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FSP AX500-A Blue Storm

FSP AX500-A Blue Storm

Supplied by FSP Group


FSP AX500-A Blue Storm  
Supplied by: FSP Group
Price $89 USD
Review Date: March 5, 2004

Fortron Source Group (FSP) is a power supply that should be at the top of any PC buyer’s list. The FSP Group adopts aggressive pricing against competitors in wattage class and the product sits on the favorable side of the line between a “cheap” power supply that should be avoided and one that is a good price. FSP launched the AX500-A Blue Storm PSU late in 2004 to meet the demands of the “bigger, better, faster”. The “norm” is quickly becoming 500 watts and FSP puts in a good showing with the AX500-A.

The introduction of PCI Express motherboard and video card products has opened up new marketing routes for power supply manufacturers. Wattage demands increase as consumers build new PCs or upgrade current systems but more wattage means more heat. Often that excess heat is dissipated by noisy fans. It’s a balancing act that FSP has managed to maintain

Power supply design is a game of pleasing some most of the time and not everyone
all of the time. It’s a balancing act of what the buyer may want, what the buyer
will pay, what the power supply can deliver and how much it will cost to manufacture.
The ultimate power supply would have enough removable leads, emit zero noise,
consistently deliver the required wattage regardless of the demand upon it and
cost around $20. Until the perfect power supply pops into existence the buyer
has a wide variety of choice as manufacturers introduce different lead configurations,
paint schemes, cooling options and trendy effects such as LED fans.

PC users often complain about system instability. It’s assumed that more power
is better but this isn’t necessarily true. For a complete examination and explanation
of power supply specifications, PFC and what to look for read Power
Supplies: The Shocking Truth.

The FSP AX500-A PSU

500 watt power supplies used to be referred to as “monsters” but these monsters are becoming domesticated. The FSP AX500-A is the first of the PCI Express capable power supplies with both video and ATX support of the PCI Express products.

ws_box

The AX500-A falls into the middle of the group for aesthetics. It is a rich blue color which is better than the OEM industrial gray color of cheaper power supplies but it doesn’t have the fancy “bells and whistles” such as an LED cooling fan or internal LEDs. A modder can easily change the cooling fan for a LED equipped fan but, of course, voids their warranty in the process and assumes all risk of damaging the power supply, surroundings or themselves.

FSP AX500-A Specifications (max loads)

ws_operating

Volt line +3.3 +5 +12 -12 -5 +5 Vsb
Amps 30 28 15 0.5 28 2.0
             
Watts 99 140 180 6.0 140 10
combined
160
       
combined
445
     

When 3.3 Volt line is loaded to 30A the +5 max load is 12 A. When +3.3 Volt line is loaded to 6 A the +5 V maximum load is 28 A. The manual is basic and approximately 3 pages per language.

manual

The power supply switch is the only “pretty light” for those who are drawn like moths to such features.

rocker_lit

FSP looked to Protechnic for the 120 mm. x 25mm. cooling fan.

fan_cu

The cooling fan can spin at a rated maximum of 2500 RPM generating 80.97 CFM at 38.3 dBA. It is very important to remember that the fan specifications are maximum measurements but the FSP AX500-A employs silent technology. The fan normally operates at a very much reduced RPM thus providing cooling for the power supply at near inaudible levels. The PSU features a heat sensor that regulates RPM increasing or decreasing it automatically as required.

fan_label

A modder can easily remove the PSU case cover to gain access to the fan area. The standard “you’ll void your warranty and risk damage to the product, your house, the cat, yourself or others if you do take things apart” disclaimer applies.

fan_inside

The blue color in the FSP Blue Storm is spray paint like most other PSUs that have color effects.

spray_paint

The AX500-A has seven leads each sleeved with shrink wrap at the trunk line from the PSU and before and after each connector. There is:

  • 1 x main connector PCI Express ATX with adapter
  • 1 x 12 volt power connector
  • 1 x PCI Express graphics card power connector
  • 8 x 4-pin molex connectors on 3 leads
  • 1 x 3-pin molex connector on 1 lead
  • 2 x SATA power connectors on 1 lead

4_pin_leads

4_pin_3_pin_leads

pci_e_agp_connector

12v_connector

The main power connector is designed for PCI-E motherboards but the included adapter makes the Blue Storm backwards compatible.

pci_e_adapter

Leads and available power connectors comparison

PSU Leads* 4-PIN 3-PIN SATA PFC
Enermax 465P-VE
4
9
2
0
no
FSP Aurora FSP400-60PNU
4
5
1
1
no
SilenX Ixtrema 400W
4
6
2
2
Passive
Zalman ZM400A-APF
5
6
3
0
Active
Silverstone Tek SST-ST46F
5
8
2
4
Active
FSP Group AX500-A
4
8
1
2
Passive

* Does not include ATX, Accessory, 12 volt, AGP or P4 leads.

Length of leads (Centimeters)

PSU
ATX
Longest
Shortest
Enermax 465P-VE
49.53
83.82
83.82
FSP Aurora FSP400-60PNU
54.61
68.58
48.26
SilenX Ixtrema 400W
62.23
88.90
48.26
Zalman ZM400A-APF
52.07
58.42
39.37
Silverstone Tek SST-ST46F
49.24
103.10
75.29
FSP Group AX500-A
50.8
86.36
86.36

Open PSU surgery

The FSP AX500-A Blue Storm will disappoint those looking for massive heatsinks. The 120 mm. fan balances the apparent need for large heatsinks.

guts_01

guts_03

The AX500-A doesn’t have any adjustment screws to fine tune the power supply. This is a hit and miss feature on power supplies. Some have it and some don’t. “Adjusting” power supplies in this manor is best left to the factory and it is rare that PC enthusiasts practice this.

guts_02

The guts of a 500 watt power supply don’t look much different from those of a 400 watt or 350 watt power supply. The FSP AX500-A appears a tad inadequate due to some competitors installing massive heatsinks in their products if truth be known.

Test Systems

FSP AX500-A test system

  • AMD Socket 939 3800+ Processor
  • Gigabyte k8nsxnxp-939 motherboard
  • ATI 9800 PRO 256 MB Video Card Catalyst 4.2 drivers (Application preference ticked for Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering in both Direct 3D and OpenGL, VSYNC disabled BIOS AGP aperture set to 256)
  • 2 x 256 MB Corsair PC3200 DDR RAM in DIMM 1 and 3
  • LG 52x DVD +/-R
  • 80 GB Western Digital Hard Drive
  • Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse
  • stock heatsink
  • AMK SX1000 modded PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 updated.

The rest

  • AMD 3200+ 400 FSB
    Processor
  • Gigabyte
    7NNXP motherboard
  • ATI 9800 PRO 256 MB Video
    Card Catalyst 4.2 drivers (Application preference ticked for Anti-Aliasing
    and Anisotropic Filtering in both Direct 3D and OpenGL, VSYNC disabled BIOS
    AGP aperture set to 256)
  • 2 x 256 MB Corsair PC3200 DDR RAM in DIMM 1 and 3
  • LG 52x CD/RW
  • 80 GB Western Digital Hard Drive
  • Samsung 950p 19″ Monitors
  • USB Keyboard and Optical Mouse
  • stock heatsink
  • AMK SX1000
    modded PC case (window, fans, cables, loom)
  • Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1 updated.

The Tests

The tests results are comparing archived results to that of a different processor/motherboard combination. They are not “apples to apples” comparisons. Competitor 500 watt PSU models were not available at time of testing. Purchasing conclusions should be made with this in mind. Results were monitored by a Fluke 73 Series II multimeter. Readings were taken
on the +3.3, +5 and +12 volt line on the ATX line. Secondary readings were taken
from the +5 and +12 volt lines of a Molex on two separate PSU leads.

msfluke73

 

Cold start tests were conducted after the system was powered
down for one minute. The lowest voltage was recorded during the process from
boot until Windows XP was fully loaded.

Operational voltages were recorded after running a two benchmark programs and
a disk defragmenter program. The lowest overall voltage of the three programs
is presented in the database. The lowest voltage was recorded during PC Mark
04 benchmark where all tests were selected and then run. Sisoft Sandra 2004
stress test was executed and the lowest voltage was recorded. (Enable CPU Arithmetic,
CPU Multi-Media, Memory Bandwidth, Cache and Memory, Network/LAN Bandwidth Benchmark)
Microsoft disk defragmenter was executed and the lowest voltage was recorded.

Power factor, kilowatt hours and load and idle watt usage was measured by a
P3 International Kill-a-Watt device. (0.2% accuracy). Aquamark benchmark was
executed at 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768, 1280×1024 and 1600×1200 screen resolutions
at four levels of graphic settings: AA off & details low, AA off and details
high, 16x AA & details low and 16x AA & details high. Sisoft Sandra
file system benchmark was run 5 consecutive times on an 80 GB Western Digital
hard drive. (Floppy and external drive tests disabled.) The
remaining time after programs completed was inactive and results were recorded
after 6.5 hours from beginning of tests.

killawattws

killawattcuangle

FSP AX500-A Observations

3.3 V line, 5 Volt line, 12 Volt line

No significant voltage fluctuations during any tests. Opening applications produced a
momentary 0.01 volt fluctuation.

idle_voltage

load_voltage

cold_start

price

 

USD from pricewatch.com. CAD from pricenetwork.ca. FSP USD price converted to CAD by xe.com.

 

Wattage Comparison (specifications)

 
+3.3
+5
+12
-12
-5
+5 Vsb
+3.3/+5
Rated
Enermax 465P-VE
115.5
175
396
12
5
11
220
431
FSP Aurora FSP400-60PNU
92.4
150
216
9.6
1.5
10
220
400
SilenX Ixtrema 400W
99
160
216
14.4
5
12.5
240
400
Zalman ZM400A-APF
85.8
200
180
9.6
1.5
10
235
400
Silverstone Tek SST-ST46F
99
150
180
6.0
2.5
10
210
460
FSP Group AX500-A
99
140
180
6.0
2.5
10
160
460

 

Watt/VA Comparison (KillAWatt)

Peak and idle numbers were provided by the KillAWatt device. The KillAWatt
device also provide kilowatt hours and a power factor rating. Less is always
better. The KillAWatt device monitors the watts used by the system including
volt amperes. KWH usage was obtained after a 6.5 hour testing period. (It’s
about average home usage per session.)

 
Watt (idle)
VA (idle)
Watt (peak)
VA (peak)
PF
KWH
Enermax 465P-VE
160
233
191
271
0.68
1.05
FSP Aurora FSP400-60PNU
162
252
202
308
0.63
1.10
SilenX Ixtrema 400W
162
258
202
310
0.64
0.84
Zalman ZM400A-APF
119
n/a
188
n/a
0.97
0.91
Silverstone Tek SST-ST46F
166
167
204
204
0.99
0.94
FSP Group AX500-A
128
198
215
309
0.64
0.97

PFC means Power Factor Corrector which is a converter device that precisely controls input current to match the waveshape of the input voltage. The benefits of an active (or passive) PFC are immediately important to a business. In layman’s terms the PFC acts like a traffic cop. A power supply will do what is asked of it; some more efficiently than others. PFC is part of the process of how efficient a power supply is at asking for and using AC current. PFC, whether active or passive, has nothing to do with power conditioning or surge protection.

Consumers are charged for electrical usage. Typically this is by kilowatt hours. A business may have several machines that draw electrical power. One machine has a high (good) PFC rating. 1.00 is the best PFC rating. The other machine may be identical but have a poor PFC rating. Both machines doing the same exact task may draw the similar killawatt hours and to the power company they look the same and are charged the same based on killawatt usage only.

But the machine with the poor PFC rating is less efficient thus poorly converting the electrical power to energy or the task it is doing.

If the PC components ask for 100 watts of power then the power supply demands AC current from the wall and converts it to the 100 watts required. An inefficient power supply can ask for more AC than it needs. A PFC equipped power supply allegedly reduces this by being more precise when asking for the AC current to convert to DC.

So the power companies got smart to this and measure on a secondary demand basis along with kilowatt usage. The business that uses machinery with high PFC ratings is charged less compared to an identical business with machines that have a poor PFC rating.

This is not a concern for the home user as of yet as power companies do not meter for PFC in the home.

Conclusion

ws_operating

The Fortron Source (FSP) AX500-A Blue Storm 500 watt power supply delivers. It placed well in price coming in the middle of the pack against power supplies rated at 100 watts less. The AX500-A held up well in power tests delivering the strongest 12 rails but just slightly below average for 5 volt and 3.3 volt rails.

This power supply is meant for those with PCI Express systems but it still will easily support standard PC configurations. Those with more than one 3-pin requirement may find the Blue Storm lacking. The lead sleeving and shrink wrap is a very professional touch. The Blue Storm isn’t the standard gray box nor does it have an abundance of add-ons such as LED fans. The FSP AX500-A plays it straight down the middle delivering solid value, features and performance.

Highs

  • Well priced.
  • PCI Express support
  • SATA support

Lows

  • Only 1 x 3-pin molex (if that matters)
  • Could use a second SATA lead for 4 x SATA power

Scores Breakdown
Attribute Score Comments
Design & layout 9 Leads serve SATA and PCI-E needs adequately. 9.5 if it came with a second SATA lead.
Documentation 7 The manual is basic…approximately 3 pages per language.
Features & options 9
  • 1 x main connector PCI Express ATX with adapter
  • 1 x 12 volt power connector
  • 1 x PCI Express graphics card power connector
  • 8 x 4-pin molex connectors on 3 leads
  • 1 x 3-pin molex connector on 1 lead
  • 2 x SATA power connectors on 1 lead
Modding possibilities 8 Could replace 120mm. cooling fan with a LED fan.
Performance & stability 9 Stable throughout all tests.
Presentation 8 Attractive color and well made.
Price / value 9 Places in the middle of the pack of 400 watt competitors. Good value for the dollar.
Total score 59/70 84.3%

Comments

  1. Unregistered
    Unregistered It does have pots for adjusting voltage and even in one of the photos that you take (guts_02) appears one in orange, but the other 3 are inside the plate of the same pot I'm talking about.

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