Testing — Power Factor (PF)
Power factor (PF) is one of those mysterious properties of AC that even most electrical engineers have a hard time explaining. A thorough technical discussion goes beyond the scope of this review (not to mention this author’s understanding). For a more detailed discussion about PF, please look here.
Power factor is defined as the ratio of true power (measured in watts) to apparent power (measured in Volt Amps). It measures how effectively AC power is being used by a device. The difference between true power and apparent power is expressed as the power factor and results from the way true power and apparent power are measured. Ideally we would like to have true power and apparent power equal to one another, which would result in a PF of 1.00 or 100% effective power utilization.
I measured the AC Power Factor with a WattsUp? Pro power analyzer. The BFG Tech 600W power supply incorporates active power factor correction circuits, which resulted in PF readings close to 1.0.
A power supply with active PFC is also more environmentally friendly (doesn’t pollute the AC transmission grid) and will use less current, but it will not save you money unless you are a commercial user whose bill is based on PF and usage.
Testing — Efficiency
The overall efficiency of a power supply is very important, especially when operating in a silent, fan-less mode. The less waste heat generated the better! Efficiency is defined by the power output divided by the power input and is usually expressed as a percentage. If a PSU were a 100% efficient (which none are) 400 watts of AC power going in would result in 400 watts of DC power coming out (with no waste heat to dissipate). In the real world there are always inefficiencies and power is lost in the form of heat during the conversion process.
The latest revisions to the ATX12V Power Supply Design Guide V 2.2 have continued to increase the efficiency recommendations for PC switching mode power supplies. And the latest revision (Ver 2.2) now lists both required and recommended minimum efficiencies.
I measured the AC power input to the BFG Tech 600W PSU with the WattsUp? Pro watt meter and calculated the combined DC power output by summing the products of all the DC outputs (volts x amps) for five different DC loads.
The overall efficiency of the BFG Tech 600W power supply was less than stellar and didn’t quite even meet the older minimum requirements. As we will see in the next section, all that wasted power is converted into heat, which the power supply cooling fan must deal with to maintain safe operating temperatures.
The 80 Plus Computer Power Supply Program
There is a growing awareness among users, PC manufacturers and electric utilities regarding the money and natural resources that could be saved by adopting higher efficiency power supplies. One group that is spearheading this new movement is Ecos Consulting. You can learn more about their efforts to promote power supplies with better than 80% efficiency by visiting the 80 Plus Program website.
Spending a little more money up front to purchase a high efficiency power supply may very well pay for itself over the lifetime of the PCâ€¦ 🙂