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Silverstone Decathlon 650W (DA650) Power Supply Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     June 6, 2007




Silverstone Decathlon 650W (DA650) Power Supply Review






Table of Contents:

Intro
1- The Packaging
2- Exterior Observations
3- Interior Impressions
4- Output Characteristics
5- A Decathlon was run on Mount Olympia
6- Efficiency Testing
7- Voltage Regulation Testing
8- +12V AC Ripple Testing
9- Noise and Heat
10- Conclusion


Price: $160 at Directcanada
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 1x 120mm
Warranty: 3 Years
Availability: Mid-June 2007


Cord Lengths and Connectors:

- Molex: 6 Connectors
o 2x 38” (3 connectors each)

- SATA: 6 Connectors
o 2x 38” length (3 connectors each)

- PCI-E 6-Pin: 2 Connectors*
o 1x 22” length
o 1x 29” length

- PCI-E 8-Pin: 1 Connector
o 1x 22” length

- 4-Pin Floppy: 2 Connectors
o 2x 44” length (at end of Molex cables)

- 20+4 ATX Connector: 21” Length

- 8-Pin CPU Connector: 22” Length

All connectors are modular

* Both 6-pin PCI-E connectors are on the same cable


It seems like within the last few months Silverstone has announced several mid to high-end power supplies directed towards the enthusiast market. They range in output from 650W all the way up to 1200W and it seems wherever a consumer looks, a new Silverstone power supply rears its head. Closely following their release of the Olympia series, Silverstone announced the Decathlon series of modular power supplies. In this review we will be looking a little closer at the Decathlon 650W (DA650) unit which is the lowest-wattage Decathlon available on the market. Silverstone has definitely answered the challenge of its competitors with all guns blazing by virtually saturating the enthusiast market with power supplies of varying features and power output numbers. The actually manufacturer of this power supply remains a bit of a mystery as it is not Enhance (ST50EF, Strider) or Seventeam (OP1000). Etasis does not take a hand in it either as they only manufacture Silverstone’s Zeus models.

Like all Silverstone power supplies, this one comes with the weight of a full 3 year warranty backed by Silverstone’s stellar customer support and RMA service.


1-The Packaging




As usual, the Silverstone package has wonderfully understated and classy exterior design while keeping all of the necessary information within reach. There are no outrageous graphics or flashy writing; rather, this box says “this is the DA650, the name speaks for itself”. The sides of the box hold other information as well as a bit of advertising stating the various features that may set this power supply apart from others. The box itself is quite a bit larger than those of many other power supplies we have tested.



The interior of the box shows us a manual as well as the power supply itself nestled snugly in a rigid foam lining. While this is a modular power supply, all of the cables are attached when it first arrives. Luckily, with a power supply this heavy the packaging secures it enough that there should be no reason to worry about shipping damage.



The accessories with this power supply include the usual power cord, black screws and a pair of zip ties. Silverstone also includes a pouch to protect any modular cables which are not used with the power supply. This is a welcome addition, since there are plenty of people out there that will tend to store the cables in a place where they will be demolished in an instant.


2- Exterior Observations



Anyone looking at the pictures can tell straight off the bat by looking at the 120mm fan that the DA650 quite a bit longer than a standard ATX power supply. When the modular connectors are added the entire power supply takes up even more place which should be a concern for those of you with smaller ATX cases. The size does not approach that of the Enermax Galaxy series but it is substantial nonetheless.

As we have seen with all of the Silverstone power supplies, this one is once again coated in an all-black powder coat. Over the course of installing, one 2ft drop (no, it wasn’t on purpose) and some other unintentional abuse over the test period, the finish on this power supply proved as resilient as it looks. Not a dent, scratch or fingerprint could be found anywhere on the finish.



The modular interface on the DA650 is very clearly laid out with all the connectors having their own areas where they can be plugged in. Thankfully, the 8-pin PCI-E connector will not fit into the 8-pin EPS 12V socket and vice versa. All of the connectors (except the SATA and Molex) have their own clips to keep them secure but for some reason the Molex connectors are extremely hard to remove from the power supply housing. All in all, this is a good layout for the modular interface.



All of the connectors are sleeved but not as well as one out like for a power supply costing above $150. Truth be told, the sleeving job is the one thing on this power supply that feels “cheap” and unfinished. Not only are the cables not sleeved all the way up to the power supply itself but the sleeving completely stops the second it gets to the first connector on any cable. This is extremely disappointing and should be something Silverstone corrects as soon as is humanly possible.

Another minor annoyance rears its head with the PCI-E 6-pin connectors; they are both on the same cable. So, those of you who have a single-card setup will either have to tie down the flailing additional connector or let it hang loose and risk it getting eaten up by a fan. Even with a Crossfire or SLI setup the lack of sleeving makes the second connector stand out like a sore thumb.

Luckily, the cables are all more than a serviceable length and the amount of connectors is more than generous. The addition of an 8-pin PCI-E connector is welcome at a time when the majority of competing power supplies have yet to include it. It is also good to see that there is no adaptor needed to convert the 8-pin PCI-E into the proper configuration as we saw with the OP650 a few weeks ago.


3- Interior Observations



The main PCB of the DA650 is indeed a very crowded place with a pair of large transformers, a trio of Hitachi caps on the primary and an army of Teapos on the secondary. The large heatsinks insure that the components stay cool while providing enough airflow. The interior design is very robust with quality components used throughout the filtering stages.



Dominating the sides of the DA650 are a pair of vertical PCBs. One has standard circuitry on it but the other is much more interesting; in includes a fan header (for the 120mm fan), two thermal probes for the thermistors and more interestingly a potentiometer. This pot controls the +12V voltage but it is HIGHLY recommended that you leave it where it is. After turning it down only a few millimetres, the interior of the power supply heated up quite fast.



Here we can see (even though some effort has been made to cover it up) that Impervio Electroincs makes these PCBs and the components are assembled in Taiwan. The modular interface is usually a telltale indication of the quality (or lack thereof) of the manufacturing of a power supply. In this case the interface is extremely clean with all of the traces clearly laid out.


4- Output Characteristics



Silverstone has equipped the DA650 with a single large +12V rail. While the benefits and shortfalls of this approach can be discussed for several pages, you will be spared the explanation…for now. With more and more components demanding ever-increasing loads from the +12V rail, it has become necessary for manufacturers to significantly increase the +12V output their power supplies over the past few years. In this case, the DA650 can output over 99% of its power to the +12V rail alone. This is exactly what power-hungry enthusiasts look for in a power supply.


5- A Decathlon was run on Mount Olympia

While the title of this section may seem a bit odd, those of you who have read our Silverstone Olympia review will already know what this title is leading towards. Here is the original Olympia review: http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/hardw...0w-review.html


Here you can see our present DA650 alongside the OP650 for a size comparison which gives a good account of the length difference between Silverstone’s two power supplies. The Decathlon is significantly larger and this may lead some people to think that these are two completely different power supplies.


DA650 on left, OP650 on right

Opening up both power supplies tells another story altogether; aside from the modular interface, these power supplies are spitting images of each other. The only small difference is that the DA650 seems to dispense with the Toshin Kogyo caps found on the OP650 and replaces them with Teapos. “Seems” is placed in here because some of the caps on the secondary are so thoroughly hidden that it is nearly impossible to determine their manufacturer.

Others may have noticed that the cable length is nearly identical with the two units but the DA650 continuously looses an inch to all of the OP650’s lengths. This is an unfortunate result of the modular cabling system and with more and more behemoth cases being released, every inch counts. Another interesting note is that both power supplies share the exact same number of connectors.

Thus, for all intents and purposes, the Silverstone Decathlon 650W is an Olympia 650W with a modular interface and the price premium that addition brings with it.


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.


6-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



While the efficiency numbers across the board were respectable, they were nonetheless a bit disappointing for a power supply that claims greater than 80% efficiency. While the DA650 is a virtual clone of the OP650 on the inside, its efficiency numbers are slightly below its non-modular brother. Every power supply (even those of the same model) is different in the way it behaves when under load so these slight variances between the two Silverstone power supplies are nothing out of the ordinary.

As with the Olympia 650W before it, the efficiency of the Decathlon 650W increases in parallel to the amount of load. This bodes well for higher-spec systems than the one used in these tests.


7-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 plugged 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 “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.


+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 Silverstone passed the tests within +/- 2% of 5V / 3.3V. I did not add a chart as it would have looked VERY boring.


+12V Voltage Regulation Testing



Voltage regulation for the DA650 proved to be an interesting exercise when compared to the Olympia 650W. While this power supply displayed great voltage regulation across all of the tests, it did not display the rock-solid stability of the less-expensive OP650. From the chart you can see that the Decathlon’s voltage drops were slightly more pronounced than those of the Olympia but what you cannot see is how much the voltage fluctuated. While the OP650’s voltage stayed pretty much constant through the course of each test, the DA650’s voltage tended to jump around quite a bit especially in the SLI tests.

Make no mistake about it; this is a great result for any power supply and Silverstone should be proud of the performance of the DA650…even if it didn’t quite live up to the performance of its sibling.


8- +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 Stingray o-scope. 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.

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 ripple suppression on this Silverstone Decathlon is nothing short of amazing. The line on the o-scope barely moved throughout all of the tests. The increase in ripple over the OP650 is so minimal that it can easily be chalked up to small variations from one unit to the next. Nonetheless, these results are very interesting even though the two power supplies share nearly identical components.


9- Noise and Heat

The 120mm fan in this Silverstone power supply stays mercifully silent through all of the tests while keeping the heat to a minimum. Another interesting observance is that the Decathlon 650W does not exhibit the slight transformer buzz which plagued the Olympia at lower loads. All in all, the DA650 is a very quiet power supply and will definitely not be the loudest component in your case.


10- Conclusion

As more and more power supplies are released by Silverstone it increasingly looks like they are hell-bent on offering the consumer the best performing power supplies in their respective price categories. With the release of the Decathlon 650W power supply they are taking another step in the right direction. The performance of this unit is phenomenal and the modular cables are a huge boon for consumers who want the cleanest-looking cases.

The DA650 offers a good modular alternative to the non-modular OP650 but there are some performance sacrifices to be made. Yet, let’s be honest: the average consumer will never be able to distinguish the minor differences in performance between these two power supplies unless they have sensitive testing equipment. Therefore, it all comes down to the modular cables and how much a consumer is willing to pay for the convenience this feature provides. Without a doubt, $15 is a very fair price premium for modular cables…now if only those cables were completely sleeved.

While this review was not a direct comparison between the Decathlon and the Olympia, it was necessary to bring up differences in performance considering the similarity of their design. Invariably, a consumer will look at both of Silverstone’s offerings and make their decision based on the performance and features offered by each power supply. In the end, there will be some tradeoffs to going the modular route but there are also numerous benefits. It all comes down to you –the reader- to determine what your priorities are in the modular / non-modular battle zone and choose accordingly.

One way or another, you can rest assured that the Silverstone Decathlon has every right being near the top of your list.

Pros:
- Easy modular interface
- Solid rails
- Above-average ripple suppression
- Long warranty (for a power supply)
- Durable finish
- Very quiet

Cons:
- Cables not completely sleeved
- Slightly less performance than the OP650
- Long housing


Please feel free to ask questions or post comments to this review here:
http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/power...html#post11371

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