When it comes to testing a power supply, there are two courses to travel. One takes you down a path using a device to stress out the PSU and provide data regarding the power levels across all three rails. The second, and the one I make use of, utilizes an actual test system to give a more real-world account of what the power supply is capable of. While both methods have their merits, I prefer to use an actual computer to more closely resemble the manner of use that you, the potential customer, will put the product through.
That said, let's take a quick look at the test system. At the request of readers, I have beefed up the system to put a more realistic strain on the power supply.
Gigabyte 965P-DS4 motherboard (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor
2x 1024MB Corsair XMS2-8500-C5 memory (Supplied by Corsair)
GeCube X1900XTX graphics (Supplied by GeCube)
Sapphire X1900XT graphics (Supplied by Sapphire)
Western Digital 250GB SATA hard drive
2x Western Digital 160GB SATA hard drives
Western Digital 80GB hard drive
Sony 52x CD-ROM optical drive
Samsung 16x DVD-R optical drive
2x 120mm fans
4x 80mm fans
While this isn't a Quad-GPU setup, we are certainly in the realm of having a system that is going to put a significant power drain on any power supply. Testing will consist of checking the power levels across all three rails at idle and again while the system is under stress. This should give us a good look at the capabilities of the power supply being tested.
When you begin looking at dual graphics boards, you will find that most manufacturers will recommend you to get a power supply in the 750w and above range. Given these numbers, I was interested in seeing how a meager 580w model would perform. No matter the level of strain I placed on the graphics subsystem, the system remained perfectly stable. I even made sure to run these tests at irregular intervals over a two week period to make sure there were no issues that cropped up, but again the system remained perfectly stable. This bodes well for those who aren't looking for a monster system, but want to make sure they have ample room to upgrade in the future.
All power levels also maintained a very workable level regardless of load levels. While I had expected the power rails to decrease a little, I was pleased to note that they did not fluctuate at all when monitoring the voltage levels with a multimeter. I guess that power conditioning feature has a bit of merit to it after all.
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