Power supplies are pretty boring. I can get excited about a graphics card, or a TFT, a case maybe, even a CPU. But no-one really cares too much about the power supply. It is the unappreciated workhorse of the computer – without it you’d be fairly lost and yet most people will budget for the psu last, after they’ve chosen the sculpted plastic case and the stupid lights.
Leaving £10 or £20 for a scabby “generic atx psu” or somesuch is not the way forward.
“It’s 600W, how can that possibly be bad?”
It can be, and it probably is. In fact when buying a PSU you’d be best to ignore ones with stupidly exaggerated wattages (new SuperLEET 1600W PSU OMG edition, only £50!!!!11). The PSU needs to be considered as the important component it is and have funds allocated thusly. There are so many people suckered by the proposition of a 600W unit with blue neons and tinted acrylic windows for £15. However it’s also easy to spend too much, with so many “high end” options available.
When I heard the Enermax Coolergiant 480W was on the way I immediately thought this would be one of those overpriced units – my own memories of Enermax power supplies were of £100+ beasts. However, I did own an Enermax power supply back about 4 years ago and it was a pretty hardy unit so, I thought, maybe it’ll be worth the money. A quick look around the net and it seems that things have changed – I guess that the demand for “high end” has pushed up the production of these posh units considerably because the sites I checked were selling this psu for around £70. This is still way above the average, but this “average” is of course produced by the huge numbers of low cost supplies available, many of which are very low quality. My stance is usually to pick something around the lower-middle of the price range, so personally I would probably balk at the price of this Enermax. But for those who tend to choose the premium option, can this unit rise above it’s peers as the best option?
Luring in buyers is this large fairly attractive packaging with some nice box-art. As usual the outer sleeve touts a variety of amazing functions. Those highlighted here on the box front are:
Enermax have ousted the traditional fan on the base of their psu in favour of a blower-type fan, in theory providing better throughput of air and better cooling for the cpu/ram area.
The fans carry on running after the pc is shut down, to exhaust all the built up hot air and cool the psu down. This is a great idea, and one that other manufacturers are using as well.
“Separate 12V rails”
This is something that will set the Enermax apart from cheap psus in terms of build quality – independant 12V rails for the motherboard and for peripherals means cleaner, more stable, power supplied to the board, cpu and expansion cards.
“Manual & Auto”
A bit cryptic, this is referring to the fan speed control on the back of the unit which is provided in addition to automatic fan control in the device. Leaving the rheo set to minimum will mean the fans will run as slow as possible, only speeding up if things get overly warm. Setting it to full means the fans will never slow from full speed.
Pretty obvious, and we’ll get onto the provided connections soon.
Removing the outer sleeve reveals a sturdy cardboard box containing the supply itself, the power cable and screws (and a natty little case sticker) and a fairly thick manual. Don’t be fooled – the manual is only 8 pages long, but in every language known to man (almost). Pulling the unit from it’s pink bubble wrap is quite an impressive moment.
The Coolergiant in all it’s glory and the psu it aims to oust, my SF450-TS.
The beautiful red anodised brushed metal finish is quite striking, and seems wasted on something you’ll never see (unless you have a case with a top window). Still, we all like pretty shiny things and hiding it from view just means that no-one can scratch it. Alongside the SF450-TS we can see that this is an equally monstrous beast – both are large units with impressive looks. A huge mess of cables follows the box, with plenty of connectors on offer.
SATA, standard molexes, and then the “silly” additional connectors.
Emphasis is on the PCI-E connector (because I can’t take a decent photograph for love nor money).
The clever little 20/24 pin motherboard connector. 20 pins will do me just fine.
Counting up we have 4 SATA, 6 regular molex and 2 floppy drive connectors. There’s the 4 pin “AUX” connector as it is often referred to, a 20/24 pin motherboard connector and a new fashioned 6 pin PCI-E card connector. Many of the new beefy PCI-E cards have these connections so seeing a dedicated lead from the psu for it is a nice touch. The “20/24 pin” connector refers to the modular plug for the motherboard – the extra 4 pins needed by new boards can be removed and tucked out of the way when using an older board, which is a fairly clever little idea.
Put on the red light
Taking another look at the gorgeous finish, it really is lovely. I’ve also seen this range in a gold finish but not any other colours. An anodised blue or black would have been nice, perhaps we’ll see them later on.
Internal bits and bobs
Next to the inside – looking inside a power supply gives a fairly instant idea of the quality and cost of the components used. Cheap power supplies will tend to have poorly arranged pcbs, low quality heatsinks, and often a liberal smattering of hot glue holding everything in place.
Quality internals on show here, definitely not your run-of-the-mill cheapo components.
Inside the enermax we see pure TLC poured into the design, high quality heatsinks and everything carefully arranged. This is without doubt a high quality power supply, the massive weight of the unit suggesting the build quality even before looking inside. When in doubt choosing a power supply, heavier is almost always better (that goes for other power devices too, especially amps and the like).
There is a little bit of hot glue, though!
When opening up the unit I found that the cover was slighly bowed away from the main body of the unit. Not really a worry but slightly odd I thought, on replacing the cover I was able to tighten it up and close this tiny gap. As I say it’s nothing to be worried about but it is something that might have been noticed at the factory.
It’s such a small issue that if it’s the worst problem I can find it’s doing very well indeed.
Strange red clippy thingy. Looks nice, what does it do?
Installing the unit in my ATCS220 was a simple, standard, procedure. Like the last psu I looked at, the SF-450TS, this unit is larger than a standard ATX psu so although I had no problems installing it there may be issues with a small number of cases (those with a cage built to exact “normal” psu size). The big plastic clip (“EMI Shield”) gripping the cables as they exit the casing could cause further problems – it very nearly fouls the support cage in my case but just misses, luckily.
A couple of molexes short in my PC, but then I do have a silly number of drives.
The cable lengths are fairly well thought out. The SF-450TS had such ridiculously long cables that I had to coil them all over the place, mostly hiding them behind the motherboard tray. For a midi-tower case the cables on this supply seem almost perfect – the molex strings all reach the bottom of the case with enough slack to route neatly, and yet there’s not too much to tidy it away in spare gaps in the drive bays. The number of connectors was a slight problem for me – with 6 hard disks, a baybus, a DVDRW and an LCD display I have quite a demanding rig as far as molexes go… if 2 of my hard disks had been SATA then I would not have had a problem, and I doubt many people run 6 PATA hard disks, so I don’t believe many people would have any issues. The number of connectors seems adequate but I do feel 3 more wouldn’t have gone amiss – the Super Flower had so many molexes I didn’t know what to do with them, but too many is always better than too few. I had to use a couple of Y-splitters, something I haven’t used for quite some time (and something that wasn’t included with the psu). One is pictured above.
Back, front and bottom fans.
The fan control knob, and the non-existant voltage switch (shown).
The cooling system seems to have been fairly well conceived and I think I understand the choice of the blower fan – the front and back 80mm fans would create a nice wind tunnel effect on their own, and I suppose a standard fan on the bottom would interrupt this flow. The focussed nature of the blower means, I guess, that the airflow is not interrupted. Whatever the reasons for the choices, the noise created by the three fan setup is minimal – as quiet, I’d say, as the 140mm fan setup on the Super Flower. This is a very subtle power supply which means it’s ideally suited for water cooled rigs, where noise reduction is a primary concern, or just for people with a distaste for fan-whirr. Noise seems to be a top selling point for psu manufacturers these days and it seems that Enermax has done a good job here, somewhat justifying their price premium.
The fan control knob is neatly situated and fairly easy to find when reaching around the case. In my fairly averagely-noisy system I couldn’t hear any real difference between the top and bottom settings, which I find rather strange. A reassuringly warm air blows from the back of the supply, and temperatures all read normal.
There’s no voltage (110/230) switch on the back of this unit as it switches automatically depending on supply – a nice feature if only because it’ll stop you accidentally blowing it up by switching to the wrong setting.
Leaves on the line
A quiet psu is no good if it can’t provide solid rails so, with the supply installed, we’ll see what happens when taxing the system. I ran Prime95 for an hour to give the system a real workout, a result I already have for the Super Flower psu.
First shown are the idle (very gentle system use) readings from MBM, and after follow the readings after the hour of stress testing and the percentage difference to idle readings. As you can see things got a bit hotter but the power supply hardly even flinched.
|Rail||MBM reading at idle||Percentage error|
|1.65V core||1.63||1.2% under|
|Rail||MBM after 1hr Prime95||Percentage change|
|1.65V core||1.62||0.6% drop|
Tested using an AthlonXP 2500+ chip on an AOpen AK77-400MAX board (awesome board btw!)
These results are pretty decent and certainly nothing to worry about. The under/over figures are all pretty small (the 3.2% drop on the -5V line is the biggest discrepancy). Rated ampages on the various lines are fairly impressive, as we’d expect from a psu of this ilk. The line currents are listed on the side of the unit.
So what do we have here? Well, we have a well built, very attractive, solid hard working power supply. But it does come with a price tag to match. As mentioned earlier it’s not as expensive as high-end power supplies used to be (although Enermax do produce a ~£100 unit, so I suppose this is their “mid-range” effort) but compared to other brands it is still an expensive choice. HiPer, Super Flower, Tagan and Antec all make similarly specced units at lower prices, but whether they are as polished (quality-wise, as well as the literal meaning) as this Enermax unit is something I cannot comment on. £70 is a lot of money, and saving £30/40 on your psu on a system build could mean the difference between dropping in a 9600 and a 9800 (in old money).
To those willing to splash the cash, and who want a top quality power supply from a name with plenty of clout behind it, this Enermax is doubtless a great choice. Those working on a tight budget will probably want to look elsewhere.
Great build quality
Good quality rails
Dual 12V lines for stability
Good allocation of connectors
Not ludicrous, but still pricey
..£70 is a fairly high end price, but then this is a high end psu
Not as many connectors as the SF450
..those with ludicrous numbers of PATA devices (like me) will suffer
Small niggle with the slightly bent cover (see above)