of wind turbulence at higher speed. There was little or no high frequency whine from the electronics in this sample. (Coil noise is often the result of interactions between components, however, so the absence of this noise in the lab does not ensure its absence when the PSU is connected to various combinations of PC components.)

A CAUTION: The noise-to-power performance achieved here is specific to prevailing test temperatures and conditions. The test noise results represent performance with a real PC in a reasonably well-optimized "silent" case.

CONCLUSIONS

The Antec NeoPower 480 presents an interesting balance of features. It is a solid high power PSU, capable of powering the most power hungry components likely to be used in a desktop PC or workstation.

The NeoPower's Advanced Cable Management System, its unique selling proposition of using only the output cables that are needed, is certainly a welcome feature. The ease of cable management is wonderfully easy, and whatever added resistance is added to the cable is easily dealt with by the PSU's automatic voltage regulating circuitry. This feature will be considered very user-friendly by less experienced PC builders and those too rushed or impatient for cable-gami (as practiced by Ralf Hutter and his many followers).

At the lowest power levels, the NeoPower ranks among the quietest tested PSUs, but as power output moves into the low-middle range, the noise increases rather quickly to a much higher level. The 30 dBA/1m point we regard as the upper limit for the definition of quiet is reached at a relatively low (for its power rating) 150~200W in the modest 22°C test room temperature. Beyond that power level, it does not get that much louder, but then the point is moot; it is already too loud.

The AC/DC efficiency is surprising varied, from a low of 59% to a high of 78%. Its lowest efficiency is 27% lower than its highest; conversely, its highest efficiency is 32% higher than its lowest. The Active PFC works very well, maintaining PF at a very high 0.98.

The attention to details is very good, and the ATX12V V2.0 conformance for compatibility with the latest and greatest hardware is attractive. The Antec NeoPower 480 may not be The One for everybody, but it will please a lot of people.

Much thanks to Antec Inc. for this NeoPower 480 sample.

* * *

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