A Call For Better Testing
We admit we're being hard on the 80 PLUS organization. But we don't want to see companies started with the best intentions nudged astray by profits. The methodology on which this program is based is far from perfect, in part because it was conceived more than a decade ago. In order to keep up with the increasing demands of modern technology, whether you're evaluating PSUs, CPUs, or GPUs, it's imperative to adapt. We encounter this ourselves on a daily basis. We come with new ideas on our own, with the help of manufacturers, and with input from our readers. Then we integrate those ideas into our reviews, resulting in changes to the conclusions we draw. Sometimes this renders a complete database of work useless. But there's no other way to get better than to start over from scratch.
Here's a personal example. I had my own extensive collection of results from PSU testing. Then I started working on reviews for Tom's Hardware. Because my database only included numbers with 230V input, though, I had to start over. The audience here is largely based in the U.S., where 115V input is used. For me it wasn't so hard to start from scratch. But I bet that's not the case for an organization paid lots of money by vendors bound to frown on methodology changes.
The biggest problem we have with the 80 PLUS organization's methodology is how few load levels it takes into account. You simply cannot provide a reliable efficiency certification based on three or four different measurements. To make matters worse, it doesn't consider the 5VSB rail's efficiency, or the vampire power that each PSU consumes. Moreover, 80 PLUS only adds a 10% load level test at the Titanium tier, and that's too high for PSUs with more than 1kW of capacity. Most contemporary PCs need less than 100W at idle, which is why we start our efficiency measurements from 20W in the normal tests and even lower in the cross-load tests. Finally, 80 PLUS doesn't meticulously search for fake certifications. And we've also heard of cases where the submitted PSU varied from what was actually sold.
Surely an 80 PLUS certification is a big deal for us folks who want to know more about efficiency before we buy a power supply. But as we point out, the most popular certification program is far from perfect. You have to be extra careful when you pay a premium price for a Titanium-rated unit, and hope that it really is more efficient than a good (and probably much less expensive) Platinum-class competitor.
We're understandably biased here, but we think our efficiency scores are much more precise since they include somewhere around 26,000 different measurements that cover the entire operational range of each PSU we test. Our state-of-the-art equipment provides the highest possible accuracy in this price range, and we don't shy away from mention it in our methodology page. Again, we intend to invest in a 0.01% accuracy power analyzer in the near future, which will allow for even better results (about 4x times more accurate than the lab 80 PLUS hires for its evaluations).
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