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Brand Names Take On Generics In PSU Showdown

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the in-lieu-of-flowers dept.

Power 223

The Raindog writes "The power supply is perhaps the most overlooked element of a modern PC, and yet it's the one component that can irreparably damage the rest of a system. The market is littered with generic PSUs that are often much cheaper than name-brand alternatives, but can you trust them? The Tech Report aims to find out in its latest power supply round-up, which compares the performance, efficiency, and noise levels of a collection of reputable PSUs with some budget, no-name competition. As it turns out, any money you save on a generic PSU purchase will likely cost you more in the long run."

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Also check your UPS (5, Informative)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169801)

And before you think that all your PSUs are failing because you bought them on the cheap, you should also check your UPS. I had 13 PSUs die at Suso and thought it was just horrible luck with power supplies, until I realized that the 5 year old UPS that those servers were on was having issues. Since I replaced it, haven't had any problems since. *knock* *knock*

Re:Also check your UPS (5, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170123)

Plug in a Kill-A-Watt. $24.99 on Amazon. [amazon.com] It'll tell you your line voltage (with or without load), power consumption, and energy usage for the duration it's plugged in. If nothing else, you can figure out where your electricity is going, how much energy your computer(s) is/are using, and how well your UPS is living up to its promises (unplug it and watch its performance).

I don't work for them or anything, it's just a good way to see what your UPS is up to and learn a little about your household energy usage.

Of course, if your problem really is your PSU rather than your UPS, all this unit does is narrow down the problem rather than solve it... Still, I consider it worth my $25.

Re:Also check your UPS (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170269)

Where would one get a European version of that?

Re:Also check your UPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170353)

Almost any hardware store will sell you one.

Re:Also check your UPS (3, Interesting)

BlackCreek (1004083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170907)

Ok, I reckon this is in Dutch but this is the only shop I know selling this. I have one, and I love it.

It will even transfer the measurements to a SD card. It comes with a English text. manual. Continental Europe socket.

Voltcraft ENERGY LOGGER 3500 [conrad.nl]

If you search for this stuff in amazon.de you will find one that claims to have ranked 2nd in a German magazine testing of energy measuring devices. This is the new version of the one who got first.

I have no relation to this shop, or manufacturer, I just love the gadget.

Re:Also check your UPS (1)

rvw (755107) | more than 5 years ago | (#26171031)

Google for Energy Monitor 3000 or Brennenstuhl PM230. I believe the EM3000 is the better option.

Re:Also check your UPS (2, Interesting)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#26171051)

It looks like most UPSes make systems *less* reliable on balance. How frequent is a power failure compared to a UPS failure?

Antec is the worst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169807)

That's about it. Buy Seasonic.

Re:Antec is the worst (3, Informative)

Sensible Clod (771142) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169899)

Actually, some friends of mine had a no-name PSU explode, literally. One of the electrolytic caps decided it had had enough. I replaced it with an Antec and no problems for as long as they used it.

Oh, and the Antec PSU in my personal machine died one day, possibly because it was plugged into an 11-year-old surge protector. I got a free replacement (minus shipping), and the replacement is a nicer unit and handles more power.

Say what you will, but their service is nothing to complain about.

Re:Antec is the worst (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169929)

I have literally 6 dead Antec PSUs in my closet, all were refused any sort of replacement, and all have obviously bulging capacitors. Several of them also took out several sticks of RAM, 2 motherboards, and a hard drive, spread across various computers of my own and friends. All of the computers with Antec PSUs (purchased all from newegg.com over ~5 years) eventually stopped turning on reliably, starting making funny squealing noises from the PSU, and/or starting crashing randomly. All of the Antec PSUs have been replaced with Seasonic now, and no computer has has a single hardware problem since its PSU was replaced (and in some cases, other hardware which was replaced at the same time as listed above).

Re:Antec is the worst (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170885)

Uhm. Maybe they're knock-off PSUs just labelled Antec. Seriously, I've never had an issue with antec supplies. I get nesteq or zalman ones now because of quiet-pc-addiction, but never had an issue with antec.

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170049)

It sure is interesting that they chose to test the only antec psu that doesnt have a pci-e connector. The 380W and 420W earthwatts have one, and the 500w basiq has one.

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170063)

I use Antec or Thermaltake, both are great. I don't know what GP is crying about.

Yet another case of "I got a defective unit, noone should buy this product" crap. Get warranty, if they keep failing, then start posting on slashdot with the facts, not "it's bad, buy what I've been told is good".

Re:Antec is the worst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169915)

Antec is one of the best brands out there. They tested their "low end" line that Antec just started a few years ago. In fact, they didn't even really test a "generic" one, pretty much every one was either high end or a good brand. Go troll elsewhere.

Re:Antec is the worst (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170009)

Right. Bose is one of the best brands of speakers, and neon lights make your computer go faster. Sorry, but Antec is all marketing and no quality. All the ricer overclockers want to believe that Antec PSUs make their computers +0.2% faster, but the truth is, Antec uses some of the lowest quality parts in their PSUs and if you check something like badcaps.net, you'll realize that Antec is one of the most commonly reported brands in the PSU category, and most widely complained about brand in the forums.

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

borizz (1023175) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170699)

For PSU's yes. But antec does make some good stuff too. I'm very pleased with the cases I bought from them.

Re:Antec is the worst (2, Interesting)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170043)

Really? Most reviews of their PSUs have them with pretty good ratings, and their PSUs are pretty power efficient too. I have their EarthWatts 500 PSU and it's really good, my GPU technically requires 550W but it's fine. I've never heard of any bad things about Antec before, the worst ones are the ones from Best Buy et al that have some random company you've never heard of.

Re:Antec is the worst (4, Interesting)

Ungulate (146381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170081)

Except, of course, for the Antec EarthWatts. And the TruePower series. Both of which are... made by Seasonic.

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

Sensible Clod (771142) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170141)

If that were true, that might explain both GP's bad experience (if he's not trolling) and my (mostly) good experience with Antec PSU's. Do you have a source for that info?

Re:Antec is the worst (5, Informative)

floodo1 (246910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170167)

jonnyguru.com is probably the best site for power supply reviews. the guy does FULL disassembly, even removing rectifiers and diodes and stuff. Because of this he is able to determine what OEM manufactured every power supply he tests, and also gives you comments that, if you payed enough attention, would allow YOU to determine the layouts typical of each OEM. He's also the guy that started using an actual load tester to test power supplies, instead of testing them by placing them in systems. The ORIGINAL hard core power supply test site!

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

sa1lnr (669048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170281)

I wonder who made their Smartpower range? I had one of those fail last year, I took it appart to see if it was just the internal fuse that had blown. What I found inside was one of the worst examples of electronics manufacture I have ever seen. (I worked in this area for 17 years).

The live and neutral mains wiring got reversed by the time it was connected to the pcb so the neutral was fused and the soldering on the underside of the pcb looked like it was done with a red hot poker. The cable looms were like spagetti, individual cables in them were all different lengths

You can hide a multitude of sins behind one of those "Warranty void if broken" paper seals. ;)

I've also had problems recently with two Hiper PSU's, Hiper appear to have used some really low quality fans on both these units.

AngryTec is the worst. (3, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170459)

"You can hide a multitude of sins behind one of those "Warranty void if broken" paper seals. ;)"

Slashdot has one of those.

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170397)

Hahaha, seriously? I was about to come in swinging since I've never had an Antec fail on me or any of my end users... but I only install Earthwatts series.

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

eric-x (1348097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170451)

I did a lot of research before buying my PSU and I can confirm your statement. I have a truepower and the only thing that slightly worries me is the low air flow. I assume that they know what they're doing and that there is enough flow for the psu but be prepared to install a casefan if you don't have one already.

Re:Antec is the worst (2, Interesting)

jps25 (1286898) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170569)

Except, of course, for the Antec EarthWatts. And the TruePower series. Both of which are... made by Seasonic.

Not entirely true.
The older EarthWatts were made by Seasonic, the newer ones are made by Delta.
Source: http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=Story&reid=110 [jonnyguru.com]

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

MojoStan (776183) | more than 5 years ago | (#26171133)

Except, of course, for the Antec EarthWatts. And the TruePower series. Both of which are... made by Seasonic.

Not entirely true.
The older EarthWatts were made by Seasonic, the newer ones are made by Delta.
Source: http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=Story&reid=110 [jonnyguru.com]

Argh. I've got nothing against Delta (don't know much about them), but I think the "EarthWatts" model name earned its good reputation by using Seasonic. It's like when LCD models change panel suppliers (and sometimes panel technology), but keep the same model name.

For decent value-priced PSUs, I guess I'll just go with OEM models from Seasonic and FSP Group, which are made by... Seasonic and FSP Group.

Re:Antec is the worst (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26171129)

I don't know what they're power supplies are like, but their cases are excellent.

In other news... (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169829)

Buying cheap crap that's pumping out power to sensitive electronics can damage the things it's connected to can make things go horribly wrong!

In other news, your computer is not a good thing to use as a coffee table, puppies should not be left unsupervised near cabling, and you should not leave your cell phone in your pocket while washing your clothing.

Is this surprising anyone?

Re:In other news... (2, Interesting)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169917)

I'm genuinely curious, what parts are different or better in a more expensive PSU? Or is it just a combination of confirmation bias and shelling out too many bucks to say it's not worth it? Not really an accusation, I'm more curious about what parts in a PSU can be "better", considering all the parts are mass manufactured, anyway.

Re:In other news... (5, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169941)

The main things you'll see in a high end PSU:
1) Voltage stabilizing in case the power coming to the PSU is not very good
2) Quieter fans
3) Output voltage/watts and efficiency stay within reason at higher load
4) Some generic heat up quite a bit.

In my opinion, get a decent brand just so you don't end up with a cheap one made from defective (or not within technical specs) capacitors/parts that's going to die on you.

Another important thing (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170147)

Is better capacitors. Good PSUs use higher quality ones, and often ones with a higher thermal rating. This is important since electrolytic capacitors degrade over time. If you have crappy ones, they can degrade faster. At some point, their performance drops to the point where the PSU doesn't work right or at all. Good caps are well worthwhile in a power system.

Re:In other news... (2, Interesting)

Tracy Reed (3563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170497)

The main things you'll see in a high end PSU:

1) Voltage stabilizing in case the power coming to the PSU is not very good

2) Quieter fans

3) Output voltage/watts and efficiency stay within reason at higher load

4) Some generic heat up quite a bit.

Don't forget power factor correction (PFC). Especially in a datacenter.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169993)

There is a big difference in the quality of the parts that go into PSUs. The best example is really that low quality Taiwanese capacitors are very prone to bulging and/or exploding after ~1 year of use, while the slightly more expensive Japanese capacitors will last longer than you'll ever use your computer.

Re:In other news... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170103)

So if the difference in the price of the capacitors is slight, then where does the large difference in the price of the PSU come from?

Re:In other news... (2, Interesting)

genik76 (1193359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170519)

Research and development is costly, to find out which components are good. Additionally, each part in the supply chain adds their profit margin to the product, so adding value in the early levels of the supply chain (as in manufacturing) can easily add a significant amount of cost to the end price.

Re:In other news... (1)

PiSkyHi (1049584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170305)

In my experience, a "decent" PSU usually costs anywhere from 40% to 200% more than a generic one and I have found that after many installations of generic PSUs, none have exploded, some have died after about 18 months and most have lived for the life of the machine dying for some other reason or being put out of commission.

I never treat the PSU as something that should be kept waiting for the next generation of CPU to give it.

New box, new PSU - cheapest is fine, like HD's, a small portion die in the first month where any shop will replace it for free regardless of price. Another small portion will die at an unexpected time a year or so later - annoying, but I can live with it. The rest will be put out of commission when the box is filled with dust years later.

My experience shows that a price hike of no more than around 20% would make it worthwhile.

Even then, no guarantee either way, which is why a decent PSU is no substitute for a decent backup system. It's hardware, be prepared for its unexpected death.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170073)

What cheap PSU's are often made of:
1. MOSFETS with lower voltage and/or current ratings.
2. Smaller heat sinks.
3. Lower quality or undersized electrolytic capacitors (they leak and/or dry out resulting in poor regulation).
4. Cheap sleeve bearing fan instead of ball bearing (if there's even a fan at all).
5. Undersized inductors.
6. No fuse to prevent it from going "BOOM!" in the event of a component failure.
7. Inadequate overvoltage protection on the 3.3/5/12V outputs in the event of a component failure or excessive input voltage (causing computer parts to fry).
8. Inadequate overcurrent protection on the input and output side.
9. Little or no RTV or glue used under heavy components to keep them secured to the PCB (to prevent them from breaking off).
10. Little or no post production inspection/final test prior to packaging and shipment.

That's not to say all cheap PSUs are created equal. I've ordered some very well built PSU's that were $10-$20 after rebate. I've also bought some rather expensive ones that only lasted 1-2 years.

Re:In other news... (1)

Malekin (1079147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170117)

Electrolytic capacitors are one obvious place cost can be cut.

There are a couple of topologies [st.com] that are applicable. Most computer powersuuplies are (I think) single-switch forward converters. The topologies with more switches provide better performance, but more switches means more expensive transistors.

Higher frequency switching generally provides more stable output, but requires "faster" transistors and transistor drivers, which again, are more expensive than "slower" ones.

Re:In other news... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170155)

Not an expert, but I'm guessing it has partly to do with the quality of capacitors, and probably more importantly with general design principles and quality control.

Re:In other news... (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170649)

I don't know.

But I do know that 2 of my eMachines had bad power supplies - they died after just 1.5 years. The first time was no big deal, but the second time damaged my hard drive causing me to lose all my nudist beach pho..... er, data.

The $100 replacement supply has lasted 4 years so far with no sign of quitting.

Re:In other news... (5, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170669)

Here's a partial list:

  • Capacitor quality
  • capacitor sizing
  • inductor sizing
  • power factor correction
  • Switching transistor sizing
  • switching PS topology
  • fan quality
  • temperature based fan control
  • heat sink design
  • output crowbar protection

I've seen companies use components rated at or just below their stated current rating in order to save money (using 8 amp transistors in a 10 amp supply, for example). They'll often work right out of the box, but, since there's no margin built in they will run hot and eventually fail. As to component quality, take it from someone who designs and manufactures precision instrumentation, I can tell you that there can be an enormous difference in quality from one manufacturer to another. "considering all the parts are mass manufactured, anyway" is not a valid argument.

Re:In other news... (3, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170351)


I've been "doing" computers since the early 90s. I've never had much problem with power supplies. And I do mean *never*.

I took an ancient, generic 286 computer, and upgraded it through 386SX, 486 DX/2, Cx 6x86, and AMD Athlon motherboards before finally switching to ATX. It was a cheezy, god-only-knows-who-made it power supply that came from a 'not-quite-aluminum-foil' AT case.

And I've done plenty of computers since. I've *always* bought the cheapest, craptastic cases and power supplies, and generally had years of excellent service before dying. I'd say my average life expectancy for a power supply is over 5 years, and I say that because I generally give up on the computer before the power supply dies.

What makes a computer last a long, LONG time?

1) Under-clock the CPU. Really. 10-20% makes a significant difference in reliability because it runs cooler, but almost never makes enough difference to notice for real-world, day-to-day usability. As you approach the thermal limits of our CPU, the longevity drops off sharply. 10% makes a *huge* difference.

2) Dust out the computer every year or so. Dust is an insulator, which causes heat "hot spots" that play hell with components.

3) Replace the fans regularly. I keep servers running for years on years on years by replacing the fans every other year or so. Along with dusting out the server, they keep on ticking far longer than you ever thought possible. I've had systems last well over 10 years with decent reliability by doing this when performance simply wasn't an issue.

4) Don't turn it off! Computers that are turned on/off every day last a few years. Servers that are babysat, running 24x7 at a consistent temperature run damn near forever. This costs money, so run the numbers to see what uptimes vs power consumption really costs you.

I've never noticed power supplies (cheap, expensive) being much of an issue. I've seen craptastically cheap hardware run under heavy loads for a very long time without complaint, and I've seen plenty of expensive, "high end" hardware die well before it's expected life time. /shrug/

Re:In other news... (3, Insightful)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170653)

I've never underclocked a CPU, don't replace fans unless they break or get noisy and turn my computer off an average of two times a day. Never, ever has a computer broken even though I'm ignoring 3 of your rules.

The thing is my above observation means absolutely nothing as the sample is far to small to be of any statistical significance. I expect the same is true for your experience with PSUs. If someone has done testing on a reasonable scale, in monitored condition then it would be of real use to people buying 100s of units who want to minimise TCO.

I tend to buy reasonably good PSUs but mainly because I'm after energy efficiency (which is also why I power down twice a day).

What does HP use??? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169841)

I have owned several HP/Compaq machines and NEVER have lost a PSU. And all of the ones I have built myself with parts (Antec) have had a PSU fail multiple times...

Re:What does HP use??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169865)

No doubt. Antec PSU = exploding/bulging capacitors! And here we all thought that was a problem limited to crappy motherboards! I stick to Seasonic now.

Re:What does HP use??? (2, Interesting)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169907)

I have had two PSUs fail on me. One was in an expensive Dell workstation and it exploded overnight, leaving a very interesting smell. The other was an Antec provided with a case, and it just stopped working for no reason. I didn't think PSUs could suck so badly, but I've learned my lesson.

Re:What does HP use??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170433)

Ones in HP's I've seen use Delta, Aztech, Lite-On and a few others that I can't remember.

I have never, ever seen a HP/Compaq business PC PSU die. Not only that they usually have pretty decent PFC for a desktop.

I can't be bothered building nowdays simply because the build quality and reliability of HP and Dell business machines is pretty hard to beat, and it takes up too much time to find decent custom parts that all get along properly.

Re:What does HP use??? (1, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170491)

I've always bought whatever was cheapest for the wattage I needed and have never had a PSU fail or a PC fail as a result of anything I can really guess was power related (Well, I suppose technically, it's impossible to know but hard drive failures for example when they don't die outright i.e. crashing heads seem unlikely to be power related).

The only exceptions where I have spent a bit more on a PSU I've found they offered me no notable advantage other than that described (quieter, more cables maybe). Paying more for better featuresets is something you'd expect in most product lines, for example the one I used in my latest machine which I paid a little more for will turn itself back on to let the fans spin and cool down the system once I've already turned it off, this isn't much use unless your PC crashes due to overheating and the system needs to be cooled down quicker, which mine hasn't- so I suppose it just wastes power over letting it just cool naturally after a shut down.

I'm not really convinced there's any more risk with budget PSUs, I just think you're paying for brand name and features, if you need those features, pay for them, if you don't then budget PSUs don't seem to bring any harm.

There is only one exception I've seen to this when I was working in tech support where one supplier used PSUs that all failed within about 6months to a year, but this strikes me more as a problem with that individual product line than an inherent product with cheap PSUs- it's not like we haven't seen expensive named brands such as Fujitsu hard drives, Microsoft XBox 360 have their faulty batch product lines too.

Having worked in support for 7 years in a place where we had over 5000 users and machines from all sorts of suppliers including some from non-big name brands that put together some pretty cheap hardware, and having also built many machines for myself and others over the years I'm convinced if this was an issue then it would be one that was much more prominent. I found things like Maxtor hard drives being the biggest bain back then if anything with a much higher failure rate than any other vendor (ignoring the Fujitsu MPG3 drive line screw up) but then it was telling that they dropped their warranty from 3 to 1 year whilst Seagate and Western digital upped theirs from 3 to 5 years- if anything talks volumes about product confidence that does!

Have others really seen a higher failure rate in systems with cheaper PSUs as a running trend as opposed to a one off?

Re:What does HP use??? (4, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170749)

We've had the opposite experience of HP power supplies, we just had to replace 70 HP supplies. When machines started failing in the field, I found that there was massive amounts of ripple on the 12v and 5v lines. When I disassembled the PSU it wasn't hard to tell why - bulging and leaking capacitors.

I've gotta agree. (5, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169847)

Generic power supplies are an awful plague upon our fair world. Why, just last week I was using my homebrew PSU rack to power my uncle's hospice life support system. Now I'm going to his funeral this weekend. Tragic, just tragic...

Teenishness (0, Troll)

Ninjaesque One (902204) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169911)

Is there any hope that we will get a non-schizoid titling scheme? This one seems more worthy of a Seventeen or a Teen People than of a Slashdot.

What are you all yabbing about? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169923)

Everyone knows where to get the best PUS, from PUSSY. I get PUSSY all the time for my COMPUTER because I have the most awesome COMPUTER ever.

These days, you can't really be sure (2, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169965)

...As it turns out, any money you save on a generic PSU purchase will likely cost you more in the long run..."

To such statements, I say "Ohh puhleeze!" I use generic power supplies for all my PCs, which I never switch off by the way. Apart from increased noise after about 3 years of constant humming, I have no complaints for a product that costs me about 18 dollars.

I heard Google uses the same stuff too.

Re:These days, you can't really be sure (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170013)

To such statements, I say "Ohh puhleeze!" I use generic power supplies for all my PCs, which I never switch off by the way. Apart from increased noise after about 3 years of constant humming, I have no complaints for a product that costs me about 18 dollars.

Your experience is clearly different to mine, since I have replaced many generic power supplies that had failed. Some of those failed power supplies also took out the motherboards they were attached to.

Re:These days, you can't really be sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170085)

Similar experience here as well - after the second generic PSU of mine to take out almost every component of my system (the last one spared my CD drive and the 2 RAM modules... that's it), I'm not even going to think about using one again.

Sure, the PSU only cost about $20, but replacing the equipment cost over $500, and I wasted a day or two setting everything back up again.

Re:These days, you can't really be sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26171157)

Ditto. My PSU took out the motherboard, CPU, and *melted/fused* the plastic motherboard-PSU connector.

Re:These days, you can't really be sure (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170159)

Google may use cheap shit, but they can do so because their reliability comes in the form of redundancy. When you have a lot of systems, you can set them up so that no one failure has any real impact on your service. It's like a RAID-5 array. The disks themselves may not be that reliable but the overall array is because if one fails, you lose nothing you just replace it. Likewise a RAID-6 is more reliable since two can fail, and so on.

However, people at home don't have that luxury. I have one main computer. If it fails, I'm SOL until I get replacement parts. If a bad PSU takes out other components, I'm more screwed. So I have to go through reliability of the components themselves, get better components so they fail less often.

Re:These days, you can't really be sure (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170229)

Same here, although I tend to stick to the $30-40 range, as the super cheapos tend to crap out on me after about a year. As for the other posters and the PSU taking out the whole board, it really depends on what you are going to be doing with the machine. For the gamers I spend the extra because of the strain the GPU and CPU put on the PSU during heavy play, but if a box is just going to be a basic netbox it doesn't hurt IMO to go with the cheapo.

The box I am typing this on now is going on 8 years old running a cheapo 150 watt and it has never had a bit of trouble despite running for 24/7/365 all this time. Of course it is also only being used as a netbox and rarely hits above 50% usage, so it isn't likely to ever strain the PSU. But in my exp if you make sure there is enough headroom there really isn't too many problems running cheapos. My 5 year old game PC ran a 450 watt $35 special until this year when I upgraded to a $35 550 to give extra breathing room for the graphics card. But since I am only running a 7600AGP with a 3.6GHz P4 I figure I'm only hitting about 350 watt max so I have plenty of headroom to spare.

In my exp running a machine too close to the PSU max output tends to blow them more often than whatever the make or model is. I always try to keep 150-250 watts of headroom and have never had any trouble, nor has any of my customers. Of course I won't say these are absolute rules, because after building and fixing PCs for nearly 15 years I've found PC parts are often a crap shoot no matter WHO made them, as bad batches are inevitable when parts are cranked out in such numbers. So as always YMMV

Generic rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170437)

buy a generic for $15 that might fail...
buy an expensive one for $60+ that might fail...

So far i've had better luck with the total generic ones that come with cheap cases. Most of them are still around and still working too. All the way back to the original xt supplies i can't seem to throw away.

Yet the few times i've actually bought "good" expensive well known brands.. FAIL. And no. i don't count just the fan dying as a failure. It's always something major.

Name brand is for suckers in this case. The price diffrence isn't worth it at all.

Maybe it's that all my computers run 24-7. Or i've been damm lucky. But i've never had a plain ol generic supply fail.

Re:These days, you can't really be sure (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170483)

I heard Google uses the same stuff too.

With the risk of sounding cliche, I'd like a citation for that.

To such statements, I say "Ohh puhleeze!" I use generic power supplies for all my PCs, which I never switch off by the way. Apart from increased noise after about 3 years of constant humming, I have no complaints for a product that costs me about 18 dollars.

Generic PSU's do not undergo the same rigorous testing that "brand" name ones do. You might get a good batch. You might not. PSU's that a company is willing to put their brand name against perform consistantly. The voltage stays within a given spec. The load and wattage stays within a spec. A "spec". Yes, the better PSU's have specs that they adhere to. Not to mention the often better cable management which can lead to overall cooler systems.

No surprise at all (2, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169969)

There aren't very many factories that actually make PSUs. You'll find that a great many PSUs share designs. So you can have cheapies that look like brand name PSUs. Ok so what's the money difference? Parts quality. The company making generics says "Ya give me the cheapest caps, fan controls, etc. I need lowest cost no matter what." The good brands say "Give us higher temperature parts, better quality, etc." Just because they look the same, doesn't mean they are built ot the same standard.

The difference between good and crap in electronics can often be as simple as the parts used. However, good parts cost more money so you are going to pay more for the finished product.

Personally, I'm a Corsair fanboy. They seem to spec really high grade electronics in to their powersupplies and those things do a great job.

Re:No surprise at all (1)

floodo1 (246910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170261)

Generally speaking Corsair does have very good power supplies. The HX line is really top notch stuff, in pretty much all aspects. They don't make the best PSU's, but they're right there with the best.

Re:No surprise at all (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170457)

Then there are the adherents of the "Mad Man" Muntz school of engineering. As it was described to me, he would randomly remove components from a prototype television set. Anything that could be removed without causing an immediate and obvious problem stayed removed. This allowed him to cut the component count and cost by a substantial margin. It also resulted in a television that was a POS.

Check for UL approval (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169985)

They should have checked each power supply for a UL marking, and an entry in the UL Certification Database. [ul.com] Things seem to be getting better, though; the power supplies tested did not blow up or catch fire at full load. That's a big improvement from a few years ago.

The basic UL requirements are 1) no overload problems at full load, 2) no explosion or fire under output overload/short conditions, and 3) no single component failure can cause a fire (i.e. there should be a fuse of some kind in there.) It's permitted for an overloaded unit to fail and never work again; that's not a safety issue. Some no-name power supplies had real problems meeting those basic conditions.

Re:Check for UL approval (2, Informative)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170409)

I can't tell, is that one in with all the other fancy logos on the side of This [jonnyguru.com] Allied branded Deer PSU that exploded when jonnyguru tested it?

No, it isn't UL approved (2, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170469)

If you look, that supply is only "UR" component recognition, i.e. it is not UL approved as a standalone item. UR just means that, if a UL tester finds it inside a computer being tested as a whole, he does not test the PSU individually but treats it as a single component. Replying to my own post, below, I should clarify that this seems to be a loophole that I have encountered before. Nobody should sell a UR assembly to an end user, it should only be sold to an OEM to replace an identical item in a UL piece of equipment. I hope this clarifies things.

Re:No, it isn't UL approved (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170633)

Well, all things considered I'm pretty sure that it being prone to failure by means of exploding makes it undesirable regardless of it's status elsewise.

Not necessarily (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170785)

A good example is zinc oxide surge absorbers. A big enough surge causes them to explode, but provided the equipment is designed to absorb the explosion, there is no problem. So the suppressor could be UL recognised, used in a UL approved enclosure where it is surrounded by metal, no problem. Used in a homebrew piece of equipment in a plastic box, it could be a serious fire hazard.

This PSU could be perfectly safe mounted in the top of a steel PC chassis, but dangerous in a plastic chassis. That's why it should not be sold to end users.

Though not in EU, of course (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170439)

There are numerous EU certification bodies, but basically any supply has to be CE marked. From experience with both kinds of approvals, and work on IEC electrical safety committees, I would say that there is nothing to choose between them. But can you actually buy a psu nowadays that is not UL and CE marked?

I think most problems would be with older equipment made in the days when both the US and the EU countries were trying to make inroads in the Chinese suppliers. For a time the certification bodies seemed to go a little crazy and let the Chinese get away with murder because they all wanted to be the primary Chinese certification body. One of the best incidents I remember was an auditor going around a Chinese plant with ISO 9002 certification. All the documentation was there, all the procedures written up. In English. And no-one in the entire factory spoke English. I doubt this is the case with electricals any more.

Re:Though not in EU, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170771)

CE marking is meaningless nowadays, as there are no strong enforcement bodies or certification orgs.

Any electronics importer/rebrander can (and will, believe me) slap a 'CE' sticker on their Chinese-made POS.

Much better reviews (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26169989)

This site has some really detailed stuff: http://jonnyguru.com

you know what helps (1)

sirmonkey (1056544) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170003)

haveing a good UPS... or two. one set on low sense, and the 2nd set on high sense... keeps my machines running. :-) but i also live in a 1950's neighborhood where i can tell when my neighbor's dryer turns on.

Overlooked (3, Insightful)

pauloncall (1087179) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170035)

Why does every article on power supplies feel the need to remind us that power supplies are probably the most overlooked component? Judging by the number of online reviews and by the 560 (!) power supplies available at Newegg, I think it's safe to finally retire the "overlooked" cliche.

Re:Overlooked (2, Funny)

feepness (543479) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170215)

Judging by the number of online reviews and by the 560 (!) power supplies available at Newegg,

They just overlooked those.

With the economy in the crapper... (1)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170039)

You can get the best brands for the least amounts of money. Seriously, the prices for PSUs and other computer components have dropped drastically, as long as you are smart enough to stay away from dying retail stores with their aged inventory at horrible pre-Recession prices, and do your due diligence on online price engines you can score some insane bargains. Newegg and a bunch of other onliners kick Frys and Best Buys ass every time.

Stay away from Bestec (1)

TheBlunderbuss (852707) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170061)

I've noticed a few computers that had a Bestec PSU fry their motherboard. I'm not sure if they're sold stand-alone, but they used to be found in HP and eMachines.
Granted, they might have been vastly underrated for upgrades, but still, two machines! That has to be, like, common?

*shrug* It's soured me on the brand, and pre-built computers, at least.

Re:Stay away from Bestec (2, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170315)

As a PC repairman I have run into the Bestec brand a few times, even built a few machine with them, and I can tell you it ain't the brand, although they are cheap and I tend not to use them(they have lousy fans if they even bother to have a fan at all) except in the occasional "granny" machines that are only doing basic web stuff. I can tell you the problem with both the HP and the eMachine you describe, because I have ran into it in the shop, and the problem is this:

For awhile there both HP and eMachine would put in VASTLY underpowered PSUs in their machines, which would naturally strain the living hell out of the PSU and cause it to blow, taking out the PC with it in many cases. I have actually seen fairly modern machines from HP and eMachine(a few years maybe 3 old) that had a Bestec PSU with a MAX rating of 200 watts! for any modern machine that is simply unacceptable. And woe be to anyone that actually tried to upgrade anything in one of those machines without yanking the PSU first, because with that little headroom it was bye bye PC.

As I put in an earlier post with the cheap PSUs you need to have at LEAST 150 watts of headroom ABOVE what you machine uses under max load. For example when my PC used 300 watts max ( figured using a calc like this [aanet.com.au]) I used a 450 watt cheapo(NOT Bestec because I require a fan in my PC) and when I upgraded my PC and its power usage went to 350 I changed it out for a 550 watt PSU. So don't really blame Bestec. I have used them in a few ultra low power HTPC and ultra quiet desktops and they still work fine. Blame HP and eMachine for building a PC that used 200 watts and putting a 200 watt PSU in it instead of spending an extra dollar and getting one with a little more juice. That IMHO is the big difference between the cheapos and the big brands, with the cheapos you really need a LOT more headroom IMHO than you do with the big brands. But of course YMMV and everyone seems to have preferences when it comes to PC parts.

Re:Stay away from Bestec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26171167)

As I put in an earlier post with the cheap PSUs you need to have at LEAST 150 watts of headroom ABOVE what you machine uses under max load.

It's a nice rule of thumb, but incomplete in my opinion: you should strive to have a system load of 50%-80% of the power output of the PSU (-10% for cheap-ass crap). That way you will have a power supply that has a decent power-conversion ratio (i.e. mainline efficiency), and you are not taxing it by overpowering its output lines.

For example when my PC used 300 watts max (...) I used a 450 watt cheapo

67% load. That's well within the target zone.

and when I upgraded my PC and its power usage went to 350 I changed it out for a 550 watt PSU.

63% load. If your calculations were really worst-case (as in: your PC will never reach or go over the 350W), you could have gone with a 500W PSU and have slightly higher efficiency. Then again, if you would have used a quality PSU, you would not have had to switch to a larger PSU at all.

Disclaimer: this is all my personal opinion; yes I am an EE, but I don't deal with power supplies on a regular basis.

Re:Stay away from Bestec (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170381)

Granted, they might have been vastly underrated for upgrades, but still, two machines! That has to be, like, common?

The big OEMs have some shitty PSUs, second highest failure rate (after the system boards) when I was at Dell.

Stephane Charpentier's review of 105 PSUs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Cowherd X (850136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170145)

This techreport.com round-up is a joke. If you really want to read a detailed review check out Stephane Charpentier's review of 105 PSUs [google.com]. Each of his reviews includes everything you'd expect plus a complete assessment of the electronics used in the PSU with very detailed explanations.

Re:Stephane Charpentier's review of 105 PSUs (1)

Cerium (948827) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170555)

It may be superior, but considering it was originally written in French and the translator is interpreting whatever "power supply" is in French as "food" is making it incredibly hard to follow.

Also: everything else that is wrong with the English version.

Hmmm.. (1)

comm2k (961394) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170205)

my generic cheap PSU I bought 5 or 6 years ago (rated 300W) still works fine. It sometimes gets noisy for a 10-15 seconds but then goes back to 'normal'. It powered my Duron 650, then XP 2000+ / 2600+ and now X2 4400+. I must be very lucky.

If you have any interest (4, Interesting)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170235)

Taking an old 300 watt atx power supply apart to make a variable 0-5v and 0-12v bench power supply for electronics projects will teach you what you will need to know about quality of components if you have a decent DMM, or better a USB scope to see the difference when you switch out caps and other components. An often overlooked problem with cheap power supplies is that bad soldering and cheap PCBs [wikipedia.org] cause the capacitors to work harder to move the same amount of charge. This effects voltage as it relates to capacitance's formula C = Q/V and its integral (dammit give me MathML) sigh read Wikipedia's definition [wikipedia.org]. Doesn't matter how good your caps are if the circuit was soldered by someone being paid slave wages working 14 hour shifts. The real cost of the plenitude of cheap electronics is going to be an interesting story. Besides the obvious horrors of the places of manufacture in Asia and the dumping grounds in Africa where similar autoimmune disorders, cancers and genetic abnormalities are rampant is the story of what happens between those two places. It is not just the disposable aspect that technology plays in our culture that fascinates me but how little knowledge of the design and manufacture of technology is present in the people that purchase it, sell it or even repair it. PC techs without any electronics understanding are the worse, "Who needs an anti-static work area when I can use any flat surface including a pizza box?" and than wonder why they have half a dozen motherboards laying around the house that won't work. /rant If I have the time before Xmas I will post my pics and schematics on my blog. Did it for an EE project. Working on LCDs and circuitry to display voltage and amperage (currently have 4 lobotomized dmm pcb w/ attached backlit lcd doing a reading each.

Re:If you have any interest (1)

thephydes (727739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170371)

Yes! Only yesterday I made a bench PS using, one from and old laser printer (built like a friggen battleship, but the pinouts were a bit strange) and a 5V / 12V one from an old PC. Works a treat, and will do me for most of the electronics stuff that I do.

Spotting a winner. (2, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170479)

"We've narrowed our focus on PSUs in the 350-500W range, which should be enough power for most budget and mid-range systems."

This isn't quite true. The more important question is the amps on the +12V Rails? Even better if yours has a monorail design were all the power-hungry parts can get what they need. Also sustained rating is important. Not peak. And last even the better brands can be/go bad. My PC Power & Cooling 750 silencer was recieved DOA. It happens even to the best...much like hard drives.

Need one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170485)

I need a new PSU for an old P2-450 SCSI server, could anyone recommend me a not-so-expensive one?
The current one still works, but the fan makes some annoying loud clicking noise for the first 5-10 minutes it's turned on, which is why the server is down at the moment, it doesn't sound trustworthy.

Biased? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170499)

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with the conclusions of this report, but I feel compelled to point out that The Tech Report probably doesn't get a whole lot of advertising revenue from the makers of generic power supplies. If their tests found that some generic no-name unit performed just as well as the more expensive name brands, would they necessarily report it?

My two cents... (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170547)

I just checked and my box (2.4Ghz Athlon 64, 1GB 533Mhz ram, one pata hard drive, nvidia 7300gt video card) uses a 400W Duro supply. I've had this thing for about 5 years or so with no problems. It looks more like the $20 models than the expensive ones.

So, uh, go Duro...

I agree with (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26170605)

I definitely agree with the last part

"As it turns out, any money you save on a generic PSU purchase will likely cost you more in the long run."

On my last creation I had to change PSU three times because the cheap one failed, the store wasn't too happy when I got in for the third time and asked for a refund. I ended up with a Corsair PSU. It was much quieter and I havent had any PSU related problems ever since.

Duh (1)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170637)

Well, I mean really, there is no other component in your PC that touches everything as much as your PSU does and there is hardly a component that gets less attention (for many the case gets less but that is OK). As such there is a market for cheap PSU's. A bad PSU can ruin *any* component in your PC (including itself), not even your motherboard can boast that.

We know that there can be HUGE differences between top and bottom end if for nothing more than quality of soldering. Next we know that that both skill and time are needed to make high quality joints and skill and time are not cheap. We also know margins have to be kept such that the company turns a profit. Therefore we can pretty much assume that high end PSU's will be expensive and low end ones cheap (though, of course, expensive doesn't necessarily mean high end), especially given that there are places where the high end are are a *requirement* and thus people will spend whatever is needed, that is where margins are made so that the low end stuff can still be sold and mostly work.

*shrug* having been bit once in the past (around 2001 or so) by some cheap PSU's in a small-medium (64 node) computational cluster I know what bad ones can do. We had our server room (halon fire suppression system) call us one day that one of the nodes was smoking and what should they do: "umm that big red button? Push it, then run". It was all nice and melty when I took it apart (halon system didn't deploy thankfully so it was just an amusing story), I used to have a nifty picture of it and the scorch marks but I can't find the picture anymore - however it was obviously it had an actual flame.

Later on when we moved to large clusters then MTB of all the components started to become important. Even then the PSU was one of the higher failure rate parts, I always assumed that this had something to do with the few nodes we had with redundant hardware always had more PSU's than they really should need (other components being just as important yet not having a main and three backups).

No PC Power and Cooling? (1, Insightful)

Xabraxas (654195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170727)

The review isn't even worth reading because they don't compare a PC Power and Cooling PSU. I don't trust anything else because even the other big name brands use a bunch of gimmicky crap in their PSUs.

no sparks (1)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 5 years ago | (#26171029)

After several bad experiences, even with UPSs, I have adopted the superstition of avoiding power supplies made by companies with "spark" in their names. Since this decision several years ago, the worst failure I've suffered is a drive that spewed SMART warnings for months -- but kept working -- until I finally RMAd it.

Check for country of origin (3, Interesting)

GomezAdams (679726) | more than 5 years ago | (#26171123)

Among other things granted to the Chinese during the Clinton administration was the relaxation of having to meet FCC part 15 subpart B for electronics. Some Chinese power supplies put out tremendous amounts of RF all across the spectrum. Might check that too if you are having problems with radio reception. When I can get them I always buy Taiwan made power supplies because #1 they are better engineered and built, and #2 they do not radiate RF. They have to meet the RF emissions requirements. So far I've had a large failure rate of Chinese power supplies because of being under engineered and the poorly made components. Electronics are like everything else being made in China today. They cut corners and mismanage and put out crap clothes, electronics, baby food, pet food, toys, medicines, and every body just keeps letting them get by with it. Most of my Chinese made shirts don't come with pockets anymore, the thread count of the cloth is lower, the sewing thread is smaller diameter and of poorer quality. The seams are sewn right up against the edges so they rip out in the washing machine and buttons disappear after a few washings too. And if you take medicines ask your pharmacist what the country of origin is. It might surprise the hell out of you. Almost everything I take now (blood pressure and kidney meds) are made in India. That scares the bejesus out of me too but not nearly as much as Chinese made meds.
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