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Antec Neo HE 430 power supply

October 11, 2005 by Devon
Cooke

Product
Antec Neo HE 430

430W ATX12V 2.2 Power Supply
Manufacturer
Antec
Market Price
MRSP: US$110

POSTSCRIPT 2 ADDED on last page DEC 21, 2005: Incompatibilities!

The Antec Neo HE is the successor to the Antec NeoPower, one of the first PC
power supplies with detachable cables. While the Neo HE retains the detachable
cables, so many other aspects have changed that it can be considered a completely
new model. Antec has highlighted efficiency as a key selling point for the new
model; "HE" stands for high efficiency. This is in contrast to the
original NeoPower, which had rather poor efficiency in our testing
.

The Neo HE 430 sample tested here came installed as part of an Antec P150 case. This
sample is identical to the retail package version, as far as we know. The P150
case review by Ralf Hutter and Mike Chin was posted very recently.

PHYSICAL BASICS

The Neo HE 430 has a gunmetal gray finish and black trim that give it a utilitarian
appearance. There is a decided lack of bling that makes it quite attractive
to me personally.



A small vent on the side provides ventilation for a few heat-critical components.

The original NeoPower was the first Antec power supply to utilize a 120mm
fan. The Neo HE goes against the current trend and reverts to a single 80mm
fan with a "straight-through" airflow path. As a result, the Neo HE
may play less of a role in evacuating heat from the PC system. Since this style of power
supply exhausts less heat from the system, less airflow through
the power supply is needed to keep it cool, meaning a slower, quieter fan can
be used. This style of power supply is also a good candidate for an intake duct,
which can keep the PSU running cooler, thus making the internal fan less likely
to increase in speed.



A conventional 80mm fan design. The wire fan grill is quite unrestrictive,
and can be easily removed if necessary.

The rear panel of the power supply is typical of the straight-through design.
A standard wire fan grill is used. The absence of a voltage selection switch
confirms that the Neo HE is a universal input voltage model.



The intake is very unrestrictive.

The intake at the front of the power supply is extremely open, more so than
any other 80mm fan PSU we've seen. The cable ports are clustered in the lower
right corner, and take up perhaps a sixth of the total area.

FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS

Feature Highlights of the Antec Neo HE 430 (from Antec's
web site
)
FEATURE & BRIEF COMMENT
Highly efficient (up to 85%), one super-silent 80mm fan keeps
Neo HE cool; less than 18dBA noise level.
These all sound good on
paper...
Advanced Cable Management
System
improves internal airflow and reduces system clutter by allowing
you to use only the cables you need.
"Advanced Cable
Management System" is code for detachable cables.
Universal Input with Active PFC: Use anywhere in the world without
worrying about input voltages; Active PFC improves voltage stability and
delivers environmentally-friendlier power.
Active PFC is required
in the EU, and reduces the total VA load of the power supply on the mains.
This is relevant when choosing a UPS, which is usually rated and priced
by VA capacity.
Dedicated Power Circuitry: Delivers safer, more reliable output
to your system?s delicate components. Includes dedicated voltage
outputs, triple +12V output circuits, voltage feedback circuitry, and
tighter ±3% regulation for improved system stability.
Most good quality power
supplies are capable of 3% voltage tolerances, but few rate it this way.
In this case, the 3% rating comes from EPS12V, which recommends tighter tolerances than ATX12V.
ATX12V v2.2 compliant; backward compatible with all ATX12V systems. ATX12V 2.2 introduced
more stringent efficiency requirements, but if the "HE" lives
up to its name, this won't be a problem.
Three +12V output circuits
provide
maximum stable power for the CPU independently of the other
peripherals.
Good for dual-VGA SLI
/ CrossFire systems.
Accurate power rating allows Neo HE to deliver its full rated
power, 24 hours a day rated at 50ºC.
"Accurate" because most
power supplies run pretty hot under load — and many aren't rated to
do so.
PCI Express graphics
card power connector.
Almost standard issue
now...
Low-speed 80mm fan
delivers whisper-quiet cooling and ensures quiet operation by varying fan
speed in response to load and conditions.
"Low-speed"
usually means low-noise, but there are too many loud power supplies on the
market to take Antec's word for it...
SATA connectors
for your Serial ATA drives.
This one
is standard issue.
Industrial grade protection
circuitry
prevents damage resulting from short circuits (SCP), under
voltage protection (UVP), power overloads (OPP), excessive current (OCP)
and excessive voltages (OVP).
Generally, the more the
better. UVP and OPP are unusual.

Many of the Neo HE 430's more noteworthy features are required or recommended
by the EPS12V form factor, which is generally a little more stringent than the
standard ATX12V. The reason for this is that EPS12V is primarily a form factor
for servers and high-end workstations. Our 430W sample
is not EPS12V compliant, but the higher capacity models in the Neo He series
are, and some of the EPS12V features seem to have trickled down.

The two main EPS12V features are:

  • Three +12V rails (see the box below for what this means)
  • Tighter (±3%) voltage regulation

Designing a modular power supply with multiple +12V rails presents some unique
challenges: Which rail should supply which connector?

The +12V Aux connector is hardwired, and cannot be removed. It is powered by
12V2.

As for the other two 12V lines... The two leftmost
ports appear to be assigned to one rail, while the three rightmost are assigned to another. Why? This text in the manual implies it (even though it refers specifically to the 500 and 550):

"NOTE: For Neo HE 500 and Neo HE 550 only. When using dual graphic card systems (i.e. SLI), we recommend that the PCI connectors be attached as follows: one PCI connector to one of the first two 6-pin sockets and the second PCI connector to one of the next three sockets to the right."

All the +12V rails have the same shared maximum capacity. The "+12V1",
"+12V2", and "+12V3" are just labels assigned to the different
sources, there is no functional difference between them. The really important thing to remember is that the combined 12V current capacity at full power is the most important spec. As you will see later in our test results table, the 12V load used to achieve full power output was ~25A.



The most likely split between the +12V1 and +12V3 rails.

"INDEPENDENT" +12V RAILS

Exactly how "separate" the various +12V rails
are is a matter of ongoing confusion. "Separate" seems to imply
that the line voltage is generated and regulated independently of the
other rails, but, most of the time, this is not actually the case.

Understanding how the rails are separate requires understanding
why there are multiple rails in the first place. The following quotation
from the
EPS12V 2.9 specifications
provides a good explanation of their
purpose:

"System designs may require user access to energized areas of
the system. In these cases the power supply may be required to meet
regulatory 240VA energy limits for any power rail. Since the +12V rail
combined power exceeds 240VA it must be divided into separate channels
to meet this requirement. Each separate rail needs to be limited to
less than 20A for each +12V rail. The separate +12V rails do not necessarily
need to be independently regulated outputs. They can share a common
power conversion stage. The +12V rail is split into four rails. Refer
to section 6.4 for how the 12V rail is split between different output
connectors."

240VA protection is a form of over current protection (OCP) that
applies specifically to the +12V rail, since only the +12V rail has the
potential to draw this amount of power. Limiting the power draw to 240VA
effectively limits the maximum current to 20A, since the output voltage
is nominally fixed at +12V, and 240VA = 12V × 20A. Because some
exceptionally power hungry systems may require more than 240VA at a time,
power supply designers often use different OCP circuits for different
connectors that draw from the +12V power source.

What this means is that "separate" +12V rails have separate
protection circuits; it does not mean they are regulated independently.
A power supply with separate +12V rails is should be capable of delivering
up to the 20A limit imposed by the OCP circuit on each rail. Typically,
it cannot deliver this amount of current on each rail simultaneously.

More information about independent +12V rails can be found in this
sticky thread in the SPCR forums
.

The required voltage regulation for EPS12V is identical to ATX12V: ±5%
for the main voltage rails. EPS12V recommended regulation calls for -3% / +5%. The Neo HE claims a bi better, ±3%.

The ±5% regulation required by ATX12V is perfectly adequate for running a system
at stock speeds; voltage regulation is mostly an issue when the specified voltages
of the system are being tested — or exceeded — by overvolting or undervolting.
In these cases, voltage regulation becomes more important, since any spikes
or valleys in the supplied voltage may push the system into unstable territory.
A better regulated power supply should be more stable under these extreme conditions.

The Neo HE should theoretically be a good choice for users who are tinkering
with the voltages in their system. I say "theoretically" because even though Antec specifies ±3% regulation, it does not mean that other power supplies are not also capable of this level of performance. There are many power
supplies we've tested that easily maintain ±3% regulation up to quite
high power output.

OUTPUT SPECIFICATIONS



The majority of the power is available on the +12V rails; the +3.3V and +5V
rails are rated lower than usual.

The majority of the output capacity is available on the +12V rails. This closely
matches the power distribution
of the powerful systems that we tested recently
. In contrast, the +3.3V rail and especially the +5V rail are rated lower than
most other power supplies, as per the latest ATX12V 2.x standard. One drawback
is that the Neo HE is not appropriate for systems older than a couple of years.

The Neo HE 430 is rated for 430W continuous output at 50°C,
which bodes well for stability. Some companies artificially inflate the "capacity"
of their power supplies by quoting the peak capacity, which cannot
be sustained indefinitely. Another, more subtle, method for increasing the apparent
capacity is to specify the output at an artificially low ambient temperature,
often around 25°C. Because power supplies become less efficient as temperature
rises, a power supply that is rated at 25°C will not be able to deliver
maximum power output in normal operating temperature. In our test simulation
box, a continuous 430W load typically produces an internal case (intake) temperature
of 35~40°C depending on the ambient room temperature.

INSIDE THE NEO HE

As with most power supplies, two aluminum heatsinks dissipate the heat generated
by the power conversion process. Most of the airflow should be drawn between
the two heatsinks — directly across the main transformer. The heatsinks
are well chosen for the straight-through airflow path.



Two chunky aluminum heatsinks flank the main transformer, creating an airflow
channel around it.

A small amount of air will be drawn along the edge of the power supply, where
heat-sensitive coils are nestled under the fins of the heatsink. An additional,
smaller heatsink has been affixed to a MOSFET, and a vent in the casing provides
additional airflow around these components.



A few heat critical components are located along the side of the power supply.

The rectangular "hole" in the plastic insulation corresponds to the position
of a vent in the casing.

Very little airflow can be expected to pass along the other side of the power
supply as the fan is not aligned to do so. Fortunately, much of this space is
occupied by wires, which do not require cooling.



Mostly wires on this side.

CABLES AND CONNECTORS

The Neo HE came with a total of seven cable sets, all sleeved in flexible black
mesh. All but the main ATX connector and the Auxiliary 12V connector are detachable.

  • 19" cable for the main 20+4-pin ATX connector
  • 20" cable for the 4-pin Auxiliary 12V connector
  • 23" cable with one PCI-e connector
  • 2 x 29" cable with three 4-pin IDE drive connectors
  • 2 x 30" cable with two SATA drive connectors
  • 6" Molex-to-floppy adapter (with two floppy headers)

The five detachable cable sets came packaged together in a tidy plastic packet.
All the cables terminate in a 6-pin connector that can be plugged into any of
the five output ports on the power supply. On close inspection, this connector
is identical in shape and size to a PCIe connector, but the pin assignment is
different. This could easily cause confusion for a first time user, as the either
end of the PCIe connector will fit in the power supply, but only one end provides
the correct electrical connection. There is some potential for electrical damage
to the power supply or the VGA card if the power supply is turned on when the
connector is installed backwards.

Antec points this out in the manual, but it's quite easy to miss if you're
like me and don't read instructions. Apart from actually looking at the pin
configuration, the only indication that the two ends are not identical is the
"PCIe" marking on the connector that is meant to plug into the VGA
card. Because the potential for a costly mistake here is quite high, it's probably
a good idea to double and triple check that the connector is correctly installed
before powering up the system for the first time.



All cable sets are detachable except for the main ATX connector and the +12V
Auxiliary connector.

Both the number of connectors and the length of the cables should be enough
for just about any system. There are a total of four SATA and six IDE connectors
— more than enough for a 430W system. A Molex-to-Floppy adapter provides
legacy support for people who still use floppy drives. Because both connectors
plug into the same source, the short length of the adapter could become an issue
if two floppy headers are needed in different places, for example, a PCI sound
card and a fan controller. This is hardly a common situation though, and extra
adapters are readily available through Antec and its resellers.



Cable lengths are generous, and connectors are numerous.

TEST RESULTS

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
the article SPCR's PSU Test Platform V.3. It is a close simulation of a moderate airflow mid-tower
PC optimized for low noise, recently revised and updated for improved accuracy and reliability.

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.

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 powerful Intel 670 (P4-3.8) processor rig with nVidia
6800GT vidcard 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 SLI could
draw as much as another 100W, perhaps more, but the total still remains well
under 400W in extrapolations of our real world measurements.

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 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 PSU 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.

On to the test results...

Ambient conditions during testing were 21°C and 19 dBA, with an input of
120 VAC / 60 Hz measured at the AC outlet.

The output table below summarizes the output voltage and current for each output
level tested. Note that even though three +12V rails are specified for the Neo
HE, we only measured +12V output in two locations: The main ATX connector (+12V1)
and the +12V Auxiliary connector (+12V2).

OUTPUT & EFFICIENCY: Antec Neo HE 430











DC Output Voltage (V) + Current (A)

Total DC Output

AC Input

Calculated Efficiency
+12V1
+12V2
+5V
+3.3V
-12V
+5VSB

12.03

0.94

12.02

1.7

4.92

0.95

3.29

0.95

0.1A

0.2A

41.7W

62W

67.3%

12.02

1.87

12.01

1.68

4.92

1.89

3.28

2.76

0.1A

0.4A

64.2W

85W

75.5%

12.01

1.84

11.98

3.19

4.91

2.77

3.28

3.62

0.2A

0.5A

90.7W

119W

76.2%

11.99

3.68

11.94

4.79

4.90

4.50

3.27

5.67

0.3A

0.9A

150.0W

190W

79.0%

11.95

6.27

11.93

4.72

4.89

6.15

3.27

8.24

0.4A

1.2A

199.1W

256W

77.8%

11.93

7.38

11.86

7.73

4.88

6.21

3.26

9.93

0.5A

1.6A

256.4W

332W

77.2%

11.91

8.20

11.83

9.05

4.87

6.86

3.25

10.62

0.6A

1.7A

288.3W

380W

75.9%

11.85

13.45

11.76

11.50

4.86

11.00

3.23

17.00

0.8A

2.5A

425.1W

590W

72.0%
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


OTHER DATA SUMMARY: Antec Neo HE 430
DC Output (W)
41.7
64.2
90.7
150.0
199.1
256.4
288.3
425.1
Intake Temp (°C)
25
25
26
33
36
39
41
41
Exhaust Temp (°C)
31
30
32
38
41
43
45
47
Temp Rise (°C)
6
5
6
5
5
4
4
6
Fan Voltage
4.1
4.1
4.1
5.1
6.6
8.0
9.9
10.8
SPL ([email protected])
20
20
20
21
26
31
37
40
Power Factor
0.94
0.95
0.97
0.98
0.99
0.99
0.99
0.99
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. VOLTAGE REGULATION stayed within the specified ±3% rating.
At full load our +12V2 measurement was just shy of being 3% low. Note that even
though all the +12V lines are regulated together, the two +12V measurements
are not quite identical. This reflects the different points of measurement that
our test system requires. Strictly speaking, neither of the two measurements
is "correct", but we judge voltage regulation based on the worse of
the two measurements. In the lower output range where the PSU will be most heavily
used, all voltages were consistently about 1% below the nominal voltage. This
is very good performance.

2. EFFICIENCY was a little disappointing for a model that claims to
be high efficiency. The meassured efficiency peak of 79% is three percentage
points off the 82% claimed for 115VAC input. Because our methodology for testing
efficiency has just been revised, we do not yet have a large database of efficiency
data to compare our results to, but preliminary testing has turned up at number
of power supplies that peak above 80% efficiency. It would not be correct
to say that the Neo HE is inefficient, merely that it not as efficient
as Antec claims, and it is not quite in the top tier when it comes to efficiency.

3. POWER FACTOR was excellent thanks to the active power factor correction
circuit. Power factor quickly approached the theoretical maximum of 1.0, and
never dropped below 0.94.

4. TEMPERATURE AND COOLING

The temperature rise across the Neo HE was quite small, typically around 5-6°C, and it changed very little with load. This suggests that the fan controller did a good job of keeping the internals of the power supply cool without over-cooling.

5. FAN, FAN CONTROLLER and NOISE

At lower output levels, the Neo HE is one of the quietest power supplies we've
heard. The reported 20 [email protected] was actually so close to the ambient level in our lab
that it is difficult to judge whether it would measure less in a quieter room.
The fan is both quiet and smooth at this level.

The fan is an Adda
AD0812MB-A71GL
, a "medium speed" ball bearing fan designed specifically
for low noise. This is a surprising departure from their usual fan source, Dynatron.
The 80M Adda fan comes from the same family as the
120mm fan in the quiet Seasonic S12-500/600 power supplies
. Thanks to the
handy reference chart on Adda's web site, we determined that "MB" indicates
a medium speed, ball bearing fan and "GL" indicates a low noise design. Antec
claims that this fan was the result of extensive development work with Adda
that only recently bore fruit. Antec's product development manager says this
is a very special fan.

There is substance to these claims. The fan maintains its smooth character even when it is running close to full
speed, although it inevitably develops some motor whine as it spins faster.
As expected, it is far from quiet at full speed, measuring 40 [email protected] at the maximum 10.8V
supplied by the fan controller.

A smooth, quiet fan is a good starting point. What makes a truly quiet power supply is a quiet fan paired with an intelligent
fan speed controller that balances noise and cooling well. There are very few examples of such power supplies. The Neo HE 430 is one.

The fan voltage did not begin to increase until about 31°C intake temperature,
reached at around 150W output. Changes in fan speed were gradual and could not
be easily heard even when sudden changes in heat or output occurred. The power
supply became easily audible at around 36°C and became loud around 39°C
— at 250W output, which is unlikely to be reached except in hot, power-hungry
systems.

In an intelligently designed system of medium to high power, the Neo HE 430 is
unlikely to rise much above its low default noise level. Forcing the fan to
ramp up to the point where it becomes noisy would require an extremely powerful,
hot-running system, with at least one powerful VGA card. Given that very few
powerful VGA cards are quiet, it is unlikely that the Neo HE 430 will be
the main source of noise in any system.

MP3 Sound Recordings of Antec Neo HE 430

Antec
Neo HE 430 @

Antec
Neo HE 430 @ 150W (21 [email protected])

Antec
Neo HE 430 @ 200W (26 [email protected])

Antec
Neo HE 430 @ 250W (31 [email protected])

There was no need to make recordings at higher power levels; it's simply too loud.
Sound Recordings of PSU Comparatives

Seasonic
Tornado 400 @ 65W (19 dBA/1m)

Seasonic
S12-430 @ 150W (19 dBA/1m)

Enermax
Noisetaker 600W (2.0) @ 150W (27 dBA/1m)

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high
resolution studio quality digital recording system. The microphone was 3" from
the edge of the fan frame at a 45° angle, facing the intake side of the fan to
avoid direct wind noise. The ambient noise during all recordings was 18 dBA or
lower.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing the Nexus 92 fan reference recording and setting the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, tone controls or other effects should all be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system to get the most
valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to
the Fans
on page four of the article
SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

COMPARISON

For some time now, our standard for a quiet power supply has been the Seasonic
S12 series
, which combines
an excellent fan with an excellent fan controller. Both the fan and the fan
controller of the Neo HE are very good, so it is worthwhile comparing it directly
against the S12 to see just how good they are. The data in the
following table has been taken from the reviews for the S12-430
and the S12-500/600.
For the S12-430, the data for the most recent revision was used.

SPL Comparison (in [email protected]): Antec Neo HE vs. Seasonic
S12
Target Output Power
65W
90W
150W
200W
250W
300W
430W
Antec Neo HE 430

(Ambient 21°C/19 [email protected])
20
20
21
26
31
37
40
Seasonic S12-430

(Ambient 21°C/19 [email protected])
20
20
22
25
29
32
37
Seasonic S12-500

(Ambient 21°C/18 [email protected])
21
21
22
25
28
34
39

This comparison shows that, in terms of noise, these power supplies are
pretty close. At 200W output and lower (which encompasses the majority of systems), the measured
noise levels are virtually identical. The only trend that seems to distinguish
the Neo HE is that it may start out slightly quieter and then
ramp up a bit faster.

CONCLUSIONS

Ironically, the feature that initially caught our attention turned out to be
one of the weaker features of the Neo HE 430. In spite of the "HE"
in its name, it did not prove to be exceptionally efficient, although it is
quite good.

The best feature of the Neo HE turned out to be one that we didn't anticipate
at all: Quiet performance. The marketing material for the Neo HE allude
to "whisper-quiet cooling", but we've seen this claim way too often to even raise an eyebrow. For once, the claim is justified: At long last, Seasonic has
serious competition for the title of quietest fan-cooled PSU. The smoothness
of its Adda 80mm fan is unchallenged in recent memory; it is one of the smoothest
stock 80mm fans we've heard in any PSU. The Neo HE 430's claim of 18 [email protected]
is very close to the money, and our sample remained quiet to a fairly high power
load. It is the quietest 80mm fan PSU we've tested.

The noise performance alone is a good enough reason to recommend the Neo HE,
but it is attractive in many other ways. Many people will appreciate the convenience
of detachable cables. Its internal cooling is very good, as is the voltage regulation.
Toss active PFC and auto-adjusting AC input voltage into the mix, and you have a power
supply that looks like a winner. The Antec Neo HE 430 earns a strong
recommendation.

Much thanks to Antec
for the opportunity to examine this power supply.

Link to Antec P150 Mid Tower case review. (It comes with a Neo HE 430 PSU.)

* * *

POSTSCRIPT: A SECOND SAMPLE

October 20, 2005
by Mike Chin

A day after this review was posted, a representative from Antec asked whether we could take a look at a second sample. They were concerned about readers' reactions to the lower than claimed efficiency we reported for the first sample. To summarize, our results were substantially lower than they had obtained with numerous randomly chosen samples.

We've written often about how sample variance is the bugaboo of all product reviewers; obviously, it's an issue for the companies that provide samples of their products for review, too. Two hardly represents a big sampling, and the results may raise more question than they answer, but we decided to grant Antec's request. The sample arrive a few days ago, and we managed to squeeze this test into our schedule. Here are the efficiency results compared between the first and second samples.

ANTEC NEO HE 430 EFFICIENCY

Original Sample

Output (W)
41.7
64.2
90.7
150.0
199.1
256.4
288.3
425.1

Efficiency

67.3%
75.5%
76.2%
79.0%
77.8%
77.2%
75.9%
72.0%
Second Sample Output (W)
41.9
65.0
91.9
151.8
202.1
261.4
296.0
425.4

Efficiency
68.7%
74.7%
76.6%
80.3%
79.6%
79.0%
77.9%
75.3%

Difference
+0.7%
-0.8%
+0.4%
+1.3%
+1.8%
+1.8%
+2.0%
+3.3%

ANALYSIS

We obtained slightly higher efficiency results for the second sample, particularly at output loads above 150W. The differences seen up to 150W were under 1%, which is within the margin of error of our testing. At 150W output and above, the second sample reached slightly higher efficiency and maintained a slightly flatter efficiency curve all the way to maximum output. Its efficiency at higher load fell off less than the first simple did. Some of the difference was due to the output voltages dropping slightly less than with the original. In some cases, the unit simply delivered greater output for a given AC input, or required less AC input power for a given power output, especially at the top two output levels.

It's clear that the second sample does perform a touch better. But, there is not likely to be any difference in performance, stability or longevity between a system that employs the first sample and an identical system that employs the second. The higher output loads will be encountered in most systems only during peaks, and the first sample had no trouble delivering the power; it was just not as efficient in delivering power at higher levels.

One quibble we have with Antec's marketing of the Neo HE models is the bold claim on top of their list of features: Highly efficient (up to 85%). This claim may well be true for most samples when fed with 220~240VAC, but if these sample are at all representative, it is certainly not true in areas where the AC voltage 120V. We think the claim is too much of a stretch.

* * *

POSTSCRIPT 2: NeoHE INCOMPATIBILITIES

December 21, 2005
by Mike Chin

In the weeks following this review, it came to our attention via discussions in many forums (including SPCR's) that there was a compatibility issue, initially between some Asus nVidia nForce4 chipset motherboards and some NeoHE power supplies. There was also talk some other motherboards from other brands not working with the NeoHE and other PSU brands/models, and some talk of these motherboards not working with other PSU brands/models, also. There was also mention of some Asus P5 (Intel) series boards not working well with some NeoHeE samples. Incompatibilities with other Intel boards from other brands were also mentioned. There was even talk of damage to a few motherboards.

The most common scenario is that with the affected units, the motherboard powers up, but then shuts down within a minute or two. Sometimes the motherboard fails to boot. The symptoms appear to vary.

The discussions about these incompatibility issues ranged far and wide all over the web sites where the likely DIY enthusiast buyers of the NeoHE / P150 would wander. We watched and read in amazement, as we had no experience with any of these issues with any of the motherboards used with either of our two NeoHE 430 PSU samples initially. This changed in December.

In the first week of December, we obtained two Asus motherboards: A8N32-SLI Deluxe and A8N-SLI Premium. Both are high end Athlon 64 nF4 chipset socket 939 boards. They were used in two different system builds and worked fine with several power supplies on hand in the lab. Neither of these boards worked with the single NeoHE430 PSU on hand, however. We contacted Antec to report that we, too, seemed to have a bad sample. As mentioned, the original samples worked fine on several other motherboards in the lab, although none were nF4 models. The motherboards included socket 478, 775, 754 and 939 models using Intel, nVidia (NF3) and VIA chipsets.

Yesterday, we received two new NeoHE430 PSUs from Antec. We also received a 500W and a 550W model in the series. These are said to have been revised to eliminate all previous incompatibility problems. All these new samples worked normally on our two Asus boards.

Our new samples are identical in appearance to the original, both outside and inside, as far as we can tell. Antec tells us that in future, revised units will be diffentiated from the original version with some kind of tag or label. The NeoHE430 in the P150 case and the retail box NeoHE PSUs currently shipping from Antec's primary warehouse in the US (to distributors and dealers) are said to be the revised version. EU warehouses will soon have the revised ones as well. NeoHE supplies in the rest of the world are served directly from Antec's Hong Kong shipping center, and they have already been shipping the revised units for a couple of weeks.

Much of the NeoHE stock currently in the retail channels are from the original production run, however. Antec says a total recall is not justified, because the incompatibility only applies to some NeoHE power supplies with mostly Asus motherboards.

Antec advises customers to contact them directly should they have problems with a NeoHE power supply. They will ensure a speedy no-cost replacement.

* * *

A poll on NeoHE reliability has been started in the SPCR forums. If you own one, please report your experience there, whether good or bad.

These are serious lapses in reliability, as far as we can tell, and the consumer's risk of being exposed to them by buying an Antec NeoHE power supply is still quite high. Even though our own experience with NeoHE samples is limited and not really that bad, based on the overwhelming user feedback on web forums, including SPCR's, we have to issue a warning that you buy an Antec NeoHE at your risk at this time. Until it's clear that the problematic early production batch(es?) are gone from retail stocks, it's probably wise to avoid the NeoHE, especially if you plan on using an Asus motherboard. It's really unfortunate, as a working NeoHE is likely the best quiet 80mm fan retail PSU available today.

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.

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