New Tests: Ripple And Noise
In previous power supply reviews, we focused on a specific power output range and tested performance and efficiency.
This time, we asked PSU manufacturers to send us products developed for a very specific and very demanding group: gamers. Are the so-called gaming PSUs really optimized for this segment? Or is that designation just an empty promise created by marketing departments? We looked at 12 different products to find answers.
New Test: Ripple & Noise
Following the requests of several manufacturers and our readers, we decided to include ripple and noise testing in our PSU reviews. According to the vendors asking about this test discipline, including these tests will highlight some obvious differences that should make it easy to draw conclusions regarding the electrical quality of a PSU, especially when it comes to high-performance units. As you'll see, this roundup will go on to show that not all manufacturers have done their homework in this area, and in some cases they don’t live up to our expectations--or the product specifications.
Ripple and noise testing is used to determine how accurately the circuits work to smooth out the DC voltage output. The goal is to produce a flat output, like you would get from a battery. Circuits of diodes and capacitors take care of this task as they convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). Depending on the quality of these rectifier modules and components, the result shows more or less ripple and electrical noise. According to the ATX specifications, this value is not to exceed 120 mV for the 12 V rails. For all other ATX PSU voltages, the limit is 50 mV. A power supply that doesn't exceed these tolerances is good to go.
Huge Assortment, Huge Test
Up until now, we've generally compared five PSUs in our roundups. This is a natural limitation of test products, since we're paying for time in a professional testing facility. But it’s probably also because we're asking for products in very specific segments in order to make the comparisons as relevant as possible.
This time, we asked the manufacturers to send us gaming-oriented PSU products, without providing any specific criteria, and we received a veritable avalanche of submissions. Therefore, this review offers a broad spectrum of the market, represented by a total of 12 PSUs. Their power ratings fall between 580 and 850 W, and the efficiency certifications range from 80 PLUS to 80 PLUS Gold. Prices differ quite a bit, with the cheapest starting at around $90, while the most expensive offerings sit around twice that number. In addition to the manufacturers represented in our previous tests, Antec, Chieftec, Cooler Master, Corsair, Cougar, Enermax, and Seasonic, this time we have four newcomers to our test labs: be quiet!, NZXT, OCZ, and Sparkle.