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Seasonic M12II 500W Power Supply Review

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SKYMTL

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Seasonic M12II 500W Power Supply Review




Product Number: M12II-500
Price: Click Here to Compare Prices
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 1x 120mm
Warranty: 5 Years
Availability: Now



Seasonic a company whose name is recognized the world over as being the last word in near-silent power supplies which perform extremely well under any circumstance. Unbeknownst to many people is that Seasonic originally cut their teeth in the electronics test equipment field before branching off into power supply manufacturing back in 1980. Since the days of bellbottoms, big hair-dos and flower power, a lot has changed with Seasonic; they have opened up branches in the USA and in Europe while expanding their holdings in their native Taiwan and have moved on to almost exclusively produce computer power supplies.

Before the advent of Corsair’s ultra-popular HX-series of power supplies, Seasonic wasn’t a household name but was still a name recognized by enthusiasts all over the world. Their original S12 and M12 series found many adherents in both the enthusiast and casual computer user alike. Here in North America, Seasonic is better known as being a leading OEM with clients such as PC Power & Cooling and Corsair under their belts. However, even though they manufacture power supplies for numerous clients, Seasonic still maintains a strong presence in the retail market and today we will be looking at one of their newest retail oriented units: the M12II 500W.

While the M12II 500W may be a far cry wattage-wise from some of the bruisers we have been testing these last few months, it allows us to showcase a power supply that should appeal to a much broader market. This power supply is the spiritual successor to the original (and extremely popular) M12 and shares the same modular interface but as we will see later, the similarities stop there. Priced around $120, this is certainly not one of the less expensive 500W units on the market but it is one of the few in this price range with a modular interface. The Seasonic M12II also comes with a warranty length which will make many of its competitors cringe; at a full 5 years, it is one of the longer warranties we have seen in a while. Unfortunately, like all Seasonic power supplies it seems like finding stock of this particular unit here in Canada is a bit tough but if you look hard enough, you should find it for a fair price.

With the pedigree of numerous award-winning power supplies in Seasonic’s corner it seems that the M12II 500W has a better than fair chance to be one of the better 500W power supplies we have tested. It should be interesting to see what the tests will hold.


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SKYMTL

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories

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The packaging of this power supply keeps with the simple tradition of past Seasonic products with an overall plain design which is highlighted by splashes of color. On the front we see a great view of the M12II itself with some heavily stylized graphics which work well to draw your eye if this were presented in a retail store environment. There is also a mention of Seasonic’s 5-year warranty while the bottom right of the package holds information about the inclusion of an 8-pin PCI-E connector. Like with all of Seasonic’s retail power supplies, the M12II is 80Plus certified which means it has a minimum efficiency of at least 80% at 20%, 50% and 100% of its rated output.

Meanwhile, the back of the packaging holds a ton of bullet points which advertise the M12’s numerous features and pretty much everything else you would possibly want to know about this power supply.

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Once the box is opened we are greeted with a tidy arrangement which works extremely well to protect your new purchase. The M12 housing is wrapped in bubble wrap in order to protect it from both scratches and minor bumps while in transit while the power cord is pushed to the side of the box in order to give additional protection to the unit itself.

The rightmost portion of the package flips open to reveal all of the modular cables in a clear plastic as well as a few other accessories.

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Since this is a $120 power supply, we were not expecting much in the way of accessories and our expectations proved correct after we had finished rifling through the box. While it would have been nice to get some sort of bag for the unused cables, all Seasonic has included is an instruction manual, a warranty card, a Seasonic case badge and the usual power cord and mounting screws. In the past we have seen manufacturers provide us with black mounting screws when the housing of the power supply is black but Seasonic has went with the usual chrome plated screws here. This is unfortunate since if you have this power supply installed in a black case, these screws will stick out like a sore thumb.
 
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SKYMTL

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions

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The exterior of the Seasonic M12II is pretty much par for the course when it comes to Seasonic power supplies. It has a matte black finish which is quite durable to scratches while the top is dominated by a single 120m fan to cool the interior components. Meanwhile, the back of the unit consists of a punched metal exhaust grille and the usual on / off switch and AC power connector.

Overall, the Seasonic M12II is a compact power supply even though it has a modular interface and this means it will have no trouble fitting into literally any enclosure.

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Seasonic has equipped this power supply with Active PFC as is evident by its lack of an input voltage selector on the back of the unit.

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The main feature of the M12II 500W is its modular interface. This is not a fully modular interface like we have seen in the past with some Silverstone units where even the ATX 24-pin connector is modular but as you can see, Seasonic took a much simpler route. Even though this interface may be simple, it is great to have the choice of a modular interface on a power supply in this price range since consumers don’t want to shell out $150 or more for unit with this option.
 

SKYMTL

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Cables and Connectors

Cables and Connectors

- Molex: 8 Connectors (modular)
o 2x 30” length (3 Connector)
o 1x 28” length (2 Connector)

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

- PCI-E 6+2 pin: 1 Connector (modular)
o 1x 22” length

- PCI-E 6-Pin: 1 Connector (modular)
o 1x 22” length

- Floppy: 2 Connectors (on detachable cable)
o 2x 5” length

- 24-pin ATX Connector: 21” length

- 4-Pin CPU Connector: 21” length

- 8-Pin CPU Connector: 21” length


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For a sub-$130 power supply, the cables on the M12II are of an extremely good length and they should be able to reach literally any part of an ATX-sized case. However, if you have a larger E-ATX case or an enclosure with a bottom-mounted power supply, some of these cables (particularly those with the CPU connectors) will be a bit on the short side. That being said, having completely sleeved modular cables on a 500W power supply is a dream come true for many people who don’t have a budget to spend $150 on a higher-end unit.

As we have already mentioned, not all of the cables on the M12II 500W are modular since Seasonic has decided to leave the ATX and both CPU power cables attached to the main housing. This doesn’t bother us at all since it is these cables that we will always use, no matter the situation but we would have liked to have seen a 4+4 pin CPU connector instead of separate 4 and 8-pin connectors.

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Seasonic has equipped this power supply with a pair of 6-pin PCI-E connectors which means you can use this unit for a low or mid-end SLI or Crossfire setup. One of these can be converted into an 8-pin connector which means you can use it in conjunction with the other 6-pin connector to power a single higher-end graphics card as well.

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All of the Molex connectors (and there are a lot of them) are of the handy quick-release variety. Once the connector is installed, all you have to do is press down on the two tabs and it can be easily removed from wherever you installed it.
Since they are not used all that much, Seasonic has fabricated a dedicated removable cable for the pair of floppy connectors. This cable can be attached to any Molex connector in order to use any floppy drives you may still have hanging around.

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All of the cables connect into the modular interface in the same manner: you push in the connector until it locks in place and depress the tab to remove it. The modular interface is separated into two different types of connectors: there is a flat, narrow one for the SATA and Molex cables while the PCI-E cables get their own dedicated connectors which resemble PCI-E connectors.
 
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SKYMTL

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Output Characteristics / Interior Impressions

Output Characteristics

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Upon first glance we were a bit disappointed with the way the rails are laid out on this particular power supply. The older M12 500W had quad +12V rails which were each rated at 18A for a total combined output of 38A (456W). Meanwhile, this new M12II 500W makes due with 420W (35A) which means it has LESS available power on the +12V rails than the outgoing unit. Why Seasonic decided to reduce the +12V output is beyond understanding but we would have much preferred to have seen at least dual 18A +12V rails. Since the +12V rails are what powers your most important components, these are the ones we are focusing on but from looking at the outputs, it seems that the other rails have received good output allotments as well.

As it stands, the +12V rails should be enough to provide a mainstream system with sufficient power but it will be a close thing, especially if you want to run a mid-range (9600GT or HD3850) dual GPU setup.


Interior Impressions

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Yes folks, this interior design should look familiar to those of you who have been hanging around Hardware Canucks for the last year or so. This is the exact same Seasonic design which Antec is using for their Earthwatts 500W power supply and when we reviewed it we came away with a pretty positive impression. You can also see here that the PCB is significantly smaller than the housing; it is actually stunning how small and compact the PCB is considering the output specification of this unit. They say good things come in small packages and Seasonic has loaded this one up with some extremely high-quality components. Let’s take a closer look…

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The primary capacitor is a single Hitachi 330uF affair which is rated at 105*C. It is in the capacitor department where this unit differs quite a bit from the Antec Earthwatts: where the Earthwatts used a slightly lower grade combination of a single 85*C Nippon Chemi-Con primary cap and OST secondary units, the M12II uses the aforementioned industrial-rated Hitachi and a sea of Nippons on the secondary side.

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The design and construction of the modular interface is a lesson in perfection with extremely well done soldering traces between the internal cables and the connectors of the modular interface. In our tenure here at Hardware Canucks, we have seen some ridiculously shoddy soldering on modular interfaces but this one is done to near perfection.

It is also good to see that all of the non-modular cables are sleeved all the way into the M12’s housing and then the opening in the housing is additionally protected by a rubber grommet.
 

SKYMTL

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Efficiency / Voltage Regulation Testing

Testing Methodology

Processor: AMD Athlon X2 3800+ @2.6Ghz (s939)
Memory: 2GB Corsair XMS PC5000 DDR @ 500Mhz
Motherboard: DFI Lanparty SLI DR Expert
Graphics Cards: 8800GTS 320MB (Single & SLI)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 250GB SATAII
Fans: 4X Nocuta 120mm 1200RPM Fans
Monitor: Dell Ultrasharp 1907FP (1280X1024)

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

The first thing that we should mention is that this is the final time we will be using this particular test system to test power supplies. It is growing a bit long in the tooth and we have been putting off replacing it for some time now but the next 400W-700W power supply review you see here will be using a new system (specs are TDB) so say adieu to this workhorse.


Efficiency Testing

Single GPU Tests

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Single Overclocked GPU Test

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SLI Test

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The first question that probably popped into your mind when reading the beginning of this review is if the Seasonic M12II 500W could compete with higher-end units on the market. Well, as we can see this power supply really delivers in the efficiency department. It is one of the more efficient units we have seen in recent memory so it looks like the claim of 80% and higher efficiency holds true with this unit. However, since we really don’t have a way to test Seasonic’s claim of 85% efficiency, we will keep that claim up in the air.


Voltage Regulation Testing

+3.3V / +5V Voltage Regulation Testing

Unfortunately, our present test system does not put enough load on the +3.3V and +5V rails for them to move much during the tests. Thus, while we did monitor these two rails during all of the tests we chose not to include the results since the charts would look exceedingly flat. Be rest assured though that the M12II stayed well within ATX specified norms during all of the tests.


+12V Voltage Regulation Testing

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Overall, the +12V regulation of this Seasonic power supply is extremely good even when it is pushed beyond what any sane consumer would load a 500W unit with. It should be noted that just because the M12II 500W passed even the most stressful test without much effort, putting the load of a dual G80-based system on a 500W power supply is not recommended.

You can also see that we did not conduct the SLI Overclock test since we do not conduct this test on 500W power supplies. That being said, the M12II impressed us with its poise across all of the tests and proved to us that Seasonic has produced what looks to be one heck of a power supply…but there are a few more tests left to be done.
 

SKYMTL

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+12V Ripple / Subjective Acoustical Tests

+12V Ripple

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The ripple suppression shown by the Seasonic M12II was very good and the traces on the oscilloscope stayed far below the ATX-specified maximum 120mV. We have seen some absolute disasters in this test and this power supply put down some of very good results.


Subjective Acoustical Impressions

As we have come to expect with Seasonic-built power supplies, the M12II stayed almost completely silent through every one of our tests. Even with in the SLI tests, the fan spun lazily along while keeping the interior of the power supply remarkably cool. We can see this power supply being the perfect companion for users looking for the perfect power supply for their home theater PC since near-silence is the name of the game here.
 

SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion

With the M12II 500W, Seasonic seems to have manufactured the perfect power supply for consumers looking for modularity without breaking the bank. Not only has it shown itself to be a great performer but it is really the efficiency that stands out in our minds as being one of the stand-out qualities of this unit. Having modular cables only adds to the appeal and the extremely simple interface on the power supply itself will appeal to even the novice computer builder. Mention also has to be made about the warranty offered since it is presently pegged at 5 years which is quite a bit more than many of the other units on the market and shows that Seasonic has great confidence in their products.

While there are so many things to like about this power supply, there are also a few areas that need a bit of improvement. One of these areas is the cable lengths which are perfect for consumers with smaller cases but if you have a larger enclosure you may have a length issue with the PCI-E cables. The same holds true if you have one of the few enclosures with a bottom-mounted power supply which will present a situation where the CPU connector is to short to hook up to the proper area on the motherboard. The only other area we found needed some improvement was with the +12V rail outputs. While a combination of 17A and 18A should be more than enough for anyone, we would have preferred to have seen either two 18A rails or a single, larger rail.

Seasonic has shown time and again that they can produce some of the best power supplies in the industry for other companies and with the M12II 500W they have shown that their own units are more than a match for the competition. However, when push comes to shove Seasonic has quite a bit of competition in the $100 to $125 price segment with power supplies like the Corsair VX450 and Silverstone ST50-EF. In our opinion the M12II 500W is able to muscle past the competition by offering a modular power supply at a great price.


Pros:

- Efficient
- Great performance
- Quiet operation
- Modular interface
- 5-year warranty

Cons:

- Some short cables
- +12V rail outputs could be better


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Thanks to Seasonic for providing us with this power supply
 
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