Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

A [H]ard Look at Power Supplies

HardOCP’s [H] Enthusiast finally spins up to correctly cover computer power supplies. We show you how we will be doing it, what equipment we will be using and the methods to our madness.

Introduction

HardOCP will add an area that we have been suspiciously absent from in the past; Power Supply Unit (PSU) reviews. This project was first conceptualized a number of years ago by Kyle Bennett (Editor-in-Chief) but has only recently become feasible to do correctly through a number of acquisitions and additions. To put it frankly, we have not done PSU reviews in the past, because HardOCP did not have the editors or equipment to do PSU reviews "correctly." And we would rather not cover PSUs at all rather than supply our readers with a mediocre review or evaluation.

In this editorial we are going to outline our take on power supply reviews, the equipment needed to conduct our reviews, and the methodology we will be using. This editorial will be a live document and, as events dictate, will be updated to reflect our most current PSU testing procedures and materials, so be sure to check back in from time to time.

Why do Power Supply Reviews?

At this very moment you could be at a dozen or more different websites reading a power supply آ“reviewآ” in which the newest hottest power supply is earning the آ“Editors Choice Super Triple Platinum Award.آ” Now, think about the reviews being produced by those dozen sites along with the previous reviews they have produced and ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you saw a review in which the power supply in question did not earn the Editors Choice Super Triple Platinum Award?
  • When was the last time you saw a review in which the power supply in question failed to perform better or worse than a competitor?
  • Why is it that all these power supplies are bullet proof when other components are not?

Donآ’t look for the black helicopters just yet; there are simple and correct answer for those questions. Quite simply, the design and implementation of the vast majority of power supply آ“reviewsآ” is flawed in such a way that they wonآ’t find any substantial differences between units or even actually test the power supply in any meaningful way. Often, these آ“reviewsآ” will involve nothing more than installing the power supply into the biggest baddest review rig that the person doing the review can scrape together and then recording the voltages in MBM5 or Everest or the BIOS or some combination of the three. Some of these reviews take a step in the right direction by using a digital multimeter (DMM) to record the voltages. However, these reviews are still misguided and lacking in that they are recording only a snapshot of what the output voltage looks like on one rail at a time and doing so with one given load. These reviews all miss the most important aspects of the power supply review.

  • Does the test adequately load the power supply and test its rated output?
  • Does the test sample all the rails simultaneously?
  • Does the test monitor the DC output quality?
  • Does the test occur at relevant, stable, and reproducible environmental conditions?

Before moving on it should be noted that there are indeed a few sites that are doing PSU reviews that do not fall into the category outlined above and have been doing so for some time. In fact, some are done quite well in our opinion; however, there are not too many of these sites. Then many times these sites focus their methodology on aspects we are not interested in or there are parts that we think could use further refinement and investigation. And that is exactly what we are going to be doing.

As such we would like to introduce our take on power supply reviewing. We sincerely hope that our evaluations will help our readers to make better informed PSU purchasing decisions. We also hope that we are in a position to push PSU manufacturers to using higher quality standards by exposing the true abilities of their products.