The Candidates

The following review is another look at seeing if you really get what you pay for—or if you can get high quality without breaking the bank. For this roundup we have three power supplies rated at 550W, but with different prices. Will the most expensive unit deliver the best results? Can a cheaper product deliver the quality you need, and make up the difference by trimming the packaging and contents? Read on to find it out.

The first product comes from Techsolo Europa B.V., a brand from the Netherlands. Our US readers most likely haven't encountered the brand, but they sell cheap power supplies, PCI controller cards, and cases in Italy, Germany and Poland. We've got their Techsolo Black Mamba STP-550, representative of many budget power supplies. In Germany this PSU sells for around 30€ (39.18$; Oct. 22, 2010). Imagine our surprise to find that Techsolo advertises CE-certification as a "feature" (you need CE to sell power supplies in Europe). The PSU has passive PFC as well as a "silent" 140mm fan for cooling. More "interesting" features are high stability on  all rails (+3.3V, +5V, +12V) and an On/Off Switch. It just keeps getting better! This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the low-end and frequently outdated junk you can still find floating around—or perhaps included with an inexpensive case. You'll note that there's no 80 Plus certification on this one, which isn't too surprising considering the target market.

The second unit is a power supply from OCZ Technology Group. They're now famous for their SSDs and RAM, but they have many power supplies as well. Today we'll look at the OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY, priced at 64.99$ online—a $26 upgrade from our Techsolo sample. It looks like the Red Mist of power supplies with a red LED-fan and label. Otherwise, OCZ is using the same topology from their ModXStream Pro 500W with a few changes in the details. The 80 Plus certification is standard for any decent PSU today, but maybe that's enough to beat up on the Techsolo. Another advantage is the modular cables, which is a nice feature for the price.

The most expensive but potentially best power supply in this small comparison test is the new Antec TruePower New TP-550. You can get the product for 89.99$ online, another $24 premium over the OCZ and over twice the cost of the Techsolo. Antec uses Japanese capacitors, a DC-to-DC Converter for the smaller rails, a PWM-fan from ADDA for cooling, and a partially modular cable management. With 80 Plus Bronze certification, the TruePower New should be more efficient than the other two power supplies, but is it clearly better?

As usual we will look at the voltage regulation and quality, noise levels, and check out the internal design. Over the course of our roundup, we'll find out if these PSUs perform according to expectations, or if there are a few surprises in the mix.

Techsolo Black Mamba STP-550
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  • Mathieu Bourgie - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    I'm with everyone here, crap power supplies are a plague and with the marketing focusing on the Watts "output" (many PSU are overrated as Martin pointed out with the Techsolo Black Mamba 550W), it just gets worse for uneducated consumers.

    I wish that ATX specs were tighter and that if anything, PSUs should be regulated by an independent commission whose approval you need to sell a PSU (not going to happen, I know), or at the very least to display their label (like 80 PLUS).

    Requirements being based on being capable on delivering promised output (At 50C, not 30C or 40C...), ripples within a certain reasonable range, overcurrent/undercurrent/surge/etc. protection to prevent both fires and to protect the PC components, correct wire gauge and other important things that don't come to my mind right now.

    In short, a certification that would tell you that PSU has what you should look for and will work reliably as intended. Just like 80PLUS with efficiency, what a great certification. Not perfect, but it's a big step forward.
  • Stuka87 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Typically the UE and CE certifications should be that governing body when it comes to PSU's. If it is typical for the PSU that burned to have those issues, it should never have gotten certified.

    Although there is the "Fake" CE mark that looks very similar to the european CE mark, but actually stands for "China Export". I have seen some cheap electronics (and cheap open frame PSU's) with this mark on it before. And of course those PSU's tested out to be crap when ever I hooked one up to my power analyzer.

    But an ATX specific spec would be awesome.
  • brybir - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    "This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the crap-section."

    While this may be objectively true (as it appears to be), I suppose I expect Anandtech articles to read less like blogs and more like professional evaluations that give the facts up front and well reasoned, supported and defensible conclusions at the end. At least that is what I have come to expect on Anandtech....please dont turn into Tomshardware (i.e. poor writing with sensationalism everywhere).
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    I'll just chime in here by stating that Martin is located in Germany and as such is not a native-English speaker. I heavily edit most of his reviews, but it can get a bit tedious at times to rewrite every little phrase. Perhaps I should have been a bit more creative up front, but I let this description of the Black Mamba go through and apparently you guys didn't like it, so I've reworded it to be a bit more professional. Maybe I was just reminded of Michael Meyers: "If it's not Scottish, it's CRAP!" :-D
  • lenghui - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Well, great job translating, Jarred, and great job writing, Martin. Great review.

    I happen to own an OCZ Fatal1ty 550W and a ModXStream Pro 500W, so this article intrigued me. I have owned both for over a year, running 24 x 7 x 365. No problem so far (touch wood).
  • brybir - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Thanks for changing that. I read that whole article and enjoyed the comparison as I am pretty uninformed about PSU and why one is better than the other, but that one little phrase just kept coming back into my mind when I thought about the article. Keep up the good work!
  • softdrinkviking - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    it's not "you guys" that don't like it, it's just one prick.
    you and Martin are both doing a great job, and i absolutely floored that
    you are catching shiite for that one sentence.
    i mean, how stiff can you possibly be to take offense at that?
  • Calin - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    A 550W power supply that blows at 300W actual output is certainly "crap-section" - so, in this specific case, I understand the feeling.
  • dertechie - Saturday, October 30, 2010 - link

    Yeah, I actually enjoy the black humor often found in PSU reviews.
  • EddyKilowatt - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - link

    Well the thing performed poorest on the tests, and failed at half rated load... those are supportable and defensible results by my standards.

    I don't have a problem with Martin's exasperation creeping in a bit early in the review. Everyone with knowledge needs to take a stand against the cheap crap that's always threatening to flood the market and drive the good stuff out. Martin's comment might've been out of line if the Techsolo had under-performed by 10%... but it *failed with smoke* at just half rated load! That's crap, and I'm glad he called it such.

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