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Ultra V-Series 400W & Ultra V-Series 500W Power Supply Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     May 31, 2007




Ultra V-Series 400W & 500W Review




Table of Contents:

1- Ultra V-Series 400W
2- Packaging
3- Exterior Observations
4- Output Characteristics
5- Interior Observations
6- Ultra V-Series 500W
7- Packaging
8- Exterior Observations
9- Output Characteristics
10- Interior Observations
11- Efficiency Testing
12- Voltage Regulation Testing
13- +12V AC Ripple Testing
14- Noise and Heat
15- Conclusion


Intro: A Tale Of Ultra and Power Supplies

Ultra. The name itself evokes so many emotions in consumers there is no way to describe them all, especially when it comes to power supplies. Ultra has made a name for themselves in the highly-competitive computer component industry by building products that go light on the wallet while packing as many features in as possible. They back many of their products up with a Lifetime Warranty along with a much-improved support hotline. This puts them quite far in advance of their competition, especially when it comes to power supplies. Just don’t forget that you have to register your product in order to get the full lifetime warranty on power supplies.

In this review we will be taking a closer look at Ultra’s budget-minded V-Series power supplies in 400W and 500W flavors which seem to hit a very interesting price-point while retaining Ultra’s Lifetime Warranty. It should be very interesting to see how they perform.


1- Ultra V-series 400W(ULT-400P)

Price: $50 to $55
Availability: Now
Warranty: Lifetime
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 1X 120mm

Cord Lengths and Connectors:
- Molex: 8 Connectors
o 2x 37” (4 connectors each)

- SATA: 2 Connectors
o 1x 26” length

- PCI-E 6-Pin: 1 Connector
o 1x 21” length

- 4-Pin Floppy: 2 Connectors
o 2x 43” length (at end of Molex cables)

- 20+4 ATX Connector: 20” Length

- 4-Pin CPU Connector: 20” Length


2- Packaging:




Without a doubt, the packaging of this power supply will stand out in any store. Lifetime warranty? Check. Not only does it explain all of the important (and a good deal of unimportant) information but this has to be one of the smallest power supply boxes on the fact of the planet. After the box is opened, we can see why the box itself is so small: there isn’t any padding protecting the power supply. This V-series unit is crammed into its box so tight that it is nearly impossible to fit it back in.

Ultra decided to package the bare minimum of accessories with this power supply: a power cord, mounting screws and a very short instruction manual. Don’t forget, this is very much a budget-minded product so we are lucky to receive any accessories at all.


3- Exterior Observations:




When looking at this power supply and countless others it seems like flat black is quickly becoming the new grey in the computer world. Remember a few years ago when everyone was begging for something other than “Dell grey”? Well, manufacturers have finally changed and almost universally, they are now using black. Ultra has done the same thing with their V-series. Thankfully, black has a much classier look than dull grey.

The location of the input voltage switch is the one noteworthy feature on the exterior of this power supply. Instead of it being on the much more accessible exhaust side (rear) of the unit, it is placed where it will face the inside of the case. This is a good move on Ultra’s part as people really shouldn’t be moving that switch around…ever.

The cables are completely without sleeving but have a serviceable length that is quite a bit longer than many other power supplies in this price category. There are only two SATA connectors but with a 400W power supply, you usually don’t want to hook up too many hard drives, even if you have them set to staggered spin-up.


4- Output Characteristics



The rail layout of this power supply is quite interesting in the fact that it has a single +12V rail and a powerful +5V rail. The +12V rail is rated at 20A (240W) which is very healthy for a power supply in this price category.

On the label we can also see that this power supply can be traced back to its original manufacturer which is Wintech. Wintech is not known for making the best power supplies and is generally known for making budget-oriented units.


5- Interior Observations




The interior of the 400W V-Series is densely laid out for the most part with gold heatsinks for heat dispersion. Three transformers are present at the center of the unit and all carry the “Win” moniker which points towards the OEM Ultra has used: Wintech. Special note should be taken of the upside-down PCB which is bracketed onto one of the heatsinks. Since the fan is blowing air towards the components, the PCB blocks proper airflow over quite a bit of the secondary filtering stage.



The caps on both the primary side are Fuhjyyus while those on the secondary filtering side are manufactured by Goldlink. Fuhjyyu capacitors are known for being extremely sensitive to high heat so a power supply with good airflow is a MUST when using these caps.



6- Ultra V-series 500W (ULT-500P)

Price: $80 to $90
Availability: Now
Warranty: Lifetime
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 1X 120mm

Cord Lengths and Connectors:
- Molex: 8 Connectors
o 2x 37” (4 connectors each)

- SATA: 4 Connectors
o 2x 26” length (2 connectors each)

- PCI-E 6-Pin: 2 Connectors
o 2x 21” length

- 4-Pin Floppy: 2 Connectors
o 2x 43” length (at end of Molex cables)

- 20+4 ATX Connector: 20” Length

- 4+4 -Pin CPU Connector: 20” Length


7- Packaging:



Looks familiar doesn’t it? You will see throughout this portion of the review that the 500W unit does not differ much from its lower-wattage brother and this similarity goes all the way to the packaging. Ultra has seen fit to package this power supply in exactly the same manner as the 400W unit but change the color of the box from green to blue. Naturally, things are a bit tighter inside the box due to this power supply’s additional cables and connectors but once again there is next to no protection from shipping SNAFUs. The same things are packaged here as well; a power cord, mounting screws and a manual.


8- Exterior Observations:



On first glance, the exterior of this power supply looks nearly identical to its less-powerful brother but there are a few noteworthy additions. While Ultra used the same casing, they added a powder-coated fan grille and added their logo in the center of the fan itself.

The main differences with this power supply lie in the cables and connectors. Ultra adds another PCI-E connector, a pair of SATA connectors and an EPS 4+4 pin connector to the V-Series 500W when compared to the 400 watter. Meanwhile, all of the cables stay the exact same length while the main ATX cable is sleeved in a pliable black mesh.


9- Output Characteristics



Most of the differences with this power supply lie with the output characteristics. While the +5V and +3.3V rails are only accorded a minor bump in output, the lion’s share of the extra 100W is put towards the every-hungry +12V rail which can output up to 28A. Once again, these are peak loads.

Like the 400W unit before it, this power supply can be traced back to Wintech. Hopefully when it is opened up, its guts will have a little more substance than the 400W unit.


10- Interior Observations


Other than the larger transformer, slightly different heatsinks and minor layout changes this unit is the spitting image of the V-Series 400W power supply. From the PCB to the coils and rectifiers, there is very little to distinguish this 500W power supply from the one we looked at before.



Wintech has changed out the primary Fuhjyyu capacitors in this unit and replaced them with JEE caps. The caps on the secondary stay the same as the 400W unit with Wintech using Goldlink once again


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.




11-Efficiency Testing:

To test efficiency, plugged in my UPM power meter to the Belkin UPS and determined what the highest sustained power draw from the outlet was over a 1 hour test period. All tests were run twice and if there were anomalies, I tested 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 sustained 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





Results:


Ultra V-Series 400W: Unfortunately, the V-Series’ efficiency numbers are some of the highest among all of the other power supplies that we have tested here at Hardwarecanucks. In this case, higher numbers do not mean better and the V-Series 400W requires a whole lot of electricity in order to power your components when under load. On the other hand, the numbers posted by it during startup and idle were comparable to other power supplies in its price category

Ultra V-Series 500W: With this power supply selling for around $80, the expectations for this unit were not too high to begin with. These days, a lot of emphasis is put on “green” solutions and energy efficiency and this 500W Ultra power supply just cannot compete. When a manufacturer uses less costly components when building a power supply, efficiency is usually the first thing that suffers. When compared to some to other power supplies we recently tested in this price category, this Ultra power supply is just simply blown out of the water when it comes to efficiency.


12- Voltage Regulation Testing:

To test voltage regulation I used the same tests as the efficiency. They were all done over two tests of 1 hour where the voltage drops were logged with the Fluke 187 multimeter installed directly on a PCI-E connector which is plugged into a graphics card (for +12V 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 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 rail to put much stress on it. Thus, I did conduct the tests with the system I had and these Ultra power supplies passed the tests within +/- 5% of +5V.



+12V Voltage Regulation Testing





Results:


Ultra V-Series 400W: All in all this Ultra 400W power supply passed all of the tests but the voltage drop during the overclock test (while still within ATX specifications) was bordering on unacceptable. Generally, a .26V drop on the +12V rail is considered quite a large drop but since this is very much a budget-oriented power supply, it was to be expected to a certain extent. Another interesting characteristic that was noted was the tendency for the voltages to NEVER remain stable; they were jumping up and down faster than a kid hopped up on 2 tons of sugar. The 400W was not run with the SLI system.

Ultra V-Series 500W: Things look good for this V-Series unit….until it hits the SLI test. While the fact that this power supply was even able to run the SLI test at all was a pleasant shock, it did so while limping to the finish line. The voltage drops are all within spec but like the 400W unit, this one showed a bit larger drops when pushed. Luckily, this Ultra unit held it together and finished the full hour of testing. This is an acceptable result for any budget-minded 500W power supply.


13- +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 Instruments Stingray digital o-scope while plugged into a laptop. 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.



Results:


Ultra V-Series 400W: This test was ot kind to this power supply. The second the load increased, the o-scope reading went wild and registered a maximum of 100mV of ripple right off the bat. This is still below the 120mV allowed in the ATX but many will find it too close to comfort. On the other hand, when this power supply was pushed a bit more it absolutely shattered the 120mV mark by posting a reading of 135mV on the o-scope. Yikes.

Ultra V-Series 500W: The situation is slightly better with the 500W V-Series and it posted quite good results until it was pushed in the SLI test. With a result of 120mV this unit is almost stepping over the thin red line of ATX specifications but it is still far too high for any system. This is not too bad of a result for a 500W power supply in this price category.



14- Noise and Heat
The noise category is one in which both these power supplies excel in. Throughout the tests, both were dead silent; so much so that you would have to put your ear right up to them in order to hear something. While the fans used on both V-Series power supplies have no identifiable markings other than the Ultra logo, they seem like quality-built components.

Unfortunately, while the fans do push a steady amount of air they do not seem to ramp up their rotations when more load is put on either power supply. By the end of the SLI test, the 500W unit was expelling waves of heat while its fan continued to spin lazily around and around. The same situation applies to the 400W but in its case, the amount of heat wasn't as pronounced.


15- Conclusion

While the test results don’t show it, the Ultra V-Series were to a certain extent a great pleasure to work with. Their cables are extremely long for budget power supplies and they were whisper quiet. In addition to that, they come with Ultra’s Lifetime Warranty which should give the consumer piece of mind if they decide to purchase one of these power supplies. The V-Series definately have a leg up against other power supplies when it comes to pricing because Ultra has priced these two power supplies very competitively.


When looking at the benchmarks, the V-Series’ design definitely seems like it is on the back nine in terms of performance in certain areas. When not pushed, both the 400W and the 500W units performed well within the norms but when the load increased, worrying tendencies began to rear their heads. In particular, the lack of ripple suppression and utterly horrid efficiency in the 400W version marred what would have been a good 400W unit.

In closing, there is nothing to indicate that the V-Series are horrible power supplies (a horrible power supply would have blown itself to smithereens); rather they have their own niche in our marketplace. They occupy a place that is rife with consumers looking for budget power supplies to power ever more power-hungry systems. Both the Ultra V-Series 400W and 500W power supplies perform passably under normal circumstances but do not expect them to perform any better than their price would have you believe.


Ultra V-Series 400W


Pros:
- Great price
- Acceptable voltage regulation when not pushed
- Quiet operation
- Lifetime warranty

Cons:
- Unacceptable efficiency
- Doesn’t like being loaded above 50%
- Ripple suppression….what ripple suppression?


Ultra V-Series 500W


Pros:
- Good price
- Good voltage regulation
- Quiet operation
- Lifetime warranty

Cons:
- So, so efficiency
- Very little ripple suppression at higher loads


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