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.

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[H] PSU Reviews

So really what is a HardOCP power supply review going to be all about?

As long time readers know, HardOCP’s primary focus is on real world experience not idealized situations or canned testing. Reflective of that fact, our reviews will stress the exact features we find to be the most important in the real world for power supplies' performance and stability under relevant environmental conditions. Does the topology (two 12v rails, three 12v rails, virtual rails, etc) of the power supply matter to any significant degree to our review? No, not as long as it performs up to our standards as each topology has its reasoning and can be used without incident if the user is aware of it beforehand. A flashy chrome power supply with LED’s and sleeved modular cables may look good but how does it perform when you spend all night at a LAN event pushing it to the limits? A whisper quiet power supply may be nice in your HTPC but when you are pushing your system to the limit in the middle of FEAR or Quake is sound your first concern or is stability? To be blunt, in our reviews a fabulously performing "plain Jane" power supply will get a better review than a flashy quiet under-performer. Does this mean looks and sound doesn’t matter? Of course not, and each review will note our general impressions on these fronts but looks are subjective, as is to some degree sound, so our focus will be on what is not subjective and is most important to the enthusiast, performance.

Equipment

As we stated earlier in order to review power supplies the right way we needed some key pieces of equipment. Briefly those pieces of equipment are shown below. A more detailed accounting of the capabilities and technical specifications of each piece of equipment will follow in the next section.

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USB Instruments DSM1M12 Digital Oscilloscope

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Extech Power Analyzer

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Quincy Labs 10-140 Incubator

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Sperry DT-506 4 Channel Digital Thermometer

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SunMoon SM-8800 SMPS ATE

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Staco 3PN2210B Variable AC Transformer (Variac)

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Tripp-Lite LCR2400 Line Conditioner/AVR

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Nautilus Integration PSTT-1 Transient Load Tester