A power supply's a power supply, right? Wrong. Today's high-end motherboards need robust PSUs; this is one part that you can no longer go cheap on. With that in mind, it's good to see Antec being more creative with their designs. The Neo HE 430 that I tested has a few neat features that make it a cut above the competition.
Firstly, all of the power cables except the main ATX and the 4-pin 12v motherboard cables are modular and removable. The Neo HE comes with several detachable cables; you plug them into the power supply as needed. So if you're building a thin client out of an ATX chassis, you could just hook up the motherboard and save internal space and increase airflow by eliminating all of the unnecessary connectors. Each modular cable has two or three Molex or SATA connectors, just like any other power supply's drive power cables. There are enough connectors for four SATA drives and six Molex-compatible devices, with an adapter to turn one of them into two mini-Molex connectors for floppy drives. There is also a special 6-pin cable for PCI Express boards that require extra power.
Antec claims that the HE is more efficient than standard ATX power supplies. To put that claim to the test, I installed a Neo HE 430 PSU into a computer with the following specs:
- Asus A8N-E motherboard
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ CPU
- Thermaltake SilentBoost HSF
- Seagate 150GB SATA-V hard drive
- AOpen Combo 52X IDE CDRW/DVD-ROM drive
- Matrox Millennium G550 PCIe
The other PSUs I used in this comparison were an Antec SmartPower 450 and a Vantec Stealth 470. All are comparable in terms of output and price.
To measure the power, I used the Watts Up Pro meter, and recorded data over a period of twenty minutes from power on. This differs somewhat from testing that I do on general computer power consumption; most notably, I'm not waiting until after the initial power spike to start recording.
I started the computer and used it normally in Mandriva Linux 2006 PowerPack Edition, browsing the Web, applying operating system updates, and playing games.
The testing was not entirely scientific because the exact same process could not be duplicated, the procedure was not blind or double-blind, and I didn't use a line conditioner to ensure that the power would be uniform throughout the testing. While this may seem to invalidate the tests, keep in mind that I'm not evaluating drugs for the FDA or publishing a scientific paper -- I'm just measuring a small amount of computer usage to determine if the Neo HE 430 will generally be more efficient than other power supplies under normal desktop computing conditions.
In the below results, four factors are recorded: the watt hours consumed during the test period; the average kilowatt hours per month the system would use based on the trend suggested by the test period; the power factor of the power supply (power factor is a measure of electrical efficiency, and higher numbers are better; see the Wikipedia for more information); and the projected cost to run the computer all day, every day, for one month. The price per KWh is 7.31 cents in US currency, which is roughly the average for the state of Florida as of 2003.
|PSU||Watt hours consumed||Average monthly KWh||Power factor||Average monthly cost (Avg. KWh * $0.0731)|
|Antec Neo HE 430||32.8||71||.98||$5.19|
|Antec SmartPower 450||35.9||78||.64||$5.70|
|Vantec Stealth 470||36||78||.62||$5.70|
As you can see, the Antec Neo HE 430 was considerably more efficient than the other two PSUs, but that efficiency didn't seem to save all that much power, even on a 100% duty cycle. But what about when the system is powered off? You might think that you're not using any power when the system is off, but my measurements prove otherwise:
|PSU||Watt hours consumed||Average monthly KWh||Average monthly cost (Avg. KWh * $0.0731)|
|Antec Neo HE 430||0.2||<1||$0.03|
|Antec SmartPower 450||1.3||3||$0.22|
|Vantec Stealth 470||1.2||3||$0.22|
So whether you're using your computer or not, you'll be saving electricity and money with the Neo HE 430. It may not be much, but it's something.
Bugs and problems
An initial limited release of the Neo HE 430 gave me a lot of trouble on modern Asus motherboards, but Antec quickly fixed the problem and sent me a revised release; that one was fine. Any Neo HE 430 that you buy today should be the revised edition. I did not discover any recognizable difference between the working and non-working editions, so if you somehow get a bad one, just contact the reseller (or Antec if the reseller does not handle warranty returns) and get a new one.
Other than that, I did not discover any design flaws or problems with the Neo HE 430.
The other power supplies that I used for this review are relatively modern and can be used for any of today's ATX-based computers. All three are fairly robust and can handle pretty much anything you can fit into a tower chassis; they also cost about the same price. Given similar pricing and capabilities, it would make sense to go with the most energy-efficient option.
Most people don't give a lot of thought to their power supply unless it's not working properly. Certainly there is no incentive to replace your working PSU with a more efficient one unless you're paying a ridiculous amount of money for electricity. New system builders will definitely find long-term value in Antec's line of high efficiency PSUs ala the Neo HE series.
Aside from the practical qualities of the Neo HE 430, the modular cables are a really nice feature, and can make system building and repair a little easier.
Overall, the Antec Neo HE 430 is highly recommended.
|Device support||20- and 24-pin ATX motherboards|
|Market||Midrange desktop and workstation computers|
|Price (retail)||US ~$78 Buy it now from Amazon.com|
|Product Web site||Click here|