Antec Earthwatts 500W Power Supply Review

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Table of Contents:

Intro
1- Exterior Observations
2- Interior Impressions
3- Output Characteristics

Performance Tests
4- Efficiency Testing
5- Voltage Regulation Testing
6- +12V AC Ripple Testing
7- Noise and Heat

8- Conclusion

Product Number: N/A
Price: Included in price of Sonata III
Packaging: N/A
Fan Size: 1x 80mm
Warranty: 3 Years
Availability: Now

Cord Lengths and Connectors:

– Molex: 6 Connectors
o 2x 32” (3 connectors)

– SATA: 4 Connectors
o 2x 24 ½” length (2 connectors each)

– PCI-E 6-Pin: 2 Connectors
o 2x 19 ½” length

– 4-Pin Floppy: 1 Connectors
o 1x 38 ½” length (at end of Molex cable)

– 20+4 ATX Connector: 19 ½” length

– 4 / 8-Pin CPU Connector: 19 ½” length

For the last few years, there has been a massive upsurge in the amount of power certain computer components use and case manufacturers with built-in power supplies have been struggling to keep up. Most have not kept up at all and they continually release cases packaged with completely unacceptable power supplies which are more fit for the dumpster than at the heart of a computer system.

Into this press comes Antec with their Sonata-series cases bundled with Antec-branded power supplies. The original Sonata was bundled with a 380W power supply while the wildly-successful Sonata II included a somewhat failure-prone 450W unit. This time Antec studied the direction trends were heading and decided to include their Seasonic-built Antec Earthwatts 500W power supply with the new Sonata III case. At face-value this was a great decision considering this power supply is 50Watts more powerful than the unit it replaces, has an extra PCI-E connector for SLI / Crossfire operation, has APFC and is 80 Plus rated for efficient operation. But, how does it perform? Let’s find out.

1- Exterior Impressions

Dull grey is the name of the game when it comes to the exterior finish of this power supply. Due to the costs involved and the process of trying to keep the cost of the Sonata III to a minimum, certain paths had to be taken and keeping to the tried and true grey seems as good of an approach as any. There is a single 80mm exhaust fan which does not have an accompanying intake fan as the other side of the Earthwatts only contains a metal grille. It would have been nice to see a larger 120mm fan in order to help with general case cooling but we can’t always get what we want, right?

While rummaging through the wonderful (note the sarcasm) pile of colorful cables, we find that the only cable which is sleeved is the main ATX cable. This once again points to Antec trying to save money where it can and this time it is the cable sleeving which has gone in front of the firing squad. Luckily, all of the cables are of serviceable length and there are more than enough connectors for nearly any hardware combination you can dream of.

Something interesting to note is that Antec has foregone the typical 4+4 pin EPS connector and has gone with separate 4-pin and 8-pin CPU connectors instead. Unlike the Truepower II 450W unit with came with the Sonata II, the Earthwatts has a pair of PCI-E connectors which is a more than welcome addition.

2- Interior Impressions

What we are looking at here is a lower-end Seasonic build which nonetheless looks a lot better than the older CWT-built TPII-450 which came with the previous-generation Sonata. The primary holds a large 330uF Nippon Chemicon capacitor while the secondary holds only OST caps. The interior components and the heatsinks are arranged perfectly so the 80mm exhaust fan is able to sufficiently cool everything it needs to. All in all, it looks like this may be a very good performer.

3- Output Characteristics

The output numbers we see from the Earthwatts 500W is pretty much in-line with past 500W power supplies that have been reviewed here on Hardwarecanucks. It would be nice to see a bit more power available through the +12V rails but as it is; this is more than suitable for a 500W power supply. We also see that the combined output of these two +12V rails is 408W or exactly 34A.

PERFORMANCE TESTS:

Instruments Used:

Belkin 1100VA UPS
Rexus PSU tester
Fluke 187 Digital Multimeter
UPM Power Meter
USB Instruments Stingray USB O-Scope
USB Instruments Differential oscilloscope probe

Test Platform:

DFI Lanparty SLI-DR Expert
AMD X2 3800+ (at 2.6Ghz)
2GB Corsair PC4000 Ram (at 520Mhz)
EVGA 8800GTS (Stock, OC 650/1900, SLI, SLI OC 650/1800)
1x Samsung Spinpoint 250GB SATA Hard drive
Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570 Case
Pioneer DVD Writer
4X 120mm Noctua NF-S12-1200 fans

Important note:
Because of processor limitation, 8800GTS cards in SLI are seriously bottlenecked in Company of Heroes. Thus, while they still drew quite a high amount of power, when coupled with a higher end system or playing at higher resolutions they would probably draw much more.

One way or another, I would NOT recommend anything under a good 700W power supply for a pair of 8800GTS cards. These tests are done as benchmarks ONLY.

4- Efficiency Testing:

To test efficiency, plugged in the UPM power meter to the Belkin UPS and the highest sustained AC power consumption was recorded over the 1 hour test period. All tests were run twice and if there were anomalies, the test was run a third time. All “Startup” results are the peak power output required while powering on the computer between the POST screen and a usable Windows XP desktop.

The first efficiency test’s “Load” value was done with an overclocked processor and the graphics card at stock speeds while running Company of Heroes. The values are the highest peak power draw over the 1 hour test period.

The second efficiency test’s “Load” value was done with an overclocked processor and a heavily overclocked (both 2D and 3D overclocked to the same value) graphics card. Company of Heroes was played while Orthos was running on the processor in the background.

The third efficiency test was run with 2 8800GTS 320MB cards in SLI running at stock speeds with the processor overclocked to 2.6Ghz. Company of Heroes was then run for 1 hour to determine load values.

Efficiency Test #1

Efficiency Test #2

Efficiency Test #3

When compared to some other power supplies which are available without an accompanying case, the Antec Earthwatts 500W really shines in the efficiency department. It is amazing to see a power supply that is included in the price of a case doing this well against one of the better power supplies we have tested. It is becoming more and more apparent that in order to be competitive in this industry, power supply manufacturers are going to have to start focusing on efficiency. Luckily, Antec looked into its crystal ball and saw that one of the best things they could do was to include a highly efficient power supply with the Sonata III.

5- Voltage Regulation Testing:

To test voltage regulation I used the same tests as the efficiency. All tests were done over two tests of 1 hour where the voltage drops were logged with the Fluke 187 multimeter. The multimeter was installed directly on a plugged PCI-E connector for the +12V tests and a SATA connector for the +5V and +3.3V tests. The tests were as follows:

The “Idle” value was done with an overclocked processor and the graphics card at stock speeds while running the Windows Desktop.

The “Load” value was done with an overclocked processor and the graphics card at stock speeds while running Company of Heroes.

The “Load (OC)” value was done with an overclocked processor and a heavily overclocked (both 2D and 3D overclocked to the same value) graphics card. Company of Heroes was played while Orthos was running on the processor in the background.

The “Load (SLI)” value was run with 2 8800GTS 320MB cards in SLI running at stock speeds with the processor overclocked to 2.6Ghz. Company of Heroes was then run for 1 hour to determine load values.

+5V / +3.3V Voltage Regulation:

Once again, I am going to keep this short and sweet; because I do not have (and the typical user does not have either) enough components that draw power from the +5V and +3.3V rails in order to stress them. Thus, I did conduct the tests with the system I had and the Earthwatts power supply was within the specified tolerances.

+12V Voltage Regulation

As the tests progress we can see that the Earthwatts is holding together very well indeed. There were some minor drop-offs but nothing that should raise any concern. On the other hand, what cannot be seen in these tests is the amount of fluctuation in the voltages when compared to a power supply like the Odin. While it isn’t worrying in the least, it is still something to take note of. One way or another, this is a phenomenal result for this power supply considering the Odin is in another league price-wise.

6- +12V AC Ripple Testing

This is a very significant test in the fact that AC Ripple can be the cause of many common computer problems. Short term effects of excess ripple can be anything from an unstable overclock to memory errors while long term effects can include premature component failure and decreased component performance.

The ATX v2.2 ripple tolerance is anything below 120mV on the +12V rail.

To test for ripple the following tests were run twice for 30 minutes while the ripple was being measured by the USB Stingray o-scope. The values were the highest peak ripple measurement.

The “Idle” value was done with an overclocked processor and the graphics card at stock speeds while running the Windows Desktop.

The “Load” value was done with an overclocked processor and the graphics card at stock speeds while running Company of Heroes.

The “Load (OC)” value was done with an overclocked processor and a heavily overclocked (both 2D and 3D overclocked to the same value) graphics card. Company of Heroes was played while Orthos was running on the processor in the background.

The “Load (SLI)” value was run with 2 8800GTS cards in SLI running at stock speeds with the processor overclocked to 2.6Ghz. Company of Heroes was then run to determine load values.

Ripple is beyond reproach with this power supply though all of the tests. The SLI test is usually where you can separate the real power supplies from the cheaper ones and the Earthwatts passes even this test with flying colors. Antec should be particularly happy with the results their little power supply achieved in this test.

7- Heat and Noise

Lately, we have seen a number of power supplies with fans that look like they could be loud (read: those of the 80mm variety) and are anything but. Even when under maximum load, the Earthwatts 500W never gets louder than a minor whisper and the amount of heat produced is negligible. This is a great result for a power supply with an 80mm fan.

8- Conclusions

The performance of this power supply is nothing short of stunning for a unit which is included in the price of a case. The Earthwatts 500W bucks the trend of lackluster power supplies which have long been the norm if they are pre-installed into a case. Even alone, this power supply is a force to be reckoned with; its ripple suppression is top-notch, it barely bats an eyelash when faced with a pair of 8800GTS cards and is quite efficient to boot.

If we would be reviewing this power supply as a stand-alone product, it would get heaps of praise. Yet, Antec has included this great little power supply in a budget-oriented case which makes it all the more appealing so in our books, the Earthwatts 500W gets extremely high marks. Antec really deserves a pat on the back for this one.

Pros:
– Included with the Sonata III
– Full 3-year warranty
– Good cable lengths
– Quiet
– Great performance

Cons:
– Not all cables are sleeved

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