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 This PSU is not available in the US, but it's still a nice representative of the low-end and frequently outdated junk you can still find floating around—or perhaps included with an inexpensive case.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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  • Gonemad - Wednesday, November 3, 2010 - link

    I had a Thermaltake ThoughPower (can't remember exact model) that performed fairly for 5 years. It operated non-stop for 1 year in-between that time. I bought it separately from a Thermaltake Case, that had several fans. Worth every dime, both of them.


    I had to replace an original case fan, so I decided "what t'e hell' and slapped a cheap-o-dozen fan in its place. VERY. BAD. IDEA.

    The whole thing worked fine for 6 months, then the ASUS metering software showed steady voltage dropping, curiously on the 3.3V rail as I later found out. Then it alarmed in an intermittent fashion, for no apparent reason, as it got to 10% Low Voltage on that rail.

    Guess what? The fan LOCKED, and effectively pushed the PSU to 110% or above (who knows?), FOR FREAKING 6 MONTHS.

    As I opened it for regular maintenance (hey, 6 months, remember?) I found the locked fan, and a funny smell that could be felt only very near the PSU vent. You know the smell, don't you? That's the smell of a dying PSU. The fan almost burned my hand when I touched it, proving that the PSU was not at fault; in fact, it performed above and beyond any expectation, and possibly avoided a fire hazard. It was still operational when I removed it, but the smell was ever greater each time it was turned on, even for a few minutes, proving the whole thing had collapsed after all that operating time. The fan didn't short out, which would have triggered any safety (fuse, probably?) on the PSU, it just didn't rotate anymore on its bearings, and became a power drainer on the circuit, eating away the average life-time of the component.

    The good PSU purchase decision not only proved a wise decision, it avoided me lots of hassle and grief. The cheap fan, on the other hand, destroyed a perfectly good piece of equipment.

    "Caveat Emptor" indeed.
  • gurboura - Saturday, November 6, 2010 - link

    It seems right from the start that you have something against TechSolo, you also talk about how it was loud at almost 30dbA, but yet, the Antec is at 32 and the OCZ tops at 26, still close to that 30dbA level.

    "If you want to have a silent computer, please buy another power supply and protect your ears." Couldn't this have been said the same for the Antec since it was actually louder than the TechSolo?

    When doing doing these type of articles your supposed to have an unbiased opinion and its pretty obvious from the start that that wasn't true.

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