Introduction

Incredibly, the power supplies on modern PC’s have been fairly slow to develop new technology.  Often, diehard gamers will replace a motherboard, processor, ram, maybe even hard drive several times within the course of a year.  On the other hard, other essential items such as the case and power supply become afterthoughts or items purchased only when completely necessary, like when a particular chipset (or two) deems it essential to increase the output wattage in order to support the processor core.

Over the course of a year, we have seen a lot of changes in the PC case market.  Several companies are adopting aluminum and thin steel solutions as opposed to the bulky, heavy, thermal nightmares of several years ago.  Recently, we have seen a few companies push real hard to refine the power supply market to the point where it is at today.  Today we have four of the leading power supply manufactures put head to head with their best product lines. 

Vantec, a company that traditionally brands fan and cooling technology has now stepped up to play in the power supply market.  Their no holds barred approach to PSU design has gotten them a lot of attention in reviews, particularly when money is not important.  Vantec was kind enough to send us their Aluminum Stealth 420W PSU.  The next contender in our shootout is a former relative of Vantec; Antec.  Antec is one of the oldest case and PSU retailers in the PC market, and we were fortunate enough to have one of their TruePower 430W power supplies around the lab.  Like Vantec, Antec has also been attracting a lot of attention with their latest power supply, which happens to be one of the most widely available aftermarket PSU’s.

The third contender in our PSU shootout is the award winning Enermax.  Even though Enermax has been in the power supply industry for a while now, they were one of the first companies to push active PFC (Power Factor Correction) into the mass audience.  Our final contender in the 4-way high-end shootout is ThermalTake.  Typically, ThermalTake has been known for its CPU cooling and fan solutions.  Only recently have they produced cases, which we were able to take a look at several weeks ago in the Xaser II A6000B review.  We were able to obtain a ThermalTake Silent Purepower 420W Active PFC supply to round off our shootout.  Both of these supplies are unique because they employ PFC, which we will talk about more later on.

In this article, we will look at some PSU technology, where is has been, and where it is going.  We have gotten a lot of requests from readers to demystify some of the technology behind these behemoth power supplies. Get ready to void some warranties, its time for a shootout!

Overview
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  • Sir Fredrick - Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - link

    I would have really liked to see them compare the current draw from the wall, to see how the PSUs compare in terms of energy efficiency. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, August 22, 2003 - link

    Switching power supply means the unit can be switched between American 60 Hz, 120 v, and European 50 Hz, 240 v input. Reply
  • Jeff7 - Monday, June 18, 2012 - link

    "Switching power supply" refers to precisely what the article says. The "switch" refers to the manner in which the incoming power is handled, not to a physical component on the unit.
    Plenty of switching power supplies, also called SMPS (switch-mode power supplies), are available without any switches.
    Beside me is a switcher supply that accepts 100-240VAC and puts out 12VDC. There are no switches on it.
    Some of the circuitry I work with uses small switcher supplies, which take 12-36VDC and put out a solid 12VDC output.
    I also work with boosters, which are a kind of switching power supply topology that's capable of putting out a higher voltage than what comes in. These particular ones can take 12VDC and put out about 17.5VDC.
    And, I'm looking at a power supply for integration into a new product, and it can handle anything from 85-264VAC at 47-440Hz. Again, no switches on it.

    Some of the older or cheaper switcher supplies *do* indeed have the selector switch on them to let them accommodate different voltages. But that's not what makes them "switching" power supplies. The name "switch" being the same is simply a coincidence.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, August 08, 2003 - link

    :):):):):):):):) Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, August 07, 2003 - link

    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, August 07, 2003 - link

    PFC, power factor correction, is not just about noise. The square wave shape of current draw of non PFC corrected supplies adds a significant 3rd order harmonics element to the line. This usally is gets diverted by the impedance of power company transformers to flowing in the Neutral line of the power system, which in the past carried almost no current. This nuetral line was installed at a SMALLER size than the mains. There have been buildings burned up in Europe, (which has an older infrastructure) because of this. Also, drawing higher peaks instead of sinusoidal current is less efficient and adds more loss the the wires and transformers, shortening their life and adding more pollution to the world, (ie. more power has to be generated to make up the loss, resulting in more smokestack emissions). Reply

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