As I stated early on, our goal was to find information regarding these power supplies and present it in a manner that will be helpful to the end user. Keeping the confusion to a bare minimum, I hope that we have succeeded in this. All units were able to handle the loads thrown at them, but some did manage to do a bit better than the others.
If you happen to be one of those who are questing for a solid power supply and also want peace and quiet, then you will be happy with most of the models tested today. To choose a winner in this category is tough, but it would have to be the SilenX model. They state a rated sound output of only 14dBA and it sounds very likely that they have managed to succeed in this claim. I had to put the ear right up to the unit to be able to actually hear any noise coming from it. The Raidmax units were both surprisingly quiet as well, but the SilenX beat them out. And while the Vantec and Thermaltake units both had a method to tame the noise levels, the others were working at their full cooling potential with the low noise levels.
With peripherals taking on a whole new light these days, having more Molex connectors is almost always a good thing. In this category, the Thermaltake and Vantec models came in at a tie with nine power leads each. This will give you a huge amount of flexibility when it comes time to powering up all of the toys on the inside of the case. With RAID becoming very popular and the addition of internal lighting that can make use of the 12v Molex connectors, this will certainly come in very handy.
In terms of cooling, I was most impressed with the Raidmax units. Both had the added 80mm fan on the internal panel and this can help with your case cooling like no other PSU that I have tested so far. Sure, the others have fans as well, but the purpose of these fans is to do nothing more than keep the PSU itself cool. That added monster on the inside of the Raidmax units drew an impressive amount of airflow through the power supply and will add to the airflow equation when planning your case cooling.
For those who are looking for aid in the realm of overclocking their systems, you'd be most interested in the actual power output along the given voltage rails. While a few tenths of a volt may not seem like that big a deal, this added trickle can mean the difference between a mediocre speed and a monstrous one. And in this test the surprise winner is the SilenX. With power running along the voltage rails over the stated default levels, it can give you that little extra boost you need to get to the next level in overclocking. But don't overlook the Thermaltake unit either. It too was able to set a higher level of power performance just a notch below the SilenX model.
If price is your main concern, then the Raidmax 400 will be a top contender in your mind. With a street price of US$50.99, it is the least expensive of all tested units. Other prices are US$70.00 for the Raidmax 500, US$109.95 for the SilenX 400, US$83.99 for the Thermaltake 480, and US$58.99 for the Vantec 400. But let's be realistic; if your main concern in regards to a power supply is cost, then you're not placing enough importance on the more important factors.
With regards to added features, I'm going to have to claim Vantec the winner by far. The added outlet on the back panel, the two SATA adaptors and the ability to control fan speeds are far above what you would normally expect to see on a power supply. But then the controllers that come with the Thermaltake unit are pretty cool too.
As you can see, there are just a huge number of factors to consider when it comes to a simple power supply. In the old days it was just a required component and the quality didn't really make a whole lot of difference. But recently it has been shown over and over again that the higher quality power supplies create a more stable operating environment for today's overpowered systems. And with modern components, I would not recommend anything lower than a quality 400 watt unit for even a mild enthusiast. It is just too important a component to skimp on.
So the bottom line comes down to what you really need in a PSU. There is literally something for everyone out there in terms of price, features, power output, noise levels...the list just keeps going. With any luck, this article will help you in your buying decisions and give you exactly what you want in a new power supply.
As a final note, I want to make sure that everyone is aware that there is a lot of forgery going on right now in the PSU arena. Several unscrupulous companies are falsely labeling off-brand power supplies with popular brand names and selling them off as the real thing. While you might not think that this makes a lot of difference, the results shown above state that it can make a huge one. So make sure that you are getting what you're paying for. Besides, the real companies will only honor warranties on legitimate products.
Here are the web addresses for the companies represented in this roundup: