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Verax 300W PSU

April 7, 2003 -- by Mike Chin

Product Verax 300 PSU
Manufacturer Verax F300PPFC-80KP
Supplier PC Silent (http://www.pcsilent.de/)
MSP EUR119 (~US$128)

Verax is a German company whose main claim to fame is its unique fan, designed expressly for minimal noise . The slogan next to a picture of its unique impeller on the cover of this PSU box reads "The Sound of Silence". So there's little question what Verax is trying to sell us: a very quiet, perhaps silent, power supply that utilizes one of their fans.

Among vendors of quiet, noise-reduced power supplies, Fortron / Source appears to be a favorite OEM manufacturer. Zalman, Nexus, Q-Technology and PC Power & Cooling models all appear to be made by Fortron. The Verax F300PPFC-80KP is yet another that falls into this list. It carries its credentials more plainly than the others. The sticker on the side of the PSU casing says it all:

It is a passive PFC unit, identical in electrical specifications to the Nexus NX3000. The Verax fan model used in the unit is clearly identified: 8025 1235-KP. This is a 12VDC 80 x 25 mm fan with an embedded thermistor speed control. One presumes the thermistor is buried inside the center, as it is not visible elsewhere.

Looking closely at the photos above and below, it is easy too see the unique shape of the blades and the streamlined shape of the center hub. It looks to expel the air in a more distinctly cylindrical pattern with a large hole in the center than is the case with typical fans.

The thermistor control is described as linear. That suggests a linear relationship between RPM and temperature. It also suggests that the PSU itself may have no thermal fan controller at all -- if the fan is equipped with thermal control, it seems redundant and possibly unpredictable to apply thermal control to the fan voltage feed from the PSU.

The maximum airflow of the unit is specified as 32 cubic meters per hour (against minimal impedance) according to one of the graphs on the fan spec sheet. A bit of calculations translates this to ~19 CFM (cubic feet per minute), which is very low for an 80mm fan.

The fan is mounted to the PSU casing with 4 dampening rubber grommets similar in design to the blue ones from E.A.R. Products.

  • A word of advice: If you buy this PSU, don't remove the fan! It is very difficult to put back on. I managed to get the fan back on with these grommets only after a long and arduous struggle and a litany of expletives.

Other than the fan, this unit appears to be a carbon copy of the Nexus NX3000, and of course, the Fortron FSP-300ATV (PF). The casing design foregoes the nicer fan wire grill used on some units, but still offers minimal airflow impedance. This also holds true for the generous slot grills on the intake side.

Internal heatsinks, side mounted transformer, and PCB circuit layout/design all look very similar if not identical to the Nexus NX3000.

Features

  • Very low noise level
  • Output over voltage protection
  • Short circuit protection on all output
  • Reset Table power shut down
  • Approved by:: TÜV, CSA, UL, NEMKO, FCC, CE
  • Internal 12 VDE fan
  • 100% burn-in under high ambient temperature (50C)
  • Vacuum-impregnated transformer
  • MTBF: 100K hours at 25C
  • 100% Hi-pot tested
  • Line input fuse protection

Specifications

  • Remote ON/OFF Control
  • Passive PFC
  • Temperature range:
    • operating 0C~50C
    • storage -20C~+65C
  • Temperature coefficient: 0.01% / C
  • Transient response: output voltage recovers in less than 1ms max. following a 25% load change
  • Dielectric withstand: input / output 1800VAC for 1 second, input to frame ground 1800 for 1 second
  • Humidity: 5~95% RH
  • Efficiency: 65% min. 70% typical, at full load
  • Power good signal: turn-on delay 100ms to 500ms
  • Overload protection: 150% max.
  • Inrush current: 60A cold, 80A warm at 264 VAC
  • Over voltage protection:
    • +5V : 6.5V(max.)
    • +3.3V : 4.6V(max.)
    • +12V : 15.5V(max.)

Outputs

AC Input
100~120 VAC / 200~240 VAC, 10 / 6A, 60 / 50Hz
DC Output
+3.3V
+5V
+12V
-12V
-5V
+5VSB
Load Regulation
-/+5%
-/+5%
-/+5%
-/+10%
-/+10%
-/+5%
Line Regulation
-/+1%
-/+1%
-/+1%
-/+2%
-/+2%
-/+1%
Ripple + Noise
50mV P-P
50mV P-P
120mV P-P
120mV P-P
100mV P-P
50mV PP
Min Current
0.3A
0.5A
0
0
0
0
Normal Current
14A
8.75A
4.2A
0.4A
0.15A
1.0A
Max Current
15/28A
30/21A
15A
1.0A
0.8A
2.0A
Max Power
200W
180W
12W
4W
2W

Connectors

There are five 4-pin Molex connectors and two floppy drive power connectors on three sets of 16" wires. Both the length and the number of connectors are modest but adequate. The main ATX and 12V connectors are on 20" wire sets. Plus there is the 6-pin 5 + 3.3V connector on another 20" wire set.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Parameters Tools Used
DC load on PSU DBS-2100 PSU load tester
Ambient temperature
Any number of thermometers
Fan voltages / DC line voltage regulation
Heath / Zenith SM-2320 multimeter
AC power
Kill-A-Watt Power Meter
Noise
Heath AD-1308 Real Time Spectrum Analyzer

The core PSU test tool on SilentPCReview's test bench is the DBS-2100 load tester, made (in Taiwan by D-RAM Computer Company) specifically for testing computer power supplies. The machine consists of a large bank of high power precision resistors along with an extensive selection of switches on the front panel calibrated in Amps (current) and grouped into the 5 voltage lines: +5, +12, -12V, +3.3, -5, +5SR. Leads from the PSU connect into the front panel. It is shown above with leads from a PSU plugged in.

To ensure safe current delivery, the DC output connector closest to the PSU on each set of leads is connected to the load tester. This ensures that the current is distributed to as many short leads as possible. When pushing a PSU to its full output, the heat generated in the wires and connectors can be an issue.

The PSU is tested at 4 DC output power levels, in the following sequence:

  1. 65W: Established as a typical power draw for most PCs at idle or light general use. (This is a NEW power level.)
  2. 90W: Established previously as a typical max power draw of a mid-range desktop PC.
  3. 150W: Usually the 50% point for a 300W model.
  4. Maximum: The rated maximum power of the PSU.

Care is taken to ensure that the load on each of the voltage lines does not exceed the ratings for the tested unit. The PSU is left running ~10 minutes at each power level before measurements are made.

The DBS-2100 is equipped with 2 individually fused AC outlets and 4 exhaust fans on the back panel. A bypass switch toggles the fans on / off so that noise measurements can be made. The resistors get very hot under high loads.

Kill-A-Watt AC Power Meter is plugged into the AC outlet on the side of the DBS-2100 in the above picture. The AC power draw of the PSU is measured at each of the 4 power loads. The Kill-A-Watt is used to measure:

Efficiency (in AC-to-DC conversion) at each power level. This is the efficiency figure provided by PSU makers. It is obtained by dividing the DC power output (as set on DBS-2100 load) by the AC power consumption. Efficiency varies with load, and also temperature. PSUs seem to run more efficiently when warmer, up to a point. Generally, they are least efficient at low power and most efficient at 40~80%. The main advantage of high efficiency is that less power is wasted as heat -- this means a cooler PSU that requires less airflow to maintain safe operating temps: read - quieter.

Power Factor (PF). This measurement can be read directly off the Kill-A-Watt. In simple terms, it tell us how much AC power is lost to harmonics (unnecessary electromagnetic energy) while driving the PSU. PF is a property that varies somewhat depending on load. The ideal PF is 1.0. which means no AC power is lost. A PF of 0.5 means that to deliver 100W in AC to a PSU, your electric company actually uses 200W and this is most definitely shown in your electric bill.. 100W is lost or wasted. Active PF Correction (PFC) power supplies usually have a PF of >0.95. Passive PFC units usually run 0.6 - 0.8. Non-PFC units usually measure 0.5-0.7.

PF is not significant in terms of noise, heat or performance for a PC, but it is very relevant to real electricity consumption and energy conservation. Here is a simple illustration of worst and best case scenarios based on real tests I conducted on real PSUs (not published): A non-PFC low efficiency PSU vs an Active-PFC high-efficiency PSU.

Parameters
64% efficiency/ 0.5 PF PSU
78% efficiency / 0.99 PF PSU
DC power delivered
300W
300W
AC power delivered
467W
385W
Lost as heat in AC/DC conversion
167W
85W
Total AC power used*
934W
388W
AC power lost to harmonics
467W
3W
Total power wasted
634W
88W

*Total AC power used: This is what your electric bill would be based on, assuming you drove your PSU to 300W steady DC output, which is unlikely.

As you can see, the differences are remarkable, especially the bottom figures. If you are running large numbers of PCs, there's absolutely no question of the benefits of high PFC and, to a lesser degree, high efficiency.

The Heath / Zenith SM-2320 multimeter, a fairly standard unit, is used to measure fan output voltages and the line voltages of the PSU output. The latter is done via the terminal pin on the front panel, above the connections for the DC outputs from the PSU.

The Test Lab is a spare kitchen measuring 12 by 10 feet, with an 8 foot ceiling and vinyl tile floors. The acoustics are very lively and allows even very soft noises to be heard easily. The PSU under test is placed on a piece of soft foam to prevent transfer of vibrations to the table top. Temperature in the lab is usually 20C or slightly lower. This is something of a problem as PSUs usually operate in environments that easily reach 45C. Sited next to or above the CPU, the PSU is always subject to external heat. This brings us to the next topic...

In-case Thermal Simulation

The solution is a 100W AC bulb in an empty case with the PSU mounted normally. The distance between the bottom of the PSU and the top of the bulb is about 7 inches. All the case back panel holes are blocked with duct tape. The only significant exit for the hot air in the closed case is the PSU, which is then subject to a fair amount of heat, probably a bit more than would be seen by a PSU in a real case because there are usually other air exits. The bottom front panel case intake hole is very large. In testing, the front of the case is moved so it hangs over the edge of desk, over free air, to ensure good fresh convection airflow. There are no case fans.

A thermistor taped to the bottom of the PSU close to its right front is used to monitor temperature. It's the little blue nub hanging down off the black wire in the photo above. Its temperature is somewhat affected by the airflow of the PSU fans but not directly in the airflow path.

The simulation means the PSU must cope with the 100W of heat generated by the light bulb plus whatever heat it generates within itself. It is a good simulation when the PSU is actually putting out >100W of DC voltage, although in real-life systems, there would be other air exhausts paths, resulting in a bit lower case temperature. So call it a very demanding test.

No PSU Temperature Measurements are done. Some previous PSU reviews here at SPCR featured temp measurements, meant to provide a more complete picture of performance. Discussions in the SPCR forums have convinced me that there are far too many variables at play to make internal PSU temperature a reliable gauge of... anything. There are way too many ways to interpret the numbers. Check this thread for the full discussion. The most critical parameter for thermal performance is AC-to-DC conversion efficiency. If efficiency is high, the size of the heatsinks and vent openings large, and the fan can blow a lot of air at full power, then excellent cooling is ensured.

Noise Measurements

The Heath AD-1308 is a portable half-octave Real Time Spectrum Analyzer with sound level meter (SLM) functions. Below 40 dBA, its accuracy is poor, limited to 3 dB increments, down to 23 dBA. Some 15 years old, this LED-based unit has long since been displaced by digital devices with better interfaces to PCs. The "A" weighting was used; it most closely approximates the frequency response characteristics of human hearing.

The microphone on the sound meter is positioned within an inch to the side of the PSU fan exhaust to avoid fan turbulence in the microphone itself. The dBA obtained here cannot be compared to any other measurements due to the lack of adherence to a repeatable standard and the uncontrolled reflective environment.

The noise measurements are always accompanied by descriptions of subjective perceptions. Without these, the measurements, which are not that reliable, provide only part of the picture.

TEST RESULTS

Measurements were made at 4 power levels: 65W, 90W, 150W and full power. The unit was allowed to run for at least 10 minutes at each power level before measurements were taken. The room temperature was 18C.

LOAD
65 (W)
VR
90 (W)
VR
150 (W)
VR
300 (W)
VR
+5V
20
2%
20
2%
40
2%
80
2%
+12V
24
2%
36
2%
60
2%
144
2%
-12V
3.6
2%
3.6
2%
4.8
2%
4.8
2%
+3.3V
13
2%
26.4
2%
39
2%
65
2%
-5V
1
2%
2
2%
2
2%
2
2%
+5VSR
2
2%
2
2%
4
2%
4
2%
AC Power
97W
130
202
406
Efficiency
67.0%
69.2%
74.2%
73.9%
Fan Voltage
7V
11.7V
11.8V
11.8V
Noise (@ 1 cm)
38 dBA
44 dBA
48 dBA
57 dBA
Case Temperature
30C
32C
33C
31C
Power Factor
0.62
0.64
0.67
0.68

VR = Voltage regulation was excellent, dead-on at almost all loads, on all lines. The worst case was a negligible 11.9V for the 12V line at 300W. All others were within 0.1V -- better than 2%.

Efficiency, at 67% to 74%, was generally higher than specified. This sample clearly fared better than the Nexus NX3000 reviewed earlier at 150W and 300W. The Nexus is based on the same Fortron platform. However, the 2~3% difference is within typical manufacturing variance; another pair of samples could well be be reversed in their efficiency.

Fan Voltage: It is evident that there is a thermistor in the PSU controlling the voltage to the fan. The fan voltage at a low 5.3V but climbed to about 7V before stabilizing at the low 65W load. A high 11.7V was reached after 10 minutes at the 90W load. This suggests that the thermistor fan controller circuit in this PSU is the stock Fortron version. (If so, with a "normal" 35-40 CFM fan, the standard Fortron would be LOUD even at modest power output levels.) It is a surprise that the thermal circuit was not removed given that the Verax fan itself has a self-contained thermistor speed controller.

Noise was measured within 1-2 cm (less than 1 inch) from the edge of the PSU fan exhaust, not in the airflow path. At the starting voltage of 5,3V, the noise is so low as to be inaudible beyond about 6 inches. There is no way I could measure this noise with any accuracy at all.

The quality of the Verax fan noise is different from any other fan I've listened to -- and I have listened to way too many. Rather than the hmmm or brrrrr from most fans, the Verax has more of a high frequency static-like quality, with very little low frequency content, considerably less low frequency noise than our reference Panaflo 80mm L fan. On the SLM, there is a peak centered around 10-12 KHz, and this correlates to the static-like high frequency noise I heard. It sounds like random static electronic noise.

As the fan speeds up, this noise becomes more steady, turning into something like a higher pitched (higher than usual) buzzing. At 300W, the noise is substantial, and there is some high pitch whine component that is not evident at lower power.

Case Temp (with the 100W bulb turned on) was 30C at 65W. The temperature rose to a maximum of 33C at the 150W level, but dropped to 31C at 300W when the fan was presumably spinning at full speed and thus providing more cooling of the case interior.

Power Factor was not notably high or low, ranging from 0.62 to 0.69 depending on load. The Nexus NX3000 measures almost exactly the same.

CONCLUSION

The Verax F300PPFC-80KP has

  • good air vents (even with a stamped fan grill);
  • wiring and connectors appropriate for desktop PCs;
  • stays very quiet to well beyond typical desktop PC power needs,
  • maintains very tight line regulation throughout the power range,
  • has high efficiency and good heatsinks for good cooling, and
  • survives 20 minutes of full power operation without duress.

At typical low/idle to mid levels, this Verax PSU actually sounds a wee bit quieter than the current low-noise champ on our Recommended PSU list, the Nexus NX3000. The difference is small, and may depend more on the particular sensitivity of your hearing at higher vs lower frequencies. While it makes less low frequency noise than most fans, the Verax fan's acoustic signature has a curious higher frequency static-like quality. At high power levels, it is not quiet, but this is true of all the the quiet PSUs.

The question here is not really one of quality (it is good) or noise (it is very quiet). It is one of value. The Nexus NX3000 sells in the US for US$75. This Verax, which is based on the same Fortron PSU, is currently sold by PC Silent for EU$119.

The Verax F300PPFC-80KP finds a high position on our Recommended Quiet PSU list with a reservation about price.

Our great thanks to PC Silent (http://www.pcsilent.de/) for their Herculean effort to provide the review samples, and their kind support.

* * * * *

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