Seasonic 350w - IntroductionIntroduction
It used to be that when it came to the purchase of a power supply for your PC, all you had to do was go down to the local geek store and pick up whatever happened to be in stock. Power levels along any given voltage rail and total output weren't things to even be given a second thought. But then there came the enthusiast machine
and the world changed.Now instead of picking up what was cheapest, you had to take into consideration what kind of peripherals you were going to install, figure in the number of optical and physical drives while still leaving some headroom for future expansion or overclocking. My how the world was turned on its ear!Lately, there has been a lot of discussion regarding how much power is really enough. A common recommendation (even in our own forums
) is to get nothing less than 400 watts of total output, and even then buy only from a proven manufacturer.So consider my surprise when the folks at Seasonic asked me to take a look at their Super Tornado PSU with a total sustained output rating of 350 watts! Could it stand up to the rigors of an enthusiast rig? Can it live up to the hype printed on its own packaging stating "The advanced choice for gamers & overclockers
"? And at only 350 watts? Let's find out, those are big brave words to be spoken!
Seasonic 350w - FeaturesFeatures
If you've been with me during our past few power supply articles, you'll recall that I mentioned the fact that most computer part sales are made to men. Given this fact and the knowledge that men are driven by visual stimulation, there seems to be a growing standard in small pictures to describe features available in current power supplies. So let's take a look at what the Super Tornado brings to the table.120mm Cyclone Cooling Fan
- This one is pretty much a no-brainer. Take a larger fan and spin it at a slower speed and you will find yourself with the same or better cooling than a faster spinning smaller model. This has been proven again and again in the heatsink arena.Smart/Silent Fan Control
- This is becoming almost common in modern power supplies. Within the unit itself is a small thermal probe that measures the internal temperatures. When the readings get too high, it automatically increases the fan speed to help dissipate the heat. Let the temperature remain low, however, and you'll find the PSU lowers the fan speed to help keep noise levels at a low level.Ultra Ventilation
- This is nothing more than a fancy way of saying they have a cool honeycomb design for the ventilation.Active PFC
- There are huge discussions regarding this topic, but to try to put it into a nutshell, Active PFC (P
orrection) is a means of more efficiently converting the AC current into a usable DC signal that is then utilized by your system. This more efficient conversion reportedly equates to a lower annual electric bill. The jury is still deliberating on this topic, but I haven't found it to hurt anything to have it incorporated in a power supply, so it isn't a bad thing in any way.Super High Efficiency
- As mentioned above, a computer runs on a DC current. When the power comes into a PSU in its native AC format, it has to be changed over to be usable. In any conversion process you will have a certain amount of waste, but the newer power supplies to hit the streets are running at a higher level of efficiency. The higher the percentage (80% in this case), the better.Universal Free Input
- This particular feature allows the power supply to automatically determine whether the native power source is 120v or 240v. There is no longer a need to look at the toggle switch on the back to make sure it is set correctly.Cable Management Kit
- This is another item that is becoming more common, and also appreciated. Included with the PSU is a cable management kit that allows you to take control of the loose wiring and create a cleaner interior for your case.
Seasonic 350w - What You GetWhat You Get
When you open the box you will find yourself greeted by the power supply, a single SATA adapter, a power cord, the cable management kit, and a small bag containing four mounting screws. While there isn't anything fancy about the contents, you will find yourself with everything you need to install the unit and get things running.
As mentioned in the FEATURES portion of this article, this power supply comes with a 120mm fan, which is mounted in the bottom of the unit. There is no fan mounted on the backside of the PSU to aid in the lower noise levels.
You should have little problems finding enough cabling to go around. You'll get seven 4-pin 12v Molex connectors, two 4-pin FDD connectors, a 20-pin main power coupler, both the 4P and 6P supplemental power connectors and a 3-pin fan speed monitoring cable to be connected to an available fan header on the motherboard. Overall we are presented with a good setup that required no splitters to be used in my system.
If you happen to be one of those few who have jumped aboard the Serial ATA bandwagon, the Super Tornado comes with one adapter for this type of drive. You'll need to come up with any extra adapters in the event you are running a RAID or multiple drives of this variety, but it is good to see that folks are thinking of you.
Seasonic 350w - TestingTesting
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+ @ 2.1GHzCooler Master X-Dream SE HSF (Supplied by Cooler Master
)2x 512MB Crucial PC2700 DDRSapphire Radeon 9800 Pro (Supplied by Sapphire
)SoundBlaster LiveD-Link 10/100 NICTDK 52x CD-RWPioneer 16x DVDWestern Digital 80GB 8MB Hard DriveSeagate 40GB 2MB Hard DriveSony 3.5" Floppy Drive5x 80mm case fans1x 120mm case fanAll 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.
Seasonic 350w - ConclusionConclusion
When I received this power supply for testing and review I was more than a little doubtful that a small 350 watt unit could maintain itself in any regard when pitted against an enthusiast rig. After all is said and done, I found myself to be pleasantly surprised. Though a little light in the 3.3v rail, it performed on par with many larger capacity models.As far as price is concerned, the Super Tornado looks to be in the US$80 price range, so doesn't come in at too hefty a price tag. While you will certainly find other power supplies that can outperform this model, you'll find their prices range a good deal higher as a rule.Bottom line...If you're getting into the enthusiast arena for the first time and are looking for quality power on a budget, you'll find a worthy competitor with this product. With a decent price and performance on par with larger power supplies, this one bears consideration. But if you're making big plans for several lighting effects, go ahead and get something with a higher overall power rating.- Pros
Quiet operationReasonable priceGood overall performanceAble to handle enthusiast system- Cons
Only one SATA adapterSlightly low output on 3.3v railRating - 8.5 out of 10