Power supplies can be one of the most often overlooked component of a computer, and yet it is one of the most important pieces in a computer. A good power supply will give you years of trouble-free operation, while a bad one can be the source of any problem imaginable from transient program glitches to random shutdowns to full-on catastrophic hardware failure. NZXT is a somewhat new player in the power supply business, and recently sent Icrontic their Hale90 750W unit for evaluation.
The NZXT Hale90 750W power supply is white. Shockingly and oddly white. The only parts that aren’t white are the fan grill, bits of the label, and the sockets for the modular cables. Included with the power supply are the modular cables, a nice bag to contain the unused cables, and four thumb screws.
Connectors and Cables
The hard-wired cables are exactly what is needed, and nothing more. A 20+4-pin motherboard power cable and 4+4-pin CPU power cable are the only permanently attached cables on the supply. The cables are split to allow their use in older systems that may not use the additional power connections. Everything else is available via modular cables.
Eight detachable cables are included with the Hale90 750W power supply. Those cables provide:
- 7 x 4-pin molex
- 8 x SATA
- 1 x floppy
- 2 x PCIe 6-pin
- 2 x PCIe 8-pin (6+2)
The cables are all 550mm (~21.5 inches) in length, which should cover every ATX mid-tower and most full-tower configurations.
How dummy-proof can a company make a modular power supply? Looks like NZXT may have found the answer: There is only one way to plug the cables in, and all eight sockets are interchangeable. This is quite the change from other power supplies that require certain cables to go into predetermined sockets and therefore have different connector shapes. How is NZXT able to allow such interchangeability? The answer is simple: a single 12V rail.
Single 12V rail vs multiple rails
Some manufacturers divide the 12V power into a number of different rails, each providing power to one or more sets of outputs (PCIe, CPU, etc). Others, such as NZXT, use a single 12V rail for the entire supply. Is one way right or wrong? According to the latest ATX standards (v2.3, released in 2007) the answer is “not anymore”. That revision removed the ceiling on the maximum amperage through 12V rails (20A or 240VA). The curious thing is why NZXT advertises their power supply as ATX 2.2 since it appears to be 2.3 compliant (at least according to their specs).
Now, this isn’t to say that a multi-rail PSU wouldn’t be able to supply enough power to a particular component. In reality the rails are split such that every component attached should receive ample power. For example, I own an Antec TruePower Quattro 850W PSU. As its name implies there are four 12V rails, each providing 18A (or 216W). Presumably two of these rails are dedicated to the PCI Express power connectors (two each of the 6- and 8-pin), one rail for the CPU, and one for the rest of the system. According to the label, a maximum of 768W may be delivered through 12V power. Considering the largest draw for current desktop CPUs is 130W, it can pretty safely be assumed that one rail is dedicated to the CPU. Two rails for GPUs would provide enough power at least for dual video cards requiring two PCIe connections each (8-pin gives 150W, 6-pin is 75W). This leaves a single rail for the rest of the system components, which should be more than sufficient.
Case in point, this same Antec power supply powers my current gaming/storage server system, which is mostly detailed here. Add in an additional 120mm fan and five more hard drives (and another Beta Evo sitting next to the first to hold the additional drives) and you’ve got the complete picture. Incidentally, Antec’s wattage calculator says that system should require just over 660W at a 90% load. Newegg says upwards of 900W for fewer components than what are actually there (I say the Egg is off by a bit).
But enough with the rabbit trail. Back to the review.
Testing the claims
There are two claims NZXT makes about their Hale90 power supplies that can be tested either through direct observation or the use of easily obtained software and hardware (and without opening the power supply). Here are the claims and the test data:
Unfortunately we don’t yet have the equipment to test each rail individually, but we do have a Kill-A-Watt to measure total system power draw. Since the Hale90 claims an 80+ Gold rating, in theory it should consume less power than an 80+ rated, or non-rated, power supply. Comparing this power supply to a non 80+ rated Thermaltake Evo Blue 550W shows the benefits of the 80+ standards:
As you can see, the Hale90, despite being a much larger power supply, is more efficient at idle and under several CPU/GPU loads than the Evo Blue power supply. The gap starts at 13W and only grows as the load increases. Video rendering (full CPU load) brought the difference to 14W, while the biggest difference came during Metro 2033 where the gap jumped to 23W, or an 8% reduction in power. It may not seem significant, but folks running their computers at full load for long periods of time (such as the Folding@home project) might notice a dip in their power bills by switching to a more efficient supply.
Maximum noise levels of 20db (up to 750W)
I don’t have any sound measuring equipment outside of my ears and a video camera. But a very quiet system configuration can be made. Our previous test bench GPU was a passively cooled Radeon 4850, and the CPU is cooled by a nearly silent Noctua NH-D14. The Thermaltake Armor A90 case fans are similarly quiet. Twenty decibels is roughly equivalent to a quiet room, so there really shouldn’t be much to hear from the PSU. The video below should give an idea of noise levels. It was shot with the camera very close to the components.
Since it’s been on the bench, the Hale90 hasn’t made a sound I could detect above any other components.
The Hale90 750W currently sells for $139.99 on Newegg (plus shipping). This places it as one of the lowest priced 750W power supplies with an 80+ Gold rating. In fact it is one of the lower priced Gold-rated supplies available regardless of wattage. Less efficient power supplies are available at lower prices, but the lower power consumption makes the extra up-front cost worth it.
The Hale90 has been in the test systems for a few weeks now, and I’ve got to say I’m pretty happy with it. It certainly is more power efficient than the Thermaltake EVO_Blue 550W from the old benchmark system. The white casing at first seemed like an odd choice, but I’ll admit it makes finding the modular cable sockets quite a bit easier. Speaking of modular cables, the “any cable, any socket” layout of this PSU is great. Add in the quiet operation, and this power supply could be in a larger HTPC.
The bottom line here is the NZXT Hale90 is an excellent, efficient line of power supplies, and has earned the Icrontic stamp of approval.