Ultra X4 850W Power SupplyOct 19th, 2009 | By Anthony
Ultra X4 850W Power Supply
: 10/19/09 – 07:06:26 PM
: Power Supplies
Page 1 : Introduction
Just over two years ago Ultra came to us with their X3 series power supplies. In its day, the X3 was no doubt a significant power supply. It was an affordable, excellent performing unit and not to mention, it was one of the few which came with a life time warranty. Being a product by Ultra, the unit also came with plenty of excellent value added features like flexible cables, an excellent modular cable connection system, and the unit also looked sharp. Since, what was perhaps Ultras most noteworthy product release, they have been quiet. Not even a peep.
In their hiatus, the world of power supplies has not stood idle. Power supplies today are better than they have ever been, and what was once repeatedly cautioned to buyers of power supplies that one should not under any circumstances purchase a cheaply priced power supply has undoubtedly proven false. This is of course not because the advice was not sound, but because of the influx of excellent units available.
Surely, Ultra has their work set out for them. Today, we are going to look at Ultras brand new X4 power supply. The X4, successor of the X3 and similarly is centered on a single massive 12V rail.
Page 2 : Features and Specifications
First, we will have a look at specifications:
At time of writing there isn't a whole lot of literature detailing the X4 series from Ultra, however we do have a few bits taken from the box. Output is fairly typical of an 850W power supply, this in particular has a total of 720W dedicated to a single 12V rail and an additional 170W combined output between the 5V and 3.3V rails.
In terms of features, we have Ultras excellent implementation of their modular cable system which is among the best we have seen. The X4, like the X3 is cooled by a single large 135mm fan in order to keep the unit cool, and keep the system quiet.
The sheer amount of cables and connectors this unit comes packed with is enough to get any reviewer giddy. In all honesty, I can hardly think of a situation where so many connectors will be needed, but the different combination of cables, and number of connectors per lead is essentially the idea behind modular connectors: plug in what you need.
Page 3 : Package and Contents
The X4 comes packed in a fairly large box and I assure you, no space has gone to waste inside. On the outside however, we have a typical break down of features and specifications.
One thing Ultra has become fairly well known for is their lifetime warranty, and you bet, they've gone to quite lengths to make it known.
On the opposite panel, we have a listing of contents, cables and connectors.
Inside the box, we have another box (and inside that is a carrying case), the power supply, and various accessories.
The carrying case included with the package is excellent for storing unused cables and screws for those who do not hang onto retail boxes.
The large 135mm fan on the bottom of the unit should do an excellent job acting as an exhaust for the computer system, and cooling the power supply by drawing air from the case into the power supply and then through the perforated black end.
The X4 850W is finished in a clean matte black with a matching black fan grill. The base of the modular connector panel is finished in a sharp looking brushed metal. Unlike the X3, the cables aren't Ultras FlexForce cables, rather standard cables covered with black sleeving.
Now, I have already mentioned a few times that the X4 comes with a lot of cables, but a picture is certainly more concise.
We have a total of six PCI- Express leads, three six pin and three 8 pin leads totaling six and three connectors respectively.
For SATA connectors, we have a total of 11 over the span of four separate cables. Ultra for one as a manufacturer disagrees with the standard eight connectors.
For accessories and fans, the X4 has nine peripheral connectors.
It always struck me as odd how manufacturer's don't include three pin fan connectors rather they expect manufacturers of cooling products to either supply them or for the user to use motherboard outputs. With the X4 we have two 3 pin fan connectors. An addition I happily welcome.
Lastly, we have motherboard connectivity – a 24 pin ATX connector, 4 pin and an 8 pin.
To wrap up our look at the power supply, we will have a peek inside.
The X4 power supply is built off an Andyson unit like its X3 predecessor.
Inside, we have an assortment of Nichicon and Teapo branded capacitors.
Page 4 : Testing Setup
Quite unlike any other PC component, properly evaluating a power supply involves much, much more than running a battery of tests or sitting down in front of a shooter for a few hours armed with a pen and a pad of paper. Although, we have the utmost appreciation for a few headshots coupled with explosions, power supply reviews call for much more. The general mantra for testing power supplies tends to fall somewhere in the ranges of loading the power supply up to the top, and letting it suffer. We here at Overclockers Online are inclined to agree. Accordingly, our testing methods have evolved to allow for more sophisticated and accurate testing.
The dilemma here is: how to test a power supply without a computer system, but emulate a computer system? It is important to not forget that as much as we try to part from throwing a power supply into a computer system and watching how it performs, ultimately, what we are distancing ourselves from is precisely what we are trying to replicate. Simply, the ideal testing platform would be indistinguishable from a computer system, but graced with the accuracies of an adjustable load. However, since we do not have access to state of the art testing equipment, or the funds to purchase such equipment, we have built a custom load tester. While it does not offer adjustments in the thousandths of a decimal place, it does offer enough flexibility to test current day power supplies and beyond.
Using thick high quality 16AWG wires throughout and equally high quality connectors and switches, we have sought to minimize resistance in the lines while maintaining flexibility. All it takes is a flip of a switch to turn a desired resistor on or off.
A proper electronic load is a start, but we are going to be a bit more ambitious. A keystone piece of our testing mythology is the heat box. A system drawing 800W from a power supply produces quite a bit of heat, and to be testing such a power supply in an ambient environment is not only inconsistent with in-system applications but unrealistic and misleading. Our hotbox consists of nothing more than a case graciously donated to us from Silverstone. Recycling heat produced from the load tester using a series of controlled fans and a duct, we can control operational temperatures and push a power supply to its limits, or over.
Using the heat and load, we will run a battery of five tests: three cold and two hot tests. The three cold tests consist of 50% load, 80% load and finally full load. Naturally, we will escalate the strain on the unit by adding heat in the hot tests. The final two tests are 80% load and full load at approximately 50C or more.
While the purpose and effects of 'burn in' are debated, doing so causes no harm. Prior to any testing, all units are run for a maximum period of one week without load. At best, this will stabilize the unit; at worst it takes a few hours off the unit's total life span.
In our tests, we will do our best to adhere to ATX specifications including cross loading and criteria for testing. The presentations of our results are designed for ease of interpretation and conciseness.
So, without any further delay, let us get started!
Page 5 : Testing
The aim of the cold test is to reflect ideal operational conditions where heat from the computer system is independent from the power supply.
Our first three tests went by incredibly well with all rails within 1% of their intended outputs.
With the heat turned on, across the board the unit held its ground and despite a few decimal place slips in output, the unit barely budged.
Page 6 : Conclusion
As it turns out, Ultra has been keeping busy despite their absence from the power supply scene. If the X4s showing today is any indicator, Ultra still knows how to put together an amazing power supply.
Ultras new X4 is quite an attractive package. First and foremost, we have rock solid performance. Acoustically the unit is almost inaudible in idle conditions and quiet when it heats up due to its 135mm fan. The unit comes packed with extras and more connectors that one can possible use. When it comes down to it, the X4 is truly a worthy contender to the more established giants in the market and an excellent buy for anyone looking for a high end, attractive looking and with a feature list to match.
- Excellent performance
- Modular Cables
- If we were to be picky, the X3 looked more refined than the X4
I'd like to thanks Ultra Products for making this review possible.