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Windows 7: Why 80 PLUSģ is Irrelevant to You When Buying a PSU

13 Dec 2014   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-BIT
Why 80 PLUSģ is Irrelevant to You When Buying a PSU

Why 80 PLUSģ is Irrelevant to You When Buying a PSU


By this point in time, most people have at least heard of 80Plus and/or they have seen the 80Plus logoís on their power supplies over the last few years. Perhaps many have even come to see the 80Plus logo as a key point in your decision making process when buying a power supply. But for those of you who donít know what the 80Plus program is, the concept behind 80Plus is fairly simple and straight forward (with this being a simplification of that). Briefly, a manufacturer submits a product to ECOS (the company that started the 80Plus program with "industry partners" before being purchased by AIQ) for testing in compliance with the 80Plus guidelines; ECOS tests the unit, gives the unit an 80Plus certification of some level and manufacturers can then parade around this "certification" as a key marketing point to get users to buy their product because it is more efficient/environmentally friendly/going to save them boatloads of money. This sounds like a win/win for everybody, right? But what if it isnít really a win for the people that should care the most (the end user paying for the power supply)? What if the 80Plus label on your power supply is all but irrelevant?

No Matter What the Advertising Tells You, You Arenít the Customer ECOS is Targeting

Raise your hand out there if you have ever bought a product from ECOS, or a service. Anyone have their hand up (all of my product reps please put your hands down)? I didnít think so. And herein we find one of the problems. You arenít the customer. As an organization ECOS (now owned by AIQ) does not serve you the end user, they serve manufacturers and the manufactures are their customers. A manufacturer sends ECOS a product that the MANUFACTURER selects for testing (these products are not randomly sampled units from production runs and this is key as we will see later). They also send ECOS a $2500 check. If the product passes whatever level of certification the manufacturer thinks it should, ECOS has a happy customer who next month will send them another product that they cherry pick and, most importantly, the customer will send ECOS another check. If ECOS does not pass a power supply they now have an unhappy customer. Unhappy customers are not good for business and ECOS is in the business of making money (a quick calculation using the number of units certified by ECOS, 3,303, multiplied by the $2500 fee tells us that so far ECOS has had revenue of at least $8,257,500 from the 80Plus program). Alternatively, in the case of an organization like consumer reports, as much as many people like to bag on Consumer Reports, the good news is you are Consumer Reports customer, and not the manufacturer, so if Consumer Reports screws up they answer to you and your interests. That is what you, the consumer, should want the arrangement to be (One quick aside, ECOS is solely responsible for making users thinking that 80Plus certifications are all about them as the manufacturers/vendors play this angle even harder in order to get you to buy their product and not someone elses). But going back to the real arraignment, where the manufacturer is the customer and not you as is the case with ECOS customers, what do the customers do then in this arrangement? They cheat.

Itís Only Cheating if You Get Caught

This topic is not exactly new as a colleague, Gabriel Torres at Hardware Secrets, ran an article some time ago about manufacturers who were labeling units as 80Plus certified that were not indeed 80Plus certified (you can read it here along with some updates). Through that article was able to flip a light on that made a few roaches scatter, but it did not completely address the issue of cheating at 80Plus. After seeing numerous units fail the 80Plus certifications they were given in our testing, and other reviewers testing, it seems that the reason is ECOS does not verify that the product their label is being used on and shipped to YOU is what they "certified". In the case of deliberate failings, this takes on two aspects that we can document.

The first, and perhaps more minor that is related to what Gabe wrote about is that companies not only have units that they know wonít pass and have used the 80Plus logo but they also use the 80Plus logo when they have not submitted to ECOS for testing (which is against the contract for usage) but intend to send in for testing. This case of being ahead of the curve is perhaps not a huge concern if the product does ultimately make the level of certification claimed. However, what if it doesnít? Users bought that product expecting a certain level of efficiency and in the end get something different. Do they get a refund? Shouldnít ECOS be policing the usage of their certifications? I am not necessarily talking about a few days or weeks in these cases either. Recently, we had a very well known vendor with a unit that was billed on My 31st as being 80Plus Silver certified but it was not until September 15th, a full 4 Ĺ months later, that the unit was available on the 80Plus webpage. Sure this is the lesser of the two evils we are going to look at, but still if you donít enforce the rules here where else are you not going to? Perhaps they wonít enforce their usage rules when vendorís swap out the actual unit but keep the model name/number the same?

The Raidmax RX-1000AE was certified by 80Plus as an 80Plus Gold power supply based on Andysonís K-series power supply. When we actually opened a retail unit it was not an Andyson K-series, but rather an Andyson E-Series unit. Andysonís E-Series, by the way, is rated for 80Plus Bronze. One last facet with all of this is that the products sent to ECOS only have to pass 80Plusís standards not FCC, UL, or ATX/EPS standards. So what can a vendor do? Well, beyond just cherry picking a unit they can send products that are not what will ship at retail (for instance alter cabling length, gauge, etc) or send a product that will not pass these other requirements (FCC, UL, ATX/EPS). All of this is kosher with ECOS because all ECOSís testing requirements involve is efficiency, not quality or compliance. Well, ECOS is supposed to care about compliance but they canít be oblivious to the fact that manufacturers are cheating them can they? If they are then there are other issues and we have the interesting question of which is worse? Donít take this to mean that ECOS is the only that gets cheated and canít (or wonít) do anything about it, Energy Star is just as bad.

One of the important aspects to note about ECOS and 80Plus testing that was mentioned earlier is that vendors supply the power supplies that are being tested. ECOS does not go to a retail location and pickup power supplies; instead they rely on vendors to send them products that are supposed to be honest representations of retail products. This is an area that is ripe for abuse, and is abused, as vendors can easily cherry pick the units they send to 80Plus or even build a unit specifically to send to ECOS. Unfortunately, since ECOS does not verify anything after they test a unit, vendors have almost no chance of getting caught doing this and who can blame them when the watchman is asleep on the job?

80Plus Gold By Any Other Name Might be 80Plus Silver

Assuming a vendor does not cheat ECOSí testing, tolerances involved with the production of power supplies make it such that your brand new shiny 80Plus Gold/Silver/Bronze (whatever) power supply may not actually be an 80Plus Gold/Silver/Bronze unit but rather one step down (or one step up but that is by far less common) if the unit was a marginal 80Plus whatever level unit to begin with. Now, in this case do most vendors care that 80Plus generates too generous of a rating for their product? Likely no. And why would they? In these cases they can simply point back to the report from ECOS to wash their hands and users are, in all reality, not going to be able to check up on this assertion anyway. So who cares that the user is not quite getting what they paid for?

This is an issue that vendors are aware of but on this aspect at least some companies do try to do right by customers. For instance, we have been working on a review where this came up and when asked the vendors indicated that they designed the product for 80Plus Bronze even though ECOS certified it for 80Plus Silver and they had no intention of changing their advertising from 80Plus Bronze to Silver. If a user gets one of this product that is 80Plus Silver they got lucky, otherwise users should expect only 80Plus Bronze. Also, previously, Corsair had this issue with their HX850 which they were billing as 80Plus Silver but ECOS certified it for 80Plus Gold. Corsair however did not change their advertising on this product as they felt they could not guarantee it would meet this higher 80Plus certification on retail units. (80plus rating of HX850 -- Silver or Gold ? - The Corsair User Forums) However, donít take this as a solid Corsair and SilverStone can do no wrong by 80Plus so buy them as that is simply not the case. However, do take it to mean that 80Plus test reports should be taken with a generous pinch of salt and the vendors even know this.

Source: HARDOCP - Why 80Plus is Irrelevant to You When Buying a PSU - Why 80 PLUSģ is Irrelevant to You When Buying a PSU

What's your say about this?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Dec 2014   #2

Windows 7 Professional 64bit SP1

I didn't read any of this, but technically is mainly for attention grabbing. BUT....there are no Power Supplies out today without this efficiency rating that I would recommend. There are many features more important than this rating, but I wouldn't trust any PSU that wasn't at least Bronze or better.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Dec 2014   #3
Layback Bear

Windows 10 Pro. 64/ version 1709 Windows 7 Pro/64

Here lies the problem.

Who else is going to do the test?

Who is going to retail outlets and grab a bunch of power supplies and test them?

What manufacture is going to go through all those test for each power supply coming off the assembly line?

Yes I do believe that manufactures do cheery pick the power supply they send for testing.

So what do we as consumers do.
Well we read forum that test power supplies. The problem is the power supply company also cheery picks power supplies to send to many of the forums that are doing the testing.

What else can consumers do.
Well about the only thing we can do is go by brand names that fellow members are using with good luck. Now because our fellow members have good luck with brand (A) or (B) we don't really know just because it has a Gold rating is the reason for the good luck. It could actually be Silver in actuality that is works great but labeled Gold.

To the best of my thinking the only thing we can do is buy brand names that have been tested by many quality forums.
There are some things we know or should know. Their is not such a thing as a quality cheap power supply.
Getting a quality power supply with more watts and amp than one needs. (Higher than min. requirements) is a good thing to do.

So called builders power supplies even when the brand is well known is risky. They are built cheap so they can be sold cheap.

I personally have chosen Corsair AX 850 Gold and AX 860i Platinum for my two computers. I really have no way of knowing if they are truly Gold and Platinum because I have no way of testing them.
All I know is they have been tested by many with good results.
They are pricey and they have both worked flawlessly.
On this forum I have only read one post that had a problem with a Corsair power supply and it was a Corsair builders $50.00 power supply.
My next build will also have a Corsair power supply because of their reputation and the very good luck I have had with them.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

13 Dec 2014   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ultimate 64

The PSU is the very heart of a rig and any enthusiast looking to push their rig had better study up on quality PSU's or face a potentially costly issue. I look to have a high degree of overkill in my PSU's and many may see it as tossing away monies but I see it as a little extra insurance in the realm of headroom, temps at load, total load and expansion/deterioration.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Dec 2014   #5

Windows 7 Professional 64bit SP1

Buying a quality PSU, and one closer in wattage to your actual needs are more important than those ratings
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Why 80 PLUSģ is Irrelevant to You When Buying a PSU

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