by Oleg Artamonov
07/15/2009 | 12:24 PM
This is our second article about products from Ikonik. Founded just over a year ago, this young company has already got some recognition. Unlike many other brands that began by releasing one or two unique and exclusive products, Ikonik unveiled comprehensive lineups of system cases and power supply units. In our previous review we discussed the company’s computer cases. And now we will take a look at its PSUs.
Click the following link for a description of our testing methodology and equipment and a brief explanation of what the specified and tested parameters of power supplies mean: X-bit Labs Presents: Power Supply Units Testing Methodology In-Depth. If you feel overwhelmed with the numbers and terms this review abounds in, refer to an appropriate section of the mentioned article for explanation.
As we have promised, from now on we will mark the actual power consumption of several full systems on the cross-load diagrams, so that you could better estimate if the given power supply unit suits better for any of these configurations. We will mark only the maximum recorded power consumption during simultaneous launch of Prime’95 and FurMark programs.
There will be up to three marks on each diagram corresponding to power consumption of three system configurations as discussed in our article called PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?:
You can read more about the testing methodology and systems configuration in the above mentioned article. If the system power consumption is higher than the PSU capacity, it is not marked on the diagram.
You can also go to our Cooling/PSU section to check out reviews of other PSU models we have tested in our labs.
The Gaia series includes two models: IP-G450A-CBAA and IP-G500A-CBAA. They are identical externally and do not have fundamental differences inside, so I will be discussing them both together. The photographs below will mostly show the 500W model.
The Gaia series comes in small black-and-yellow boxes. The wattage rating of the PSU is written on the large sticker in the bottom right corner.
Besides the PSU, the box contains a brief user manual, power cord, and four screws.
Externally, Gaia PSUs are standard products cooled with a single 120mm fan. The housing measures 140 millimeters, which is exactly the length of a standard ATX power supply. Thus, the Gaia will suit even for such super-compact system cases as, for example, the Aerocool M40. The PSU is painted a matte black paint which is durable and highly resistant to scratches.
Ikonik’s Gaia power supplies are typical modern PSUs of modest wattage and low price. They have active PFC, like top-end PSUs, but do not have dedicated voltage regulation. This should be expected because the latest versions of such standards as Energy Star and 80 Plus require an 80% or higher efficiency as well as a high power factor. Although such certification is not obligatory, every maker wants to put an extra badge on the label. Besides, PSUs without PFC cannot be sold in Europe, so the manufacturer can only choose between passive and active power factor correction.
There are quite a lot of similar PSUs available, e.g. the Corsair CMPSU-400CX or Thermaltake Litepower.
The PSU is neat and tidy. I can find no fault with its quality of manufacture. The power elements are divided among three heatsinks. One heatsink is for the PFC transistors and diodes, the other for the power switch transistors, and the third for the output diode packs.
Ikonik is rather secretive about the true maker of this PSU. The main PCB is marked as Ikonik’s. The UL certificate is issued for Ikonik, too. However, you can find the marking “DSA” on the additional card the Champion Micro CM6802 PWM-controller resides on.
This marking is by Channel Well and it is Channel Well that produces these PSUs for Ikonik. The DSA series is new but, considering the widespread popularity of Channel Well’s PSUs, we will surely meet it under other brands.
Samxon’s electrolytic capacitors are installed at the PSU’s output. This is not a leading brand, but its reputation is good.
Both PSUs have the same cables and connectors:
Although this is the junior PSU series in Ikonik’s product range, the company does not save on cables: there are two graphics card connectors and as many as five SATA power plugs on two cables. In other words, you will most likely be able to do without adapters while assembling your system.
The cables have an average length. They will suit microATX and medium ATX system cases but may prove to be short in full-size “towers”.
The junior model can yield nearly all of its max output power of 400W across the +12V power rail divided into two “virtual” output lines. The load capacity of the +5V rail is low, but modern computers do not consume more than 30-40 watts from it.
The load capacity of the senior model’s output lines is higher proportionally to its increased wattage rating, and I have no complaints about its specs, too.
Together with an APC SmartUPS SC 620 the Gaia power supplies worked at loads up to 363W when powered by the mains and 335W when powered by the batteries. The UPS switched to the batteries normally and was stable.
Thus, these PSUs are compatible with UPSes despite active PFC.
Notwithstanding the lack of dedicated voltage regulation, this PSU did very well in the cross-load test. None of the output voltages deflects more than 3% from the nominal value in the typical load range of a modern PC (from 20 to 50W along the Y-axis and all the way along the X-axis). The +12V rail will sag to about 11.75W under high loads in real PCs.
The voltage regulation qualities of the senior model are the same. It yields the same voltages as the junior model under identical loads.
The output voltage ripple is far below the permissible limits (marked to the right of the oscillogram) even at the maximum 450W load.
The output voltage ripple of the 500W model is stronger, but far from critical, either.
Both models are cooled with 120x120x25mm fans (Yate Loon D12SH-12).
At loads below 300W the fan speed is somewhat higher than 1100rpm. At higher loads it is growing up in a linear manner.
The senior model draws an identical graph.
Thus, Ikonik’s Gaia are average in terms of noisiness. Many buyers will find them quiet but you won’t be satisfied if you want silence. For comparison, power supplies recognized as silent have a fan speed of 800rpm or even lower at low loads.
On the other hand, the Gaia PSUs behave like typical PSUs manufactured by Channel Well. CWT engineers seem to prefer to make sturdy and reliable products that are guaranteed to have no cooling-related problems and are satisfactory in terms of noisiness for most users. Silent PSUs are not their goal. And I can find nothing wrong about this approach.
Both PSUs are declared to comply with the 80 Plus standard. My tests confirm this compliance: the efficiency is only lower than 80% at very low loads (below 50W). I performed my tests in a 220V power grid. The efficiency is going to be just a little lower in an 110V power grid (the 80 Plus compliance requires 80% irrespective of the type of the power grid).
The other model shows the same results.
The load capacity of the standby source of the Gaia PSUs is 3A. As you can see, the junior model can provide such a current easily. The output voltage deflects by less than 0.1V at that.
The senior model doesn’t differ from the junior one in this test, either.
My tests of Ikonik’s Gaia power supplies have helped achieve two goals. We have learned about the Ikonik brand and about the new DSA series from Channel Well.
Channel Well has reconfirmed its reputation of the maker of high-quality mainstream power supplies that do not have exceptional features but are also free from serious defects. From a technical standpoint, the Gaia series has no noticeable downsides. These PSUs deliver stable voltages with low voltage ripple and feature high efficiency and active PFC. They are compatible with UPSes, offer a broad selection of connectors, and produce rather little noise. Perhaps the only thing you may cavil at is that the Gaia PSUs are not exactly silent.
However, the Gaia series is somewhat more expensive than its opponents like the Thermaltake Purepower RX 550W (which has a higher wattage rating and dedicated voltage regulation) or Zalman ZM500-HP (which has handy detachable cables). The latter two brands are much more familiar to users, so Ikonik’s price policy looks questionable to me.
Talking about the two discussed models, the 50W difference in specified wattage is the only real difference between them. These two models have the same noisiness, voltage stability and cables/connectors.
The more expensive Vulcan series is represented with four models in this review, but I will discuss them in two pairs. The 650W and 850W units are identical inside and different from the 1000W and 1200W units.
The PSUs come in large and pretty-looking boxes. The series name and specified wattage are printed on the front panel in large letters – you can’t make a mistake when shopping.
There is a plainer box inside the external wrapper. The product’s wattage rating and model name (here, IP-I650A-AAAA or IP-I850A-AAAA) are indicated on a small label.
Besides the PSU, the box contains screws, power cord, user manual, and a fabric pouch to store detachable cables.
The PSUs are rather ordinary on the outside except for the large word “Ikonik” on the side panel. They are painted a black matte paint.
The letter O in “Ikonik” has a transparent window through which you can see the blue highlighting of the fan. The PSU’s On/Off switch is highlighted red.
On the back panel there are connectors for detachable cables and a switch to turn the highlighting on and off. The connectors are rather handy. They are different colors and sizes and have easily readable labels. The connector type is Molex Mini-Fit Jr.
The PSU has a very familiar interior. I have seen it selling under other trademarks including Thermaltake, Corsair and Hiper. The color of the heatsinks, PCB and heat-shrinkable pipe on the chokes varies from brand to brand, but the rest remains the same.
The explanation is simple. These PSUs are produced for Ikonik by Channel Well. And while the above-discussed models of the DSA series are rather new, the PSH series has been around for long and has been already tested in our labs. For example, the Thermaltake Purepower RX that I have mentioned a few paragraphs previously is Channel Well’s PSH series, too. It only has a lower wattage rating and, consequently, smaller heatsinks.
In terms of circuit design these are typical modern upper-mainstream power supplies with dedicated voltage regulation and active PFC but without various newest technologies. The PSH series won’t let you down if you need just a good product, though.
Of course, the copper color of the heatsinks in the photo above is deceptive because they are actually made from aluminum. As a matter of fact, the color of heatsinks has no effect on the efficiency of heat transfer in PSUs with active cooling. It just reflects the aesthetic choice of the PSU maker.
Capacitors from Nippon Chemi-Con (also known as United Chemi-Con) are installed at the output of these Vulcan series PSUs. They are deservedly considered among the best available.
The PSUs are equipped with the following cables and connectors:
Included with the PSUs are (there is no difference between the two models here):
There is nothing surprising about this set of connectors, but the length of the cables is a generous 65cm to the first plug. I guess these Vulcans should not be installed into cramped system cases but they are going to be interesting for users who have full-tower cases or cases in which the cables go under the mainboard.
The junior model can yield up to 624W (out of the total of 650W) via its +12V rail which is split into four “virtual” lines. This is an excellent result, meaning that the effective output power of this PSU will not be lower than specified in any modern PC.
The senior model has a 200W higher overall output power but the load capacity of its +12V rail is only 120W higher than that of the 650W model. Thus, considering that today’s computers are mostly fed by the 12V rail while the other rails are loaded by about 50W only, the effective output power of the PSU will be about 800W, which is somewhat lower than specified.
The PSU worked with my uninterruptible power supply at loads up to 380W when powered by the mains, but had problems when powered by the batteries. The pair switched to the batteries normally but was only stable at a PSU load of 300W or lower.
Thus, these PSUs can work with UPSes but you should choose a high-quality UPS with a reserve of power.
This is an ideal picture just as you could expect from a PSU with dedicated voltage regulation. The +12V voltage remains within a 1% deflection from the nominal value irrespective of load while the +5V and +3.3V deflect by no more than 3%. As you can guess, this PSU will easily work under any load allowed for by its specifications.
The senior model is just as good: the max output power is higher by 200W, but the diagram is still ideal.
The output voltage ripple of the junior model is perfectly visible (especially the triangle shape on the +12V rail) but does not leave the allowable limits even at full load.
The 850W version has a sharper shape of 5V pulsation but everything is within the norm again.
The PSUs are cooled by 140x140x25mm fans (Yate Loon D14BH-12). Is this fan noisy?
The fan works at 1000rpm at first and then begins to accelerate at a load of 400W. The max speed is 2000rpm.
The senior model behaves in the same way, but we can see now that 1950-2000rpm is this fan’s limit. It does not get faster than that.
Thus, these PSUs are average in terms of noisiness. Most users are going to be perfectly satisfied but you should consider other PSUs if you want silence. Ikonik’s Vulcans are no different from PSH series power supplies from other brands in this aspect.
The PSH series is older than the above-discussed DSA, so its efficiency is 86%.
This efficiency is standard today, but a few years ago an 80% efficient PSU was the very best the technology could offer.
The allowable load on the standby source is 3A. These Vulcan PSUs cope with it just fine. The 650W model keeps that voltage within 0.12V from the nominal value, the maximum allowable deflection being 0.25V.
The 850W model has no problems, either.
I have seen so many PSH series power supplies from Channel Well already that I meet them now as old good friends that don’t have to impress me. They only have to confirm that their quality has not degenerated over time. Indeed, although over two years old, the PSH series is superior to many newer platforms with its excellent parameters, very stable voltages, high efficiency, rather quiet operation, and high quality of manufacture.
There is nothing you can find fault with. However, the widespread popularity of CWT power supplies is a disadvantage for each particular PSU producer because it is hard to distinguish oneself among such tough competition.
Ikonik tries to do that by offering very long cables (65cm to the first connector while other PSUs offer no more than 55cm). If you’ve got a very large system case, you should know that an extra 10 or 15 centimeters of cables can be very precious.
Again, the price is the single drawback I can see in Ikonik’s Vulcan PSUs. At the time of my writing this, the IP-I650A-AAAA cost the same as the 100W more powerful Corsair CMPSU-750TX, which is the Channel Well PSH series, too. Anyway, there is a reason in favor of the Vulcan as I have written in the previous paragraph.
The last pair of PSUs comes from the Vulcan series, too, but these are high-wattage products that have nothing to do with the junior Vulcans. The model names are IP-IK00A-AAAA and IP-IK20A-AAAA.
The senior Vulcans come in the same boxes as the junior ones, and the huge bunch of cables of these high-wattage PSUs barely fits in.
The PSUs are very large with a length of 200 millimeters. I have seen even longer PSUs, up to 220 millimeters, yet 200 millimeters is already too long for small system cases. On the other hand, I don’t think that users of compact computers will buy 1000W power supplies. Still, you should make sure before the purchase that your particular case can accommodate this PSU.
The mains connector and the On/Off switch are located in the middle of the panel. This provokes no inconvenience, except during tests (I usually fasten the sensor for measuring the temperature of the output air in the spot where the Vulcan has a mains connector).
Like the junior Vulcans, these PSUs have a highlighted fan and a shining letter O on the side panel.
There are nine connectors for detachable cables on the back panel of the PSU (four for graphics cards and five for peripherals). They are different shapes and colors to help you connect everything properly. There is also a switch for turning the fan’s highlighting on and off here.
Although the real maker of the PSU is not declared, I guess it is Channel Well, again. I make this suggestion basing on the familiarly shaped heatsinks, characteristic heat-shrinkable pipes on chokes, and the markings on the additional cards.
Indeed, Channel Well has recently begun to produce the newest DSR series of power supplies. It is meant to replace high-wattage PUC series products which actually consist of two power supplies in a single housing and are bulky, complex and expensive.
Interestingly, Ikonik representatives told us that the DSR series design had been developed and patented by Ikonik itself, Channel Well acting only as a technical partner and contract manufacturer rather than a supplier of ready-made solutions. It means that we will not see the DSR platform in PSUs from other brands.
The DSR series is more traditional than PUC in its circuit design. It is an ordinary power supply with only one transformer. It has active PFC and dedicated voltage regulation.
Well, you can see it clearly that the platform is modern. For example, the main regulator yields only one voltage (+12V) whereas the other voltages (+5V and +3.3V) are generated from it by means of individual step-down switching converters placed on small additional cards. By the way, you can notice very similar converters in PUC series power supplies.
One more feature of the DSR series is that it uses capacitors with polymer electrolyte not only in the mentioned converters’ cards but also in the main 12V output of the PSU. The manufacturer of the capacitors is Chinsan Electronic.
What are the benefits of such capacitors? It is a common opinion that they have a longer life span at high temperatures, but this point is arguable. A KZE series capacitor from Nippon Chemi-Con (2700µF, 16V, 12.5x30mm dimensions) has a specified service life of 5 thousand hours at a temperature of 105°C. An RP series capacitor from Chinsan has a specified service life of 2 thousand hours (but it should be acknowledged that its parameters deflect less from the nominal values over this time than the parameters of a KZE capacitor in its 5000 hours). So, what are the benefits? If you take a look at other parameters, you can see that Chinsan’s products have a lower equivalent resistance and a smaller loss tangent than Nippon’s capacitors whereas their allowable operating currents are, on the contrary, higher. In practical terms, it means that under the same conditions capacitors with polymer electrolyte will be colder, so it is incorrect to compare the service life parameter at the same temperature.
By the way, Ikonik says that honesty is its corporate priority and that the Vulcan PSUs use Japanese capacitors. Chinsan Electronic is a Thai company but, on the other hand, no one promises that all capacitors will be from Japan.
Both PSUs are equipped with the following cables and connectors:
Included with the PSUs are:
The selection of cables is gorgeous. You can connect (without any adapters) as many as three graphics cards and a dozen SATA drives. The cables are long. Most of them are longer than 60cm to the first connector, like the cables of the junior models of the Vulcan series.
A rather large chunk of the PSU’s overall output power falls on the -12V and standby source despite the fact that such a high load capacity of the former rail is not needed in any computer. These 40 watts are a mere 4%, though. Otherwise, I can find no fault with the specifications. The PSU can yield its full 960W across the +12V rail only. The latter is divided into four “virtual” output lines.
There is a small error in the 1200W model’s specs: the +12V rail is specified to deliver 99A or 1188W whereas the maximum allowable load of all the PSU’s main output rails is 1160W. That’s nothing serious, though. It is clear that the PSU can yield its full 1160W across the +12V rail. The label shows you what exactly +12V line powers what, even indicating the color of the appropriate cables (yellow, yellow and black, etc). Such information can be important because the PSU will not work if one individual line is overloaded, even though the whole PSU will still have a large reserve of total output power.
Together with my UPS this power supply worked at loads up to 380W when powered by the mains. When powered by the batteries, this pair was stable at loads up to 340W. Thus, these PSUs have no problems with UPSes.
The +12V voltage is very stable. The +3.3V is less stable but leaves the permissible limits at extreme loads only. The +5V voltage is initially set too low in this PSU and comes close to the bottom limit (4.75V) under high load.
The 1200W model is better in this test as the voltage on its +5V rail is indeed 5V under low loads. However, you can see that the diagram has chaotic color spots instead of sharp transitions between different colors. You will learn the reason for that in the next section.
The output voltage ripple of the 1000W model is normal. There are occasional high spikes, but they are not dangerous at all. The oscillogram of the +12V rail is especially good, although this rail has about 90% of the total load.
The high-frequency pulsation of the 1200W unit is almost the same, but do you see that the lines are somewhat slanting?
The reason becomes clear if the oscilloscope’s resolution is increased from 10 to 100 microseconds per division. The outputs based on individual switching DC-DC converters have a strong ripple at a frequency of 3.8kHz which is about as high as the allowable limits. This is why our testbed could not measure the PSU’s output voltages precisely and the cross-load diagram had color spots.
So, I get a feeling that the new DSR series needs more polishing off. At least, both samples I tested have problems you don’t expect to find in such high-class PSUs. The 1000W model has a reduced voltage on the +5V rail whereas the 1200W model has undesired voltage pulsation at the output, which may have a negative effect on the computer’s stability.
The PSUs are cooled with 140x140x25mm fans (Yate Loon D14BH-12).
The junior model’s fan begins to work at 1150rpm and maintains this speed until a load of 600W.
The senior model’s graph is almost the same, which is another proof of my point that you should not buy a higher-wattage PSU hoping that it will be quieter.
Like the other PSUs from Ikonik, these PSUs are average in terms of noisiness. They will suit many users except for the most fastidious ones.
The efficiency is very good, reaching 88% at the maximum and being about 85% at full load.
The senior model has an efficiency of 82% at a load of 1160W. This is a record-breaking result for such a high-wattage PSU. For comparison, Channel Well’s PUC series had an efficiency of 80.5% at 1200W load.
The PSUs have a high load capacity of the standby source – up to 6A. Unfortunately, its voltage drops below the permissible 4.75V at full load. This must be due to the contact’s resistance: there is only one pin for the standby source in the mainboard’s connector.
The design of the senior models of the Vulcan series provokes no questions but both PSUs had problems during the tests. Each sample has problems of its own. The 1000W model has a reduced +5V voltage even though the latter fits within the permissible limits. The 1200W model has problems with its switching regulators that show up as strong pulsation at a frequency of 3.8kHz on the +5V and +3.3V rails.
It is logical to suppose that these defects arise from the platform being new. These PSUs are manufactured by Channel Well as part of the newest DSR series. Hopefully, CWT engineers will eventually achieve the same stable and high quality with this platform as with the above-discussed DSA and PSH.
So far, I cannot recommend the senior models of the Ikonik Vulcan series for purchase. Besides the mentioned drawbacks, they are more expensive than same-wattage PSUs from other brands.
Ikonik’s market debut is definitely a success. You can just browse Web forums to see that users have noticed and got interested in this brand. I guess the main reason is that Ikonik’s PSUs and system cases are widely available in shops, not just on paper.
Things are somewhat more complicated when it comes to the technical aspect, especially where it meets marketing. I mean the company’s price policy.
The Gaia PSUs are good for a midrange computer, up to a gaming machine with a top-end single-chip graphics card. They have good electrical parameters and high quality of manufacture. They are quiet and offer a good selection of cables. Unfortunately, they are as expensive as opponents of a higher class, e.g. with dedicated voltage regulation or with detachable cables.
The Vulcan series PSUs with wattage ratings up to 850W are somewhat more expensive than the competition, too. However, their longer-than-average cables are going to be appreciated by owners of large system cases. The other parameters of these PSUs will surely satisfy everyone.
And finally, the highest-wattage models of the Vulcan series are based on the newest DSR platform and seem to have not yet been polished off. The two samples I tested have various unpleasant drawbacks. Considering their high price and the fact that so much power is but rarely needed for today’s computers, I would not recommend you to buy them.