When it comes to testing a power supply, there are a lot of choices in how to tackle the job. I have found that while a multimeter can give scads of data, most of us don't have a clue what all these facts and figures mean. Even the elite of the enthusiast crowd doesn't always keep up with the inner workings of a power supply. So what do we do?
Since a majority of our readers tend to be deeply into overclocking their systems, why not run the power supply in an overclocked system and then stress it out? After we get things worked up nicely by running 3DMark loops and burning CD disks, we'll take a reading of the power levels right in the middle of this mess. This ought to give us a workable answer as to whether or not this product can give us the power we need under stressful conditions. If it can give solid results under this type of operating condition, it will let us know that it can handle the regular chores that we are likely to throw at it.
So lets start off with a look at the test rig:
Soltek 75MRN-L Motherboard (nForce2 chipset) (Supplied by Soltek)
Athlon XP 1700+ @ 2.1GHz
Cooler Master X-Dream SE HSF (Supplied by Cooler Master)
2x 512MB Crucial PC2700 DDR
Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro (Supplied by Sapphire)
D-Link 10/100 NIC
TDK 52x CD-RW
Pioneer 16x DVD
Western Digital 80GB 8MB Hard Drive
Seagate 40GB 2MB Hard Drive
Sony 3.5" Floppy Drive
5x 80mm case fans
1x 120mm case fan
All right then, the processor is running at 1.65v, the memory is at 2.7v and the AGP is at default. The system is overclocked and the video card is known to cause weaker power supplies to cringe in terror. Add the stress factors mentioned above and we should get a fair look at what this PSU is capable of.
As a final note, most manufacturers claim a leeway of +/- 5% of any given output level. Using this as a common ground, we should end up with rail voltage levels of 3.135-3.465v on the 3.3v rail, 4.75-5.25v on the 5v rail and 11.4-12.6v on the 12v rail. Keep this in mind when we go through the numbers below. Higher values can be beneficial, lower values bear watching.
I was more than just a little surprised to find that a mere 350 watt PSU could maintain numbers like this when thrashing the system. Even with all the fans and everything else going full tilt, the Super Tornado was able to keep pace with power supplies that are far out of it's class.
My only real concern was the 3.3v power rail. Just like its big brother at 460 watts, this model put out 3.20 volts of power to devices along this path. While I didn't run into any instabilities, this is getting very close to being in the red zone. Considering the 3.3v rail handles the video board, memory, Northbridge and Southbridge, you can see where this might be some cause for alarm if it were to go any lower. But it did maintain itself in that 5% margin we discussed above.
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