Power Supply

Feb 26, 2003
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Everything needing power in a PC receives it either directly via a connector from the power supply unit (PSU) or indirectly via connectors on the motherboard. Some things need this power all the time, and some just draw on it when necessary, and everything seems to be happiest with a slightly different level of voltage to everything else. If you want to overclock your CPU, you might have to resolve stability issues by increasing the core voltage, and then you might want to control the extra heat generated by increasing the speed of the fan on your heatsink, which will push more warm air around inside your case…so you might then decide to add a couple more exhaust fans...with blue LEDS to match the ones flashing away on those new Coolermaster 3 hard drive coolers…etc... etc

There’s a good chance that even a basic 300W PSU will provide enough power in a reliable manner for most basic PCs, but if you are into overclocking or tweaking your rig, or simply have a lot of components in there, then your choice of PSU is very important. Given that the PSU impacts on everything, it’s hardly surprising that many hardware failures and system crashes can be traced back to a glitch in the power lines or the unit itself.

I reckon the three main criteria for choosing a good PSU, then, are:
1. The maximum power output
2. The number of power connectors of different types.
3. The degree to which it can maintain stable lines of power over long periods.

The Antec True Blue in this spec delivers a maximum of 480W and can be connected to 7 different components using standard 4-pin molex plugs. It also has 2 dedicated 3-pin fan connectors, as well as the usual floppy power connector, and separate pin to attach to the motherboard to allow for monitoring PSU fan-speed in the BIOS). It’s a dual fan unit and incorporates a cool-looking blue led in the rear fan. (A nice touch, but hardly essential). Using Antec’s proprietary ‘True Power’ system, this unit provides very stable lines to almost any permutation of components you care to try.

I recently had one powering 3 hard drives (2 of which were SATA running at 10,000rpm using even more power than standard), plus a GeForceFX 5900 vid card (which needs its own 4-pin connection to the PSU), six 80mm case fans (three with blue LEDS), three cool drives (each with 40mm fans and more blue LEDS), a floppy, a 52x CD/RW and a 16x DVD-ROM.!! Everything purred like it was supposed to and voltages didn’t vary from prescribed levels. Moreover, even running that amount of kit, it was not noticeably noisy compared to any of the other (and many) PSUs I’ve had.

There are probably several PSU’s out there that could do the same, such as a 550W Enermax (another top brand), or even Antec’s new 550W ‘True Control’, and I’ve seen plenty of comparison reviews that don’t place the True Blue in first place…but that’s not the point, is it? I’ve put this PSU in as a starting point, ‘cos I reckon it’s worth every expensive penny…and it also gives you peeps something to argue over. And why not the Antec True Control? Well, it’s a nice idea – using a True Power system, plus the ability to adjust main voltages from a front panel that occupies a spare 5.25” bay…but it just looks so naff!

If you were choosing a PSU, I’d recommend Antec or Enermax, and nothing less than 400W. But beware: top-end units cost anything between £80-£120, whilst an alternative brand of 400-550W PSU may do the job fine and cost significantly less. However, a rig like this one deserves only the best.

(A quick note on Serial ATA: Many PSU’s are being advertised as ‘SATA-Ready’, indicating that they have the much smaller SATA power connectors. It’s worth checking if these are provided as simple adapters that can plug into the standard molex pins, or actually cables running directly from the unit itself. If you have a standard PSU, SATA adapters are cheap and readily available, so you don’t need to upgrade if you buy a SATA drive. Also, may SATA drives have standard power sockets as well as SATA ones, so they will run from your existing power supply).


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