Snow White and the 70 amps
So you've just bought a white PC case, carefully matched it with some white sleeving, white cable ties, white fans and even white cathodes. Everything looks great, That is, until you install that ugly looking black Power Supply!
You may think that the simple answer is just to whip out a can of spray paint and some old newspapers. However, for anyone who's tried this in the past you will know full well that it isn't as easy as it sounds. Stickers need to be removed, fan holes need to be masked off, warranties get voided. It's more hassle than its worth.
Luckily though, PSU manufacturers have been wising up to the modding scene over the past few years and making small quantities of PSU's in colours such as red, orange and blue to suit the main colours used by enthusiasts. But no white...until now.
Enter the NZXT Hale 850w.
Diving straight into some pictures of the unit removed from its snug packaging, we can see that NZXT have clearly invested in this units appearance. The powdercoated finish is snow white against our acrylic background and impressively NZXT have also managed to couple the unit with a perfectly colour matched white fan. The black grille and modular connectors add to the whole look while also giving NZXT good reason not to sleeve the cables white too.
The front of the unit features the usual power switch and kettle-lead style mains plug - both of which come in quite handy if you're planning on doing more than just admiring the PSU. While around the side of the unit we have the obligatory specification sticker sporting that all important gold 80Plus logo along with a load of other safety certifications and a rail layout chart (as replicated below).
|NZXT Hale 850w Rail Layout|
Of course, packaging also plays a large part in the whole 'new product' experience, and as we can see below NZXT have kept things plain and professional with a simple white cardboard box printed with some basic red graphics. The front of the box also contains a small plastic window through which the PSU fan and grille can be seen.
At the back of the box is the full specifications list along with some small thumbnail images depicting seven of the PSU's main features. As taken from the NZXT website, these include:
• 80+ Gold certified: The HALE 90 series from NZXT operates at ultra high efficiency, at 20%, 50% and 100% loads, efficiencies are 87%, 90%, and 87% respectively.
• Single140mm two ball-bearing fan operates with minimal noise even at full load. Maximum decibel levels are 20db for wattages between 550-750W and 30db for 850W and above.
• Strong Single Rail Design: A single +12V rail provides stability and ease of use making the most out of your power supply. Offers stable & clean current delivery under heavy load.
• Modular cable design: Modular cable design allows the user to pick and choose which cables they want to use, optimizing cable management and airflow inside the chassis. Flat cables allow for easier routing and bending inside the computer chassis during wire management.
• 100% Japanese Capacitors: High quality components for longer life time and better reliability.
• Warranty: 5 Years
The padding inside the box may not quite be up to Corsairs standards, but the inclusion of styrofoam sidewalls will certainly help to protect the PSU from the likes of Parcelforce (who recently smashed a parcel fo mine to pieces!). This is in addition to the accessories bag and mains lead that are purposefully wedged around the edges of the PSU to prevent movement.
Now down to the nitty gritty...
Insides & Cables
No good PSU review is complete without the reviewer risking his life by pulling apart the unit and then attempting to put it back together again. Well, OK that's a bit of an over exaggeration, but in order to make the task of testing PSU's more exciting, thinking of them like ticking time bombs certainly helps keep the blood pumping. DON'T TOUCH THE YELLOW AND BLACK WIRES...NOOOOO *BOOM*.
Ahem, anyway...Lifting off the lid gives us a birds-eye view of the internals where we can see that NZXT has paid special attention to the layout of the unit. All components are spaciously positioned, all cables are tightly bunched and there's no big blobs of glue or excessively sized heatsinks to hinder airflow.
Speaking of which, the 140mm white fan used inside the Hale has been craftily re-labeled with an NZXT sticker preventing me from digging up any specifications for the fan online. All I can tell you is that it runs on 12v and consumes 0.4A - great!
The capacitors on both the primary and secondary side of the Hale are, as promised, Japanese. More specifically they are manufactured by very highly regarded Nippon Chemicon and are rated at 105ºC. Wipe up the slobber PSU geeks.
The main transformer sits slap bang in the middle of the unit and is solely responsible for stepping down the mains power to a more manageable 12v. From there the NZXT Hale employs DC-DC converters that step down the voltage into +3.3v and +5v for the other rails. However, while most manufacturers tend to have two separate VRM 'daughterboards' for dealing with these voltage step-downs, NZXT have managed to integrate both of VRM's on to one daughterboard (above-right).
Mains input filtering is handled by a small PCB attached to the back of the inlet. Closer inspection reveals that it contains one X and two Y capacitors along with a ferrite coil. More than enough to prevent interference from the unit escaping back out to your mains circuit and visa versa. Additionally while poking around this area I also noticed a model number LLC-M-090612 printed on the PCB. A quick Google shows that this number is also present on the Super Flower Golden Green Pro PSU. Whoops did I just Let the cat out of the bag?
The modular connector system is quite unique in that every single connector is the same 8-Pin 'PCI-E Style' design. This essentially means that you can plug any cable into any connector without having to match colours or pin counts. Whether or not this is a good idea or not I'm not sure, as this does potentially mean you could have a massive amount of current being drawn from several high power components all plugged in over one side of the modular backplane, and nothing over the other.
|NZXT 850w Connectors|
|ATX Connector||Wired||1x 20+4 Pin|
|EPS-12v / P4-12v Connector(s)||Wired||1x 4+4 Pin / 1x 8-Pin|
|Floppy Disk Connectors||Modular||2x|
|SATA Connectors||Wired / Modular||2x / 8x|
|PCI-E Connectors||Modular||3x 6+2 Pin / 3x 6-Pin|
After Corsair nicked the idea of flat ribbon-style modular cables from Ultra (who probably stole the idea from someone else), every other manufacturer has since jumped on the bandwagon and started doing the same thing. Therefore it's no surprise that the NZXT also has these style modular cables too. But don't get me wrong - this is a good thing, as they are without doubt the easiest cables to 'stealth' inside a PC case and even look good on full show.
Anyway, let's waste no more time in getting this PSU on the bench for some serious testing..
Simulated Load Results (Graphs)
For those of you not familiar with the layout of our relatively new graphs, the highest and lowest values on the Y-axis (voltage) represent the maximum and minimum voltages allowed by ATX specifications. If the results should fall outside the graph at any time, then that's an instant FAIL. However, merely staying inside these boundaries does not necessarily indicate a good PSU. In order to display truly great voltage regulation, a PSU must stick as closely as possible to the thick white horizontal line (ideal voltage) as possible.
You will also notice that the graph is split into three sections as depicted by the Green, Amber and Red backgrounds. These indicate normal usage (green), heavily uneven load distribution (amber) and overloading of the PSU (red). For the most part all we need to worry about is how it performs in the green section, but good performance in the other sections will undoubtedly earn the PSU extra brownie points.
For a better understanding of now we conduct our PSU testing and how these results were obtained, please be sure to check out the tabulated results over on the next page.
Referring to the OC3D PSU Certification whitepaper for guidance, we can see that the +3.3v rail on the NZXT passes the idle test with an output of 3.35v. Unfortunately though, when the load is increased to 100% the output voltage dips to 3.26v thus falling outside the ±2% allowable margin.
Of course, if we forget about the certification tests for one minute, this result is still very reasonable. And given that most modern PSU's barely make any use of the +3.3v rail anymore, it is certainly nothing to worry about.
The +5v rail tells a similar story to the +3.3v rail with idle voltages just about within OC3D'd certification specs, but then falling outside the requirements when 100% load is applied. Of course, the average user of this PSU is unlikely to run it at more than 75% load most of the time, and as we can see from the results in T3 an output voltage of 5.06v is pretty much right on the money.
Moving on to the most important rail of them all, we can see by just looking at the flatter line on the graph that this is where NZXT have paid the most attention. The idle voltages are reasonable and 100% load voltages only just fall outside of certification requirements by 0.02v. Most impressively though, even in the TMax (Maximum Load) testing, the NZXT refuses to dip below +12.00v, showing that it really can deliver.
Finally we arrive at efficiency - and there's certainly no arguing that this is an 80PLUS GOLD level PSU. Throughout all of the normal tests, the unit managed over 91% efficiency, and only presented with a heavy crossload in TX1 did the efficiency drop to 84% (which is still better than most PSU's). Good work NZXT.
Simulated Load Results (Tables)
If you've seen the simplified graphs over on the previous page you will undoubtedly already have a good idea of how the NZXT 850w performs. However, certain results from the test can be too difficult to incorporate into the existing graphs, and for this reason all of the result data is also provided in the table format below.
All testing is conducting using OC3D's trusty SunMoon SM-268+ DC load tester. This equipment is capable of placing a user specified load on all of the PSU's rails (+3.3v, +5v, +12v, -12v, +5vSB) up to a maximum load of 1680w. As the maximum load for this device on the +12v rail is restricted to 75A we can also call on additional help from our Analogic Series 2000 DC load tester, so that anything up to an additional 166A can be added if necessary. All testing is conducted at 50°C (±5%) with the results being recorded using a Fluke Multimeter and Thermostat.
UPDATE 03/10/10: Further to a post by a member of our forum we have become aware of a mis-calculation in our load levels for this PSU. As a result, the table below has been adjusted since the initial launch of this review on the 01/10/10. All results are now CORRECT.
|NZXT HALE 850w @ 50°C|
|+3.3v||+5.0v||+12v||+5vSB||-12v|| AC Watts / |
|Efficiency|| Intake / |
|3.50A||3.50A||14.75A||0.75A||0.12A||244w / |
|91.39%||50.4°C / |
|93.24%|| 51.5°C / |
|10.50A||10.50A||44.25A||2.25A||0.37A||685w / |
|93.43%||50.0C / |
|14.00A||14.00A||59.00A||3.00A||0.50A||931w / |
|91.19%|| 51.5°C / |
|14.00A||14.00A||1.00A||0.00A||0.00A||153w / |
|84.31%||50.2°C / |
|1.00A||1.00A||70.00A||0.00A||0.00A||913w / |
|93.31%||51.6°C / |
|25.00A||25.00A||72.00A||3.00A||0.50A||1231w / |
|88.38%||51.3°C / |
OK. Before we even talk about anything else, I think you should take a look at the DC Watts being pulled in test TMax1. Yes, you did read that right. That's a whopping 1088W pulled from a PSU rated at only 850w! I have to admit that my face was more crinkled than a packet of McCoy's crisps at that stage, but thankfully the NZXT knew its limits and shut down elegantly as I attempted to push it any further.
The rest of the results are pretty much as they should be. No crazy voltages during the crossload tests, no fire breathing dragons during the Max Load test and fairly average results everywhere else. So let's move on and see what the ripple results from the scope have in store...
|NZXT Hale 850w Scope Results @ 50c |
Ripple refers to the small fluctuations in voltage that occur in all PSU's on a millisecond scale. Large quantities of ripple on a PSU can damage or kill components in your PC over time and therefore testing a PSU's performance in this area is just as important as any other part. ATX specification states that ripple should be no higher than 50mV on the +3.3v/+5v rails and 120mV on the +12v rails, so what we're looking for in the screenshots above is for all rails to stay well within these limits during Test 1-4 at the very least.
Does the NZXT Hale manage it? JUST. While the +12v rail hits an extremely impressive maximum result of 38mVpp at 100% load in test 4, the +3.3v and +5v rails lead a lot to be desired, barely managing to stay within ATX specifications. For a PSU trying to make its mark on the enthusiast sector there's definitely still work here to be done.
Whoops, this is where I hold my hands up and admit my mistake. In the results published on the 01/10, the ripple for the +3.3v and +5v rails was just within ATX specifications. However, thanks to a member of our forums pointing out a mistake in the load levels, the PSU was re-tested and now the ripple results for these two rails is MUCH better. 28mVpp on the +3.3v rail, 24mVpp on the +5v rail and 38mVpp on the +12v rail at full load - simply awesome!
So, here we are. It's time to sum up everything we've seen over the past few pages and try to draw some kind of bottom line conclusion on whether the NZXT Hale 850w is a wolf in sheeps clothing, or just a sheep abused by its farmer.
Starting with the obvious - it's painted white. The finish is certainly good and the colour is crisp and clean rather than the 'smokers ceiling' kind of white that I was expecting. However, given that the PSU is often one of the most hot and dusty parts of a PC system I'll be very interested to see just how the unit looks after a few years of service.
Then there's the performance. The efficiency is certainly up at the top of the scale with over 90% being recorded across all of the standard tests. The only thing that really lets the unit down is the performance of the +3.3v and +5v rails in both the voltage and ripple tests. Yes they're well within ATX specifications, but here at OC3D we're always on the lookout for the 'best', and unfortunately the NZXT Hale delivers little more than mediocrity. The +12v rail however is very strong and paved the way for us to push the unit up to a whopping 1088w in the max load test.
This is where I owe NZXT an official OC3D apology. Due to a mis-calculation with the load levels during the PSU testing, the HALE90 was stressed well above its rated output on the +3.3v and +5v rails. This caused a massive increase in the ripple results for the said rails, and a rather negative conclusion to the review from me. HOWEVER, after the issue was pointed out by a member of our forums, the PSU was re-rested on 3/10 and the results 2nd time round are MUCH better.
Efficiency levels increased to 93% at medium load levels, the +5v and +3.3v rails became much more stable and the ripple results from all rails was among the best for any PSU we've tested on OC3D to date. Add this to the fact that the NZXT is capable of holding a massive 1088w load and we have one extremely strong PSU regardless of its colour. At £152 over at Scan, it may be on the expensive side, but if you're after a PSU for your white PC case that doesn't compromise on performance. The HALE90 850w is right up your street.
The bottom line I guess, is that the NZXT Hale 850w is a great choice for those of you looking for a white PSU to match up with your modified PC. It gets the job done, it's not going to declare war on your PC components and it can deliver plenty more juice than its rated output if you ever happen to upgrade your rig. However, if you can make do with a black PSU, then the £152 that Scan are asking for the 850w Hale could potentially be better spent elsewhere.
- Crisp white finish.
- 12v Output is pretty stable.
- Can deliver up to 1088w!
- Over 90% efficiency at all loads.
- Plenty of modular cables.
- Excellent ripple suppression on all rails.
- +3.3v could be a tad more stable.
Thanks to NZXT for supplying the HALE 850w for review. Discuss in our forums.