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At the beginning of the review we set out to test three major performance categories. Here's a quick rundown of those categorie and which power supplies performed the best in each.
With the ever increasing costs of energy, and rolling brownouts in major US centres last summer, the level of importance of Power Efficiency will vary among users. It should be noted however that the more effiicient a unit is, the less heat it creates from wasted energy which means a cooler overall system.
Not surprisingly the iGreen from Coolermaster was the most efficient among the units tested. Anything other than the unit marketed specifically for it's high efficiency finishing first would've been a big upset. What is surprising is how well the True Power 2.0 from Antec performed considering it's based on the 2.0 spec before newer efficiency requirements were introduced.
Other units also peforming well in this category were the Silverstone ST56F, the Coolermaster Real Power, and the NZXT Precise. Least efficient among all units tested were the two Thermaltake power supplies with the Pure Power 680 consuming an full 49% more energy at full load than the top performing iGreen.
In terms of overall stability none of the units tested performed badly. All kept well within acceptable range of the desired levels even when at full load.
That being said, the True Power 2.0 from Antec was absolutely rock solid across all rails with never more than a 0.4% variance from idle to full load. This type of performance from a 480W ATX 2.0 unit running a dual core/SLI system is very impressive indeed. The Antec Neo, the Thermaltake Purepower and the Coolermaster iGreen were also very good performers.
The only unit with variances averaging over 1.0% was the Precise from NZXT. This was particularly true on the 3.3V rail which had a 6.2% variance between idle and full load. That being said, it is again well withing acceptable bounds in terms of overall rail performance levels
Unfortunately the VPU coolers on our EVGA 7800GT CO video cards prevented us from getting load sound level, however from our test results it is quite easy to see that the Pure Power 680 from Thermaltake with its two 80mm fans is the loadest of all units. The two Antec units were the lowest noise producers in our testing with the rest ranging between 35 and 45 dBA (including ambient noise).
Looks as always is completely subjective. My personal preference is for a matte finish with fully sleeved cabling for improved airflow and black connectors. Others prefer the mirror finish look.
Units which had both a nice paintjob and fully sleeved cables include the Neo from Antec, , the Pure Power and TR2 units from Thermaltake and the iGreen from Coolermaster. At the complete other end of the spectrum is the True Power 2.0 from Antec. Both the Coolermaster Real Power and the NZXT Precise have 120mm blue LED exhuast fans for those that like the extra bling.
First off, honorable mentions go to both the Silverstone ST56F and the Coolermaster iGreen 430 units.
The Silverstone is just a solid performer all around. Though it never led in any of our tests, it was always in the top half. With both ATX 2.2 and EPS12V compliance the ST56F follows the Silverstone tradition of being a solid performer at a solid price.
The iGreen from Coolermaster was the most efficient of all units tested and looked pretty while doing it. The only big knock against this unit is its lack of dual PCI-E cabling, and an EPS12V 8-pin CPU connector that limits it from being used with dual core based motherboards (The higher wattage iGreen models do include these features). That being said, anyone building an "always on" system such as an HTPC should check out this supply, especially considering its low price.
In terms of overall performance, the two units from Antec stand ahead of the pack.
The True Power 2.0 unit performed surprinsingly well across all tests, espcially when you consider that it's the cheapest unit in the roundup! The big knock on the True Power however is that it is only ATX 2.0 compliant which means it has only a single PCI-E connector and no EPS12V 8-pin CPU connector (New TP 2.0 units include these features). That aside we still find it worth our of Great Value Award. Anyone looking to upgrade or replace their PSU on an older S939 or 775 based system should definitely consider this unit.
The Neo HE from Antec is really the total package. Not only did it perform well lin all of our testing, it is both ATX 2.2 and EPS12V compliant. At 550W it is not as powerfull as some of the other units on the market, however its high efficiency rating allows it to perform just as well as larger units while consuming less energy all the while pricing in as the cheapest ESP12V unit in our roundup. Oh and did we mention that it's modular! The Neo HE 550W Power Supply is the only in our roundup that we found worthy of our Editor's Choice Award!
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