Acting almost as a technical support agent, I often receive questions why people?s systems are constantly restarting, blue screening, dying, why their computer smells like it?s burning, etc. In numbers, I can confidently say that about 65% of these problems are often related to either cooling or power. Since ePowerHousePC asked Coolmax, the creator of the Taurus Power supply unit (PSU) series, to allow us a sample for reviewing purposes, our main focus today is power. Many contributing factors to the above problems caused by power include everything from just plain low voltages, too much fluctuation in voltage readings and the obvious not enough power. I personally have not had these issues with my PC before, but I run an Enermax 431 watt Power supply. Throughout the review, we will be referring back to the Enermax 431watt to give a comparison on features etc.
Prior to receiving Coolmax?s Taurus 550watt PSU, I really had no idea I was even receiving it until it showed up on my doorstep. Either way, I opened up the shipping box, and to my surprise, I saw the wrapped up retail PSU box. After a snapshot of the box, I took a quick reading lesson on the PSU to get a little bit of background information on the product. According to the box, this PSU has the new three fan design, one of which is a tri-led fan. I also noticed from the large neon green sticker on the front, that this PSU is Aluminum. I am not exactly sure why, but most PSUs have always and are still manufactured from steel although there is one PSU that I recall being made out of aluminum ? Vantec?s Stealth PSU. The one thing I noticed from the box is that this PSU is not painted aluminum like the Vantec ? its bare metal. I am sure this totally contributes to heat dissipation as well as a sleek look, but we?ll have to see about this during the testing process. The last thing I read from the box is the fact that the rear fan on the PSU is controlled by a three-position switch (high, medium and temperature controlled). This feature is often overlooked but is becoming a little more popular throughout many new PSUs, due to the noise factor. I guess some people thought that PSU fans were beginning to get too loud ? something that has never really phased me before.
A little glimpse of the texture on the casing...Brushed Aluminum brings a very clean look.
After I cut open the wrapping on the box, I opened it up and removed the PSU from the box. Listing off the items inside the actual box, I noticed the PSU itself, a power cord and four mounting screws, but what was missing?! Sure a PSU installation is fairly self explanatory, but every product deserves a manual. This was the only thing I pictured missing, and is often forgotten by many companies. After I removed the PSU from the bubble wrap, I noticed quite a few things. Starting off in the rear of the PSU, I noticed that this PSU did indeed include a 3 position switch for the exhaust fan. I also noticed that the fan grills were all gold ? very cool and reminded me of my Enermax! Aside from this, everything seemed pretty standard: a power connector, on-off switch and US(115)/European(230) AC Voltage switch. Depending on which way you look at it, the top or bottom has one 80mm intake fan (clear) which seemed considerably thinner than the rear fan. This fan had the awesome gold fan grill as well. The top is where I really started to pick up on the beautiful texture of the casing. It really reminded me of the same texture of the brushed aluminum on the Lian-Li case series; it would match perfectly. Aside from the beautiful texture, gold fan grill, 80mm clear fan and excessive amount of stickers on the top side, nothing else was abnormal. The front of the PSU (towards the inside of the case) is where I saw the biggest difference from any other PSU. I immediately noticed the third 80mm fan in this unit. It, just like the top/bottom fan, was much thinner than the rear exhaust fan.
When it came to the cabling, I was thoroughly impressed. I first noticed that the main ATX power connector wires were bundled by a black ?? nylon mesh ? almost exactly like my Enermax. At the end of the nylon mesh, it had been finished off with a nice heat shrink covered zip tie. No wires other than the main ATX bundle were wrapped in nylon mesh, which wasn?t surprising; I am sure the price would have risen significantly. For Intel Pentium 4 processor support, this PSU included the usual ATX12V Connector, and for server board use, this PSU included the AUX connector. Along with those cables are ten normal molex connectors and two floppy disk drive connectors. These amounts are fairly standard ? I have noticed Enermax includes the same number of connectors and Antec does the same with their PSUs.
At this point, I was fairly impressed. Though I had not previously heard of the Coolmax Taurus PSU, I was feeling pretty confident about the possible performance of this product. Before I began to pull out my existing Enermax 431watt PSU, I took a quick reading from my DigiDoc5 for voltage reference. The +5 voltage rating on this PSU was steady at 5.06v and the +12 voltage rating was bouncing about every 30 seconds from 12.30v to 12:31v. To give you a little bit of background information, the +12v supply is mainly used for drives as well as any cooling items your system may use (fans, etc). The +5v supply is mainly used for the motherboard functionality and PCI components. This explains the relationship between low voltage and system failures. The test bed for both PSUs is below:
-AMD Athlon XP 2200+
-Gigabyte GA-7dxr Motherboard
-Dual 80GB Western Digital @ 7200rpm (8mb cache)
-512mb PC2100 Micron DDR Ram
-Visiontek GeForce3 64mb O/C
-SoundBlaster Audigy OEM Sound card
-Netgear 10/100 NIC
-IOGear USB 2.0 (2 port) PCI card
-Hewlett Packard 10x CDRW
-Generic 48x CD-rom
-Digidoc5 Temperature Monitoring system
-ThermalTake Volcano 9 Heatsink w/ SmartFanII
-92mm Panaflo Intake
-Two 80mm Antec Tri-LED Exhaust
-ThermalTake Crystal Orb VGA cooler
My Enermax holds this somewhat demanding system exceptionally well. The voltages are constant, no blue screens, brown outs or burning smell coming from the PSU. After I switched the power supplies out, I booted up the system and I was not surprised to see the Power Supply able to hold its own weight. No brown outs etc even while running 3dmark (to run the hardware intensely). The first thing I noticed was the cool tri-led fan on the rear of the PSU. I was starring at it for a couple of seconds before I remembered the fan speed control to the right of it. My first action without having a second thought was to play with the switch from high to medium and the second I moved the switch, the power supply shut off. At this point I was a bit ticked off that it could have potentially killed my system so I unplugged everything before proceeding and rigged it using our tester power supply guide. This allowed me to play with the switch until I could try and troubleshoot the problem. After a couple minutes of playing with the switch, and unplugging/plugging it back in, I came to the conclusion that in-between settings on the switch, there is no power which is turning off the power supply. I could see that if I flipped the switch as fast as I could while the power supply was on, it would stay on but a leisurely flip of the switch turned it off. This is a HUGE problem especially if you plan on using this feature a lot. A user, without thinking twice would just flip the switch and turn off their system. My solution to this was to leave the switch alone or turn the computer off, change the switch and turn the PSU back on (which was severely inconvenient). To clear things up, I asked Miguel from Review-Shack (who also received the same product) if his PSU had the same problem and he said no. This tells me that this is a flaw with this particular power supply, but should be added to the list of ?things to test? for Coolmax.
So, back to the test bed- I plugged the power supply back into my system and powered it up. This time I made sure to keep the switch where it was, and I taped off a ten foot ring around the computer to make sure no one touched the switch. Ok, maybe I didn?t but that?d be funny right? So I powered on the system and took the voltage readings from the Digidoc5. I was stunned to see such low results this first time, so I spoke with Afturmath (our editor), and we though it?d be a good idea to take a second test run. Before this second test, we brainstormed for about thirty minutes until we came to the conclusion that the positioning of the DigiDoc5 along the molex chain (at the end or closest to the PSU) does indeed effect voltage readings on the DigiDoc5. With this in mind, I carefully configured the Taurus 550watt PSU?s molex connectors in the SAME EXACT arrangement as my previous configuration with the Enermax. I made sure this time, that the DigiDoc5 was in the EXACT position along the molex chain as it was on the Enermax. I booted the system as normal, and I did notice a slight increase in voltage readings. For the +5v rating, I noticed that the voltage was still a bit lower than my 431watt Enermax PSU, but it stayed steady at 4.99v. Even the +12 results were lower than the Enermax- between 12.27v and 12.28v. This voltage, as well, was bouncing between readings ? very fluctuant. With this in mind, I had my second thoughts about this PSU. Sure, looks often do count, and this PSU would look slick with my Lian-Li PC7. Sure this PSU can power on a high demanding system, but it?s what you can?t ?see? that bothers me the most ? voltages. While I did not have the time to test this product on a month long time period, I am not really sure how the Taurus 550watt PSU would perform with a high power demanding system long-term, but a guess says it wouldn?t have a problem.
While some review sites claim the Coolmax Taurus 550watt PSU to be the ??very best the world has to offer?? (Anonymous) I would strongly have to disagree. Seeing as this 550watt power supply?s voltages did not exactly come out equal or above the voltages of the 431watt Enermax PSU, the Taurus did not earn the title of ?world?s best? in my book. The Taurus has a very sleek brushed aluminum texture (comparable to the Lian-Li chassis texture) and a very unique three fan design, but unless you plan on running this power supply on a less demanding system than our test bed, I would have to suggest that you keep on searching. Although this PSU did have its downside, performance, Coolmax definitely has Enermax beat, hands-down, as far as price. While the 550watt Enermax cost up to $200.00, the 550watt Coolmax Taurus can be purchased from ePowerHousePC for around $130.00.