|Overview and Specifications|
It’s a fact that extremely large, high-wattage power supplies tend to get the most press online, as the vast majority of PSU manufacturers are caught up in the never-ending competition of trying to get the highest wattage products out there. While this competition has fostered innovation in this market, in addition to pushing down prices of lower-wattage power supplies, the negative effect that it’s had is that most people believe that ultra-high wattage power supplies are an absolute necessity with today’s mid-range to high-end systems.
This is a myth which power supply manufacturers are happy to let people to buy into, since they can see increased sales on high-dollar power supplies which are overkill in many circumstances. While it doesn’t hurt to get a power supply with an available wattage level higher than what is needed, in some cases we’re seeing people purchase power supplies with 4-5x the maximum power load level than their system requires. In the vast majority of system configurations on the market, even newer ones, you’ll be hard pressed to push past 400W of actual power usage. Unless you’re dealing with a couple of Radeon HD2900XT or 8800 Ultra graphics cards, it’s unlikely that you’ll even get close to touching 700-800W.
We’ve always held power supplies which are relatively low-wattage but extremely efficient at their rated level in high regard. Power supplies which simply do their job without the need for gimmicky features, simply providing clean power with close to inaudible noise levels, all without charging you an arm and a leg. Companies like Antec and SeaSonic have held down this market quite well over the past few years, although newcomer Corsair’s power supply units have been surprisingly solid. Their first units, the HX series, were a hit with an interesting modular cable configuration and ultra low noise levels for high-powered configurations.
Corsair is taking much of the same technology which was prevelant in their HX-series power supplies and bringing it down to a lower price point. Earlier this month, they introduced the VX-series power supply lineup. This simple linup consists of 450W and 550W units, and are targeted at single processor, single graphics card systems who want near inaudible noise levels, solid power, and a reliable manufacturer name. We recently got our hands on the 450W unit for a trial run.
Corsair's new VX450W sits in front of their prior generation HX620W.
Extending Corsair’s legendary reputation in performance and quality, the new Corsair VX family of power supplies features the industry’s most efficient power management and ultra-quiet design for mainstream users. Unlike most power supplies in the market, the Corsair VX incorporates a single +12V power rail that delivers continuous power under heavy loads. This conservative design ensures reliable operation in today’s most demanding system configurations and adds compatibility for future platforms. The unique combination of rock solid performance and incredible value puts the Corsair VX family of power supplies in a class of its own. Ideal for home theater PCs and ENERGY STAR PCs, the VX line maximizes energy savings and minimum noise generation thanks to double-forward switching circuitry design. Each Corsair VX power supply is backed with an industry-leading 5-year warranty and 24/7 on-demand customer service.
Corsair VX450W rail information graph
Looking over the specifications, the VX450W has just about everything we would expect from a PSU of this caliber, although there are some interesting aspects which should be noted here.
The power supply’s rated 85% efficiency is a great selling point, as the industry’s focus on “green” power supplies has taken root with consumers. Corsair claims that their unit is efficient between 81-85% across all voltage levels, which means very little power is wasted and turned into excess heat. High-efficiency power supplies also consume less power themselves, which is good for your power bill. Corsair claims that a typical system using this power supply will use around 225 watts on load (which is a fairly solid estimation), and at this level, the power supply will be 85% efficient.
Corsair has opted for a single +12V rail on this model, which supports up to 33A and 396W off a single line, which an interesting design choice. There have been countless arguments online regarding the merits of single vs. dual (or quad) +12V lines for high-end systems. Our feeling is that for single GPU based systems, running everything off a single highly-rated +12V rail will be just fine, and our tests have shown that this does not present any issues.
Since the power supply is targeted at mid-range systems, only one 6-pin PCI Express graphics card power connector is included by default. If you want to run a multi-GPU system with this power supply, it’s certainly possible using Molex to PCIe power adapters, although if you’re going into multi-GPU territory, Corsair’s higher-wattage HX series are likely a better choice. While it only officially supports one graphics card, you’ve got a full server-grade set of Primary (24-pin) and Secondary (8-pin) +12V ATX connectors, meaning the system can handle single, dual, and quad-core based systems without issue. This unit can also be used for multi-processor systems, if need be, although this isn’t the market which Corsair is targeting here. Also note that the unit does not have EPS12V certification.
|Design and Features|
Design and Features
Corsair’s VX450W is bundled in a noticeably smaller box in comparison to their previous HX series. The green-tinted cardboard box contains the power supply, a power cable, a small quantity of zip-ties, mounting screws, and a nice cloth bag which keeps the unit free from scratches. All in all, it’s a very nice little package which Corsair has put together with this product.
The power supply itself features the same matte “gunmetal” black finish which was used in the prior HX series. The power supply is all business, sporting an attractive design which will appeal to the minimalist crowd. The unit is based off a standard ATX design and is quite short (depth wise), so it can be used in the vast majority of cases on the market today. Two neon green-tinted stickers are attached to the power supply, sorting the model number and the specifications of the unit.
The rear of the unit features a honeycomb patterned grille, which allows for maximum airflow out of the unit with little air resistance. This works in conjunction with the VX450W’s internal fan to produce very little noise during operation. The back grille features a simple on-off switch and a US–style three prong AC power connector.
The VX450W’s cooling is taken care of by a single 120mm cooling fan, which is mounted internally on the bottom of the power supply, designed to intake airflow from the inside of the chassis and exhaust air outside of the rear grille. The 120mm cooling fan is a 0.33A double ball-bearing fan from ADDA, which we found to be exceptionally quiet under all scenarios. Even with a high-wattage system configuration (overclocked quad-core GPU, dual 10K RPM RAID hard disks, 8800-series graphics card), we never heard the noise level of the fan rise once. Never.
Corsair claims that the fan speed won’t increase until load levels of 400+ watts are reached. This basically means that for the majority of system configuration, you’ll be running at a very low noise level all the time. It’s somewhat off putting, how quiet this power supply is. With no LED lights and this quiet design, it’s hard to tell if the unit is actually on and running, without directly looking and seeing if the fan is spinning.
The biggest change between the Corsair HX and VX lineups is that the VX series does not boast a modular cable design. Modular cables allow you to unplug and store un-used cables, which allows internal system wiring to be cleaner. However, modular cable systems do increase overall price tags, and most mid-range users will not notice the benefits of such a system. We find modular cable systems to be a desirable feature, so we’re sad to see it go, especially when units like the Antec Neo HE have already proven that low-cost power supplies with modular cabling can exist and sell well.
Light System Configuration
Mid-Range System Configuration
We tested this power supply by pitting it against its older, but higher wattage sibling, the Corsair HX620W. We also threw in an Antec TruePower 550W EPS12V power supply to see how a fairly “standard” power supply design stands up. We tested the power supplies by recording their AC watt usage with a dedicated hardware watt meter which monitored total system power consumption.
Ideally, we want the power supplies to consume as little power as possible. Lower wattage levels show the efficiency of the power supplies in these various scenarios. Lower power consumption generally also leads to less heat production and less noise creation (fans don’t have to spin as fast to cool the unit).
|Low Power System Tests|
Our low-end system configuration, consisting of a low-end dual-core processor and a GeForce 7600 GS graphics card, only consumes about 185W of power at maximum load levels. As we can see throughout the graphs at various load points, our Corsair VX450W unit is consuming the least amount of power from the wall, which reflects in a positive manner on this new unit. This shows that at all of the load points we tested (which in this case are all fairly low), the VX450W is more efficient than its peers.
|Mid Range Power System Tests|
With a faster processor, graphics card, and a more feature-packed motherboard, we set out to see how these units react when having to power a little more hardware goodness. This system configuration pushed about 275W at maximum, which is above the “typical” load which Corsair claims its maximum efficiency levels (i.e. 225w).
With this system configuration, we see similar results compared to our low-level tests, as the Corsair VX450W delivers the lowest watt usage at these varying load points. The numbers get close between the two Corsair units at higher wattage levels, but it appears that the new kid on the block is a bit more efficient than its older brother.
Corsair’s VX450W is a very solid mid-range power supply. We’re exceptionally pleased with its low-noise attributes, long sleeved cabling, and overall high-efficiency performance. As I write this, the VX450W is churning along, handling an overclocked quad-core Q6600 processor, along with a GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card and a couple of high-end hard drives, and is perfectly happy doing so. Most would think such hardware would require a 600W+ PSU to run properly, but that’s simply not the case. Corsair’s latest generation of power supplies handle such a task without sweating.
Corsair power supplies typically carry a price premium compared to similar wattage unit. While we would definitely say that Corsair’s units are of a higher quality in comparison to most other similar wattage power supplies, there are certainly exceptions. The VX450W is eerily similar to SeaSonic’s S12 II unit, which may run a few dollars less than the Corsair unit but will likely deliver similar performance and features. Of course, Corsair has a solid five year warranty to back up their unit, whereas SeaSonic has only three. We still feel that Corsair’s final product is much nicer than other 450W units we’ve tested over the years.
We would have preferred if Corsair had kept or refined the modular cable system they introduced for the HX-series for the VX-series, but there’s only so much we can ask for when they’re targeting the low-end / mid-range system buying marketplace. Some users also might find the lack of a secondary PCI Express power connector limiting if they want to add multiple graphics cards into the mix. It also would have been nice to see an 8-pin PCI Express connector for newer high-end cards, but given how infrequently this connector is used, it’s not surprising to see it missing at this point in time.
All in all, Corsair has a very solid product on their hands. Success will likely be driven by pricing - as of now, the VX450W unit can be had for about $69. That makes the unit about $20 more expensive than generic 450W power supplies that have an approximate 70% efficiency rating. The generic units won't feature as robust a 12v rail either. Considering the Corsair unit will cost just a few dollars more, and it's quiet, efficient, and backed by a solid warranty, it's definitely a smart buy.