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Silverstone Zeus 1200W Power Supply Review

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SKYMTL

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Silverstone Zeus 1200W (ZM-1200) Power Supply Review




Product Number: SST-ZM1200M
Price: $400 CAD
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 1x 80mm
Warranty: 3 Years
Availability: Soon (now in the US)
Manufacturer’s Product Page: SilverStone Technology Co., Ltd - Designing Inspiration


Silverstone has long been known for making some of the highest quality computer components on the market today. Their enclosures routinely stand head and shoulders above the competition while their commitment to excellence is evident in every product they release. In addition, their power supplies have been getting more and more attention from both the media and consumers alike since their engineering know-how seems to have carried over into this market segment as well. The naming tradition of these power supplies are ingrained in Greek mythology and among them some names like Zeus, Olympia and Decathlon have come to the forefront. Today, we will be looking at the newest model in the Zeus model line: the ZM1200. Yes, that’s 1200W.

Over the last few months there has been a brief lull in the wildly upwards-spiraling power consumption requirements for modern graphics cards. With Nvidia’s launch of their 65nm G92-based cards and ATI’s answering 55nm RV670 salvo, it looked like GPU power consumption was finally headed towards smaller, more efficient designs. However, with the release of the ATI HD3870 X2 and the impending release of Nvidia’s next monster, power hungry cards are back into the spotlight and this time sporting two GPUs per card. Add to that enthusiast’s newfound ability to run up to four graphics cards together in the same system and we have the perfect melting pot for the entrance of ultra high-wattage power supplies.

It has been awhile since we last saw the Zeus name being used by Silverstone and it is now being rekindled to launch yet another 1200W power supply into Silverstone’s stable. Not only is this particular unit the first modular power supply to bear the Zeus name but it is also the first power supply from Silverstone to boast the option to switch between a single and multiple +12V rails. Interestingly, Silverstone already has a 1200W modular power supply under the Decathlon name but it is billed as a “power user’s” product while the Zeus 1200W is filed under the heading of “Workstation PSUs”. While this may seem odd, it seems like Silverstone is trying to give consumers some distinction between their various high-end units.

Like with all of Silverstone’s ultra high-end power supplies, the Zeus 1200W carries one hell of a price; with an MSRP of about $400CAD, it is one of the most expensive power supplies on the market today. That being said, if it can stand up to some of the tests we will put it up against today, it will have proven itself to be worrthy of such a price.


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SKYMTL

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories

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The first thing that you notice when you first handle the box of the Zeus 1200W is not only its size but how much it weighs. Out of all of the power supplies that we have tested, this one has the honor of having the largest and heaviest package.

Yet, all of that heft and size would be for naught if the graphic design department was asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, all of the features of this power supply are well conveyed on the exterior of the ZM1200’s well-designed black box. The front gives a blow by blow rundown of the main features while also showing that this power supply is compatible with three GPU setups (more on this later) and has a fully modular interface. Meanwhile, the back of the box shows a photo of the interior components, output characteristics and even screenshots from an oscilloscope during a full-load run.

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The protection afforded the Zeus is pretty much par for the course with Silverstone power supplies. The power supply itself sits in a bed of foam which mirrors the one on the top (not seen in the picture above) while the whole unit is wrapped in plastic to prevent it from scratches. The bundle of cables and the cable pouch provide additional lateral protection as well.

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The accessories included with the Zeus 1200W are basic but there are a few great additions which will make your life easier. Not only do you get an anaconda-like 16AWG power cord but you also receive a handy pouch for your unused modular cables, a pair of black zip-ties, black mounting screws and a well-written instruction manual.
 
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SKYMTL

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions

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One thing becomes painfully obvious once the Zeus 1200W is unpackaged: this is a massive power supply. Even with the fully modular connectors uninstalled, it still runs 21.5cm (8.5”) in length which could be a problem for some cases. On the other hand one would assume that if you have $400 to spend on a power supply you would have spent the money for a suitably massive case as well.

Overall, the design of this power supply can only be called sleek since there are no overly large 120mm or 140mm top-mounted fans breaking its smooth lines. Closer to the modular interface there are small perforations in order to facilitate airflow into the housing to cool the components. On many power supplies with a single 80mm exhaust fan, we see these perforated grilles on the same side as the connectors. However, since the modular interface takes up an entire inwards-facing side of the Zeus, Silverstone had to move these air inlets somewhere else.

The other end of the Zeus holds the 80mm ball bearing exhaust fan as well as the usual power switch, mounting points and AC power input. The matte black finish seems to be quite resistant to scratches and it really does give this power supply a stealthy feel…even though it is humongous.

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On the top side of the Zeus there is a simple diagram of the modular interface which not only indicates which connector goes where but also tells you which +12V rail is associated with each connector. This comes in handy when you are hooking up a pair of high powered graphics cards and you don’t want to trip a particular +12V rail’s OCP circuit.

The modular interface itself has a very simple and straightforward layout which is bordered by yet another small air intake grille. However, due to its color (or lack thereof) it is a bit hard to attach additional cables when the Zeus is installed in your case since lining up a black connector with a black housing is next to impossible.
 
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SKYMTL

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Cables & Connectors

Cable and Connectors

- Molex: 6 Connectors
o 2x 39” length (3 Connector each)

- SATA: 6 Connectors
o 2x 40” length (3 connectors each)

- PCI-E 6+2 Pin: 2 Connectors
o 1x 22” length

- PCI-E 6-Pin: 4 Connectors
o 2x 22” length (stand-alone connectors)
o 2x 27” length (on same cable as 8-pin PCI-E connectors)

- 24-pin ATX Connector: 22” length

- 8-Pin CPU: 2 Connectors (1x 4+4 Pin)
o 2x 30” length

- Floppy: 2 Connectors
o 2 45” length (@ end of Molex cables)



Considering we have tested numerous Silverstone power supplies, we were expecting nothing less than perfection from the Zeus 1200W when it came to the lengths of the cables and the number of connectors. Typical to the form that Silverstone has shown in the past, all of the cables were extremely long while there were more than enough connectors to go around.

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Like we already mentioned, the are no fixed cables on this power supply and all of the modular connectors have a simple yet effective push-to-lock mechanism used to secure them to the modular interface. To remove the connector all you have to do is depress the small tab and pull the cable free. To make matters even easier, the connectors are all shaped differently so they can’t fit into each other’s locations. These are the kinds of idiot-proof solutions we like here at Hardware Canucks.

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Like we saw with the modular Silverstone Decathlon before it, the Zeus comes with a modular ATX 24-pin cable which is of an incredible length. All of the other power supply manufacturers out there should take note of the cable lengths Silverstone uses with this power supply since they are exactly what anyone would need when building a high end system. It goes without saying that all of the cables on a $400 power supply are sleeved so…hey look, this one is sleeved too!

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A unique feature of this power supply ( and probably one which will have many people scratching their heads) is the inclusion of a separate +5V sense connector on the modular end of the 24-pin ATX cable. This is used in server-class power supply designs but we have never seen it because before the Zeus 1200W, the likelihood of seeing a modular interface on a server PSU was as likely as seeing an albino pig in a pink dress flying over the moon. Usually this extra +5V sense function is built directly into the fixed 24-pin connector.

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This Silverstone power supply comes with not one but two 8-pin EPS12V CPU connectors which makes it a prime candidate for dual CPU motherboards like the oh-so-droolworthy Intel Skulltrail. What we appreciated the most was that these cables were long enough to reach any part of any case (yes, even those cases with bottom-mounted power supplies) so you will not have to buy those God-awful cable extenders.
 
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SKYMTL

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Cables & Connectors cont'.

Cables & Connectors cont'.

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The Zeus comes with more PCI-E connectors than you can shake a stick at and by the looks of it, this will be the weapon of choice for people running a Tri-SLI or Crossfire X setup. There are a pair of stand-alone PCI-E connectors as well as two double PCI-E connectors which means you will have enough connectors to run three 8800GTX cards or a pair of HD3870 X2s.

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On a power supply with such a staggering price, I would have liked to have seen fully sleeved connectors but once again Silverstone provides us with the hideous yellow wires to fondle. While there is sleeving up to the first PCI-E connector on each of these cables, the wires running to the second connector are not sleeved at all which is a huge disappointment. Having these daisy-chained connectors on the same cable is a great idea; its implementation would have been so much smoother if the few extra bucks would have been spent on completely sleeving them.

There is also a pair of 6+2 pin PCI-E connectors for all of your uber-GPU needs. Silverstone did their homework here and made sure that the extra two ground wires could break off since without this function the Zeus would not be able to run three 8800GTX / Ultra cards.

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There are more than enough SATA and Molex connectors but we would have liked to have seen the Molex connectors come with the quick-disconnect feature. This can be seen on many FSP-built power supplies in addition to products made by other OEMs so their inclusion would have been nice on a power supply that has pretty much everything else. Nonetheless, Molex connectors are quickly diminishing into legacy status so it is very likely that you will not be using them.
 
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SKYMTL

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Output Specifications / More About Rail Switching

Output Specifications

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The Greek god Zeus made a living throwing oversize lightning-bolts at anyone who stepped the wrong way around him and this Silverstone Zeus looks to be able to do the same thing with a +12V rail which is rated at a titanic 95A. Let’s put this into some perspective: a 95A +12V rail means that a staggering 1140W is available for your most power-hungry parts. This also represents a new benchmark for Silverstone since their previous +12V champs (the DA1200 and OP1200) “only” have 90A available on their +12V rails.

This rail can also be divided into six (yes, SIX) distinct +12V rails each with a 17A (204W) capacity. This is a bit more limiting than the large single +12V rail but it ads another layer of depth to what the ZM1200 has to offer. We love having this option on a power supply since it give us the best of both worlds: the safety that comes with a multi-rail design along with the ability to direct the full 95A to wherever it is most needed.

Silverstone also makes some pretty interesting claims about this power supply that should be mentioned. Not only is this power supply able to switch between a single and multiple +12V rails but according to the specifications, this 1200W of continuous power is available while the Zeus is operating at 50°C on a 90V input voltage. If true, this is impressive to say the least but it also speaks volumes about the component choices used on the interior of this power supply.

Interestingly, since all the connectors are completely modular, you can actually pick which rail is being used if you are using the Zeus in multi rail mode. As we saw before, the label on the top of the unit indicates the +12V rail which is associated with each modular interface connector. The breakdown looks like this:

+12V1:
8-pin CPU #1
8-Pin CPU #2

+12V2:
8-pin CPU #1
8-Pin CPU #2

+12V3:
24-pin ATX
Molex
Floppy

+12V4
SATA #1
PCI-E #1

+12V5
SATA#2
PCI-E#2

+12V6
PCI-E#3
PCI-E#4

So, what does this tell us? Well, first of all if you are running dual high-powered graphics cards it would NOT be recommendable to plug both PCI-E connectors into the +12V6 rail. At 17A (204W), running a pair of heavily overclocked HD2900XT, HD3870 X2 or 8800GTX / Ultra cards from this one rail would probably trip the OCP. In this case it would probably be best to either switch the power supply to single rail mode or put one connector on the +12V6 rail while the other would be on the +12V 4 or 5 rail. To test this theory, we plugged a pair of overclocked HD2900XT cards (via 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-E connectors) into the Zeus’ +12V6 modular interface and let rip. The system did not shut down which means that we did not reach the OCP limiter of 17A.

All in all, the Zeus presents us with some very interesting options for adjusting the rails but when push comes to shove what enthusiasts really want is a single larger +12V rail. Silverstone gives the enthusiasts what they want while maintaining the possibility of multiple +12V rails and in the end everyone is happy.


More about Rail Switching

The Zeus 1200W is the first Silverstone power supply to incorporate the option to switch between multiple 17A +12V rails and a single 95A +12V rail. Previously, we have seen this type of option on some Topower-built power supplies in the form of active rail switching (on the Mushkin XP650) and user-controlled rail switching (Tagan 2-Force II). Silverstone goes about it in pretty much the same fashion by making the selection between single and multiple rails user selectable. It should also be mentioned again that the Zeus 1200W comes with the rails in multi-rail mode by default.

This sounds straightforward but there were some caveats we had with this function. I should mention that our ZM1200 is a pre-production sample and we have been assured by Silverstone that the major issues we had with accessing the switch have been fixed in the actual production units which should now be available at the retail level.

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The first issue we encountered was that the access hole which led to the rail switch was covered in a Warranty Void if Removed sticker and even when the sticker was pealed away, we couldn’t see the switch itself. After opening the Zeus, we found that the plastic shroud inside of the housing was misaligned so its hole didn’t line up with the switch.

Since this is a pre-production sample, it is easy to let these issues slide since all of the pictures we have seen of the retail PSUs have a large, easily-accessible switch which is not covered by a warranty sticker or misplaced piece of plastic. However, this whole setup of a Micro-Machines sized switch recessed into a hole in the side of the power supply is not exactly synonymous with user friendliness. We would have much rather seen a switch placed on the outside of the power supply (maybe on the back) which can be easily used when needed. On the other hand, Silverstone seems to treat this as more of a one-time-use feature which is quite understandable since users probably won’t switch between the multiple and single settings on a regular basis.

For those of you wondering about the official Silverstone instructions for this, here is a .pdf file which you can look at with some more information: http://www.silverstonetek.com/downloads/ZM1200-12V.pdf
 
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SKYMTL

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Interior Impresions

Interior Impressions

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After voiding each and every part of the warranty associated with the Zeus 1200W, we find a black plastic shroud over most of the interior structure. This is used to direct the airflow from the single 80mm fan over the components instead to other parts of the interior. After this shroud is removed we find that the layout of the Zeus is based around a pair of PCBs sandwiched together which accomplishes the goal of cramming as many components as possible into a compact area.

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Believe it or not, even though this is quite a long power supply, both interior PCBs are not that large and there is quite a bit of wiggle room in there. The one thing which should catch anyone’s attention is the unique way the modular interface is designed. Instead of having each individual wire soldered to a secondary PCB which then transfers current to the modular interface, Silverstone terminates the wires at individual female-type connectors which form the modular interface. This eliminates the risk of shoddy soldering on the modular interface (like we have seen in the past with other manufacturers’ units) contributing to instability of the power supply.

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The primary transformer is a full-bridge 1200W affair which handles the +12V output. Next to this massive transformer is a quartet of 45A, 600V Fairchild rectifiers which are attached to their own separate aluminum heatsink to disperse the heat they generate.

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Two of these vertical PCBs and the components installed on them are used to control the +5 and +3.3V outputs on the Zeus 1200W and each one is attached to its own aluminum heatsink. There is also a tunable POT on a third PCB but no matter which way we turned it, there was no difference in rail outputs or in the fan speed. We will continue to experiment with this so stay tuned to our forum thread where we will post any updates.

While most of the caps used on the primary PCB are Nippon Chemi-Con 105*C units, the +5V rail gets a number of solid caps which are supposed have a much longer life than standard electrolyte capacitors.

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The +12V filtering is largely handled by a pair of large chokes. Interestingly, when looking at shots of the actual production units, these chokes had the copper wound much tighter around their frames. This means that the Zeus 1200W power supplies which are available at retail stores may have slightly different filtering than we experienced.
 
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SKYMTL

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Interior Impressions cont'.

Interior Impressions, cont'.

ZM1200-25.jpg
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The top PCB has its own interesting features which mostly center on its use as the location for the primary capacitors as well as the PFC rectifiers. The large heatsink in the center of the PCB houses the six Infineon PFC rectifiers while below these are the two Hitachi 390uF 105*C industrial-grade primary capacitors and two more large chokes.

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The secondary PCB also holds a 6x32 high-speed fuse on the input side in order to protect your other components if something would go awry with the AC input. Looking a bit further, we can also see some additional Nippon Chemi-Con caps and a smaller transformer here as well.

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The power relay Silverstone used is a Fujitsu FTR-K2 series unit which boasts extremely low impedance which means higher efficiency for this power supply. The specification sheet for this unit can be found here: http://www.fcai.fujitsu.com/pdf/ftr-K2.pdf

Finally we come to the actual OEM for the ZM1200. Once again Silverstone has seen fit to use Impervio Electronics as they have been doing for most of their recent high-end designs. A few months ago Impervio was a relatively unknown OEM in the power supply business but they have been making some huge inroads with their completely automated manufacturing process. They are based in Taiwan and now (finally) have a website where PSU aficionados can check out their wares: :::IMPERVIO Electronics Co.Ltd:::

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The backside of this top PCB is a lesson in precision soldering. There is not one point where there is any excessive flash or other leavings normally associated with a botched soldering job and overall, it shows some amazing attention to quality.

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Finally, we have the amazingly hard to reach rail switch. It looks to us like under normal circumstances (ie: getting to it without voiding your warranty) you will need a pin of another suitably miniscule tool to switch it. Just remember: ON means there are multiple +12V rails while there is a single rail when the tiny rocker arm is moved into the lower position. Please don’t go jabbing around in here without assessing the situation since you don’t want to hit anything important like a resistor on the PCB.
 
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SKYMTL

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Performance Testing Methodology

Performance Testing Methodology

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


Introducing the 1Kw+ Test Platform

Even the setup we have for sub-1000W PSU testing does not put sufficient load on a high-end power supply so we decided to take things a step further. In addition to the standard Q6600 and dual HD2900XT setup, the GPUs are overclocked to 842Mhz on the core and 1776Mhz on the memory. This platform then ran the standard Full System Stress test as detailed in our PSU Testing Methodology.

In addition to this, a second system was added with the Zeus’ additional PCI-E and EPS12V connectors powering the CPU and GPU from the following setup:

AMD X2 3800+ @ 2.6Ghz
Arctic Cooling Freezer 64Pro
2GB Corsair XMS @ 520Mhz
DFI Lanparty SLI-DR Expert
8800GTX @ 625Mhz / 1970Mhz
Samsung Spinpoint 250GB

Startup was staggered between the two systems with the primary Q6600 test bench being started first while it started benching first as well. 10 seconds were counted on a stopwatch before starting the benching suite on the secondary test bench so we can normalize test conditions once we test more high-powered units.

To load the second system we ran the Orthos CPU test on the processor while the ATItool spinning box was allowed to spin in order to keep constant load on the graphics card.

This test was conducted for 30 minutes with both systems running full-tilt for the whole time. This test is called the Extreme Load Test in all of the charts.

Here is what our Frankenstein setup looks like when everything is said and done.

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It should also be noted that for all tests the ZM1200 was set to Single Rail Mode since there was next to no difference in the results when set to multi-rail mode.
 
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