We’re back with another Thermaltake Smart series review! This time it is the lowest output unit of the series, the 430 W. Hopefully it will fare better than its larger sibling, the Smart 530 W. The idea of the Smart series is a good one: Inexpensive, effective, decently efficient power supplies. Who doesn’t like that concept? The Smart Series 430 W should easily be an improvement on those no-name PSUs that can be had for $9, and will not suddenly become a fire hazard. Let’s see if this concept translates to actual performance when we fire it up.
Features and Specifications
- Guaranteed to deliver 430 W continuous output @ 40 °C (104 °F) 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 34 A 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.
- Dimension: 150 mm x 86 mm x 140 mm (HxWxL).
- 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.
40 °C is the minimum rating I recommend for a power supply. Under that you stand a real chance of exceeding the rated temperature in older cases that have had modern bits shoved in them. The “Ultra Silent” fan is a bit of a crackup, “silent” being an absolute. It’ll run both flavors of CPUs and both flavors of GPUs, so no shock there. I’d guess that it would run a VIA CPU happily as well, despite not being compliant.
The protections list is decent, notably absent is over temperature protection (OTP). There is a very good chance that this unit uses the same protections as the 530 W flavor, which was wired for OTP despite not officially being listed in the features.
– Wattage 430 watts – Fan 120mm Fan2000 RPM ± 10% – Efficiency 80%+ – 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 5 years – Certifications AC INPUT
– Input Voltage 100 VAC ~ 240 VAC – Input Current 115VAC/8A Max. 230VAC/5A Max. – Input Frequency Range 50 ~ 60 Hz – Inrush Current – Operating Range 100 VAC ~ 240 VAC – MTBF 100,000 – RFI / EMI UL, FCC, TUV, CE, BSMI ENVIRONMENT
– Operating Temperature 10 ℃ to +40 ℃ – Storage Temperature -40 ℃ to +70 ℃ – Operating Humidity 20% to 85%,non-condensing – Storage Humidity 5% to 95%,non-condensing PROTECTION
– Over Voltage Protection Yes – Over Current Protection Yes – Over Load Protection Yes – Over Temperature Protection – Under Voltage Protection – Short Circuit Protection Yes
I am not overly impressed with the trip points for the protections IC, if you feed something that wants to see 3.3 V and uses the PSU for voltage regulation (rather than having a regulator built in) 5 V you are almost certainly going to have issues. Having the 5 V rail’s OCP set to three times the rated output seems excessive as well. It looks more like they’re relying on the short circuit protection and hoping that there isn’t an awkwardly large not-quite-short-circuit that draws ~40 amps of 5 V. It will be interesting to look at the rectifiers inside the unit as it is possible that it could actually stand up to a 40 amp load for a while. We’ll see.
Photos Part One: The Packaging
If this process is looking familiar it’s probably because so far things look nearly identical to the 530 W flavor. I expect that the PSU will look roughly the same as well, let’s check!
Overall the unit looks nice, there isn’t anything that stands out overly much one way or the other about it. It does resemble the 530 W version quite strongly. Looking through the exhaust grill the view is marginally different, it doesn’t look like Thermaltake used the same PCB. The wiring and connectors are very similar as well, but you only get one PCIe power connector on the 430 W.
Thermaltake continues to not have quite enough cable ties on the cables, the +2p on the PCIe and the +4p on the CPU power cable both have quite a bit of room to roam. The ATX20+4P is fine in that regard, it is sleeved and the sleeving ends an appropriate distance from the connector.
I think it’s about time to test this thing and see how it does!
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 (APFC). For these reasons 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.
|Wattages (total)||12 V Rail||5 V Rail||3.3 V Rail||Kill-a-watts|
What can we say about these results? Let’s start off with the positives. For starters the PSU did not explode, this is a big plus. Other than the all-12V crossload it stayed mostly within spec as well. The regulation is as follows: 12 V: 3.2%, 5 V: 5.18% 3.3 V: 4%. If we include the crossload forget it, that’s a fail on 12 V and 5 V, by a lot. That should have shut the unit down in my opinion, I expected it to. That said, the spec sheet does say that OVP/UVP is well away from the values I got, and that the unit should not have shut down. I continue to feel like those limits are out to lunch. In the Kill-a-watts column you can see what I talk about in the intro text to this section, the theoretical 432 W load is only drawing 387 W due to the extremely low voltage on the 12 V rail.
At most loads the unit had some inductor whine to it, not a lot, but some. On the plus side the fan didn’t spin up particularly much and was fairly quiet.
Let’s try this hot and see how it fares.
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.
|Wattages (total)||12 V Rail||5 V Rail||3.3 V Rail||Kill-a-watts|
The unit continues to not explode. This is good. The unit isn’t as happy as it could be, with the regulation slipping a bit compared to cold. It did, however, survive. It stayed within spec too, so it gets a pass on this. Not a fantastic pass with rainbows and glitter, but a pass.
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.
We’ll start off with cold, in the following shots the scope is set to 10 mV per divider and 10 µs (microseconds) per divider. Top pair is 12 V ripple at zero load and full load. Next pair is 5 V, last pair is 3.3 V.
Cold ripple results all pass, they aren’t exactly spectacular, but they’re all under the spec. 5 V is cutting it pretty close while 12 V and 3.3 V have some breathing room.
Next are hot full load ripple results. The hot tests are with an intake air temperature of 38-40 °C as the unit is rated for 40 °C. Unfortunately this unit leaks significant EMF/EMI that plays hell with my temperature sensing equipment if it is positioned close enough to the exhaust to read the exhaust air temperature, so I do not have that number. Same scope settings, same order.
Still good, largely unchanged compared to cold testing. Next I wandered randomly through various vaguely reasonable loads until I found the following on the 5 V and 3.3 V rails. The scope settings are different and are noted under the pictures. The load was 196w 12 V, 50 W 5 V and 22 W 3.3 V. Unit was still hot with an intake air temp of around 38 °C.
The 5 V ripple just barely broke specifications and 2 mV isn’t exactly a lot. The 3.3 V rail went into oscillations at this load level. The ripple is right at the maximum allowed level, but I find this concerning. As the temperature dropped the ripple dropped as well, until at around 22 °C the oscillation disappeared and things went back to normal. I’ve seen this before, previously it was an issue with the 3.3 V rail’s filtering inductor. Whether that is the case here or not I do not know. The picture is interesting though as you can see the individual switching (which is what all the preceding pictures were showing) in the sine wave.
All told the ripple passes (excepting 5 V hot medium load), but I am not especially happy with it.
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, fan and overview.
Nothing terribly special here. It is a different PCB than the 530 W flavor, but not very different. Let’s check the soldering out.
Overall the soldering looks pretty good at first glance. Closer inspection shows a lack of solder in a few places, a few long component leads and one broken solder joint on an output filter capacitor. That downgrades the soldering rating a fair bit.
Now we’ll follow the power through the unit. If the concept of following a nebulous concept like “power” through a unit offends you, tough. I’m the one writing this review! In any event, things start with the input transient filter, which starts on the receptacle.
On the receptacle we have two Y caps, an X cap, a high-resistance resistor to drain the X cap so you don’t zap yourself and a ferrite bead on the wires that go to the PCB. On the PCB we have a fuse, a TVS diode (like a MOV, but better), two X caps, two inductors and two more Y caps. It’s a solid transient filter. Next up, APFC bits.
The APFC switches and diode (and manager IC) are difficult to take photos of at best. There are two switches, both are 13N50 MOSFETs (13 A, 500 V), the diode is a run of the mill BYC8600 (8 A, 600 V). The storage cap is a 105c rated Teapo unit, a common choice in this class of PSU.
For primary switches we have two more 13N50 MOSFETs (still rated at 13 A, 500 V), here’s one of them along with an overview of the output side of things.
On the rectification end of things we have the following:
For rectifiers the 12 V is done by a pair of SBL2060CT (60 V, 20 A) schottkys, 5 V and 3.3 V each have a single STPS30L45CT (45 V 30 A), this means the 3.3 V rail is rated quite close to the maximum the rectifier can manage. 5 V and 12 V have some wiggle room.
The rest of the output bits are shown below.
The big Teapo cap is the other end of the broken solder point, I’d bet that the ripple would look better with it soldered in place. The minimal solder plus the height of the cap and the fact that the wires are pulled around it combined to pull the leg out of the solder. Not the most brilliant plan. It and one CapXon polymer are all that the 12 V rail gets, too. The 5 V rail gets a pair of Su’scon 105c capacitors while the 3.3 V rail gets a Su’scon and a CapXon polymer. CapXon isn’t an especially well-liked name, Su’scon I don’t know anything about, but their exact matching of Nippon Chemi-con colors worries me. Teapo is probably the best brand used in this unit.
The protections IC’s datasheet (which I found, despite it trying to hide from me) has rather better looking OVP/UVP trip points than the box specifies. They’re still too low/high for my tastes though. It does not appear to support OPP or OTP. OCP is supported and at least the 12 V rail is wired for it, the trip point is unknown.
The PCB UL number is e243157, which is attached to DONGGUAN HE TONG ELECTRONICS CO LTD.
The case’s UL number is e199442, which is attached to COMPUCASE ENTERPRISE CO LTD.
Based on the UL numbers I would guess that Thermaltake has little to nothing to do with the PSU, other than paying to have someone make it and designing the labels.
I can’t say I’m overly impressed with this unit, it starts off quite well with a very solid transient filter, but by the time we get to the output rectifiers and filter caps, things go downhill sharply. It’s functional, as testing indicated, but definitely not a top shelf piece. Hopefully it’s nice and inexpensive.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
I really like the concept that Thermaltake is working on here, there is a distinct shortage of good quality, low price, power supplies in the world. If Thermaltake can edge into Corsair‘s market segment here, we (the consumers) will win. I am all about winning. Unfortunately this unit is not actually priced at that level, if you’re willing to shop at some rather dubious online sites it can be found for $48 or so, but if you want to shop from a known outfit you’re looking at $58 or so before tax and shipping. This is $14 more than Corsairs entry, and a mere $2 below Seasonic’s excellent M12II 80+ Bronze unit. Price-wise, this unit is dubious.
From a performance perspective the picture is prettier, not only does it not explode it actually coughs up some reasonable numbers. It definitely doesn’t appreciate crossloads at all, but given an actual computer putting the loads on it I think it will work decently. Ripple wise it does okay, but no better. Ripple is high on the 5 V rail in all circumstances, just barely violates spec (by 2 mV) in one situation. The 12 V rail stays under the spec, as does the 3.3 V rail by the slimmest of margins. I would not, however, call the ripple results “good”. Acceptable, yes.
Stylistically, I like the Smart series as a whole, the units look good. The cables are a bit annoying to work with, but given the lack of sleeving this is to be assumed anyway.
The soldering was less than fantastic, what looked decent to begin with, slipped downhill with some long component leads and finally ended up in the “Meh” category due to not enough solder and a broken joint.
To summarize things a bit (also known as the TL:DR section), there are pros:
- Didn’t explode
- Stays within spec unless seriously abused
- Looks decent
There are, unfortunately, rather of a lot of cons:
- Ripple right at, just below, or just over, spec in most situations
- OVP/UVP trip points are not overly useful
- Soldering issues
- The price is too high by at least $10
All told I have no choice but to give the second Smart series unit I have inspected the same “Meh” rating as the first one, though for different reasons. If you happen to find this unit available for $35 or less it is definitely worth considering. At $50-$60 there are much better options to be found.