We managed to convince Antec to send us one of their new platinum mid-range units, the Earthwatts Platinum 650 W to be specific. They come in 450 W, 550 W, and 650 W flavors. All with an impressively low price tag for 80+ Platinum efficiency.
Antec says that the Earthwatts “family” is focused on ecological power for everybody, with a minimalistic philosophy. The actual blurb is longer, but says exactly the same thing. I translate it as: “Solid power supplies with little to no frill, good performance and a great price.” I approve of that version, I find the official version a bit excessive though.
Features and Specifications
Direct from Antec.com‘s product page, my thoughts in italics.
- 650W Continuous Power — Guaranteed 650W of Continuous Power from Antec
- 80 PLUS® PLATINUM certified — Up to 93% efficient, to reduce your electricity bill
- Save Energy and Money — Reduce your electricity bill by up to 25%! You’d have to have a seriously lousy PSU to save 25% on your computer‘s power bill. Save 25% on your entire house’s power bill? I don’t see that happening.
- AQ3 — Antec Quality 3 year warranty and lifetime global 24/7 support Three years is on the short side these days, really.
- 120 mm DBB Silence — Whisper-quiet high-quality double ball bearing fan with long lifetime
- Thermal Manager — An advanced low voltage fan control for optimal heat & noise management
- High Current Rails — 2 fully-protected High Current +12V rails with high load capabilities ensure maximum CPU & GPU compatibility Amusingly, the spec sheet and PSU label say four rails. So much for the web site.
- Multi PCI-E — 2 PCI-E connectors for multiple GPU support
- CircuitShield™ — Over Current Protection (OCP), Over Voltage Protection (OVP), Under Voltage Protection (UVP), Short Circuit Protection (SCP), Over Power Protection (OPP), Surge & Inrush Protection (SIP), No Load Operation (NLO) & Brown-Out Protection (BOP) This list includes pretty much everything. Given multiple rails I expect it’s even true and useful. Very nice.
- Japanese heavy-duty caps — High-performance Japanese capacitors ensure tightest DC stability and regulation We’ll see how Japanese the capacitors are later on in the Dissection Section.
- POWER SUPPLY CONNECTORS ASSORTMENT
– 1 x 24-pin
– 1 x 8(4+4)-pin ATX12V/EPS12V
– 2 x 8(6+2)-pin PCI-E
– 4 x Molex
– 6 x SATA
– 1 x Floppy
– Operating Temperature: 0°C — 50°C
– Safety Approvals: UL, cUL, CB, CE, FCC, TÜV, BSMI, CCC, C-Tick, GOST-R, KCC
- Net Weight: 4.4 lbs / 2.0 kg
– 3.4″ (H) x 5.9″ (W) x 5.5″ (D)
– 86 mm (H) x 150 mm (W) x 140 mm (D)
I like that Antec lists out the OCP trip points and such. The ripple and regulation numbers are the maximum allowed by the ATX specification, I expect that the Earthwatts Platinum 650 W itself will do better.
Photo Tour Part One: The Box
Some day I’m going to put the box photos after the unit photos, just to confused people. Today is not that day.
The box is nice and simple, I like Antec boxes. The packaging inside the box is also quite simple, there isn’t a lot padding involved but it is pretty good from an armor standpoint. In any case the unit showed up looking just fine.
Photo Tour Part Two: The Power Supply
|I’d just like to say at this point that if Antec wants to build drab PSUs and pass the savings on stickers and paint on to the end users I think that is fantastic. Don’t take my attempts at being amusing to mean otherwise, left to my own devices all computer parts would look mighty boring and cost less.|
As you can see Antec didn’t spend a ton of money on stickers, paint, fan grills or accessories. This is OK with me as this is cheap for a 650 W platinum unit. Plus, the thing is going to be sitting inside a metal box anyway. Antec’s use of a stamped fan grill appeals to me as well, it is more resistant to damage than a normal round grill and also much better at preventing dropped things and errant cables from getting into the PSU and/or fan. The cables are all quite long, this PSU should work fine in large cases. On the other hand, long cables in a small case means clutter. You can’t have everything. I’d like to see a couple more PCIe connectors, but Antec has decided to play it safe and make sure nobody overloads the unit with a pair of HD6990 video cards or some such silly thing.
How about some 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, though 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 worth noting that the PSU’s product page claims “no load operation,” so I’ll be testing with no load as we as with loads. After all, no means no, right?
|Wattages||12 V Rail||5 V Rail||3.3 V Rail||Kill-a-watts|
|576/0/0w (12 V Crossload)||11.74||5.14||3.30||606|
Not spectacular, but well within spec on all counts. It looks like a group regulated unit, though a well-designed one. My PSU tester is extra brutal to group regulated units due to the large notches in its loads and the fact that when I crossload, I do it quite rudely.
The 12 V rail came in at 4.8% regulation, or 3.1% if you ignore the crossload result (I won’t). This is perilously close to the 5% maximum! The 5 V rail came in at a more reasonable 3.6% (or 2.4%), while the 3.3 V rail was the best of the bunch at 2.4% either way you look at it. This is the first group regulated unit I have ever tested that survived this sort of 12 V crossload without violating spec. I am impressed.
If the Kill-a-Watt is to be believed, the efficiency of this unit is extremely good. How accurate the Kill-a-Watt is, I don’t know.
In the Box of Doomish Heat (scroll down to the very end of the Ripple Testing section in the link for more information), the PSU didn’t put out enough heat to get the intake air over 26 °C, with that intake temp the exhaust was 35 °C. The fan made a fair amount of airflow noise as well as some motor noise, I wouldn’t call it offensive though.
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 tested the ripple at zero load and full unit load as well as with the maximum 12 V load allowed and zero 5 V / 3.3 V load.
For the ripple shots, the scope settings used to find the worst ripple (and keep it on-screen) varied widely, so be sure to read the captions. We’ll do 12 V first, then 5 V, then 3.3 V.
62 mV at worst is not bad at all. I’ve seen better, but also far worse! That’s just over half the maximum allowed by the spec, no issues here. Next up is 5 V:
Closer to spec on the 5 V rail, but still within it. You can see some lovely transient, short and long term ripple in the above shots. The first shot shows the short term ripple as the transformer/inductor is charged and discharged, as well as transients where the MOSFET rectifiers (more on them in Dissection below) switch. Even the transients are within spec here, so it’s a pass, though a pass without a whole lot of wiggle room. Onward to 3.3 V:
3.3 V squeaks through in spec as well. Antec clearly had a goal here, and that goal was efficiency without violating spec. At this price point compromises must be made. Still a pass is a pass, and this is a pass!
I think it’s about time to tear this unit apart and see what is inside.
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.
With that said, here are the first things I found when I opened this power supply:
The fan’s only interesting point is that its power cord is soldered to the PSU’s main PCB rather than having a connector. It’s cheaper that way I suppose, though annoying for reviewers! The PSU itself looks rather like the FSP Aurum series, of which this PSU is a very close relative. Let’s look at the soldering before the tour for a change.
Overall the soldering is good, however there is some dubious soldering near the rectification MOSFETs, as well as some downright bad hand soldering for the fan leads. One of which was shorted to a nearby capacitor. I checked it with a multimeter and it was electrically connected, after bending it away it was not connected. Thankfully the unit didn’t seem to care, or at least not enough to explode during testing. This does not please me at all. Near the shunt resistors is a lead of dubious length that is folded in a safe direction, but is close to a shunt resistor.
Now it’s time to follow the power through the unit and see what happens on its way through. We’re ignoring the fact that “power” doesn’t go through the unit this way or even really exist, as well as that the electrons don’t take this path either.
Our tour starts with the transient filter, there are two Y capacitors on the receptacle, then two more on the main PCB as well as two inductors, two X capacitors a fuse and a MOV. Lastly, there are two very small inductors just before the rectifier, these are something I have not seen before.
In the last picture here, you can see the primary rectifier as well, it has been wrapped in plastic for reasons beyond me. I almost suspect that Antec wants it to run warm to lower its internal resistance. I took the wrapper off and found that the markings are facing the heatsink that the rectifier is bolted and thread-locked too. So much for that. Just past the rectifier is a thermistor for in-rush protection.
Next, we have the APFC unit, it takes the incoming voltage and boosts it to somewhere in the high 300 V range, then stores it in the holdup cap.
In the APFC, we have a FSP6600 running the show, it is a proprietary chip with a nice solid NDA attached, I have no idea how it works or what exactly it does. It’s in charge of the main switches as well as the APFC. There are a pair of 6R125P MOSFETs (650 V, 16-25 amps, 82 amps pulsed) doing the switching and STTH8R06FP (600 V, 8 amps) boost diode. The primary holdup capacitor is a CapXon 85 °C unit. CapXon is based in mainland China, that doesn’t sound Japanese to me.
Moving along to the main switches we have an interesting setup, figuring out the topology used here gave me rather of a headache! The MOSFET in charge is a 17N80C3 (800 V, 11-17 amps, 51 amps pulsed), with a 3N80C (800 V, 3 amps, 12 amps pulsed) along to reset the other MOSFET. I’ll be honest here and admit that I don’t really understand how it works, though it certainly seems to do a good job. The 12 V rectifiers are soldered directly to the transformer as well as the circuit board, getting them out is beyond my soldering equipment I’m afraid. I was able to find where someone with better de-soldering equipment than my own had taken a unit apart however. The MOSFETs appear to be IRLB3036 units with a rating of 60 V, 190-270 amps, 1100 amps pulsed. That is obscene. 5 V and 3.3 V each have a pair of 031N03L MOSFETs (30 V, 90 amps) for rectification. In charge of the rectification MOSFETs is a FSP6601 IC, like the FSP6600 it and its datasheet are under NDA. For protections we have a WT7579, it supports four rails as well as a host of other protections.
The output capacitors are Rubycon and Chemi-con, both Japanese and definitely “premium”.
This PSU is built interestingly, rather than simply going for extreme overkill like some platinum units it has used every duck, dodge, weave, sneaky trick, and underhanded tactic in the book to gain efficiency, as well as making up some new tricks and writing them into the book while it’s at it. The main PCB doesn’t have a UL number, but it is fairly obvious that we have FSP to thank for this unit given the FSP chips involved. The UL number on the case belongs to Antec.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
On the surface this looks like a very tasty unit, now that I have tested it I’m forced to admit that it is actually rather delicious! Antec has a real winner on their hands here in my opinion, especially given the current $102 price tag on Amazon. Performance and feature wise there were some ups and some downs. The efficiency is fantastic, while the ripple control is just OK.
Cable-wise the unit is pretty nice, I’d like another pair of PCIe connectors, but that opens doors for grievously overloading the unit so I can understand Antec’s choice to stick with two. On the other hand the Earthwatts Platinum 450 W unit also has two PCIe cables, so this may simply be about cost savings.
The build quality was decent overall, but the fan lead being shorted to a nearby cap put a dent in my opinions on the matter. It still worked fine, but that is scary. The fan could be quieter (quieter costs more of course), but it’s not bad. It is worth noting that with the shorted lead removed the fan appears to be quieter.
The packaging is pretty minimal, but it’s enough to keep the unit safe and that is the important part. Being made entirely out of paper it’s recyclable as well, that helps the earthy image of the Earthwatts line. The box’s marketing claims range from false (not all the capacitors are Japanese) to laughable (25% reduction in your power bill). But that is marketing I suppose.
How about a summary with pros and cons? Sounds good to me too.
We’ll start with the pros:
- Wildly efficient.
- Wildly cheap for the efficiency and wattage.
- Good looks, if not flashy.
- Nice long cables.
We aren’t able to escape without cons though:
- Shorted fan lead is a scary build quality issue.
- Fan could be quieter.
- Only two PCIe connectors.
- Ripple and regulation only just in spec.
The only risk to an “Approved” stamp is the fan lead, and given that it was pretty much the worst case scenario and the unit worked fine anyway I am not going to yank the stamp over it. Otherwise I like the Antec Earthwatts Platinum 650 W power supply quite a bit, and I definitely approve it.