Introduction & Packaging
Chieftec may not be the best-known name in the business, but they’re certainly going strong and have done a lot of work in the B2B market, with a growing presence in the consumer market over the last few years. They’re back on eTeknix again today with one of their latest power supplies, the APS-600SB, a 600W unit with an 80 Plus Bronze efficiency rating. It may not be anything fancy, but its core focus is to get the job done without spending any more than you have to for the level of performance and reliability you need.
In terms of spec, the APS-600SB features a 14cm fan, as well as multiple +12v rails with more than enough power for some dual GPU configurations. The non-modular design isn’t going to win over many perfectionists, but you’ll certainly find all the connectors you’re likely to need.
The packaging is pretty straight forward, with a stylish picture of the product on the front. If I’m honest, I know this isn’t the best-looking unit in the world and looking at the darkened image on the box, Chieftec know it; not knocking that, this is a practical unit first and foremost.
In the box, you’ll find the owner’s manual, an AC power cable and the fitting screws.
A Closer Look – Exterior
A simple design on offer from this unit, with a large fan grille on the top, behind which you’ll find a good quality 140mm fan.
Down the sides, you have a Chieftec sticker and on the other side, just a blank panel, again, nothing fancy, but on the plus side the build quality feels pretty robust.
On the base of the unit, a run down of the main specifications, showing us the power rating for the various rails.
Lots of ventilation around the back, always a good thing to have as it’ll help shift more heat out of the unit. The unit will accept 115-230v power input and another welcome feature, a master power switch.
The cables are hard-wired and they’re certainly nothing fancy to look at, but they will get the job done. I do like that they’ve put a plastic grommet on the passthrough though, as this will help prevent the PSU housing from damaging any cables.
The cables are pretty basic, with just some simple braiding on the 24-pin cable, but otherwise, they’re nothing special. There are enough connectors for a good range of peripherals and a graphics card.
A Closer Look – Interior
The interior of this unit could be a little more tidy than it is, but with a non-modular design, some cable trailing is to be expected. All the major hardware is well spaced out, however, so airflow should still be pretty decent. I am surprised that the PCB is smaller than the housing, but that was likely extended to incorporate a larger fan more than anything else.
There are a few passive heat sinks dotted around which will help cool the main hardware, especially when combined with the large fan.
The AC filtering stage looks a little scruffy, but comprehensive and with any luck we should see some clean power delivery from this unit.
There are a lot of cables here, but they’re all cable tied to keep them in place and the soldering points have been covered with shrink tubing to keep them protected.
The main bulk capacitor is Su’scon 400v 330uf unit, rated for 105c.
The fan is really nice, with an 11-fin design that should really help shift a lot of air and hopefully keep noise levels down too.
At eTeknix we take the power supply testing procedure very seriously and have invested a lot of resources into acquiring the appropriate testing equipment. For all power supply reviews we test the power supplies with dedicated power supply testing equipment. This means we are able to get the most accurate results from our testing as opposed to using software benchmarks (such as OCCT) or multi-meter readouts which are broadly inaccurate.
Our test machinery is as follows:
- Sunmoon SM-5500ATE Active Load Tester (1200W rated)
- Stingray DS1M12 USB Oscilloscope
- Voltcraft DT-10L laser tachometer
The eTeknix test procedure involves:
- Testing each power supply at 20/40/60/80/100% load (with balanced load across all rails) and measuring PFC (power factor correction), efficiency (actual power divided by power “pulled at the wall”) and voltage regulation (deviance from expected voltages of 3.3/5/12 on the main rails).
- Measuring ripple with an oscilloscope at 20/40/60/80/100% load.
- Measuring fan speed after a stabilisation period of five minutes at each load scenario using the Voltcraft DT-10L laser tachometer and a reflective strip on the fan.
- Testing each power supply’s OPP (Over Power Protection) mechanism and seeing how many watts each power supply can deliver before shutting down
Other things to consider are that
- We recognise that a single yellow 12 volt cable can provide only 6 Amps before overheating (which corrupts voltage regulation and efficiency) and so we used an adequate number of cables for each power supply to ensure there is not efficiency loss from poor cables selection
- Our Sunmoon SM-5500ATE power supply tester is not capable of testing more than 300W on each of the 12 volt rails so where a power supply provides more than 300W on a 12 volt rail that power is distributed over multiple 12 volt rails on the load tester. For example a power supply with one 12 volt rail supplying 750 watts would be spread equally over three 12 volt rails on the load tester, a power supply with two 450W 12v rails would be spread over four 12v rails on the load tester, two 225W 12v rails for each of the 12v rails on the unit.
- We use the same time scale and horizontal millivolt scale on our oscilloscope for all ripple tests, that is a 20ms T/DIV (horizontal) and a 0.02 V/DIV (vertical) meaning the scale is from -80mV to +80mV, ATX spec dictates that the 12v rail must fall within 150mv of ripple and the 3.3/5 within 50mv so that scale allows us to include both 150 and 50mV peaks. (Some older PSU reviews use different scales which were later ditched as the visual representation they give is inadequate, in these reviews written measurements are provided only).
- Deviance is the terminology used to represent the way voltages diverge from the expected values
Efficiency, PFC and Voltage Regulation
To test voltage regulation we load the power supply to five different load scenarios that give an equal spread of load across every single rail. So that means 20% on all rails, 40% on all rails and so on. We then calculate the average deviance of each rail from its expected voltage.
Wow, this is a very impressive result, with really tight voltage regulation across the board.
Power efficiency is measured by calculating actual supplied wattage divided by the wattage drawn at the wall/plug, multiplied by 100 to give a percentage. We then compare that to the particular 80 Plus certification the company claims to see if it meets that. You can see the 80 Plus certifications below, we always test 230v power supplies.
The efficiency isn’t great as the unit is only an 80 Plus Bronze, but at least it’s in the upper regions of that grading and it’s certainly decent for this price range.
Power Factor Correction
Power Factor Correction is the ratio of the real power flowing to the load, to the apparent power in the circuit. The aim of PFC is to make the load circuitry that is power factor corrected appear purely resistive (apparent power equal to real power). In this case, the voltage and current are in phase and the reactive power consumption is zero. The closer the number to one the better as this allows the most efficient delivery of electrical power (Source – Wikipedia).
PFC performance is certainly reasonable and a good bit better than I expected.
Noise and Ripple can easily be measured by an oscilloscope. These show how much voltage fluctuation there is on a particular rail. We tested the rail stability of the 3.3 volt, 5 volt and 12 volt rails using an identical time and millivolt scale for all graphs. millivolt ripple is measured by the peak to peak size of the voltage curve.
The latest ATX 12 volt version 2.3 specifications state that ripple from peak to peak must be no higher than 50 millivolts for the 3.3 volt and 5 volt rails, while the 12 volt rail is allowed up to 120 millivolts peak to peak to stay within specifications. Millivolt figures are stated to the closest increment of 5 given their variability.
|Load (%)||3.3V Ripple||5V Ripple||12V Ripple|
Again, we’re seeing very impressive figures here, with tight ripple suppression on all loads, easily on par with many high-end units.
3.3 volt @ 100%
5 volt @ 100%
12 volt @ 100%
Over Power Protection and Max Wattage
Power supplies often quote as having various protection mechanisms such and the most important of these is Over Power Protection. In our testing we crank up the power draw until the power supply either shuts down (meaning the OPP mechanism is present and working) or blows up (meaning it is either not present or not working). We then note the maximum power consumption before the power supply shut down (or blew up).
The OPP went much higher on this unit than I expected, which is no bad thing, as it’ll mean this unit will eat up spikes in your power draw with ease and without your system shutting down unexpectedly.
When testing in a power supply laboratory it is difficult to take fan noise readings as the noise from the Sunmoon test equipment and air conditioning corrupts everything. The next best thing in our circumstances was reading off the fan speed with a tachometer to get an idea for the noise. The ambient temperature during testing held constant at 22 degrees, with 1 degree of variation. Each power supply had a consistent time period of 5 minutes to stabilise between each load scenario.
In my experience the following general relationships apply between noise levels and fan speeds, though it can vary greatly between the type of fan used.
- Below 800 RPM – Inaudible/Silent
- 800 to 1000 RPM – Barely audible
- 1000 – 1200 RPM – Audible but still quiet
- 1200 – 1400 RPM – Moderately noisy
- 1400 – 1800 RPM – Noisy
- 1800 RPM or higher – Intolerable
The fan speed was nice and low and virtually silent for most of our testing. At higher loads, it did pass 1000RPM, but still managed to stay fairly quiet, I doubt you would hear it once installed in a good quality chassis.
This PSU may not look fancy, but with Chieftec taking the focus away from aesthetics, they’ve been able to keep the costs down. There are quite a few retailers that stock this unit, but Google shopping will be your best bet, as there are a lot of varying deals and I’ve seen them go as cheap as £38 here in the UK; This is about 20% cheaper than competing products of a similar spec.
This power supply is certainly more interesting than first perceived. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty ugly, especially with that grey exterior that harks back to the 90’s in terms of PSU design. Then again, if you’re system doesn’t have a side panel window, does it really matter what the interior looks like? No, not really. The same goes for the non-modular cables, they’re a little old-school, but a few cable ties will help keep excess out of the way and having this kind of cable is a very easy way to reduce the overall cost of the unit. You would expect to pay another 20% or more for the same level of performance, just to have a unit that looks nice and has modular cables.
The efficiency is nothing special, but could be worse. If you wanted a more efficient PSU, then you’re going to have to pay a lot more for it and that’s not always an option for every system builder. What really stands out, however, is the tight voltage regulation, low ripple and great OPP; this may be a budget unit, but it’s got great power delivery and that’s easily the most important feature of any power supply.
From the office to budget friendly gaming builds, the APS-600SB has just enough features to keep you happy. It’s quiet, reasonably efficient, has enough connectors for a mid-range system build and at this price range, you really can’t ask for much more.
- Extremely affordable
- Quiet performance
- Great OPP performance
- Good ripple suppression
- Excellent voltage regulation
- Non-modular (although that does mean a lower price)
- Internal PCB is small, suggesting the PSU could have been made smaller
- Boring grey paint job doesn’t match the current range of chassis products
“It may not be the best looking unit in the world, but the APS-600SB offers very competitive performance that makes it one of the strongest budget PSUs on the market.”
Thank you Chieftec for providing us with this sample.