Thermaltake sent us a large box of power supplies recently, this Smart Series 530 W unit is the first in the lineup.
The Smart Series is Thermaltake’s newest entry level series, the basic idea is to provide good power without expensive frills. Given the scarcity of good low end units in the power supply world I applaud this idea, hopefully this unit will give me something physical to applaud as well. We’ll see! First, some specs and features.
Specifications and Features
Direct from the product page at Thermaltakeusa.com
Guaranteed to deliver 530W continuous output @ 40°C:(104F) operating environment. While most power supplies work well in optimal conditions Thermaltake ensures the SMART Series power supply can operate efficiently even in the higher temperatures found in the computer chassis.
Robust and dedicated +12V rail delivers up to 38A to ensure your components get the power they need whenever they demand it.
80 PLUS® certified: with 82-86% efficiency allows the SMART Series power supply to deliver full power while also saving cost on your utility bill thanks to the high efficiency power design.
Double-forward switching circuitry offers low power loss and high reliability.
Active Power Factor Correction provides clean and reliable power to your system.
Ultra-silent operation with intelligent 12cm cooling fan with active speed control to ensure even under the heaviest load the SMART Series power supply will stay cool and stable.
Intel® & AMD multi core CPU compliant.
Nvidia® & ATI/AMD graphics card compatible.
Built in industrial-grade protections: Over Current, Over Voltage, Over Power and Short-Circuit protections ensures that your components have many safeguards against possible power problems that could otherwise damage your expensive hardware.
Safety / EMI : TUV, CE, UL, FCC, BSMI.
I like the 40c full load rating, that’s a good number. I also like that it is listed. 80+ is good, 80+ bronze would be better, but this is an entry level unit. Double-forward switching isn’t exactly new or snazzy anymore, but it is inexpensive and decent. APFC is nice to have, I wouldn’t buy a unit without it. I’d certainly hope that the unit is compatible/compliant with AMD, Intel and Nvidia CPUs/GPUs; it’d be a good trick not to be really.
Protections are key as well, I’ll be checking the protections IC to make sure it can actually do the things the unit says it can.
|- Wattage||530 watts|
|- Fan||120mm Fan2000 RPM ± 10%|
|- PFC||Active PFC|
|- Hold-Up Time||16ms at 65% Load @ 230 VAC 50Hz input|
|- Switches||ATX Logic on-off additional power rocker switch|
|- Motherboard Connectors||20+4-pin Main Connector
4+4-pin Power Connector
|- Power Good Signal||100-500ms|
|- Form Factor||ATX 12V 2.3|
|- Dimension||5.5 x 5.9 x 3.4 inch ( L x W x H )
140 x 150 x 86 mm ( L x W x H )
|- Warranty||3 years|
|- Input Voltage||100 VAC ~ 240 VAC|
|- Input Current||115VAC/10A Max. 230VAC/5A Max.|
|- Input Frequency Range||50 ~ 60 Hz|
|- Inrush Current|
|- Operating Range||100 VAC ~ 240 VAC|
|- RFI / EMI||UL, FCC, TUV, CE, BSMI|
|- Operating Temperature||10 ℃ to +40 ℃|
|- Storage Temperature||-40 ℃ to +70 ℃|
|- Operating Humidity||20% to 85%,non-condensing|
|- Storage Humidity||5% to 95%,non-condensing|
|- Over Voltage Protection||Yes|
|- Over Current Protection||Yes|
|- Over Load Protection||Yes|
|- Over Termperature Protection|
|- Under Voltage Protection|
|- Short Circuit Protection||Yes|
I don’t like the lack of over-temp protection and under voltage protection. The second isn’t that much of an issue, but the first could be in some situations. Other than that, this is a pretty standard spec sheet.
No output table is provided, so here is a shot of the table on the unit itself:
Not really much of note there, either. Plenty of 12 V for a non-DC-DC 530 W unit, that is nice to see.
Photos Part One: The Packaging
The box is a fairly informative and a fairly cool looking operation; no wild claims to speak of either. The best I can find is the claim that the fan is “Ultra Silent”. Silence is an absolute, you can’t have partial silence, nor ultra silence.
If that’s the best I can find, Thermaltake did a good job keeping the marketing department under control.
The unit resembles the box fairly strongly. It has a slightly shiny matte black finish, a matte black fan, and a couple labels with swirly sine wave type things on them. Nothing spectacular here. The accessories consist of a power cord and four silver screws. Don’t laugh, some PSUs don’t come with a power cord! It’s an awkward thing to discover.
The PSU isn’t really as blue as my camera seems to think that it is.
Of note here is we have a largely understated PSU, I like the absence of “COLORS! SPACESHIPS! SWORDS!” on it. The exhaust mesh is some the most open I’ve seen, I like that too. What I can see through the grill and fan looks pretty good internal wise, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Only the ATX24P cable is sleeved, the others have to make do with cable ties every few inches. They don’t get any more or less tangled than other units, though the PCIe cable annoys me for reasons I’ll make clear shortly.
Other than that, this PSU is pretty much like Thermaltake described it: It’s a PSU, just a nice simple PSU that works. At least I assume that it works. Don’t worry though, I’ll test too!
Let’s look at the cables before we get too out of control testing this thing.
Note how the +2P bits of the PCIe cable are not tied to the second half of the cable, they’re free to dangle all over the place and get caught on things. The coloring of the wires on the CPU power connector implies multiple rails, I doubt there really are multiple rails though. The wires on all cables are 18 gauge for the stuff that carries meaningful loads (-12 V for instance does not carry a meaningful load).
Last for this section, more pictures! Also, a surprise.
Not really a whole lot to see there when you get down to it, it’s a nice simple unit artwork wise.
Ready for the surprise? When I was flipping the unit around for those last pictures, this character fell out:
It looks like while one of the techs that did whatever hand soldering needed to be done (the receptacle is almost always hand soldered, often a few other bits too), their iron brushed a wire and scraped some solder off without them noticing. I’ll look around inside and see if I can find the wire when I rip the unit apart in the dissection section.
I seriously doubt all the units have loose solder in them, but if this thing had stayed in and lodged between Gate and Drain pins on an APFC or main switching MOSFET I would have been in for some excitement. It’s one of those unfortunate accidents, I have to score based on it though.
Load Testing, Cold
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.
If I was feeling polite I would carefully ensure that the unit always had some load on each rail to keep the rails happy. I’m not and I won’t. Some of the loads here are highly unrealistic (1, 2, 7), but if the unit can get through them halfway decently you know that it is a very capable unit.
|Wattages (total)||12 V Rail||5 V Rail||3.3 V Rail||Kill-a-Watts|
|480/50/0w (530w) CL12v||12.04||4.98||3.49||623|
This unit could appreciate cross loads more, the 3.3 V rail really doesn’t like having zero load on it and goes out of spec in one those tests (max spec is 3.465 V). In normal operation there will always be some load on the rail and I expect it to be happy, as the regulation on that rail when it has a load is excellent. The 12 V rail and 5 V rail do a remarkably good job of keeping themselves together, even in the face of rather rude cross loading. While this does look like a group regulated unit, the 12 V and 5 V bits do well. Including the Tests of Excessive Brutality, we get the follow regulation numbers: 12 V: 2.8%, 5 V 4%. 3.3 V: 5.4%. Not the best I’ve seen by any means, but functional enough for me. The 3.3 V rail’s dislike of cross loads is rather interesting, it should have its own inductor and regulation, generally that makes it better at surviving cross loads than the 5 V rail is. Not this time!
At a sustained full load the fan speeds up a bit, but never gets terribly noticeable. I expect the fans on other components would drown it out quite easily.
Load Testing, Hot
I placed the PSU into the Enclosure of Excessive Warmth (ok, it’s a cardboard box), which forces the PSU to inhale its own exhaust air. Temperature was monitored by a dual probe thermocouple thermometer made by myself. Intake temperature for these tests was 41c, exhaust temperature was 55c. I ran the unit up to 45c intake to see if it cared. It did not care.
|Wattages (total)||12 V Rail||5 V Rail||3.3 V Rail||Kill-a-Watts|
|480/50/0w (530w) CL12v||12.00||5.00||3.44||630|
Interestingly these numbers are better on average than the cold testing results for these tests, 3.3 V stays in spec and the other two rails are closer to perfect than cold.
At full load hot the fan is still reasonable, the noise it produces is entirely airflow noise and there isn’t a huge amount of noise at all. I’m fairly impressed by it.
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.
We’ll start with cold testing at zero load. The haze outside the thick line comes from transients, we’ll see some in detail later on.
Everything looks good at zero load. The 12 V rail bounces a bit, it’d prefer to have a load on it. Nothing that will cause issues though.
Next, the unit is loaded to 100% and we re-test:
At full load, and nice cool ambient temps, the ripple on the 12 V rail looks good, while the 5 V and 3.3 V are extremely close to maximum spec with transients. Their medium and slow speed ripple are good.
Time for a cross load. As we saw in the testing section, this unit doesn’t appreciate a big load on 12 V and no load on 3.3 V. We’re still testing cold ambient temps here.
12 V ripple still looks good, 5 V has just barely broken spec, 3.3 V has broken spec by a larger amount. I’m not surprised really, nor am I overly concerned. It’d be nice if it stayed in spec, though.
At this point I usually bring Enclosure of Unreasonable Warmth back into action and check the ripple at full load. I did this time too, and the results are better hot than cold across the board. Only 4-5 mV better, but better. That is the kind of reaction to heat that we saw in the load testing, and exactly the reaction I like to see. Rather than go through another big set of waveforms that look the same, we’ll go straight to ripping the unit apart.
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 up as always, the fan hub and an overview.
Nothing special so far, though there seems to be an awful lot of transient filter. Let’s start there.
The transient filter’s job is to clean up the messy incoming AC sine wave and make it a nice smooth wave, something easy for the rectifier and APFC to deal with.
This is a good looking transient filter! On the receptacle we have two Y caps and an X cap, plus a ferrite bead on the leads to the switch. After the switch we head to the PCB, where we find two more Y caps, two more X caps, a fuse and two TVS diodes for surge protection. I approve.
Next up comes the APFC unit, it takes the incoming AC and rectifies it to DC, and boosts it to around 360-380 volts and stores it in the primary storage capacitor.
The rectifier is a KBU-10J (600 V, 10 A), the switches are 18N50 MOSFETs (600 V, 18 A), the boost diode (not pictured) is a nice standard BYC10600 (600 V, 10 A). There is also a thermistor for inrush protection. The Teapo primary storage cap is rated for 85c rather than the 105c I would rather see, but it does have a fan blowing straight down on it.
Next up are the main switches and the rectifiers, then the output filter capacitors.
Nothing really special here either. It isn’t a hugely overbuilt unit, but it isn’t rated dangerously close to meltdown levels either. It’s an average PSU, really.
Teapo caps don’t have the greatest reputation, largely due to a bad run and Dell misusing them back in the early 2000′s. In SMPS duty they work fine.
The protections IC is a PS223 unit. It has support for dual 12 V rails and this unit almost has two rails, it looks like they had it in mind and changed their minds at the last minute. It also supports UVP and OTP. Both appear to be wired as well, despite what the spec sheet says. The PS223 datasheet has some OVP/UVP numbers for us too.
Last, let’s check out the soldering.
Overall the soldering is decent, there are a few issues as shown above, but no show stoppers. I was unable to find the wire the solder blob was attached to.
The case has a UL number on it that traces to COMPUCASE ENTERPRISE CO LTD, while the PCB’s UL number traces to DONGGUAN HE TONG ELECTRONICS CO LTD. I’m surprised, as I’d have figured Compucase would manufacture both case and PCB.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
I like the idea behind Thermaltake’s Smart series. Good entry level units are fairly few and far between, usually they either cost too much to be called entry level or they’re cheap junk. There aren’t many in between!
The Smart 530 W is a solid design, the majority of my issues with it are related to rushed assembly.
It has plenty of cables and connectors for the average single GPU build, though the lack of an extra wire-tie or two on the PCIe cable is annoying. On the plus side, the cables are plenty long for use in large cases with bottom mounted PSUs and/or for cable management.
The styling I like, it’s simple and looks good. No obscenely flashy nonsense.
The soldering is fairly clearly rushed, I think Thermaltake would be better off spending an extra couple minutes per unit on soldering. It would cost a bit more money, but they wouldn’t have long leads and soldering issues. That would have taken care of the chunk of solder that fell out of this unit, too.
The Teapo capacitors are pretty standard for an entry level unit. As far as entry level capacitors go they’re rather good really. I’d prefer to see a 105c primary cap, though. Su’scon I’ve never heard of before.
The fan was nice and quiet even at full load with cool ambients, and far from offensive even with a 40c ambient.
Ripple was in spec or close to it, no serious issues there. Nothing to write home about either, though.
The current price for this unit looks to be around $65, this is a bit higher than I’d like to see, though there are very few known good units under this price. For $10 more you can get a 550 W 80+ gold unit right now, but I doubt that price will last. In any case, it’s not a fantastic value, but not a horrible value either.
I’ll summarize a bit, in case you’d rather not read the above wall of text. There are pros:
- Quiet fan.
- Nice long cables.
- Loves the heat.
There are, as always in my reviews, cons too:
- Solder blob fell out when I turned the unit over.
- Soldering in general could be better.
- Ripple marginally over spec on 5 V and 3.3 V rail in some situations.
All told it’s an ok unit for an ok price. Usually this would result in an approved stamp, but the solder blob is not something I can overlook and it doesn’t take much to push this unit into the Meh bin. If you can find it for $55 or less it is worth considering, at $65 or more there are better options currently available.