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Apex 460W & 600W Power Supply Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     April 13, 2007




Apex 460W & 600W Power Supply Review


Review Layout:
- Apex / Solytech 460W
- Apex / Solytech 600W
- Efficiency Testing
- +5V Voltage Regulation
- +12V Voltage Regulation
- +12V Ripple Suppression
- Noise and Heat
- Conclusions

Another week and another power supply review here on Hardwarecanucks. This week we will be looking at a pair of Solytech units which promise a great price-performance ratio in a pretty cool-looking package. Solytech has not really made a name for itself here in the North American marketplace but within the last few months, consumers here have seen quite a few Solytech and Apex branded products showing up at e-tailers.

Both of these units come in full retail packaging and are covered by Apex’s 1 year warranty even though these are built and labeled by Solytech. To avoid confusion I will refer to these power supplies as Apex units considering they are sold as such even though the UL numbers trace back to Solytech. Just for your information, it seems like Solytech, Deer, Apex and Allied are all branches of the same company.

This is by no means a head-to-head competition between these two units but rather I have combined two reviews into one so as not to repeat myself in two separate reviews. So, here we go, let’s meet these power supplies…


Apex 460W (SL-D460EXP)

Price: $75
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 2x 80mm

Cord Lengths and Connectors:
- Molex: 4 Connectors
o 2x 25” length (2 connectors each)

- SATA: 2 Connectors
o 1x 20” length

- PCI-E: 1 Connector
o 1x 19” length

- 4-Pin Floppy: 1 Connector
o 1x 30” length (at end of Molex cord)

-20+4 ATX Connector: 19” Length

- 4-Pin CPU Connector: 18 1/2” Length





Here we have the lower-priced version of these two power supplies. It comes in full retail packaging and let me tell you, this is a box that you will most definitely notice if it were in a store. There is a window showing the extremely shiny surface (there’s my reflection) of the power supply as well as another window showing the cables. The rear of the box shows your typical information as well as the cable layout you should expect.




Inside the box we find that the unit is quite well packaged but the underside is completely exposed with may cause a problem during transport. Since this is a full retail package a power cord and instruction manual are also included. For some reason, I did not receive any mounting screws in the package which struck me as odd considering every other retail-packaged power supply I have reviewed comes with them. They may have just been forgotten in this particular package but their omission can’t help but be noted.




All of the cables from this Apex unit are sleeved in extremely flexible sleeving which is quite rare for a power supply in this price category. Points definitely go out to Apex for this inclusion. The problem comes with the fact that the cables are quite short and there aren’t a whole lot of connectors.

The housing itself is finished in a mirror-like finish which looks great but is ridiculously prone to fingerprints and scratches. What you see here is the result of 10 minutes of buffing to get my fingerprints off before taking these pictures. One good thing about this finish is that it makes you painfully aware of how dirty your fingers are.

There are two 80mm fans (with blue LEDs) which are supposedly tied to a fan-speed controller in order to limit the noise generated while effectively cooling the interior of the unit. The fan on the top draws air in while the one on the back expels warm air. Something you may also notice is the red switch in the back showing that this power supply does not have APFC.




Apex also includes push-out molex connectors which is a great inclusion on any power supply, let alone a budget unit. The problem comes with the fact that the cables are quite short and there aren’t a whole lot of connectors. They are also included with the 600W unit.





The label shows that the +12V2 rail is actually rated lower than the +12V1 rail. This is something that may come back to haunt this power supply as the CPU is on the +12V1 rail and all the other components are on the +12V2 rail. With the ever-increasing power consumption of graphics cards in particular, lower-amperage rails (such as 15A in this case) have trouble dishing out the required power. What will happen is the OCP circuit will kick in when the load on the rail reaches 15A (180W) and will shut off the power supply…you hope. Personally, I think that the +12V2 rail is much too low, especially with the release of the power-hungry G80 cards and the older X1900 cards from ATI.

Let’s see what opening up this unit can tell us…




There are many similarities between this power supply and some lower-end Deer units can immediately be seen in the layout of the PCB and the components used. The heatsinks are quite large but we can see that the secondary side does not get too much cooling due to the large heatsink and wires blocking airflow from the top-mounted 80mm fan.




Both the primary and secondary filtering stages are populated with caps manufactured by a company’s whose logo I have not seen before (or maybe I just can’t remember seeing them before).




Both fans which Apex uses on this unit are Globe Fan 80mm sleeve/ball bearing fans which are rated to push 32.37 CFM of air while operating at 2500RPM. The noise output is 27.4 dBA.



Apex 600W (SL-8600EPS)

Price: $105
Packaging: Retail
Fan Size: 1x 120mm

Cord Lengths and Connectors:
- Molex: 6 Connectors
o 2x 36” length (3 connectors each)

- SATA: 2 Connectors
o 1x 29” length

- PCI-E: 2 Connectors*
o 1x 25” length
o 1x 31 ” length

- 4-Pin Floppy: 2 Connectors
o 2x 40” length (at end of Molex cord)

- 20+4 ATX Connector: 25” Length

- 4-Pin CPU Connector: 30” Length**

- 8-Pin EPS12V Connector: 24” Length**

* = Both PCI-E connectors are on the same cable
** = 4-pin CPU and 8-pin EPS12V connectors are on the same cable





The second Apex unit we are looking at in this review is their 600W unit. The packaging is virtually the same as the 460W with the one large standout being the Nvidia SLI certified logo on the front of the package.




The interior packaging is once again the exact same as the 460W unit even mirroring it with the exclusion of the mounting screws. One Apex unit without the screws looks like a packaging error but two units really makes it look like they aren’t supposed to have these 10-cent screws. If you are building a brand new system, you will be plain out of luck until a timely trip down to the local Home Depot.




As with the 460W unit, we can see that even though this is marketed as an Apex unit there is the Solytech logo plastered all over the place. It also keeps the same instant-scratch exterior finish as its smaller brother. A more “modern” approach is taken with equipping it with a 120mm fan (with a blue LED) instead of two 80mm fans so this should cut down on noise somewhat. The input voltage switch is MIA in the usual spot which leads me to believe that Apex has equipped the 600W version with PFC of some sort.

The cables on this unit deserve a section all on their own because there have been a few interesting additions when compared to many other power supplies out there. Not only are the cables themselves VERY long and sleeved to perfection but Apex has included an EPS12V connector AND a 4-pin CPU connector.




As you can see, the EPS12V and the 4-pin connector are actually joined together which makes perfectly good sense…until you plug the 8-pin into your motherboard. Sure, it eliminates the need for one of those 4+4 break-off connectors I hate so much but having the 4-pin flopping around like a wet noodle when the 8-pin in plugged in can lead to some problems. I zip-tied mine to the main cable after it blocked the fan of my CPU heatsink fan which eliminated the problem. The PCI-E connectors are arrayed the same way…




On one hand I find the PCI-E cable layout a bit frustrating but on the other hand I think it is absolutely brilliant. If you use a single card, one of the PCI-E connectors will hang loose but that is easily taken care of with a zip-tie. It is when you use this power supply for an SLI /Crossfire setup where this cable layout really shines. Basically, you don’t have to worry about routing another PCI-E cable through your already-cluttered case since the other connector is right there. This design makes the cable itself longer (more than 31” long!!) for the lower mounting position of the second card. In testing, there were no large voltage drops present in the second PCI-E connector under full load so it looks like this design doesn’t adversely affect performance. The Apex 600W definitely scores points in this category.




The label on any power supply can usually tell you quite a bit about what you are buying but problems arise when a manufacturer doesn’t list all of the needed specifications. Luckily, Apex has been pretty thorough with the labeling of this power supply and there are quite a few things we can distinguish from the label. There are two +12V rails which are each rated at a maximum output of 22A and combined they are able to output a maximum (as opposed to sustained) of 480W or 40A. The rating of 600W is not a “continuous” rating like some other companies (Silverstone for one) use but rather is a peak output.




The interior of this power supply is a tightly-packaged with pretty large heatsinks and not much place to take many photos. Something that does stand out however is the large transformer on the primary side which is supposed to act as passive PCF (thanks to Jonny from jonnyguru.com for pointing this out to me). The primary and secondary sides are both populated with Teapos but everything is so tightly packed, I wasn’t able to get any good pictures.




Unfortunately, at the time this review was written, both the Top Motor and Dynaeon websites were down so the exact specifications of this 120mm fan will have to be filled in later.


PERFORMANCE TESTS:

Instruments Used:
Belkin 1100VA UPS
Rexus PSU tester
Fluke 187 Digital Multimeter
UPM Power Meter
Tektronics TDS3032B Oscilloscope

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)
1x Samsung Spinpoint 250GB SATA Hard drive
Antec Sonata Case
Pioneer DVD Writer

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.



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 and final 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.

I compared the results generated by these two power supplies to the two highest-performing units from my 500W roundup.

Efficiency Test #1






Efficiency Test #2





Efficiency Test #3





Results:

Apex 460W: Disappointing is the name of the game for this power supply from Apex when it comes to efficiency numbers. It needed to draw huge amounts of power from the mains in order to power the system and completely failed the SLI test by not even booting the test system. The amount of power required in the OC test was particularly stunning where it sucked almost as much power as the other units did in the SLI test. This is not the greatest result for this Apex unit, even if it does cost $75.

Apex 600W: After the results for the 460W started appearing, I really didn’t have much hope for the 600W version. Luckily, this particular Apex unit gave me a very pleasant surprise by performing like a champ. The efficiency numbers were extremely acceptable across the board and powered the SLI system without any problems at all. Sure, efficiency did decrease a bit in the SLI test but it wasn’t enough to warrant much of a second thought. This is a great result for a power supply that retails for $105 and below.



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 on a typical Molex connector. 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 all the power supplies passed the tests (except SLI for the 460W unit) within +/- 5% of +5V. I did not add a chart as it would look VERY boring.


+12V Voltage Regulation Testing






Results:

Apex 460W: After seeing what happened to efficiency, I was expecting to see an absolute train wreck when it came to voltage regulation with this power supply. Luckily, I was mistaken. The Apex 460W displayed good regulation throughout all of the tests I put it through with the exception of the SLI test in which it refused to boot. In my books, these results go a long way in pulling Apex’s butt out of the fire.

Apex 600W: Once again the 600W version performs extremely well across all of the tests. Even with the added strain of 2 8800GTS cards, this power supply didn’t even bat an eyelash which goes a long way in proving this power supply’s worth. It is looking more and more like this 600W unit is the real deal and not a sheep in wolf’s clothing.



+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 Tektronics 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.






Results

Apex 460W: While the ripple results weren’t all that bad, the Apex 460W flirted quite close to the 120mV maximum far too often for me. However, the results are right in line with what I have seen with more budget-oriented 450W units lately. All things considered, this result is not as bad as it looks since these results stay below the 120mV mark.

Apex 600W: This power supply keeps on impressing me with every passing test. This time the results are nothing short of amazing with the Apex showing great ripple suppression right across all of the tests.



Noise and Heat

The power supplies were fully installed in the Gigabyte Aurora 570 case from a past review. The only test that was conducted was the “Load” test of 1 hour of gaming with Company of Heroes. Any power supplies that could run the SLI test were tested using the pair of 8800GTS cards as well. The case door was closed and the case was put in my desk approximately 36” away from my ear.

Apex 460W: I was worried that using 2 80mm fans would make this using quite loud but I was mostly mistaken. Up until the 20 minute mark the power supply stayed whisper quiet but from there on out it got noticeably louder. Even though I could hear the fan above the normally silent Gigabyte fans in the case, it was still extremely quiet for a power supply having two 80mm fans. While these fans were spinning, the air coming out of the unit was noticeably warmer but not to the point of being hot.

Apex 600W: Dead silence is the same of the game with this power supply. Even when throwing 2 8800GTS cards its way, the noise coming from it barely approached a whisper. Throughout the hour test, the air expelled out the back barely warmed up.




Conclusions

Apex 460W:Unfortunately, this Apex unit left me a bit disappointed but there was a silver lining once the dust settled. It performed well in the voltage regulation test and passably well in the ripple test, but it fell flat when it came to efficiency. While the increase in power consumption of about 30W and more when under load versus many other power supplies may not impact your electrical bill too much; it is still an increase in the lifetime ownership cost of this power supply. With consumers being constantly educated about ways to save the environment, an inefficient power supply runs completely contrary to market trends.

I also like the fact that this power supply comes with completely sleeved cables. While it does not add much to the cost, it shows that Apex took the time to consider a few small touches to make it stand out from the competition. The only problem you may run into in this area is the length (or lack thereof) of the cables and the small number of connectors which have been provided.

Another saving grace for the Apex 460W is that despite the fact it has two potentially noisy 80mm fans, it stayed quiet throughout the tests.

Because of its price, the Apex 460W power supply occupies a very precarious position; it is more expensive that similarly-performing 400W units yet it costs only a bit less than some 500W units which leave it in the dust. In addition, the Apex 600W unit costs a mere $30 more yet the performance differences are quite dramatic.


Apex 600W:From the start to the very end of the review process, the Apex 600W unit was a joy to work with. Not only were the cables long enough to reach into every nook and cranny of a large case but the connectors themselves are very easily detachable. Some might find the fact that the two PCI-E connectors and the two CPU connectors are paired up on their own cables to be somewhat of a pain in the butt but there are many advantages to this layout. Not only does it increase the length of the cables, it also eliminates some of the clutter from the inside of a case. My only gripe in this area would have to be the ease in which the finish of the housing scratches.

This power supply excelled in all of the tests it was put through; from efficiency, to ripple suppression to voltage regulation there was not one test that made this unit bat an eyelash. In addition, the price for this Apex unit is extremely acceptable, even more so if you can find it on sale. While the longterm durability of this power supply is a bit of an unknown, judging from its performance in these tests, I would have no trouble recommending it.

Recommended (Apex 600W)


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http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/revie....html#post6099



SKYMTL