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Antec Neopower 650W Blue Power Supply Review

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SKYMTL

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Antec Neopower 650W Blue Power Supply Review



Product Number: Neopower 650 Blue
Price: $134.82 @ Directcanada
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 1x 120mm
Warranty: 5 Years
Availability: Soon
Manufacturer’s Product Page: Antec.com - NeoPower


Cable Lengths and Connectors:

- Molex: 6 Connectors (modular)
o 2x 30” (3 connectors each)

- SATA: 4 Connectors (modular)
o 2x 30 1/2” length (2 connectors each)

- PCI-E 6+2 Pin: 1 Connector (modular)
o 1x 23” length

- PCI-E 6 Pin: 1 Connector
o 1x 20” length

- 4-Pin Floppy: 1 Connector
o 2x 6” length (dedicated cable can be attached to Molex connectors)

- 20+4 ATX Connector: 18” length

- 4+4 Pin CPU connector: 19” length

- 4 Pin CPU connector: 21” length


Antec is one of those companies that release a steady stream of new and exciting products into the market on a regular basis. They have plenty of highly-regarded enclosures in their stable but their power supplies have been lagging behind in the past few years. To rectify this, they have begun an aggressive push to replace and upgrade what amounts to almost their entire power supply line-up. Gone are their old Truepower units which they have replaced with the Earthwatts series and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them replace their Truepower Trio power supplies with the newly expanded Neopower offerings. Antec has also expanded into the higher end of the spectrum by introducing their new flagship Quattro series which we will be taking a look at in an upcoming review. In the meantime, we are reviewing a power supply with much less lofty expectations than the Quattro series: the Neopower 650W Blue.

The Neopower series has been around for quite a while and now Antec has decided to expand this highly-regarded series with a few more Seasonic-built power supplies. The Neopower 650W comes in two flavours: one called “Blue” and the other without a tacked-on moniker. The vanilla Neopower 650W can be distinguished by its single 80mm exhaust fan while the Blue holds a single 120mm top-mounted fan with blue LEDs (hence the “blue” in its name). Both have a modular interface as well as APFC, 80% and higher efficiency, low noise characteristics and are backed by Antec’s 5-year warranty. The Neopower 650W Blue is priced a few dollars more than the regular Neopower 650W but its price still comes in at a pretty decent $134.

Considering its Seasonic heritage, I have high expectations for this power supply.
 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The exterior box of the Neopower Blue 650W carries the blue theme seen elsewhere on the power supply. Interestingly, I found the box a little smaller than I am used to with a 650W modular power supply. Either the power supply and accessories are packed into it like sardines or the box has very little padding inside. The back of the package shows all of the connectors which are on this power supply as well as a short description of some features.

One side of the box also carries pictograms describing some highlighted features such as APFC, three +12V rails and the inclusion of (huzzah!!) an 8-pin PCI-E connector.


To be honest, even sardines would feel cramped inside of this box; everything is packed so precisely, getting it all back into place is a lesson in futility. The modular connectors are packaged to the right of the power supply to give some added protection while the manual is jammed between the top of the power supply and the exterior box.

The protection surrounding the power supply can only be called unique based on my past experiences with packaging material. The sides are protected by a pair of rigid cardboard inserts which are held together with craft paper. The finish on the power supply is protected from scratches by a simple plastic bag. All in all, the packaging material is a bit on the light side but the Neopower is well protected nonetheless.


We get the usual affair when it comes to the included accessories as well. There is a basic instruction manual, a power cord, mounting screws and a sealed bag with the modular connectors. I would have much rather seen an included storage bag for the unused modular connectors considering many manufacturers have this addition.
 

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions


The first thing that I really like about the Neopower Blue 650W is its compact size even though it is a modular power supply. In the past we have seen a number of manufacturers add length to the housing in order to make space for the modular interface but Antec has not done this here. The entire power supply (other than the black fan grille) is coated in a dark grey finish which is extremely close to a regular dull grey but has a bit of black pigment mixed in to give it a bit of extra punch.

The entire top portion (or bottom if you swing that way) is dominated by the single 120mm clear intake fan and its accompanying black grille. One end of the Neopower 650W holds the modular interface while the other end holds a perforated metal panel used to exhaust warm air from the interior. Let’s take a closer look at that modular interface…


The modular interface is extremely basic and the connectors can be used wherever you want. In other words, you can plug the modular PCI-E cable into any of these terminals as well as any of the Molex or SATA cables. This simplifies things a lot when you are groping around the inside of a dark case while trying to plug in an extra cable.

All of the connectors use a very simple push and lock mechanism for secure installation on the modular interface. To remove them all you have to do is depress the small tab on the connector and it will slide free without any hassle. This system is very effective for anyone who changes out these cables on a regular basis.
 

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Cables and Connectors

Cables and Connectors


Most of the connectors you will use on an everyday basis are already attached to the power Neopower 650W; the ATX connector, the 4 and 8-pin CPU connectors and a 6+2 pin PCI-E connector are not modular. I do have one major caveat with this design and it doesn’t stem from the fact that I want a fully modular power supply. Rather, I would much prefer to see a 4+4 pin CPU connector instead of separate connectors for both the 4-pin and 8-pin connectors.

Unfortunately, the ATX connector is too short for my liking at 18” length and the same goes for the 8-pin CPU connector. For some reason the 4-pin CPU connector is of a good length but the 8-pin PCI-E connector attached to the power supply is a bit too short as well. This is odd to say the least but it gets downright mind-boggling when it comes to the modular connectors…


Believe it or not, the 6-pin modular PCI-E cable is LONGER than the 8-Pin PCI-E cabe which is attached to the power supply. This is a pretty big disappointment considering it doesn’t take much to add an inch to a non-modular cable.

There are more than enough connectors to go around and Antec has even seen fit to include a Molex to floppy connector on the side. We first saw this with the Corsair HX620 and its inclusion here is a blessing for all of us that don’t need a floppy connector at the end of a Molex string. Once again, all of the cables are sleeved in form-fitting black mesh.

It is also refreshing to see an 8-pin connector included with this power supply. In my opinion, buying a 550W or higher power supply without this connector is a mistake of the highest degree since it ensures compatibility with upcoming graphics cards. With the new GPUs from Nvidia and ATI just around the corner (once again) we will begin seeing these connectors being used more and more.
 

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


Anyone else remember where we have seen this interior layout before? If you said the Corsair 620HX you are…wrong. That was actually a trick question because even though upon first glance this looks like the interiors of Corsair’s popular unit, there are quite a few differences. First of all if you take a close look you will see that the entire interior affair is based on a small and more compact PCB with different location for the primary cap. Instead of going through all of the differences, let’s just say that while Seasonic built the interior, it is very different from other Seasonic builds we have seen in the past.

Both the primary and secondary filtering stages look hearty enough for a 650W power supply. They are well appointed with quality components but are still cut down somewhat from what we saw with the 620HX and PC Power & Cooling Silencer. Basically, what we have here is an Antec Truepower Trio 650W with slightly beefed up components and a modular interface.


In the first picture above we see a pair of chokes on the primary side which straddle a pair of rectifiers. These components are of a size we would expect to find on a 600W+ power supply but there is something interesting done with the rectifiers. Instead of using a large overhead heatsink to disperse the heat generated by these rectifiers, Seasonic has build in a pair of aluminum “panels” which are used to transmit heat from the rectifiers to the primary heatsink. They have done the same thing with the rightmost choke but why the larger choke doesn’t warrant this same treatment is beyond me.

When looking a bit closer at the PCB I noticed that this same design is used for a large number of units which are leaving the Seasonic factory. It looks like the Neopower 650W is right at the upper end of the rated output for this particular design.


The cap choice on the Neopower is a very eclectic combination of some old favourites and ones we have seen only once before this in a Seasonic OEM’d power supply. The primary cap is a single 85°C rated Nippon Chemi Con affair which is a great choice. The secondary side is a bit more interesting with a single Nippon cap alongside a whole forest of OST caps. The OST caps are usually seen in FSP builds but the last time we saw them was in the Antec Earthwatts 500W review. All in all, the choices are quite good on both the primary and secondary side of things.


In order to give the blue “glow”, there are a trio of blue LEDs which have been inserted into the heatsinks. If you are not looking for the bling factor generated by these LEDs, I suggest that you look a bit closer at the non-Blue branded Neopower 650W.

The modular interface is very nicely done with clean solder joints to ensure good power transfer to the connectors. I could go on and on about the importance of a good modular interface but I will spare you the lecture.
 

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Output Characteristics

Output Characteristics


Everything looks really good in the output department with the Neopower 650W being able to deliver nearly all of its power through the all-important +12V rails. The 19A (228W) available on each +12V rail is sufficient to power nearly any hardware combination you might have but there is no indication of which +12V rail is responsible for what.

Upon first glance it looks like the PCI-E 8-pin would be on its own virtual “rail” with a 19A OCP circuit while the second PCI-E connector is on the same virtual rail as the SATA and Molex connectors. Finally, the CPU connector is on its own separate “rail” as well. I can’t test this theory since I have no way of loading 19A on a single rail but if the Neopower is not set up like this, I have my money on the possibility it is set up like the HX620 which means it is a single rail unit.


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.
 

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Efficiency Testing

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 WindowsXP 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.

The final test was run with 2 8800GTS 320MB cards running in SLI and overclocked to 650/1800. Company of Heroes was played for 30 minutes while the overclocked processor (at 2.6Ghz) ran Orthos in the background. In addition, HDtach was looped in the background and a full DVD was burned as well.


Efficiency Test #1




Efficiency Test #2




Efficiency Test #3




Efficiency Test #4



Efficiency on the Neopower 650W is top notch but there were some interesting tendencies for lower efficiency as the load increased in the SLI tests. Without a doubt, this power supply retained its claimed 80% or more efficiency but it is a bit unfortunate that the power consumption increased when compared to the other two power supplies we have it up against. One way or another, the numbers put forth by this power supply are nothing short of stunning.
 

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Voltage Regulation Testing

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 connected 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.

The “SLI OC” test was run with 2 8800GTS 320MB cards running in SLI and overclocked to 650/1800. Company of Heroes was played for 30 minutes while the overclocked processor (at 2.6Ghz) ran Orthos in the background. In addition, HDtach was looped in the background and a full DVD was burned as well.


+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 Neopower Blue 650W passed every test within +/- 2% of 5V / 3.3V.


+12V Voltage Regulation



Voltage regulation is absolutely top notch with barely any movement in the +12V rail readings throughout my tests. For the price Antec is offering for this power supply, it just simply doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to stability.
 

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Ripple Testing, Heat and Noise

+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 v2.01 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 Singray o-scope. The values were the highest peak ripple measurement across all of the +12V rails. So, if the +12V1 rail shows a ripple of 20mV and the +12V2 rail shows a ripple of 40mV, the highest value will be graphed.

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.

The “Load SLI OC” test was run with 2 overclocked 8800GTS cards (650/1800) in SLI while playing Company of Heroes for 30 minutes. At the same time, Orthos was running in the background to put stress on the processor (OC’d to 2.6Ghz) while a DVD was burned and HDtach was running a hard drive scan.



The Antec Neopower Blue 650W finished out tests flying high with very minimal ripple on the +12V rails through even the most stressful test. This power supply follows in the footsteps of past Seasonic-built power supplies we have tested and excels in this test.


Heat and noise

No matter how well a power supply performs in the performance tests, if it is loud enough to drive someone insane it won’t do much good. I am happy to report that according to my very subjective tests, the Neopower 650W is extremely quiet even at the highest loads I put it under. The fan spun lazily around while keeping the interior at a relatively cool temperature even after the 1 hour SLI OC test.
 

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Conclusion

Conclusion

It is good to go into a review without any expectations about the product you are reviewing because then you won’t be disappointed by any results you get. On the flip side of the coin, it is a real treat to have zero expectations and have a review unit simply blow you away with its poise and performance; that is exactly what happened with the Antec Neopower 650W Blue. Considering its price of less than $140, it represents a phenomenal value for the performance it provided right across all of our tests. At lower loads, it is the most efficient power supply we have ever tested even though its efficiency decreased as load increased. The voltage regulation and ripple suppression are beyond reproach and really highlight how well the Neopower can handle nearly anything you can throw at it. To make matters even better, Antec provides a 5-year warranty. The final icing on the cake is the inclusion of an 8-pin PCI-E connector which we have seen far too little of on power supplies which are above the Neopower Blue in terms of price.

Now for the one thing that stops this power supply from being an absolute winner in our books: cable length. I just can’t wrap my mind around the fact that the cables enthusiasts are most likely to use (8-pin CPU and 8-pin PCI-E connector) are the shortest ones on this power supply. When trying the Neopower in a friend’s Antec P182, the 8-pin CPU connector would not reach its alloted place on the 680I motherboard without making a beeline straight over the graphics card. In short, this could be a deal-breaker for people looking to buy this power supply. Also, if you are turned off by the blue LEDs, opt for the standard Neopower 650W which retails for a few bucks less than the one reviewed here.

With amazing performance, a great warranty and a completely quiet acoustical footprint the Antec Neopower Blue 650W is a near perfect power supply. On the other hand, the cable lengths slightly sour a great experience. Thus, coupled with the amazing price this power supply gets a 4.5/5 rating and our Dam Good Value Award.


Pros:
- Good voltage regulation
- High efficiency
- Great ripple suppression
- 5-year warranty
- Quiet performance

Cons:
- Cable length of ATX, CPU and 8-pin PCI-E cables
- Blue LEDs may not be for everyone
- No bag for unused modular cables




Many thanks to Antec for sending us this review unit
 
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