NZXT Hale82 N Series 550 W Power Supply Review

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Here we go again with another PSU review! This time it’s the smaller sibling to the HALE82 N Series 750 W I reviewed last month. Same platform, different size. This is an exceedingly close relative to the 750 W, close enough that it had the same 3.3 V ripple issue that I found in the 750 W. NZXT updated this unit to the new spec before sending it to me, so it’s now set up like the full retail units.

Features and Specifications

Direct from the product page at NZXT.com, we have the features list:

  • 80 Plus Bronze Certification ensures efficiency levels up to 85%.
  • Pioneering 2013 ErP Lot 6 Energy Star standard to reduce vampire power by 50%, decreasing your energy consumption.
  • World’s first Innovative white and black PCB design for better isolation and identification.
  • Intelligent Fan Control Technology with two settings optimized for silent or performance mode.
  • Powerful +5Vsb that supports motherboards with fast USB charging that can also power USB devices while PC is on standby.
  • SLI and CrossFire Ready.
  • Highly Reliable 105⁰ Japanese Capacitors to promote longer lifespan and better reliability surpassing 5 year warranty.
  • 120mm Two-Ball Bearing Fan for smooth, silent rotation, and optimal air intake.
  • Strong single +12V rail that provides stability and ease of use with the ability to deliver clean currents under a heavy load.
  • Full protections for over voltage, current, power, temperature, under voltage, and short circuit protection.
  • Active PFC.
  • Compatible with ATX 12V 2.3 and EPS 12V 2.92.
  • Extended 8pin connector for bottom mounted cases or large tower support.
  • Backed by 5 Year Warranty

In order, my thoughts: 80+ bronze is the minimum I’d use in my personal computer, it’s good. I’m definitely a fan of the ErP/EuP bits. White/black PCB is innovative, black/white PCB is old hat now! I can’t find any way to set the fan modes, it must be internal. It’s also worth mentioning that “silent” is an absolute, it means “absolutely no noise, at all”, unless this unit shuts the fan down it’s not silent. I wouldn’t call a 3 amp 5VSB rail powerful, I’d call it average. SLI/CFX is good. 105⁰ Japanese caps is something I can get behind, it’s also something I’ll be checking. Ball bearing fans last longer and make more noise than other bearing systems, that’s okay with me in a PSU as the fan is rather crucial. Single 12 V rails aren’t any better than properly designed PSUs with multiple rails, worse on larger units. At 550 W this unit is fine with a single rail. Protections are good, I’ll be looking for the IC to see what it thinks about life. Active PFC is a must, if you’re looking at a PSU and it has a voltage selection switch it’s time to look at a different PSU. I like long CPU power cables, I’ve had issues with short ones in the past. Five years of warranty sounds good, especially with NZXT’s <3 warranty service. Amusingly, NZXT’s own pictures page shows pictures of the output filter caps, some Nichicon (Japanese) and some CapXon (Chinese). That said they don’t actually say “100%” Japanese, so the marketing is technically correct as long as there are at least two Japanese caps inside this unit.

Specification wise, all NZXT lists is the output chart, so here it is:

 

HALE82-N-550-M
AC Input 100V~ 240V 10-5A 50/60HZ
DC Output +3.3V +5V +12V -12V +5Vsb
Max. Current 24A 22A 42A 0.5A 3.0A
Max Combined Wattage 125W 504W 6W 15W
550W

42 amps of 12 V is pretty good for a 550 W unit. It’s lower than a DC-DC unit would be, but those units cost significantly more so that’s sounds reasonable.

Cables aren’t listed in text anywhere, so here’s what the box has to say:

This is a pretty good selection for a 550 W PSU.

Photos!

A disclaimer: Due to the history of this particular unit, the box and the unit have been through a lot before getting to me, it’s been through the NZXT testing lab a couple of times, had an inductor replaced, been through the testing lab again and then finally been mailed to me. If you buy one, your box should show up looking rather less squashed. On the plus side this means that the packaging has been well tested!

The front of the box

The front of the box

The rear of the box

The back of the box

One side of the box

One side of the box

The far side

The far side

One end, with charts

One end, with charts

The end other, no charts

The end other, no charts

Other than being a bit beat up it’s a nice box, a bit monochrome for my tastes. That blue sticker talks about the <3 (Less Than Three) warranty service. I went through that process with the 750 W unit as part of the review and that process is excellent. They give you a PDF that you print and take with the PSU to a FedEx center and give both to them, they do the rest. Very cool.

Box open, not much visible

Box open, not much visible

With the foam removed, we can see!

With the foam removed, we can see!

Lots of cables

Lots of cables

The accessories

The accessories

With the box open we first find a sheet of ~0.25″ foam, under that is the PSU itself inside a four walled box of foam. As you can see three sides are very well-protected, the fourth uses the cables for padding and the bottom has another 0.25″ of foam. It’s pretty well-packed. The cables are indeed quite long, this will either be fantastic for cable management or annoying depending on your application. The accessories are limited to one re-usable cable tie that comes on the cables, a few “zip” cable ties, four black screws and a fairly small gauge power cord. The power cord is plenty thick for a 550 W unit.

White fan is white

White fan is white

The label side

The label side

The exhaust grill

The exhaust grill

Both sides are blank

Both sides are blank

The PSU is even more understated than the box. It’s matte black and just has a sticker on the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) with specs and such. Oh, and a bright white fan of course! Here are a few more angles:

Angled shot

Angled shot

Another angle

Another angle

Yet another angle!

Yet another angle!

It’s a nice, simple, straight forward look. I like it. The sleeving on the cables is excellent, too.

Generally speaking this is the end of the photo section, this time I had a sudden thought and decided to look at the fan under UV. Here is a (bad) picture of it under (near) UV.

The PSU under UV

The PSU under UV

Sadly my camera doesn’t really appreciate UV much, so it doesn’t look as good as it does in real life. In real life it looks pretty cool. Some of the PSU bits glow, too.

Load Testing Part 1: Ambient Temperatures

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 not being 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 15 °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.

Right now it is time for cold testing, some units actually perform worse in low ambient temperatures than at their maximum rated temperature. If you like your AC and have a case with good airflow your PSU will be running in conditions similar to my cold testing. The cold testing done during summer at least.

Big description was large. The short version is, it’s time to test this thing with a cool air intake temperature.

Load Wattages (total) 12 V Rail 5 V Rail 3.3 V Rail Kill-a-watts
0/0/0w (0w) 11.95 5.01 3.35 4.9
96/50/22w (168w) 12.16 4.89 3.28 195
192/50/22w (264w) 12.10 4.91 3.28 303
288/50/22w (360w) 11.99 4.92 3.28 411
384/50/22w (456w) 11.92 4.94 3.27 522
480/50/22w (552w) 11.84 4.95 3.27 633
432/100/22w (554w) 12.11 4.90 3.27 650

First off, the fan had a little bit of bearing noise at all speeds. I doubt it’d be audible inside a case, but it’s there. Starting around the 360 W level the fan started to speed up. At maximum speed there was airflow noise (a fair amount) but it was nice and smooth. It wouldn’t bother me, if you hate all fan noise and plan to load the unit down to maximum you may be unhappy.

On a more important note, here are the regulation numbers! 12 V: 2.7%. 5 V: 2.4%. 3.3 V:  2.4%. All in all not bad. Not fantastic, but given a group regulated design it’s not bad at all. Definitely functional.

Load Testing Part 2: The Enclosure of Unreasonable Warmth

I can’t find a temperature rating for this unit, so I’ll use my default of 40 °C. If a PSU cannot survive 40 °C it is not worth buying in my opinion.

Load Wattages (total) 12 V Rail 5 V Rail 3.3 V Rail Kill-a-watts
480/50/22w (552w) 11.84 4.96 3.27 635
432/100/22w (554w) 12.10 4.90 3.27 653

Heating the unit up to 40 °C didn’t change the regulation percentages in the slightest, it made a tiny (10 mV) difference in rail voltage and ate a little bit more power. I expect the power change is partly due to the fan winding itself to maximum. All in all it did quite well in TEUW.

 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 first and second forms are the most important, if they are out of spec it can cause instability at best or damage in extreme situations. The very short-term (I call it transient ripple) flavor is less crucial, excessive amounts can still cause issues though it takes more of it to do so. The ATX spec does not differentiate, as far as the spec goes 121 mV of transient ripple 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 and maximum load first. 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.

First up, all the rails in cool ambient temperatures and zero load. Scope is set to 10µs and 10 mV.

12 V ripple, cold, zero load. ~8mV

12 V ripple, cold, zero load. ~7mV

5 V ripple, cold, zero load. ~8mV

5 V ripple, cold, zero load. ~9mV

3.3 V ripple, cold, zero load. ~5mV

3.3 V ripple, cold, zero load. ~5mV

Impressive. It won’t stay that low at full load, but this is a good start. Speaking of full load, here we go with full unit load and cold ambient temperatures. Scope is at 10 ms / 10 mV.

12 V ripple, cold, full load. ~48mV

12 V ripple, cold, full load. ~48mV

5 V ripple, cold, full load. ~40mV

5 V ripple, cold, full load. ~40mV

3.3 V ripple, cold, full load. ~9mV

3.3 V ripple, cold, full load. ~9mV

12 V comes in at less than half the spec, 5 V is under the spec by 10 mV, and 3.3 V is laughing at both of them with its tiny ripple. These results can be classified as “good”, though I’d prefer the 5 V to be lower.

Let’s see how it does when faced with a 40 °C intake air temperature. Scope is still at 10 ms / 10 mV.

12 V ripple, HOT, full load. ~48mV

12 V ripple, HOT, full load. ~48mV

5 V ripple, HOT, full load. ~42mV

5 V ripple, HOT, full load. ~42mV

3.3 V ripple, HOT, full load. ~12mV

3.3 V ripple, HOT, full load. ~12mV

When hot, the story remains essentially the same, 3.3 V gained 3 mV, 5 V gained 2 mV, and 12 V gained nothing. Again these are good results, though I’d still prefer less 5 V ripple.

I’d say that now that we’ve seen how this unit performs (solidly) it’s time to tear it apart! Wouldn’t you?

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, and doing so could very well kill you. Don’t try this at home. Don’t try this at work. Just don’t do it.

First thing to do of course is to pop the lid off and check out the fan. It turns out to be the same Yate Loon fan as the 750 W flavor of this PSU. Here’s the fan and an overview of the guts:

The fan hub

The fan hub

An overview

An overview

Both the fan and the solder mask on the top of the PCB are white, it looks nice as well as being distinctive. I seriously doubt it performs any differently than a black or green solder mask though. The layout of the PSU is sort of odd in that the right hand side is densely packed while the left is wide open. The upper left bit has to be as it is high voltage AC and needs to be isolated (you don’t want it feeding 120 V AC to your metallic keyboard or power button do you? I don’t), while the bottom left is actually packed pretty densely with surface mount bits on the bottom. This means NZXT saves a bit of money that would have been spent on a daughter board for the protections IC. Still, it’s going to be a major pain to read the markings on the components.

Next on our tour is the transient filter, its job is to clean up the incoming AC wave so that the APFC has an easy time of it. As usual it starts on the receptacle with two Y caps and an X cap, then it is continued on the PCB with two more Y caps, two more X caps, and three inductors.

Transient filter part one

Transient filter part one

Transient filter part two

Transient filter part two

It’s a solid filter. The fuse on this one is a square box rather than a glass tube, which is sort of interesting. Notably absent is a TVS diode or MOV. Be sure you have a surge protector! The APFC bits can soak up a fair bit of a surge, but it’s far better to have a dedicated surge protector anyway. Even PSUs with TVS diodes and/or MOVs should have external surge protection.

Next up, the APFC. Pictures are limited to a shot of the primary cap due to extremely limited space.

Primary capacitor, it's Japanese!

Primary capacitor, it’s Japanese!

That’s one Japanese cap, we need to find one more for the marketing to be (vaguely) honest. The APFC starts off with a single bridge rectifier mounted face-in to its heatsink, no specs there. After that comes an X capacitor to mop up the transistor switching noise. After that comes the actual APFC bits, two 22NM60N (16 A @ 25c, 10 A @100c, 600 V) MOSFETs, and a STTH8R06 (8 A, 600 V) boost diode. Plus, of course, the capacitor above. Absent is a thermistor, though there is a space on the PCB marked out for one. I find this a bit annoying, they only cost $0.50-$1 in packs of 100 after all.

Moving onward, the main switches (controlled by something in two or three layers of heatshrink tubing, no data there either) are another pair of 22NM60N MOSFETs. On the secondary side the 12 V rail has two MBR30L45CT (30 A, 45 V) schottkys, while the 5 V and 3.3 V rails each have two MBR30L60CT (30 A, 60 V) schottkys. The 12 V bits resisted pictures, but the switches and one of the MBR30L60CT schottkys were more willing.

One of the primary switches

One of the primary switches

The 12 V schottkys

The 12 V schottkys

One of the 5 V schottkys

One of the 5 V schottkys

For output filter capacitors we have a pretty good number of juicy CapXon parts. CapXon is a Chinese company, they buy foil etched in Japan and then assemble and fill the capacitors in China. I’d prefer to see Teapo, really. Ideally Nippon Chemi-Con or Rubycon. That said I’ve seen a number of PSUs with CapXons lately and they seem to work well enough. If it dies later, the NZXT warranty service is excellent. The warranty is five years and I’d be surprised if it didn’t make it that long. So, I expect, would NZXT. The protections IC is the same Weltrend part as the 750 W.

One of the secondary filter capacitors

One of the secondary filter capacitors

The protections IC

The protections IC

The OVP/UVP trip points are set to somewhat useful levels, the protections IC will almost certainly shut things down before something in the computer dies. It also has an additional input to use for OTP. It supports two 12 V rails, though the unit is only wired for one 12 V rail. Let’s look at the soldering and OCP sense resistors.

Current sense resistors for one rail of OCP

Current sense resistors for one rail of OCP

A soldering overview

A soldering overview

Hand soldering of Messiness

Hand soldering of Messiness

The hand soldering is, in a word, lousy. We do need to remember that this unit has had the 3.3 V inductor swapped out, so it’s been apart in the past. This soldering is on a very tall capacitor in the corner, where it is very easy to abuse with the wires as you can see below. I expect that the tech doing the inductor swap moved the wires over to make room and ripped the cap out. Or they un-soldered it and re-soldered it. Either way, it looks like the soldering was done with the same (hot!) iron as the 3.3 V inductor. The settings were perfect for the inductor, that soldering looks great, but not so much for the cap. Below is the capacitor in question.

The capacitor in question

The capacitor in question

It’s soldered, and nothing is shorted, so it’s good enough. Not pretty though. The rest of the soldering is quite good, no joints with not enough solder, no joints with too much solder. There are a fair number of long leads, but they are all very carefully bent in the safest direction. Clearly someone applied some thought to the process, I’m impressed.

Overall the design and build quality I would rate as “good enough”. I’d prefer beefier (or more) 12 V rectifiers, 60 amps of rectifier for 42 amps of rated output is less overkill than I’d like to see. It did survive the load testing though, both hot and cold. Hence the “good enough”, rather than “meh”. I’d also rather see more than two Japanese capacitors. Technically the box is honest, it just says Japanese capacitors. The reality is that there are two Japanese caps and a stack of Chinese CapXon caps. I’m disappointed to see the CapXons. Let’s head onward and sum everything up, then thwack it with a stamp.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

“Final Thoughts” seems ominous sometimes, I may have to change that in some point. I’m hoping I continue to think after writing this section. That has little to do with this PSU however, so I’ll get back on topic and talk about this NZXT HALE82 N Series 550 W power supply.

The unit looks nice externally, the finish is matte black, the cables are all nicely sleeved, and the fan is a bright white. The white fan is either jarring or awesome. It looks cool under UV, too.

Ease of use wise, this is a good PSU. The cables are plenty long even for a full tower with a bottom mounted PSU, the connector selection is good too.

The voltage regulation is decent. It’s nothing to write home about, but it stays within spec with a nice wide margin. No issues here.

The fan looks good, but has a little bit of bearing noise. You won’t hear it in a case though. At full blast it’s not bad at all, the CPU/GPU cooling required to put a 550 W load on the unit will be louder.

The ripple control overall is decent as well. 12 V is good, 5 V is within spec though not by much, while 3.3 V is excellent.

Price wise the picture isn’t as rosy, at $89 it is the same price as the OCZ ZT 550 W, which has similar performance and also is fully modular. If you don’t need or want modular connectors for some reason, OCZ is a thorn again with the ZS $15 cheaper. Now if you happen to hate OCZ for some reason, there aren’t any other name brand units for less. All in all, it’s not a great price. It has just been released however, so it’s possible the price will drop.

To summarize, there are lots of pros:

  • Great looks
  • Acceptable regulation and ripple
  • Nice long cables
  • White fan looks great under UV or other colored LEDs

There aren’t very many cons, but there are a couple.

  • Price is higher than I’d like to see
  • At $89 and non-modular, I’d like to see better capacitors

All told I find this PSU to be acceptable, the only real issue is the price and it isn’t that overpriced. If you happen to find it on sale or if you hate certain brands for some reason, this is a solid PSU choice.

 

(Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means)

Bobnova

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Discussion
  1. Nice to take a break from the Thermaltake units and do this NZXT.

    More PSU reviews to come of course, including not one but two huge units :sn: