Gold and Bronze: NZXT Power Supply Units Roundup

Today we are going to talk about five power supply units from NZXT ranging in capacity from 650 W to 1000 W and certified according to 80 PLUS Bronze and Gold standards.

by Dmitry Vasiliev
01/29/2012 | 02:54 AM

The PSU market is extremely competitive, yet new players are often to be seen there. Some of them, like Corsair, have already earned a good reputation although do not actually develop and manufacture PSUs they market under their brands. Today we want to introduce to you another new name. It is NZXT, a company known for its various computer accessories and, recently, CPU coolers and system cases. Now they want to make a try on a completely new field.

 

We will discuss five products from both PSU series offered by NZXT. To be exact, we’ve got the complete HALE82 series with its three models of 650, 750 and 850 watts. The HALE90 series is comprised of more products, but we’ve got only two: the flagship 1-kilowatt model and a midrange 750-watt one.

Testing Methodology

The following article offers a detailed 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. If you feel overwhelmed with the numbers and terms this review abounds in, refer to the Methodology.

You can also go to our Cases/PSU section to check out reviews of all other PSU models we have tested in our labs.

We will mark the actual power consumption of three system configurations (discussed in our article PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?) in the cross-load diagrams. This will help you see if the tested PSU can meet the requirements of a real-life PC.

Testing Participants

NZXT HALE82-650-M, HALE82-750-M and HALE82-850-M

We’ll start out with the HALE82 series which is 80 PLUS Bronze certified.

These products are shipped in modest-sized boxes. The box lacks a carry handle but has a cutout covered with a piece of film so that you could see something inside.

The packaging is designed in the same style, yet is individual for each model in the series.

Each model’s box has a specific color besides the basic black. The particular model’s specifications (electrical parameters and connectors) can be found on the back of the packaging.

The box contents are the same for each model except for some variations in power cables. Besides the PSU, we can see an NZXT-labeled pouch with detachable cables, a mains cord, four mounting screws and one reusable plastic strap (it already holds the cables together in the pouch).

Exterior Design

Every model in the HALE82 series looks the same except for the fixed power cables.

The only distinguishing features we can see here are the white impeller of the cooling fan and the circle with manufacturer’s logo in the center of the vent grid.

The rest of the exterior features are quite conventional: a rough black paint, a honeycomb-mesh back panel, connectors for modular cables on the opposite panel and a cutout for the fan. The rest of the panels are blank.

Circuit Design

Like most newcomers to the PSU business, NZXT employs third-party platforms rather than its own inventions. Introduced in the fall of 2011, the HALE82 series is supplied by Seasonic, one of the leading PSU developers. The platform is even newer than Seasonic’s own Bronze-certified PSUs we tested earlier.

The different HALE82 series models are almost identical inside and look very advanced for mainstream products (we guess that 80 PLUS Bronze certification is not a top-end product’s feature anymore).

Not often to be seen in mainstream PSUs, there is dedicated voltage regulation based on DC-DC converters here.

The +5V and +3.3V converters are located on a small card you can find between the transformer and the massive heatsink with power components.

Besides the converter card, there are two more daughter cards here: one with a PWM controller CM6802TBHX and another with a monitoring chip PS223.

There are as many as four heatsinks here. They are not large, yet larger than those of Seasonic’s more efficient Gold-certified PSUs.

Besides conventional filters, the mains connector is screened with a copper plate to reduce electromagnetic interference.

There are Nippon Chemi-Con’s KZE series electrolytic capacitors at the output. They are reputed to be high-quality components. Every electrolytic capacitor is rated for an operating temperature of 105°C.

Cables and Connectors

The NZXT HALE82-650-M model is equipped with the following cables and connectors:

Included with the PSU are:

The 750-watt model additionally has a detachable cable with two SATA power connectors (35+16 cm) whereas the 850-watt model also has a second fixed cable with two 6+2-pin graphics card connectors.

The connectors of the modular cables are labeled so that you couldn’t confuse them with another PSU’s. Thus, the HALE82 series offer quite a lot of cables. We are especially pleased with the CPU power cable which is going to be long enough for system cases with a bottom PSU bay and a dedicated cable compartment behind the mainboard.

It must be noted, however, that they offer not a single floppy-drive plug. Although floppy drives proper are hardly ever used these days, there are some devices that get their power through this type of connector, e.g. the 5.25-inch control units of Creative’s X-Fi audio cards with PCI interface. Of course, you can use an adapter from a PATA power connector, but it is not included with these PSUs.

The detachable cables are rather stiff. Although flat, they are not as flexible as cables of Enhance or FSP products, for example. They can be compared to ordinary nylon-sleeved cables in this respect.

Specifications

The specifications meet today’s requirements. The PSUs can yield almost all of their output power via the +12V rail alone. The +12V rail itself is solid rather than split into multiple output lines. The single difference between the PSUs is in the load capacity of that rail: 53, 62 and 70 amperes for the 650, 750 and 850 unit, respectively. The rest of the specs are identical.

We can remind you that NZXT’s HALE82 series is 80 PLUS Bronze certified.

UPS Compatibility

The HALE82 series PSUs all showed the same behavior with our uninterruptible power supply (APC SmartUPS SC 620). They were stable at loads up to 365-375 watts when powered by the mains and could switch to the UPS’s batteries at 285-290 watts.

Cross-Load Stability

The different HALE82 products were comparable in this test, too. We will describe the highest-wattage model, mentioning the others where necessary.

The +12V voltage is almost perfect with each PSU. It is within 1% of the required level at low and medium loads and within 2% at high loads.

The +3.3V voltage is just slightly worse, deflecting by 3% from the required level (the highest-wattage model even has a small area with 4% deflection). On the other hand, this voltage is going to be within 2% of 3.3 volts under real-life loads.

It is the +5V line that turns out to be the weakest one in each PSU. Its voltage deflects by 5% with the two higher-wattage HALE82 models. On the other hand, the deflection is only 2% in the typical load range.

As opposed to its more advanced cousins, the 650-watt unit is as stable with +5V as with the other voltages. The deflection is not higher than 3%. It is even as low as 2% in the typical load range.

Output Voltage Ripple

The high-frequency voltage ripple is very weak with each PSU. Even the occasional spikes do not go out of permissible limits. The PSU platform employed in the HALE82 series is better than Seasonic’s previous platform (S12-II and M12-II) in this respect as the latter PSUs allowed voltage spikes to shoot above an acceptable level.

The voltage ripple is also low at the double frequency of the power mains. We can only note a wave on the +12V rail.

Temperature and Noise

The HALE82 PSUs are all cooled by the same fan and have the same fan regulation algorithm. Let’s examine it using the highest-wattage model.

The fan is a 7-blade ADDA (AD1212UB-A70GL; 2500 RPM; 120 mm). The impeller is partially blocked with a piece of plastic to optimize air flows.

The fan starts out at 1080 RPM in each PSU and accelerates rapidly from a load of 250 watts onwards.

Each fan reaches its peak speed of 2300 RPM at a load of 650 watts and retains it thereafter.

Thus, these PSUs are not quiet. The fan is audible even at the minimum 1080 RPM (its ball bearings are inferior to sleeve or fluid dynamic bearings in terms of noisiness, even though last longer) whereas the maximum 2300 RPM is downright uncomfortable.

Well, the manufacturer doesn’t actually promise these PSUs to be quiet:

The specified noise range of 25 to 40 dB doesn’t imply silence. The only thing the manufacturer doesn’t get right is that the fan speed starts to increase much sooner in reality than in the picture above.

We must acknowledge that the fan regulation algorithm is appropriate: the temperature difference between the incoming and outgoing air increases slowly as the fan accelerates. Perhaps the manufacturer just overdid it a little, trying to keep PSU components as cool as possible. Yes, that’s good for the service life of the PSU, but the latter would be far more comfortable acoustically if its fan weren’t set up that aggressively.

Efficiency and Power Factor

The three HALE82 PSUs showed almost identical (and high) results in this test, meeting the 80 PLUS Bronze requirements by some margin. Let’s discuss the senior model again.

The power factor is typical of a PSU equipped with active power factor correction.

The HALE82-850-M was 85.2%, 87.7% and 84.4% efficient at the three reference loads (20%, 50% and 100% of the full output power). Its peak efficiency was 88.1% at a load of 337 watts.

The other two HALE82 units were somewhat more efficient at full load (85 to 85.3%) and had their peak efficiency at a load of below 300 watts. Otherwise, they showed almost the same results in this test as the senior model.

Standby Source

The three HALE82 series PSUs deliver the same performance once again.

The standby source copes with its job, keeping its voltage within 2% of the required level.

Summary

NZXT’s HALE82 series consists of modular PSUs with good electrical parameters. Unfortunately, they are not good in terms of noisiness. Their fan is audible even at low loads and becomes downright uncomfortable at high ones.

If it were not for the noise, the HALE82 series would be an excellent choice in the midrange category. They can only be recommended to users who don’t care about how noisy their computers are.

NZXT HALE90-750-M and HALE90-1000-M

The HALE90 series is certified for the more advanced 80 PLUS Gold standard although had come out one year earlier than the above-discussed Bronze-certified HALE82.

The white boxes of these PSUs are somewhat larger than those of the HALE82 series and have a carry handle.

The electrical specs, connectors and special features of the product are listed on the back of the box.

The accessories are the same as included with the HALE82 series except that the pouch for cables is larger, the mounting screws are of the thumbscrew variety so you can tighten them without a screwdriver, and there are several cable straps instead of only one.

Exterior Design

You may have read our review of NZXT system cases and the HALE90 series is just a perfect match to the white Phantom. The rough snow-white paint looks highly unique.

The grid of the 140mm fan, the connectors and a large part of the label are black, though. The silvery NZXT logo in the center of the fan grid looks much prettier than the punched-out one of the HALE82 series.

So, this series is going to be a perfect choice for owners of white system cases with a side window. It can also be installed into a computer that has no windows at all, of course, but may be inappropriate in a windowed case which is all black.

Circuit Design

The circuit design doesn’t resemble anything we’ve seen so far. The NZXT HALE90 series is based on a platform from Super Flower (Golden Green series) whose products have never made it to our labs as yet.

Like in the Seasonic-based HALE82 series, there are DC-DC converters for +3.3V and +5V voltages on a separate card which is located amidst a crowd of output capacitors.

The DC-DC converter card is covered with insulating plates from both sides, so we couldn’t examine it closely.

The other daughter card, located near the mains connector, carries a PWM controller SF29601. It is an exclusive Super Flower chip.

The PCB gives us some information about wattage ratings this platform supports. The range is wide, from 400 to 1200 watts.

The quality of manufacture and assembly is impeccable.

The PSU employs United Chemi-Con capacitors. Particularly, there are 16V/3300µF W-series components at the output. Every capacitor is rated for an operating temperature up to 105°C.

Cables and Connectors

The NZXT HALE90-750-M model is equipped with the following cables and connectors:

Included with the PSU are:

The HALE90-1000-M comes with a cable with two SATA and two PATA power connectors (55+15+15+15 cm) instead of one of the 750-watt model’s cables with four SATA power connectors. Moreover, it additionally has the following fixed cables:

The power connectors are identical and you can connect any cable into any of them. Each PSU connector has all the voltages whereas the cables’ connectors only use those voltages that are necessary.

The photo shows the connectors of a graphics card cable (on the right) and a SATA power cable (on the left). You can see that they use different wires.

We guess the cables of the HALE90-750-M are close to perfect. This PSU only has two fixed cables which are going to be used in any computer system. The CPU cable is long enough for any system case. And you can plug any detachable cable into any PSU connector.

The HALE90-1000-M is somewhat less perfect because the second CPU power cable is going to be unused in many systems. On the other hand, this solution can be understood. It would be hard to increase the number of modular connectors without redesigning the entire PSU.

The cables are similar to those of the HALE82 series and are not as flexible as flat cables of other PSUs.

Specifications

Like the HALE82 series, the HALE90 models differ in their +12V load capacity: 83 amperes for the higher-wattage model and 62 amperes for the lower-wattage one. In either case the load capacity of the +12V rail is over 99% of the PSU’s full output power.

The combined load capacity of the +5V and +3.3V rails is lower compared to the HALE82 series but 120 watts should be more than enough for modern computers anyway.

We can remind you that the HALE90 series is 80 PLUS Gold certified.

UPS Compatibility

Working together with our APC SmartUPS SC 620, the HALE90-750-M was stable at loads up to 375 watts when powered by the mains but could switch to the UPS’s batteries at 300 watts only. The HALE90-1000-M was stable at 385 and 290 watts, respectively.

Cross-Load Stability

Both models were good in this test, keeping two out of the three main voltages within 3% of the required levels in the typical load range.

The difference is that the +12V voltage is the most unstable one in the 750W model. It deflects by 5% at high loads on the +12V rail and up to 4% at loads below 150 watts.

In the 1000W model the +5V voltage deflects more than the others. It does so at near-maximum loads.

The voltages are within 2-3% of the required levels in the typical load range. That’s quite acceptable.

Output Voltage Ripple

The two PSUs are similar in this test.

We can clearly see high-frequency voltage ripple, but it is not as strong as to become a problem.

The same goes for the low-frequency voltage ripple.

Temperature and Noise

Each HALE90 PSU is cooled with an NZXT-branded 9-blade 140mm fan which is white like the PSUs themselves. The impeller is partially covered with a piece of transparent plastic to optimize air flows.

Although the PSUs and their cooling systems are very similar, their fans behaved differently:

The 750W model’s fan started out at 875 RPM and kept the same speed irrespective of load (the peak speed was only 920 RPM). Thus, this PSU is virtually silent at any load.

The fan of the HALE90-1000-M model started out at a lower speed and maintained it until a load of 650 watts. Then the fan accelerated in a linear manner but didn’t reach even 1200 RPM. That’s very quiet for a PSU of that wattage.

The low noise is achieved at the expense of temperature (the difference between the incoming and outgoing air is 16 to 18°C at full load), but we guess that user’s comfort is far more important.

It’s a shame that the newer HALE82 series doesn’t use the same fan regulation algorithm, especially as high temperatures shouldn’t be a problem for high-quality components installed in the NZXT products.

Efficiency and Power Factor

Like the HALE82 series, the HALE90 PSUs are similar in terms of efficiency.

The HALE90-1000-M is 88.3%, 92% and 87.4% efficient at 20%, 50% and 100% load. It is over 90% efficient through half its load range.

As is typical of many PSUs, the lower-wattage model is more efficient at full load: 88.8% as opposed to 87.4%. Otherwise, they are similar to each other in this test.

The power factor is typical of PSUs with active power factor correction.

Standby Source

The graph is the same for both PSUs:

The standby voltage is somewhat higher than required, but meets the requirements of the industry standard.

Summary

NZXT’s HALE90 series meet the 80 PLUS Gold requirements but are not perfect in their electrical parameters. Their voltages might be more stable.

On the other hand, the original exterior design, very low noise level and reasonable pricing coupled with the lack of really serious downsides make them a very good choice.