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ABS / Tagan BZ900 900W Power Supply Review

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SKYMTL

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ABS / Tagan BZ900 900W Power Supply Review



Product Number: TG-900-U88 BZ/10117
Price: Click Here to Compare Prices
Manufacturer’s Product Page : ABS Computer Technologies - Ultimate M6 Sniper
Fan Size: 1x 135mm
Warranty: 1 Year Labor, 3 Years Parts
Availability: Now


The last time we saw a Tagan power supply here at Hardware Canucks, it was their 2-Force II 600W that was put through its paces. Now, nearly half a year later a new power supply has shown up at our door in the guise of a joint venture between system integrator ABS Labs and Tagan. This relationship has borne fruit with the development of Tagan’s new BZ (Below Zero) and ITZ series of power supplies which have been “certified” by ABS gaming labs. These units promise gamer-oriented performance with numerous features and extras which are sure to appeal to those looking for a power supply with a bit of flair.

While Tagan is a name which is well recognized in enthusiast circles, they have largely stayed bound to the European marketplace of late and the availability of their products in North America (particularly here in Canada) has suffered quite a bit. However, this partnership with ABS Labs gives them an excellent springboard for a much broader acceptance into the North American marketplace and opens up the doors of retail giants like Newegg who regularly stock ABS-branded products. We have already somewhat seen the results of this partnership since these ABS-branded Tagan power supplies are already widely available.

With these power supplies popping up at retailers across the country, people are naturally curious about the differences between the ITZ and BZ series of power supplies since they come in exactly the same wattages. The main differences lie in the feature sets available with both the ITZ and the BZ since the ITZ uses non-modular cables and dual 80mm fans while the BZ has modular connectors and a single 135mm fan. There are other more minor differences but these additional features contribute to the BZ-series being marketed as the higher-end solution with a higher price to match.

In this review we will be looking at the BZ900 which boasts 900W of continuous power along with modular connectors and more accessories than you can shake a PCI-E connector at. Priced between $210 to $260 (check our price comparison engine for the latest prices), Tagan is aiming this unit squarely at the enthusiast price-bracket which is now dominated by products like Silverstone’s DA-series and Thermaltake’s Toughpowers. That may prove to be a tough nut to crack since these two previously-named companies are entrenched pretty well in the North American marketplace. Unfortunately, the BZ900 comes with a 3-year parts and one year labor warranty which means that if something goes wrong with this power supply after a year, you will have to pay any and all labor costs on warranty and RMA work.

Instead of boring you with all the other details about Tagan, ABS and the history of these power supplies, let’s jump straight into the review shall we?

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SKYMTL

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


(Click on images for a larger view)

The BZ900 comes in an imposing black box which is topped off by a carrying handle for when you cart your prize out of the store. This one of the first packages we have seen to use a purely square shape and make no mistake about it; this box is large enough to fit every bit of information you could want on its vast black expanses. Since there is no “front” per se, each one of the four sides carries different information about the BZ900’s features, specifications and accessories.


(Click on images for an larger view)

One side of the box is completely dominated by a very convenient cable chart which shows all of the cables which are included with this power supply. There is even information regarding the cable lengths.


(Click on images for an larger view)

Once the box is opened you are greeted with a top-down view of the ABS-certified logo which is printed on a carrying case for the modular cables. Once this carrying case is removed we are able to see the power supply itself which is safely nestled within the protective embrace of some foam padding.


The power supply is additionally protected by a padded nylon “bag” as well as bubble-wrap for yet more protection against the bumps and whatnot that happen during shipping. Without a doubt, the ABS / Tagan BZ900 is one of the best-protected power supplies we have seen.


The accessory package that comes with this power supply is more than complete and what you see in the above picture is just scratching the surface of what’s included. Upon first glance it looks like all you get is a vinyl-wrapped manual, a $10 rebate to the ABS Store and a nylon carrying case. However, there is much more than what meets the eye here…


Once the modular cable carrying case is opened, you are greeted with a virtual cornucopia of extras. Other than the nifty case for the modular cables you get the usual mounting screws and power cord along with some undersized zip-ties and an ABS case sticker. However, the rest of the items included here are a drastic change from what we usually see; ABS has also included some gloves for handling the power supply, a supremely uncomfortable screwdriver, an ABS case badge and a rubber vibration dampener.
 
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SKYMTL

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions


Upon first glance there isn’t much to distinguish the BZ900 from the rest of the products in the already-crowded 850W-950W performance segment but there is quite a bit more to this unit than a plain black exterior. More and more manufacturers are moving away from the 120mm fans of yesteryear and have begun equipping their power supplies with larger, more efficient 135mm and 140mm fans. The ABS / Tagan partnership did not buck this recent trend and equipped this power supply with a clear 135mm fan complete with blue LEDs.

We have long been complaining about the liberal application of finishes that scratch too easy on some of today’s power supplies. Luckily, Tagan decided to go with a nearly scratch-proof powder coating for the BZ900 and we can’t help but applaud their decision.


Aside from the perforated metal grille, the back of the BZ900 holds a “Turbo” switch that is supposed to switch the +12V rails from the “Normal” multiple rail mode to one single +12V rail. Unfortunately, we have no way to test out if this actually works so for now we will have to take Tagan’s word for its usefulness (or lack thereof).

We also see that the power switch is protected with a clear rubber tab much like we saw with the 2-Force II. This makes it a bit harder to move but it also prevents it from being moved by an accidental bump in the wrong area.


The crowning jewel on the exterior of the BZ900 is the modular interface since each type of connector is color-coded and has a plastic ring around it which glows a different color. The effect is absolutely stunning in a Christmas-tree sort of way but people who like their case interiors without unnecessary “bling” need not apply. As you can see in the picture above, the modular interface only lights up when there is a cable installed.
 
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SKYMTL

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Cables and Connectors

Cables and Connectors

- Molex: 7 Connectors (modular)
o 2x 30” length (3 Connectors each)
o 1x 21” length (1 Connector)

- SATA: 8 Connectors (modular)
o 2x 36” length (4 connectors each)

- PCI-E 6+2 pin: 2 Connectors (modular)
o 2x 20” length

- PCI-E 6-Pin: 2 Connector (modular)
o 1x 20” length

- Floppy: 2 Connectors (@ end of 30”Molex cables)
o 2x 36” length

- 24-pin ATX Connector: 19 1/2” length

- 4-Pin CPU Connector: 19 1/2” length

- 8-Pin CPU Connector: 19 1/2” length


Even though all of the cables are as described on the exterior of the packaging this is one area in which the BZ900 falls flat for us. While the cables are beautifully sleeved and there are more than enough connectors to go around, it is (once again) the cable lengths that we have an issue with. Anything less than 21” for the CPU connector as well as the ATX cable means that a power supply will have issues fitting in an enclosure with a bottom-mounted power supply. At 19 ½”, the ATX and CPU connectors on the BZ900 are woefully short for a 900W power supply and the same goes for the PCI-E cables. This is a power supply that is supposed to cater to enthusiasts and these cable lengths just don’t cut the mustard. To make our point even more apparent, the recently-reviewed Seasonic M12II 500W power supply had 21" CPU and ATX connectors.


Unlike some power supplies on the market (namely Silverstone’s modular units), the BZ900 does not have a fully modular interface. Rather, the ATX, 8-pin CPU, 4-pin CPU and a single Molex connector are all fixed to the housing and are not modular at all. While the presence of fixed ATX and CPU connectors was to be expected, I have to say that I found the inclusion of the lone Molex connector to be slightly odd considering many people are moving to SATA disk drives and hard drives.

Another interesting inclusion on this power supply is a small gold-plated round connector that is supposed to be used to ground your power supply. This (in theory) is supposed to protect your power supply and other components against static discharge damage.


All of the cables are color coded to their corresponding LED color on the modular interface and this makes installing these cables a dream come true in a dark case. Basically, the red cables go with the red modular interface connectors, the green with the green and so on. While this system may work quite well, we once again encounter the hated “REMI” filters on the PCI-E cables which make cable routing a lesson in futility.


The modular interface on the BZ900 is quite unique and you all may remember this exact same interface from the Xion Supernova 600W we reviewed months and months back. At the time we found this interface both unintuitive and extremely hard to work with but believe it or not, nothing has changed this time around. We still have to screw on the heads of the connectors to secure them, and this is still a stab in the dark when trying to find which connector goes where when the power supply is installed in your case. If all of the LED would have illuminated sans installed connectors installation would have been so much easier in a dark computer case. Unfortuantely, there was more than one instance when we lost power to one component or another due to a loose connection.
 
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SKYMTL

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Output Characteristics / Interior Impressions

Output Characteristics


So, now we come to the real meat of this power supply with its rail outputs. Tagan has gone ahead and put six +12V rails each with an amperage of 20A (240W) which should be more than enough to power literally any combination of graphics cards and processors. There is also the option to combine all of the rails into a single rail via the “Turbo” mode which brings these six rails crashing together to form a titanic 70A (840W) +12V rail. This large allotment on the +12V rail is exactly what we want to see with any modern power supply since the most power-hungry components on the market (processors and graphics cards) draw their power exclusively from the +12V rail(s). Therefore, seeing a power supply like the BZ900 which has about 93% of its available output accessible through the +12V rails, should bring a smile to the face of many an enthusiast out there.


Interior Impressions


Like all Tagan power supplies, the BZ900 is made by Topower who has had a somewhat spotty reputation when it comes to the quality of the products they produce. Fortunately for this power supply, it looks like Topower has hit the nail on the head with an exceedingly clean and well-appointed layout. In the past it has been observed that Tagan seems to get the pick of the litter when it comes to Topower units and the BZ900 seems to prove this observation. However, there seems to be some interesting things going on once we look a little further.


The primary side has a single Teapo 85°C rated capacitor which is par for the course but it is a bit surprising not to see a 105°C rated cap. We suppose this is due to the fact that Tagan assumes the 135mm fan is sufficient to cool off the interior of this power supply enough that the higher-rated capacitors are not necessary. Meanwhile, the secondary side holds a few surprises…namely in the form of Samson capacitors. While they were to far recessed into the bundle of cables to get a good shot of them, these caps seem to be mimicking the popular Samxon caps which are seen in some power supplies. Additionally, we were not able to identify the black capacitors in the picture above so this all adds up to make the capacitor offering on the secondary side a very much mixed bag.


The modular interface is extremely well done with clean solder points for all of the connectors which ensures good transfer of power from the internal wires to the connectors on the modular interface. There are also a pair of fan headers which may point to the possibility that this power supply was originally designed for a dual-fan setup much like the ITZ series has. There is also an adjustable POT here which seems to control the rotational speed of the fan.
 
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SKYMTL

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Efficiency / Voltage Regulation Testing

Performance Tests

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3.5Ghz (B3)
Memory: 4GB Corsair Dominator DDR3 @ 1600Mhz (Thanks to Corsair)
Motherboard: Asus Blitz Extreme
Graphics Cards: 2X Gigabyte HD2900XT 512MB
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 320GB SATAII
Fans: 5X Yate Loon 120mm @ 1200RPM
Monitor: LG Flatron L2000CN-BF (1600X1200)

For our complete power supply testing methodology, please go here: Hardware Canucks Power Supply Testing Methodology


Efficiency Testing

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The Tagan BZ900 showed us quite good efficiency numbers across all of the tests and while it was not quite as efficient as the previously-tested Hiper 880W, it came quite close to it on a number of occasions. However, the power consumption when the computer was turned off (but the power switch on the PSU was switched to “on”) was one of the higher results we have seen in a while.


Voltage Regulation Testing


+3.3V Regulation

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+5V Regulation

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+12V Regulation

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Voltage regulation is another category where the BZ 900 really shines with very good results all the way into our most stressful tests. It should also be noted that all of these tests were conducted with the rails in the “normal” mode even though there didn’t seem to be any change when switching to “Turbo” mode. That being said, a difference of 0.09V on the +12V rail(s) between idle and full load conditions is a result Tagan can be proud of.
 
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SKYMTL

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+12V Ripple Testing / Acoustical Footprint

+12V Ripple Testing

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With +12V ripple well within the ATX-specified norm, this Tagan unit bucks the trend we have seen with some Topower-built units we reviewed in the last few months. Even with some suspect capacitors on the secondary side, it seems like the BZ900 is able to hold things together for a maximum ripple measurement of 42 mv-pp.


Acoustical Performance

The BZ900 is equipped with a system that Tagan calls Silent Control Technology (or TSCT) which is supposed to keep the noise output of its fan to approximately 25dB under normal operating circumstances. Let’s be honest; 25dB is VERY quiet and this is supposedly only when performing “normal operations” according to Tagan’s documentation. What normal operations refers to is anyone’s guess but we pushed this power supply far beyond “normal” and even when trucking away with our power-hungry test system, the lack of noise produced was remarkable. The BZ900 is one heck of a quiet power supply and will be far from the loudest component in nearly any system.

It was quite obvious that the 135mm fan installed on Tagan’s BZ900 was spinning at minimal RPMs even when we conducted our Full System Stress test and because of this, it seemed its interior heated up quite a bit. Remember, the System Stress Test takes about 30 minutes to run so it has the potential to heat up the interior components of the power supply quite a bit. By the end of the test, the intake temperature hovered between 21.4°C and 22.1°C while the exhaust air measured about 37°C. This is quite a large delta between intake and exhaust temperatures and seems to indicate that the single fan should have spun up a bit more to keep the interior as cool as possible.
 
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SKYMTL

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Conculsion

Conculsion

If you look at things from a pure performance standpoint, the ABS / Tagan BZ900 exceeded our expectations by putting out some impressive numbers. Efficiency, voltage regulation and ripple suppression were all spot-on and the 135mm fan gave a new name to the term “silent operation”. Tagan also deserves a huge pat on the back for including every extra that an enthusiast could ever want. There are far too many times that we see modular power supplies which don’t provide the consumer with anywhere to store their unused cables but with this power supply you get a carrying case AND the kitchen sink.

While the color choices for the modular interface LEDs are a bit Christmassy they do add something extremely unique to the overall design of the unit. We love little touches like this since it sets the BZ900 apart from the competition even though the colors may not be to everyone’s tastes. Upon first glance, there really isn’t much not to like about this power supply but then you take a look at the cable lengths…

After reading through their site and taking a fine-toothed comb to this power supply, we are still a bit confused as to what (if any) benefit this power supply gets from the “Certified by ABS Labs” seal of approval. Since ABS uses the Cooler Master Cosmos case for their “Ultimate X” gaming computers you would think they had noticed the CPU cable needs to make a beeline over the graphics card to reach its place on the motherboard. Even if you can get it to reach its rightful place on the motherboard, the CPU cable will be stretched to the max. You may say I am basking in negativity, but other than a cool accessory package I fail to see what ABS’s certification brings to the table if they didn’t pick up this rudimentary cable length issue.

There are other more minor issues as well but two main ones stand out for us: the modular interface and the warranty. Even though this really comes down to personal preference, I find the connectors on the modular interface use a design that is unintuitive at best. There were times where I thought the connectors were properly tightened only to see one of the LEDs flicker and have all my case fans (which were attached to the Molex connectors) turn off. Yet, like I said; this is very much personal preference since I never quite got the hang of attaching those modular cables to the BZ900.

We also have a bit of an issue with the warranty. We here in North America (and everywhere else in the world for that matter) love the piece-of mind that comes with a good warranty and Tagan needs to brush things up a bit in this department. Most manufacturers’ warranties cover BOTH the “parts” and the labor for the entire duration of the warranty but Tagan has gone a different route with this power supply. Here we get a single year labor warranty and three years of warranty coverage on the parts which means if something happens with the BZ900 after a year of ownership, you are open to being charged for any labor costs an RMA would entail.

Other than the cable lengths, there really aren't any major qualms with this unit. So, even though one or two negatives took up alot of real-estate in this conclusion, make no mistake about it: this is a great power supply. If you are looking for stable power with a bit of “bling” you don’t have to look any further than the BZ900 as long as you can put up with a few short cables and a somewhat lackluster warranty.


Pros:

- Good performance
- Quiet operation
- An accessory package to die for
- More “bling” than you can shake a stick at

Cons:

- Short PCI-E, ATX and CPU cables
- 1 year labor, 3 years parts warranty
- Finicky modular interface
- "Samson" capacitors?



 
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