Cougar 1000CM 1000w PSU Revisited Page: 1

At the tail end of 2009 a relatively unheard of manufacturer by the name of Cougar sent their first 1000w retail PSU in to Overclock3D for review. While the 1000CM certainly looked the part, had great efficiency and managed to hold reasonable voltage stability across all of our tests, it harbored a dark secret..... more ripple than the Galaxy chocolate factory. Over 200mV of it to be exact.

But what came next was quite a surprise. No onslaught of emails demanding a re-test/re-count, no "we'll send you 50 replacements to test, so you get bored and give up" and no "sommit for the Mrs" ploys. Instead, just a simple email from Cougar's UK sales exec thanking us for bringing the issue's to their attention and offering us the chance to review a revised model in a couple of months time that would have all of the issues ironed out.

So here we are, it's 2010 and after a few months tarting up the Overclock3D website, I'm finally ready to put the revised model through its paces. In all honesty the normal process for performing a second test on a product would just involve updating the results, slapping on a disclaimer paragraph and calling it a day. But Cougar, a little sore from the previous review have requested that we take it right from the top on a clean slate. Fair enough in my opinion - everyone deserves a second chance after all. The only problem of course, is that I'm not quite creative enough to write two entirely different reviews about an almost identical product. So for those who have already read the previous 1000CM review, the feeling of de-ja-vu is to be expected.

Anyway let's not waste any more time and instead jump straight into the specs...

Compatible with the Latest PC Technologies
-Supports the newest specifications of ATX12V & EPS12V
-Created for usage with current and next-generation multi-core CPU and GPU platforms
Green Design for Energy saving

-80plus® certified, environmentally conscious green product design for lower energy consumption
-Meets Energy Star requirement - Standby (Off mode) <2W, Sleep mode < 4W
-High efficiency: Up to 87%

Ultra quiet
-Extremely Low Noise Level at < 23dB
-Ultra quiet 140mm fan with thermal control function. Keeps the Cougar cool and quiet at all the times

Efficient and stable component architecture
-Six independent and stable +12V rails promote the best performance to gamers
-High-end industrial grade capacitors provide more electrical power storage to promote higher efficiency and longer product lifespan
-With Active-PFC (PF>0.99) at 100% loading and Universal AC input (100-240Vac Full Range)

Modular Cable Management

-Modular cable design allows you to detach connectors freely and use only the cables you need
-Smart plug design: cable connectors are designed to connect to their proper input only

Full safety protection

-Full Protection: OCP, SCP, OVP, UVP, OPP
-Safety and EMI certified: CB, TUV, CE, UL, cUL, FCC, MIC, BSMI

Although not listed on the specs above, the Cougar 1000CM is certified to 80PLUS Bronze levels, which is actually an improvement over the first unit we received. This may not translate to any actual difference in real-world terms, but at the very least it's good to see that Cougar have decided to re-submit the unit for testing and have come away with a slightly more prestigious certification.

Once again I'm going to have a little dig at the line "six independent and stable rails promote best performance to gamers" and point out that most gamers are actually moving away from multiple 12v rail PSU's, back to units that have either single or dual 12v rails. Although in reality one could argue that there really isn't much difference between the two as most PSU's only have a single transformer anyway, the simplicity of a single rail layout does make it easier for the average user / casual gamer to plan future hardware upgrades.

A full set of safety features has been listed for the 1000CM with OCP (Over Current Protection), OPP (Over Power Protection) and SCP (Short Circuit Protection) all being be areas that will be tested for problems during the review today. Normally most units pass without any issue, but as we witnessed recently even the most respected of manufacturers can sometimes get things wrong.

Cougar 1000CM Rail Layout
DC Output +3.3V +5V +12V1 +12V2 +12V3 +12V4 +12V5 +12V6 -12V +5VSB
30A 30A 24A 24A 24A 24A 28A 28A 0.8A 4A
Max Power 175W 960W 9.6W 20W
1000W


The total output of all +12v rails combined has been quoted as 960W which equates to 80 amps. However, probably the most interesting thing about the rail layout is the slightly increased maximum output of the +12v5 and +12v6 rails in comparison to the other +12v rails. These two rails are solely responsible for delivering power to four of the six PCI-E graphics card connectors so it stands to reason that they would need the highest output.

The +3.3v and +5v rails on the other hand have a maximum combined output of 175w with an OCP limit of 30A set on each rail. This realistically gives you a maximum load of 99W on the +3.3v rail and 150W on the +5v rail, although not both at the same time.

With the specs now covered it's time to move on to the appearance over on the next page...



Cougar 1000CM 1000w PSU Revisited Page: 2

Big changes have been made to the packaging design from when I first visited the 1000CM last year with the front of the box now sporting a Lamborghini style logo badge on top of a pin stripe gray background. A curved orange title bar also contains the text "Cougar CM Power", but there's no sign of the original "HEC Compucase" logo anywhere.

As much as I'd like to think these changes are all because of me, a quick search of the internet reveals that I may well be reviewing the German manufactured version of the 1000CM here, whereas my earlier review was of the Taiwanese 'HEC' version. Let's hope that it's "Vorsprung durch Technik"!

      

A number of other badges have also been placed on the front of the box including both SLI and Crossfire certifications, the 80PLUS Bronze certification I mentioned on the previous page and of course a sticker pointing out that this is the 1000W model. The original "87.5%" efficiency sticker found on the HEC version of the unit is no-where to be seen, but that's quite possibly because the 80PLUS sticker can do all the talking now.

Around the back of the box is a basic specification list printed in a total of six languages. A faded image of the unit in all its orange glory is also present.

   

No matter which side of the box you look at Cougar have printed something there for you to read. At one end of the box you will find yet another specifications list, only this time with several images to represent each of the main features, while at the other a printed rail distribution charts for both the 1000CM and 1200CM models. There's also one other side of interest (I forgot to take a photograph) that shows how many connectors of each type are included with the unit.

   

Opening the box reveals three cardboard compartments that house the PSU, modular cables and other accessories such as the case screws and manual. The PSU itself is placed inside a black canvas drawstring bag that should protect the unit from any minor marks or scratches caused by contact with the cardboard packaging during shipping. Although there's no molded polystyrene inserts like I've been seeing more and more recently from companies such as Corsair and OCZ, the thick cardboard ribbing around the PSU area of the box should be enough to protect the unit from most knocks, dents and drops.

      

 Cougar 1000CM Paint

As I said in the previous 1000CM review, the unit is finished in.. ."an extremely striking metallic orange paint job contrasted with a black fan grill and screws. Although the paint job certainly isn't up to automotive standards when it comes to glossiness and shine, viewing the PSU from different angles gives an almost colour-shift effect from dark orange, to light orange, to gold. Anybody building a PC based on an orange and black theme is going to absolutely love the look of this unit. The only down-side of course is that it's not quite as robust as a powder-coat finish and will scratch/chip if mishandled."

There are some subtle differences though. Firstly there's the revised fan grill sticker that no longer says HEC, but Cougar instead. Then there's the absolutely awesome Cougar logo embossed into one side of the unit. Also, as you will see in the picture above-left, a slimline specification sticker has been placed along the join between the PSU base and lid. Although it probably has little practical use, it does look good and made my life hell for a few minutes when trying to take the PSU apart.

   

At the back of the unit is the usual honeycomb grill accompanied by a power switch and kettle lead style plug socket. In case you're wondering - yes the switch does indeed light up when the PSU is powered on, but unfortunately in green and not orange. Boo!

   

The specifications sticker has been moved to the top of the unit ensuring that it is out of sight once the PSU is installed inside a case. As per usual the sticker is printed with a rail layout chart for the unit along with various other global safety certifications and warnings about how you'll get zapped if you open the PSU casing.

Now lets move on to the next page and take a look at those modular cables and internal components...



Cougar 1000CM 1000w PSU Revisited Page: 3

The 1000CM is kitted out with a total of eight 8-Pin PCI-E style modular connectors that protrude from the front of the unit. The connectors are split into two groups of four with the SATA/Molex connectors being coloured black and the graphics card connectors red. While this should be visually more than enough to prevent anyone from (excuse the phrase) sticking a connector in the wrong hole, I can't help but think that it may have been a wiser decision for Cougar to base the SATA/Molex connectors around a 6-Pin design.

  

One slight improvement here when compared to the HEC version is that a large printed sticker covers the entire modular area. Aside from giving you clear instructions on where you should be inserting your modular cables it also provides details on which +12v rail is used for each of the connectors. This can come in handy if you plan on using several high-draw graphics cards in your system and want to make sure that you don't overload the PSU by connecting them all to a single rail.

      

   

Hard-wired into the unit are two PCI-E graphics card cables (one 6-Pin, the other 6+2Pin), an 8-Pin EPS-12v connector (with a 4+4Pin P412v connector piggy backed) and of course a 20+4Pin ATX connector. This pretty much ensures that the Cougar 1000CM will work with any system both old and new including some server/high-end motherboards that require two EPS-12v connectors.

      

   

Cougar 1000CM Connectors
 ATX ConnectorNative1x 20+4 Pin
 EPS-12v / P4-12v Connector(s)Native2x 4 Pin / 1x 8 Pin
 Molex ConnectorsModular7x
 Floppy Disk ConnectorsModular1x
 SATA ConnectorsModular8x
 PCI-E ConnectorsNative / Modular3x 6 Pin / 3x 6+2 Pin


The total number of modular plugs is quite evenly weighted with a eight SATA connectors and seven Molex connectors both of which are spread over a total of four cables. While this means that you can indeed have every cable provided with the unit all plugged in at the same time, it certainly wouldn't have hurt to include a few spare cables for users who's systems require more Molex connectors than SATA connectors or visa versa. Additionally, having a few extra cables can be useful in larger cases where you might for example have an SATA DVD drive at the top of the case and Hard Disks at the bottom and want to use several separate cables rather than trying to stretch a single cable the length of the case.

 

Internals

Moving on to the internals now and at first glance, the internals of the Cougar 1000CM look even more nearly arranged than its HEC counterpart. Very few cables can be seen running wild around the unit, and all cables entering the unit from the hard-wired connectors are bunched tightly together. Even the large white blobs of glue I mentioned being used throughout the unit in the original review have been replaced with a less visible black version which has been used far more sparingly.

   

The first thing to notice here is obviously the two large transformers. These each service three of the six +12v rails inside the unit making the 1000CM one of very few dual transformer designs we've had the opportunity of reviewing. Over to the left of these and hidden beneath an angled black heatsink is yet another transformer, only smaller and responsible for powering the +5vSB rail.

   

Two DC-DC daughter-boards positioned right at the edge of the PCB are responsible for stepping down the main +12v output into +3.3v and +5v outputs for the rest of the rails. Also in the image above-right we can see the mains filtering circuit which consists mainly of a ferrite inductor.

      

   

And now my dear readers we come to what can only be described as PSU porn. The entire secondary side of the PSU including the DC-DC boards have been kitted out with only solid state capacitors! Granted you'd expect to see the odd one or two in most reasonable PSU's, but for Cougar to kit out the entire secondary side in nothing but solid caps must have cost a fortune.

The advantage here is that solid caps have a much higher life expectancy than their electrolytic counterparts while generally also being able to deal with slightly higher ripple current. Of course, solid state caps are generally only used on low voltage circuits, so over on the primary side of the PSU Cougar have used a single Japanese manufactured Nippon Chemicon KMR capacitor rated at 420v / 560uF @ 105°C.

All in all, this is a MASSIVE improvement over the Teapo primary capacitor and unidentifiable secondary caps inside the HEC branded 1000CM and will hopefully go a long way to smoothing out the ripple issues that plagued the unit during the previous review. Shall we find out for sure?



Cougar 1000CM 1000w PSU Revisited Page: 4

To provide accurate and consistent results in all of our PSU testing, Overclock3D uses professional grade DC electronic load equipment capable of placing a sustained load of 3690w across a total of six rails (including +5vsb and -12v) on the PSU! This is achieved by using a combination of SunMoon and Analogic electronic load equipment which allow us to adjust amperage loads in increments as small as 0.01A while also measuring voltage and wattage readings on-screen.   During today's tests, we will be placing the Cougar 1000CM under 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% load levels inside a hot box regulated to a temperature of around 50°C. Additional 'Cross Load' and a 'Max Load' tests will also be performed under these conditions to simulate how the PSU reacts to heavily uneven loads as well as running above its specified output.   

Cougar 1000CM Results @ 50°C
   +3.3v  +5.0v  +12v  +5vSB  -12v  AC Watts /
 DC Watts
 Efficiency  Intake /
 Exhaust
Δ Temp
Test 1
(Low)
5.25A 5.25A 16.75A  1.00A  0.20A  294w /
256w
 87.07% 52.4°C /
47.0°C
-5.4°C
3.35v 5.09v 12.25v 5.06v  -11.88v
Test 2
(Med)
10.50A 10.50A 33.50A 2.00A  0.40A  567w /
510w
 89.94%  50.1°C /
50.5°C
0.4°C
3.30v 5.02v 12.18v 4.98v  -11.89v
Test 3
(High)
15.75A 15.75A 50.25A 3.00A  0.60A  851w /
758w
 89.07% 50.1°C /
54.2°C
4.1°C
3.23v 4.95v 12.10v 4.90v -11.90v
Test 4
(Full)
21.00A 21.00A 67.00A 4.00A 0.80A 1147w /
1003w
87.44%  49.5°C /
59.5°C
10.0°C
3.19v 4.87v 12.02v 4.83v -11.92v
Test 5
(x-load)
21.00A 21.00A 1.00A 0.00A 0.00A  230w /
185w
80.43% 49.6°C /
50.8°C
1.2 °C
3.30v 4.95v 12.25v 5.08v -11.95v
Test 6
(x-load)
 1.00A  1.00A 80.00A  0.00A  0.00A 1103w /
966w
87.57%  50.0°C /
56.0°C
 6.0°C
3.32v 5.06v 12.02v 5.03v -11.99v
Test 7
(MAX)
 21.00A  21.00A 70.00A 4.00A 0.80A 1247w /
1031w
82.67%  52.3°C /
66.4°C
 14.1°C
3.21v 4.88v 12.00v 4.79v -12.00v
 
Cougar 1000CM Performance Overview
 +3.3v Diff.
T1-T4
 +5.0v Diff.
T1-T4
 +12v Diff.
T1-T4
Avg Effic.
T1-T4
Noise Rating
-4.77%   -4.32% -1.87%  88.38% Low 


The performance overview chart is the first port of call, and here we can see that the Cougar 1000CM managed to hold extremely respectable voltage stability on its +12v rail between test 1 and test 4 with a drop in output of only 1.87%. Granted this isn't a record breaking result, but it's still around 1.4% better than the HEC built 1000CM and even outperforms a lot of the PSU's in top 10 list. Unfortunately the results from the +3.3v and +5v rails spoil the mood a little with both being quite "high". I say high with inverted comma's as the result its self isn't too shabby at all, it just foils any chance of the Cougar finding its way anywhere near the top of our leader board.

During the cross-load tests 5 & 6 the Cougar copes surprisingly well with no out-of -check voltages at all. Only the efficiency takes a nose-dive during test 5, dropping to just over 80%. This is a fairly surprising result considering the average results from the other tests so far, but very few PSU's pass these tests so the Cougar deserves a few points here at least.   Finally in the MAX Load test, it is quite obvious to see that the Cougar 1000CM is already stretched to its limits as far as power output is concerned. Although the unit was briefly capable of up to ~1400w before OCP/OPP kicked in and shut it down, the maximum sustainable load was just 1031w. Obviously at this load the voltages were quite similar to those at 1000w in Test 4 with the only difference being approx 4% lower efficiency at 82.67%.

And now for the moment of truth. Will all those solid state caps help to tame the beastly ripple results seen on the HEC badged 1000CM, or will Cougar be added to the swearword list on the Overclock3D forums? I can almost hear the knorring of fingernails at Cougar HQ....

Cougar 1000CM Scope Results @ 50c
   +3.3v  +5.0v  +12v
Test 1
(Low)
Test 2
(Med)
Test 3
(High)
Test 4
(Full)
Test 5
(x-load)
Test 6
(x-load)
Test 7 (MAX)


WOW what an improvement. It's almost like somebody took the original HEC 1000CM ripple results to the hairdressers and asked for a number one all over! Gone are the massive mohawk-like spikes of ripple that hit over 300mV and instead we're left with what looks at first glance like some pretty acceptable results.

But don't go cracking open the bottle of champagne just yet...

While the ripple results from tests 1-3 are more than acceptable with results hovering around the 30mV mark for all of the rails, the +3.3v rail looses its cool in test 4 by exceeding the ATX Specified maximum ripple output of 50mV. Sure it's not by any massive amount, but considering the insides of the 1000CM has more solid state capacitors than an ASUS motherboard, I was at least hoping that it could keep up with the other units that we've tested recently.

This aside though the rest of the results are quite acceptable with the +12v rail especially managing to stick below 60mV no matter what was thrown at it. If Cougar could add just a little bit more filtering to the DC-DC boards for the +3.3v and +5v rails then I'd have no quibbles at all.

Now let's move on to the all important conclusion...



Cougar 1000CM 1000w PSU Revisited Page: 5

I'm going to cut straight to the point. The Cougar 1000CM is everything its HEC branded counterpart should have been - and more. Not only has Cougar made some worthwhile changes to the units external appearance, but they've also seriously upgraded the internal components with a whole PCB full of solid state capacitors and a Nippon Chemicon primary. In fact I would go as far as to say comparing the two units is akin to comparing a genuine Nokia mobile phone to Nookya look-alike purchased from some dodgy eBayer based in China. It really is that different.

But do these upgrades actually make any difference to the performance? Well as we've seen over on the previous page there's certainly no denying that the ripple results for the Cougar are worlds better than those from the HEC. Whereas the latter barely managed to keep its ripple below 200mV in my original review, the unit on review today managed around 60mV on its +12v rails and between 50-56mV on its +3.3v and +5v rails during full load. I do have to of course say that at some points during the review the ripple did still exceed ATX specifications (but only by a bit), which is a shame considering how much extra money Cougar must have thrown at all those uprated caps.

On a more positive note, the appearance of the unit is still among the best I've ever seen. The orange paint job looks great, the snake-like sleeved cables are totally unique and the whole unit exudes quality. Efficiency also exceeded expectations with the Cougar achieving around 89% at 500-750w loads. Only in tests 5  where the unit was subjected to a heavy cross-load did the efficiency drop to 80%, but this is pretty much expected as a 170w load on only the +3.3v and +5v rails is not going to be something easily replicated in any ordinary PC system.

Finally, the voltage stability was ever so slightly better than the HEC branded model with the +12v rail managing to keep the fluctuation from idle (test 1) to load (test4) to only 1.87%. The regulation on the +3.3v and +5v rails however wasn't quite as tight with the rails dropping around 4.5% from idle to load. Of course, all results here were well within ATX spec, but as I mentioned in the previous HEC review, there are still plenty of other PSU's out there than can achieve much tighter regulation. 

In summary the Cougar 1000CM is good, but not great. What really annoys me though, is how close it is to being 'great'. With just a little bit more work mostly on the +3.3/+5v rails to bring down the ripple a tad and tighten up the voltage regulation I'd have no reservations in awarding the unit  "Editors Choice". However, taking into consideration the fact that the unit is priced at a very reasonable £133 over on Ebuyer, I feel that a recommended award is far more fitting, especially for those of us who are looking for a bit of zest in their next PSU purchase.

The Good
- Orange paintwork looks great.
- High quality, unique sleeving.
- Great efficiency at medium load levels.
- Silent operation.

The Mediocre
- Appearance of PSU is only likely to appeal to small market segment.
- Voltage regulation is fairly ... mediocre.
- Ripple results are MUCH better than previously, but could still use a little more improvement on the +3.3v and +5v rails.

The Bad
- Nothing

 OC3D Recommended Award

Thanks to Cougar for sending the 1000CM in for review. Discuss in our forums.