There was a time, not too long ago, when a 1000 Watt power supply seemed like excess. However, with the recent advent of triple and quad graphics card systems, this once lofty capacity has become relatively common place. A quick visit to any of the myriad of PSU calculators available online and you may find your current system power demands now justify a 1000 Watt power supply.
No stranger to high capacity power supplies, Topower has been at the forefront of high performance power supplies in an OEM capacity for the likes of Tagan, ePower, Mushkin and BFG since 1986. Today, we take a look at a product Topower markets directly, the PowerBird series of high capacity power supplies. There are two available capacities, a 900 Watt and an 1100 Watt version.
Our sample is the 1100 Watt Special Edition version which includes a nice aluminum case. Let's take a look to see if the PowerBird can distinguish itself from the competition in this very crowded market. Can the Topower deliver? We will soon find out.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
After a quick gander at the PSU label, what likely draws attention is the use of no less than six 12V rails, each capable of 20 amps each. The total output for 12V is a competitive 81 amps for 972 Watts of the available 1100 Watt capacity. This is very competitive for the segment, but unfortunately, like many other 1000 Watt power supplies, there are only four PCI-E cables. More on that in a bit.
You will note the only feature exception is the 50C power rating. Since the ATX standard only requires the manufacturer to rate the PSU at 25C operating temperature, the true power rating may be significantly less at 50C since power loss occurs as operating temperatures rise to this level. This PSU is rated at 40C, which is quite a bit better than 25C, but is still a little low from the standard set by premium brands like Corsair or PC Power and Cooling. Our hotbox test, which brings up the ambient temperature to about 45 to 50C, will definitely uncover any weakness if it exists. It will be interesting to see if the PowerBird 1100 can operate at the rated output at the elevated operating temperatures.
The other item of interest is the 80 Plus certification, or the lack thereof, actually. It does claim "80 Plus" efficiency up to 85% on the side of the box, but it is not the normal trademarked 80 Plus label. A quick check at the 80 Plus certification site confirms that the power supply is not certified (at least, not yet). Now, while that does not mean the power supply cannot deliver 80 plus efficiency, it will definitely be something to validate. The manufacturer may have simply opted not to pay for the certification. It will be interesting to see if it makes the grade in spite of the lack of certification.
The power supply is readily available from many online retailers and is competitively priced at 249.99 USD at NewEgg. The unit includes a standard three year warranty starting when you purchase the power supply, so make sure you file that receipt! While this is a not a 5 year or lifetime warranty offered by many competitors, it is still a good duration.
The power supply comes in a large box with the handle for the aluminum case available to easily grab. The box is nicely designed with a picture of the unit on the front which highlights the large single 120mm fan and modular cabling. And, no, it is not an LED fan.
The back of the box provides some very good information on the features of the power supply. 80 Plus efficiency, modular cabling, active PFC, claimed support for two, three or quad graphics cards, some nice shots of the power supply and an interesting note about dual 12V transformers.
The side nicely highlights the power supply capacity and a breakdown of the power supply features.
And, a nice bit of information, a picture denoting the type and number of included modular cables. There will be no mistaking what cables are in the box.
In the Box
Opening the box, we find that the power supply is encased in a nice aluminum carrying case, a little bonus included with the Special Edition. Looks like there is no chance the power supply should experience any dings or dents during shipping.
Opening the aluminum case and you are greeted with a nicely packed unit. The power supply is wrapped snuggly in bubblewrap inside the included drawstring bag. It certainly makes you feel you just purchased something truly special.
The manual is nicely done, easy to read and contains some basic information. The standard information about the PSU, specs and warranty are included.
The unit comes with a much thicker 14 gauge power cable to handle up to 15 amps, some mounting screws and keys for the case.
Now, let's take a closer look at the Topower PowerBird 1100.
The Power Supply
First impressions are definitely positive. The finish is polished black chrome for a nice classy appearance. The PSU label sports the colorful Topower logo.
Here is a view of the fan side of the power supply. This is what you would see in many of the newer BTX cases. The logo is mounted to the 120mm fan grill and is not overbearing in any way. The overall look and feel is nicely executed.
The back side of the PSU is relatively standard with hexagon mesh. You will note a "Power Good" status light to provide a nice visual indicator when the PSU is operating correctly. A large toggle switch is included; very handy for when you hurriedly reach for the back of the case when your system locks up due to an unsuccessful over clock attempt. Yes, been there, done that.
Here is a look at the cable side of the power supply. The modular cabling is well laid out and labeled for easy reference. You will also notice that this power supply is completely modular; a nice, if not necessary feature for the ATX and CPU power runs. But I have yet to see where those were optional to install.
All of the cables are of good length, nicely sleeved and provide flexible connectivity. The 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-E runs will help power the very latest graphics cards. There are two ATX CPU connectors with one the flexible 4+4 variant and the other the standard 8-pin that are also EPS compliant.
Now, considering this unit claims to run two, three or four graphic cards, there are only four PCI-E power runs. While I can see that quad would be supported with only four connections on two dual GPU graphics cards, like the GTX 295, there would be no direct support for three GTX 260 or GTX 280/285 graphic cards with the included cables. This represents a bit of an artificial limitation considering the capacity of the power supply.
The 20+4 main connector can be seen here. It is nicely sleeved almost all the way to the end of the run. The two CPU runs, each on 12V2, include both an 8-pin and 4+4 pin version. This will allow the use of a dual CPU motherboard. My only concern is that while it is dual CPU capable, there would only be 20 amps available for both processors combined. That should not pose an issue, however, for almost any modern processor. A Q9650 at 4.0 GHz, for example, only draws 8.8 amps. Still, it is something to note for anyone considering this power supply for a multi-processor system.
Here are the four PCI-E power runs mentioned earlier. Included are two 6+2 pin and two 6-pin cables with each pair on a dedicated 12V rail (12V5 and 12V6). That means that each video run can supply up to 20 amps for an individual card. Considering a GTX 280 uses about 15 amps, this should be more than enough to power a single GPU graphics card. Now, if we look at plugging in a GTX295, some concerns become apparent since this card may use more than 20 amps of 12V power supplied by the single rail.
And finally, we take a look at the standard molex and SATA cabling. These are also of generous length and will offer flexibility in almost any sized system case enclosure. There are up to four of these cables permitted on the PSU. Personally, I would have rather seen another pair of PCI-E cables used instead to support a third video card. In spite of this limitation, we will be testing the use of three video cards on the power supply.
A Look Inside
Next, we open up the power supply to take a quick look at how well things are built where it really counts. Please keep in mind that opening a PSU will void your warranty and can be dangerous.
The main board looks organized with decent soldering on the bottom side. There are is a lot of solder in some spots along with a bar of metal soldered to the common ground. It seems that the board was reworked a little from the original design with these solder runs. I have seen this same rework on an ABS 1300 Watt power supply also built by Topower. A plastic film shields the internals from shorting against the casing. The heatsinks are made of a black anodized aluminum and appear sufficient to cool a power supply of this capacity.
You can see the two large transformers that supply 12V power nestled between the heat sinks. As far as I can tell without de-soldering components, these are bound together to supply a single output that is then split to the six rails. You will also notice two large main capacitors in the PSU. They are Toshin branded capacitors rated at 200v 1200uF @ 85C. They are a lesser known Japanese brand but are definitely a step above similar capacitors from Teapo or Samson.
Here we get a look at the coils and where the modular cables join to the main PCB, all nice and neat.
And a look at the modular PCB which considering all the cables is quite neat and clean.
While I am inside the power supply, I like to trace back the rail mappings to see where things are sourced. Like many power supplies, it looks like we have virtual rails shunted off the main dual 12V source. There are six in all. The power distribution is, as follows.
Now, a couple of notes on the power distribution. First, 12V1 is dedicated to the ATX cable. In my testing, under load, my EVGA 790i SLI board draws about 8.5 amps. So, this rail will be nowhere near capacity. 12V2 is dedicated to the CPU and on my test system with a Q9650 at 4.0 GHz the CPU draws about 8.8 amps while running wPrime 2.0 to load each of the CPUs at one hundred percent. So, even with two quad processors, the 20 amps should be sufficient to power both.
12V3 and 12V4 are used for molex and SATA runs and will come nowhere near the 20 amps allocated. I would have liked to see one of these rails instead allocated to power a third PCI-E graphics card. Finally, the 12V5 and 12V6 each command 20 amps to power up any two graphics cards. There are some open questions on whether these two dedicated PCI-E outputs could handle a couple of GTX 295 or 4870X2 cards to support the claim of quad graphics support.
Well, it looks like we have some questions in need of answers. It's high time to run the Topower PowerBird 1100 through our standard high capacity power supply tests.
Our load tests leverage a couple of FAST ATE active load testers and a variety of other equipment such as a hotbox, oscilloscope, power conditioner, temperature probe and a power consumption meter. You can read more about our standard testing approach here.
Our first five tests represent incrementing classes of modern gaming systems with the last test catered to the full spec of the power supply at up to about 1 kW. We measure voltage output at each load, ripple and efficiency. Now, for the Topower PowerBird 1100 Watt results:
The Topower PowerBird 1100 Watt power supply delivered some excellent results. First and foremost, check out the 3.3V performance. That is a solid result with almost no deviance from initial load. The same holds true for the 5V results. Again, spectacular results.
The 12V results were also very good. You may have noticed that 12V5 and 12V6 dropped a little under load beginning at Test 4, but considering it took a load well over the rated 20 amps per rail to drop the voltages below 11.8, this is actually another excellent result. Test 4 posed 23 amps of load on each rail and Test 5, 24 amps. These loads represent the power draw of two GTX 295 cards under full load. Considering the extra duty, the power supply operated flawlessly and operated within ATX specifications defined as voltages above the minimum 11.6. Very nice indeed, and at 50C, no less! You have to appreciate those results considering the extra load.
ATX specifications permit up to 120 mV of ripple on the 12V source and the PowerBird results were, once again, very solid. Results were well under 60 mV even at peak load; another stellar result for the Topower PowerBird 1100W power supply.
Now, as a deviation from the normal tests and due to the use of six 12V rails, we added one more hotbox test, 4B, to represent loading three GTX 280 graphics cards; similar to the 46 amps of draw for the graphics cards on Test 4, but, spread evenly over three rails. For this test, we grabbed power from 12V4 to power 15 amps of load for the third graphics card. During normal tests, this rail had no load defined. Now, with three rails loaded with 15 amps each, the results improved over loading the two PCI-E rails with 23 amps each. Efficiency and voltage results were more similar to Test 3 when all rail loads were well under 20 amps. Another great result.
So, what about efficiency? Even though we were unable to find any record that the Topower was 80 Plus certified, results certainly show that it would easily attain this certification. With normal load results approaching 87%, the claim of up to 85% efficiency looks to be accurate. Yes, there were results under 85%, but, to be fair, those tests slightly overloaded two of the 20 amp rails and even with this extra load, the power supply was still able to deliver 84% efficiency. The Topower PowerBird 1100 is a very capable power supply. Performance was nothing short of outstanding.
Topower has definitely delivered a very capable power supply. The PowerBird 1100 Watt power supply will service almost any enthusiast system you could imagine. If you have a couple of GTX 295 cards, there may be some caution required with the 20 amp limitation on each of the 12V rails assigned for video support. But, even with 25 amps of load on each these PCI-E rails, the PowerBird delivered without pause.
Our tailored test, 4B, which used the 12V4 to power a third graphics card, illustrated that the power supply is more than capable of delivering the required power. Aside from a limitation of the included cables, the power supply is ready to handle these defined loads. Topower has delivered on everything it promised and more which earns our highest recommendation for the Topower PowerBird 1100 Special Edition.