Cougar PowerX 550 W Power Supply Review

Today, we review a Cougar. Probably not the kind you initially thought of. This one is bright orange/red! It’s also a power supply. Cougar is one of HEC/Compucase’s house brands for power supplies and fans. Their main claim to fame, as far as I can tell, are the lurid paint jobs. This unit is no exception! If the performance is as good as the paint is shiny, we’re in for a good unit here. Let’s check!

Specs and Features

We’re going picture style for most of this section, it’s easier for everybody. The box is a bit scruffy, but doing it this way keeps the orange/black theme going without me having to try to duplicate it.

Nothing earth shaking here, though I am very happy to see the box claiming the fan is “quiet” rather than “silent”. I appreciate that. The Japanese Capacitors line I find doubtful, especially when the Cougar website says “Japanese Capacitor” (no “s” on the end), I’ll check that. Dynamic Dual-12V rails is an interesting claim, generally it means that there are two rails with OCP limits that, if combined, are higher than the overall rating. Nothing new there. The 40 °C rating is nice to see, that’s the minimum I test to regardless of the unit rating. Protections are always appreciated.

The DC output chart says roughly what I expected, 516 W of 12 V is 43 amps, the combined rail OCP is 50 amps. As a related note, 43 A of 12 V on a 550 W non-DC-DC unit is quite good. The 3.3 V and 5 V rails are in the typical range for a modern unit, while 5 VSB is on the high end of average for a 550 W unit. We get a nice cable selection too, we’ll explore the cables in more detail in the Photos section. Speaking of which, guess what’s next?

Photos Part One: The Box

Photos! The box is first. The shipping box was hilarious and shows some nice practical thought by someone at Cougar HQ; involved in the packaging was a classic fast food drink holder. Funny, but very effective too. No, I’m not adding the external shipping stuff to my reviews, you’ll be buying from a retailer not from Cougar after all.

Front of The Box. Looks Nice

Front of The Box. Looks Nice

Back of The Box

Back of The Box

One End. The Other Is Similar

One End. The Other Is Similar

Sides Are The Same

Sides Are The Same

I like the box, it has a fairly impressive array of languages on it, as well as lots of orange. Why does this make it a good box? No clue, but it does.

Opening the box, we find a PSU in some heavy duty bubblewrap.

The Box, Open

The Box, Open

That is a very red looking PSU in there, let’s check it out.

Photos Part Two: The PSU

Overview / Fan Side

Overview / Fan Side

The Bottom: Boring

The Bottom: Boring

Label Side

Label Side

Side Two: Shiny!

Side Two: Shiny!

Electricity Output End

Electricity Output End, With Air Vents

Air Output End, With Electricity Input

Air Output End, With Electricity Input

I love this PSU so far. It’s gloriously shiny metallic red/orange. Violently, even. It won’t blend in with much of anything, but it makes a wonderful statement. It also has some air vents to make sure the secondary filter caps get some airflow, this is good. I’d prefer they put the label on the flat black bottom though, that’d make more sense in my opinion. The pictures don’t really do it justice.

Here are a few more for good measure:

Shiny!

Shiny!

Less Shiny, But Still Shiny

Less Shiny, But Still Shiny

Shiny Shiny!

Shiny Shiny!

The thing is a bit redder and significantly brighter than it appears in pictures, but you get the idea.

Photos Part Three: The Cables

Wall Power Cord: Not Beefy, But Good Enough

Wall Power Cord: Not Beefy, But Good Enough

ATX24P Connector

ATX24P Connector

CPU Power Connector

CPU Power Connector

Two PCIe Plugs On One Cable

Two PCIe Plugs On One Cable

The wall power cord is an 18 gauge piece, it feels kind of silly but is well more than enough for a 550 W unit. Four mounting screws are included too. The other cables are all nicely sleeved, two PCIe 6+2P connectors is average for a 550 W unit. Both the ATX24P and CPU Power connectors are split for use on lower end / older boards, this is nice.

SATA, Molex and FDD Cable

SATA, Molex and FDD Cable

SATA Cable

SATA Cable

SATA and Molex cable

SATA and Molex cable

I like combo cables, though two of them seems a bit excessive on a non-modular unit. Still I can’t complain about the connector selection, it’s good. Again all the cables are well-sleeved, I approve.

Testing Part One: Regulation Testing

A decent load test of a PSU requires a decent load. Contrary to what some may believe, that means you need a known load that can fully stress the PSU. Computer hardware does not cut it. Worse, if the PSU fails during testing it might take out the computer hardware anyway. Commercial load testers cost a lot of money. I do not have a lot of money, so I built my own with juicy power resistors and a Toyota cylinder head. It works great. I’ll be using it to load this thing down fairly severely and will check voltages and ripple (more on that later) at various points. The down side to my tester is that the loads it can put on PSUs are fairly coarse, they go in increments of 48 W for 12 V, 50 W for 5 V and 22 W for 3.3V. Those wattages assume the PSU is putting out exactly the official rail voltage, a PSU putting out 12.24 V rather than 12 V will be at 49.9 W per step rather than 48 W. I file that under the “tough beans” category as I figure if a percent or two of load makes that much of a difference, the PSU manufacturer should have hit the voltage regulation more squarely. It does make calculating efficiency difficult at best.  However, given that the input power is read via a Kill-a-Watt, the efficiency numbers are dubious to begin with. Kill-a-Watts are not known for extreme accuracy on things with automatic power factor correction. For this reason, I am not listing the efficiency.

The ATX spec says that voltage regulation must be within 5% of the rail’s official designation, regardless of load. It doesn’t actually mention that the PSU shouldn’t explode, though I expect they figured it was implied. Exploding is a failure in my book regardless.

It is also worth knowing that I will be testing this PSU at both outdoor ambient temperatures (typically between 10 °C and 20 °C here this time of year) as well as in the Enclosure of Unreasonable Warmth. TEUW is a precision engineered enclosure that I use to route the exhaust air from the PSU right back into the intake fan, it is adjustable to hold the intake air temperature at (almost) any level I want it. This way I can test the PSU’s response to hot conditions as well as cold conditions. For the hot testing I will be running the intake temp as close to the unit’s maximum rated temperature as possible. TEUW, in case you’re curious, is a cardboard box.

This test equipment is especially brutal on group regulated units, like I expect this is. Hopefully it can take it!

Wattages (total) 12 V Rail 5 V Rail 3.3 V Rail Kill-a-Watts In/Out Air Temps
0/0/0w (0w) 12.03 5.09 3.31 4.5 5/12 °C
96/50/22w (168w) 12.18 4.91 3.30 197 5/13 °C
192/50/22w (264w) 12.14 4.95 3.30 306 5/15 °C
288/50/44w (372w) 12.10 4.98 3.27 447 5/18 °C
384/50/44w (478w) 12.05 5.02 3.27 556 5/25 °C
480/50/22w (552w) 12.00 5.06 3.29 643 5/28 °C
HOT RESULTS BELOW:
480/50/22w (552w) 11.98 5.06 3.28 647 37/52 °C

12 V comes in with 1.67% regulation, very good for a group regulated unit. 5 V is looser at 3.66%, while 3.3 V is tighter at 1.22%. That averages out to 2.18% regulation, not epic, but far from bad. Quite good for a group regulated unit facing this test equipment, really. Temperatures were good, due to the cold ambient (I did not enjoy sitting there testing this unit. At all. I can certify that it won’t mind benching outside in coldish temps though! I wasn’t able to get TEUW up to the full 40 °C. The PSU had no complaints at 37 °C though. The fan was very quiet through the first five tests, at full load it spun up a bit and I was able to hear a bit of a hum from the unit. Expect it to spin up sooner with a higher ambient! At full tilt, the fan is on the good side of average, not quiet per say, but not obnoxious either.

Testing Part Two: Ripple Testing

Ripple is fluctuation of the PSU’s output voltage caused by a variety of factors. It is pretty much impossible to have zero ripple in a SMPS computer power supply because of how a SMPS works, so the question is how much ripple is there? In the regulation testing phase we found out how the PSU does at keeping the average voltage at a set level, now we’re going to see what that voltage is doing on really short time frames. The ATX spec says that the 12 V rail cannot have more than 120 mV peak to peak ripple, the 5 V and 3.3 V rails need to stay under 50 mV.

If that isn’t complicated enough for you, there are three forms of ripple to keep track of as well. Long-term ripple from the PSU’s controller adjusting the output voltage and over/undershooting, correcting, overshooting, etc. Medium-term ripple from the voltage controller charging and discharging the inductor(s) and capacitor(s) that make up the VRM, and very short-term ripple caused by the switching itself. The ATX spec does not differentiate, as far as the spec goes 121 mV of transient ripple on 12 V is just as much of a failure as 121 mV of medium or long term ripple.

I test ripple in a few difference ways, first I test it during the cold load testing. It is tested at zero load, I then keep an eye on it during regulation testing, then record ripple at full load. During the hot load testing I test the ripple at maximum load again. I have recently started testing ripple at fairly random loads with the unit still hot, it’s a bit unorthodox (a bit? maybe a lot) but has found issues in the past that did not show up with other test methods. At all levels I adjust the scope settings to see where the worst ripple is, with the scope at 10 ms/div I can see long duration ripple and some short duration, while at 1 ms to 500 µs I can see some of the  long, all of the middle and some of the short. At 10µs / div the medium and short duration ripple show up very well, while long duration shows as thick lines rather than nice waves. The pictures and final ratings are based on the worst I find at any setting.

First up, zero load tests. For 12 V and 3.3 V the scope is at 10 ms / 10 mV, while 5 V I found the highest ripple with the scope at 10 µs / 10 mV.

12 V Ripple, Zero Load, Cold, Scope at 10 ms / 10 mV, ~22 mV of Ripple

12 V Ripple, Zero Load, Cold, Scope at 10 ms / 10 mV, ~22 mV of Ripple

5 V Ripple, Zero Load, Cold, Scope at 10 ms / 10 mV, ~15 mV of Ripple

5 V Ripple, Zero Load, Cold, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~15 mV of Ripple

3.3 V Ripple, Zero Load, Cold, Scope at 10 ms / 10 mV, ~18 mV of Ripple

3.3 V Ripple, Zero Load, Cold, Scope at 10 ms / 10 mV, ~18 mV of Ripple

Looking good here, most of the 12 V ripple is due to the zero load, only the fan is drawing 12 V. Regulators don’t generally appreciate zero load much, this unit does better than many, though worse than some.

Full load next, scope at 10 µs / 10 mV for all shots.

12 V Ripple, Full Load, Cold, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~30 mV of Ripple

12 V Ripple, Full Load, Cold, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~30 mV of Ripple

5 V Ripple, Full Load, Cold, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~26 mV of Ripple

5 V Ripple, Full Load, Cold, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~26 mV of Ripple

3.3 V Ripple, Full Load, Cold, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~30 mV of Ripple

3.3 V Ripple, Full Load, Cold, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~30 mV of Ripple

At full load the ripple is well-controlled. It’s at a mere 25% of maximum on 12 V, while 5 V and 3.3 V are a bit over 50% of the maximum. No issues here.

Last, full load at 37 °C intake air temperature.

12 V Ripple, Full Load, Hot, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~32 mV of Ripple

12 V Ripple, Full Load, Hot, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~32 mV of Ripple

5 V Ripple, Full Load, Hot, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~25 mV of Ripple

5 V Ripple, Full Load, Hot, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~25 mV of Ripple

3.3 V Ripple, Full Load, Hot, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~30 mV of Ripple

3.3 V Ripple, Full Load, Hot, Scope at 10 µs / 10 mV, ~30 mV of Ripple

High temperatures changed the waveform shapes a bit, but didn’t do much of anything to the actual peaks. This unit has good to very good ripple control, nice to see!

Dissection

Disclaimer: Power supplies can have dangerous voltages inside them even after being unplugged, DO NOT OPEN POWER SUPPLIES. It’s just not a good idea. Opening a power supply and poking around inside could very well kill you. Don’t try this at home. Don’t try this at work. Just don’t do it.

We’ll start with a fan shot and an overview:

Fan Hub

Fan Hub

Overview of The Guts

Overview of The Guts

I can’t say I’m excited to see a sleeve bearing fan here, on the other hand ball bearings cost more money and this is not an expensive unit. Platform-wise, it looks like a HEC. Shocking. There’s a Japanese capacitor shortage in here, too. Before we get too deep into that, here are the transient filter bits.

Transient Filter Part One: Two Y one X one Inductor

Transient Filter Part One: Two Y, One X, One Inductor

Transient Filter Part Two. One X, Two Y, One Inductor, Fuse, TVS

Transient Filter Part Two. One X, Two Y, One Inductor, Fuse, TVS

The transient filter is correctly built, it has two X caps, four Y caps, two inductors, a fuse, and a TVS diode.

The APFC bits are next, pics first then descriptions:

APFC Sideview

APFC Sideview

APFC Overview

APFC Overview

Rectifier, A GBU10600

Rectifier, A GBU1006

One of Two APFC MOSFETs

One of Two APFC MOSFETs

APFC Diode, BYC10600

APFC Diode, BYC10600

APFC Capacitor by Panasonic

APFC Capacitor by Panasonic

First we have a GBU1006 rectifier (10 A 600 V), then a pair of MDP18N50 MOSFETs (18 A @ 25ºC, 11 A at 100ºC, 500 V) feed a BYC10600 (10 A 600 V) diode, it in turn leads to the Panasonic (Japanese) primary capacitor. The APFC section also includes a thermistor for inrush protection, which is nice to see.

The primary switches are two more MDP18N50 MOSFETs (same rating!), in charge of both the APFC duties and PWM duties is a CM6800TX APFC/PWM controller. Rounding things out on that side of the PCB is the 5 VSB controller, a TNY279PN part rated for 25 W 5VSB.

APFC/PWM Brainbox

APFC/PWM Brainbox

One of Two Primary Switching MOSFETs

One of Two Primary Switching MOSFETs

5 VSB Brainbox

5 VSB Brainbox

On the secondary side we have lots of Teapo 105 ºC capacitors, Teapo is a decent brand for SMPS PSU duties, but definitely not Japanese. There are a few Su’scon capacitors scattered around doing odd jobs. None of them on the main rails though. We get two rectifiers per rail, 12 V uses a pair of 30L60CT (30 A 60 V) Schottky diode packs, while 5 V and 3.3 V each get two 30L45CT (30 A 45 V) Schottky diode packs.

Secondary Side Overview

Secondary Side Overview

One of Two 5 V Rectifiers, A 30L45CT

One of Two 5 V Rectifiers, A 30L45CT

Output Filter Caps by Teapo

Output Filter Caps by Teapo

Protections IC, a WT7527V

Protections IC, a WT7527V

The 3.3 V and 12 V rectifiers were not interested in posing for the camera. 5 VSB is done with a 10L60CT (10 A 60 V) Schottky diode pack. The WT7527V protections IC has two 12 V rail inputs as well as OVP/UVP for all three primary rails, including individual OVP/UVP for each 12 V rail. It also has an auxiliary input for Over Temperature, 5VSB OVP, or something else entirely.  I can’t find any chips specifically built to do OVP on the 5 VSB rail, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something doing it as there are plenty of methods using discreet parts. 5 VSB does have built in OCP, which is nice.

Lastly the soldering. Overall the quality is good, but there are some issues.

Soldering Overview (Underview?)

Soldering Overview (Underview?)

Leads A Bit Closer Than I'd Like

Leads A Bit Closer Than I’d Like

More Solder Would Be Nice

More Solder Would Be Nice

More Solder Would Be Nice Here Too

More Solder Would Be Nice Here Too

The gap in the upper right picture is smaller than I’d like, though as it goes from 12 V to GND it wouldn’t hurt your hardware, just the PSU. If that blob wasn’t as blobby it wouldn’t be an issue, or if the lead was pointed the other direction. It could be said to be severe surge protection as it’s from before the first filter inductor straight to ground, but I’d be tempted to hit you if you did call it that. The bottom two pictures are a random small cap on the left and one of the 5 V Schottky diodes on the right, both need more solder. It’s worth noting that this unit tested quite well with this much solder, even after being shipped around the world protected by a cardboard drink tray. That doesn’t mean I like to see skimpy soldering by any means though. It’s not a large enough issue for me to junk the unit, but spending a bit more money on solder per unit would be nice.

No massive issues, but three minor issues. Final soldering rating: OK.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

I love the color. I really do. When I first saw the box I said “No way…”, then I opened it and said “zomg”, pulled the unit out of the bubblewrap and said “YES!”. Why do I love it? I don’t know, deal with it.

The performance is solid for the MSRP of $69.99, it fits that price range well. $5 off and it would be an excellent value. As it stands, I’ll call it a good value. There aren’t any units I’d point to and say “buy this instead”, which is a good sign.

The soldering could be better. It’s not bad per say, but it isn’t good either. I give the soldering a Meh.

Component selection is good, no arguments there.

One Japanese Capacitor is less than the box said would be in this unit, but matches the web. Either way it’s misleading though, I don’t approve of that.

Ripple control and regulation were pretty impressive for an entry level group regulated unit, 12 V regulation especially. The ripple control is very good.

The cable selection is quite good as well, all the cables are sleeved and use well controlled split connectors. Nothing is running wild.

Fan noise is almost nonexistent at low and medium loads, at full load it’s not bad at all, better than average. Hopefully the sleeve bearing fan is well lubed and sealed and will last a long time.

To summarize:

There are pros!

  • Great ripple control.
  • Good regulation for the price range.
  • Plenty of cables/connectors. Nice long cables, too.
  • Looks fantastic.

There are cons too:

  • Could do with a bit more solder.
  • Box / product page misleading about Japanese Capacitors.
  • Sleeve bearing fans are not ideal for PSU use in my opinion.

All told I approve of this unit. While it is not without flaws, none of them are showstoppers, and the performance is quite good. If you live in the parts of the world where this unit is available and you like the color, have at it! Here in the US you’re going to have to wait for it to go on sale in this country, I’m assuming Cougar intends to bring it here as the 700 W version is already here.

Click on the stamp for an explanation of what this means

– Ed Smith / Bobnova

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    ==== ( http://www.fullmalls.com ) =====

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