Date: March 8, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams
All too often we read reviews of power supplies that are not cheap. Some good power supplies can run between $100 and $150, if not higher! Not everyone has enough money for a top end PSU, so we are taking a look at Ultras Value line-up to see if they would be a good choice when you are low on cash.
When it comes to building a new system, many people tend to overlook the power supply. “Oh, this one is only $50 and looks fine, let’s stick with that.”, “Wow, $100 for a PSU, screw that!” Needless to say, overlooking your PSU purchase is not a wise move, because it can result in have an unstable system or one that could potentially be wrecked if a cheap PSU happens to blow.
In the past year, we have taken a look at four different Ultra power supplies, and they all proved to be a great product worthy of a purchase. I thought it would be fun to see how well their Value power supplies held up to my tests though, so they sent me all three models, the 350W, 400W and 500W.
The PSU’s arrived in great condition, and each box is colored differently to denote what wattage the PSU inside is rated for. The red box is the 350W, the green for 400W and blue for 500W. Some value PSU’s just come in a plain box, but Ultra goes the extra mile to make them look appealing. The boxes detail what’s inside, and what the output voltages are. Since we are dealing with three different PSU sizes today, I will include images of the voltage tables for each one:
|AC Input Voltage|
|AC Input Frequency|
|AC Input Currents|
7A (RMS) for 115VAC
4A (RMS) for 230VAC
7.5A (RMS) for 115VAC
4.5A (RMS) for 230VAC
8.5A (RMS) for 115VAC
5.5A (RMS) for 230VAC
All three power supplies have identical contents which include the power supply, a registration card, manual, power cord and some screws. Considering this is a value supply, it actually looks pretty good. Whereas other value supplies may be an ugly gray color, these are pure black and sport a huge 120mm exhaust fan.
Here is a quick feature set, which I grabbed from Ultras website, in addition to the connectors that each power supply includes.
One thing that stands out in my mind is the fact that these ‘value’ power supplies include a PCI-E power cable. In addition, there is 8 available 4-Pin Molex connectors which should prove to be plenty for anyone. Personally, I only had to use three. It also includes two S-ATA power cables and a 24-Pin motherboard connector that can be snapped apart to become a 20-Pin. One thing to note is that it includes a 4-Pin motherboard cable, so if you use an Intel board that requires an 8-Pin, you could just plug the 4-Pin into it skipping the first four holes. The four pins it should be connecting with are 5, 6, 7 and 8. This is what I had to do, and had no issues.
The inside of each PSU is obviously quite similar, but each size seems to weigh a little differently. The 500W PSU is heavier than the 350W. The inside of the PSU is kept quite tidy, and the cables running out the back are not tangled up in any way. Overall, these are good looking PSU’s, and more than what I expect to see from any value model.
I couldn’t wait to see how well these power supplies stood up to a great challenge, my Intel machine. The D 820 CPU by itself can hog up to 95W of power, and add to that all the other components, it will be a fun test. I installed each power supply one after another, starting with the 500W. In order to stress the system, I first ran a loop of 3D Mark 06 for an hour. After that, I opened up two instances of Super Pi and ran a copy on each core. After a half hour, I closed one of the Super Pi instances, and started up HD Tach to do a full HDD scan in addition to RTHDRIBL to work on the video card. After a half hour of this going on, I shut the PC off and continued with the next PSU and repeated the tests. I recorded all of the voltage fluctuations with a BETA version of EVEREST.
The results are as follows:
Surprisingly enough, the power supply that had the tightest voltages was the smallest. I had honestly figured that the Intel would eat the 350W alive. I was preparing for the worst… a blown PSU. I am very impressed that it held on like it did though! Of course, I don’t always recommend a 350W for any new computer; 400W more reasonable. On the other end of the scale, the 500W power supply was the one with the largest deltas which could be due to the larger amperage.
Overall though, all three power supplies proved very stable and handled the system well. If these we a more expensive model, they would still impress. If you do have extra cash for a larger, better power supply, you should always go for it. I would personally only rely on a value power supply on a smaller system, or one that’s not too system intensive all the time.
These power supplies proved to be ‘ultra’ stable for the test bed. They performed far better than I expected, especially the 350W. I have no problem recommending these power supplies if you are on a budget, but the best value for your money would be the 400W. Ultra has been known for producing very stable power supplies lately, and it’s obvious that they did not ignore their Value line. It appears that they care about the consumer and provide what they need. This became apparent to me when I seen a PCI-E connector was included, which does not happen with most other value supplies.
Simply put, I trust these power supplies. Now the pricing comes into the equation… are they worth it? They are indeed more expensive than some other power supplies on the market. The 350W averages at $45US, the 400W at $49 and the 500W at $60. At $60, you are half way to a much richer power supply, such as their X-Finity. Out of all three, I would have to recommend the 400W the most. It’s stable like the others, but it fits the right price point. All three are pure black PSU’s and don’t look like a true value unit right off. The Molex ends are all black and fit very securely into your drives and motherboard. Overall, these are great power supplies and if you are low on cash, you can’t go wrong.
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