Tell any self-respecting computer geek that we can't have a cool and quiet rig that also runs with superior performance, and you are more than likely going to get a highly caffeinated beverage-can upside the head. We simply aren't willing to sacrifice performance for running cool or near silently. We want high performance in every aspect of our rigs and the power supply is no exception. Even first-time builders are coming around to the fact that your PC is only as good as the power it's running on. Take an unstable, loud, hot-running PSU and you might as well throw the rest of the parts in the trash.
Today, more than ever, we need not only great performance from our rigs, but we are also taking a stand against hellishly hot rigs that are as loud as a rock concert.
Enter Be-Quiet. This company has spent the last few years building a solid reputation for themselves across Europe,for their "cool & quiet" PC parts. The StraightPower series is their fourth generation of PSUs designed to provide near silent, high-performance power with cool temps to boot. This isn't really surprising considering that they are owned by German-based Listan International, a company that owns, among others, Arctic Cooling, Cooler Master, and Zalman.
What makes Be-Quiet think they should be our next choice in power supplies? Take a look at their feature list and you just might find one of the answers:
- "Thermal Control" cooling and noise reduction technology
- Quad (4) +12V Rails
- Support for ATX 12V v1.3 and ATX 12V v2.2
- Support for EPS 12V 2.91 (Dual-CPU / Server support)
- MTBF (operating life) of greater than 100,00 hour @ 40C
- Active PFC - 83% & 50% Load & 99% @ 100% Load
- Over Voltage Protection
- Over Current Protection
- Short Circuit Protection
- RoHS Compliancy
- 3 Year Warranty
Quad Rails. Sounds sexy doesn't it? This isn't the first PSU to be reviewed that comes with four +12v rails, but it is one of the first in the 600W range that offers 18A per rail and a total combined amp limit of 48A. We were thrilled to see an amp limit in the high 40s instead of the high 30s which is far more normal in this range of PSU wattage. With the thought of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) quad-GPU setups just around the corner, we were disappointed that none of the rails offered anything higher than 18A. We would have been estatic if one or two of the rails had offered something closer to 23A per rail, as this would have offered us more of a promise towards future expandability.
CABLES AND CONNECTIONS
Our first impression of the StraightPower 600, based on the size & weight of the packaging was that it was a beast that we might have trouble fitting into our case.
We quickly realized that looks can be deceiving because once we opened the box, what we actually found was a small formfactor PSU whose dimensions are a slim 14cm(L) x 15cm(W) x 8.7cm(H). This small footprint was nice to see as it offers the flexibility to fit this PSU into a variety of cases from desktop through full-tower models.
Much like her 550W sister, the StraightPower 600W PSU is surprisingly light in weight, with more than 50% of its overall weightiness coming from the cables themselves. This is not to say that the power supply is lightweight or wimpy in construction, it's just that 11 cable strands tend to get heavy.
Speaking of cables, we checked out the cable strands that are provided with the StraightPower 600W PSU in order to see just what we were dealing with. There is truly a plethora of connectors on this power supply, enough so that during testing, we could remove all of the "Y" adapters we've had to use on our rigs in the past. Another huge advantage to this power supply is cable length, which is outstanding measuring in at around 2 feet (60cm). Even in a BTX Full Tower case we had no problems with cable length.
With 6 molex and 8 SATA connectors, it was sheer joy to set aside the "Y" adapters that we have so often had to use in our cases in the past.
Dedicated fan connectors are always a plus too.
Proper cable-management can help you control both noise and temps within the case because of the improved airflow it promotes. Be-Quiet is one of those companies that recognizes the importance of proper cable-management within our rigs. We say that because the StraightPower 600W PSU comes replete with a cable-management startup kit. Included in this kit are six (6) velcro wraps and six (6) zip ties . We call it a starter kit because with the length and number of cables on this power supply, to be considered a complete kit it would have required Be-Quiet to provide at least double the zip ties and velcro wraps.
Cable sleeves works hand-in-hand with cable management. It's far easier to properly manage your cables if you don't have an over abundance of loose wires that have a tendancy to stick out in every direction. Be-Quiet did a great job on the StraightPower 600 with its sleeving job. The cable sleeves are strong and durable, and they left enough space unsleeved at each connector to allow for added flexibility for bending the cables inside the case.
Be-Quiet currently only ships its lines of power supplies throughout Europe. While this might explain why we only received a power cable fitted for European outlets, we were none the less disappointed in this omission. We really wanted to use the power cable that came with the unit as it's a nice, heavy-duty power cable.
The StraightPower 600 shipped with 10 screws to use in securing the PSU to the case. While only 4 screws are actually needed, we were given our choice bewteen 5 standard screws and 5 thumbscrews. This is the first time we've ever encountered thumbscrews with a PSU, but they were able to be properly tightened down using a phillips screwdriver making either set a viable choice.
EXTERIOR AND COOLING
Be-Quiet coats the exterior of their StraightPower series of power supplies with a black mirror-like finish. This black finish has been specially formulated to cut back on EM interference from the PSU, giving it function in addition to form.
The StraightPower 600 is an auto-switching power supply, which means there is no "little red switch" on the back of the PSU that sets the voltage between 110V or 230V.
A Protechnic "Noise Magic" ball-bearing 120mm fan cools the unit admirably. The fan is mounted on the bottom of the PSU and is slightly off-set in order to blow air more efficiently over the heatsinks. The back of the PSU is a honeycombed mesh, offering plenty of room for the hot air to escape. The fan was effectively silent at both idle and 50% loads. Even at 100% load the fan remained incredibly quiet.
Just like her sister units, the StraightPower 600 comes with a "Thermal Control" feature that allows you to connect up to 3 case fans to the included speed control connectors. These connectors not only provide power to the fans, but also allow the StraightPower 600 to control the fan speeds based on an internal thermal sensor in the PSU. We connected two of our case fans using these connectors during testing and found it to be very impressive. They were far quieter than the other 2 fans in the case, and it did not cause the case, CPU, or GPU to run any hotter.
INTERNALS AND TESTING
As is true of any power supply worth its salt, its all about the components that they use inside. All of the beautiful exteriors in the world can't make up for inefficient or low-end components. High-quality components are important to us, as we are sure they are to you. The only way to check this out is to break the seal on the PSU and open up the case. Remember that doing this voids your warranty and presents a risk of electric shock (even when unplugged), so its not something that we suggest. We break the warranty and put our necks on the line so that you don't have to!
The internal layout is extremely clean. High-quality components abound and can be seen throughout the power supply. Be-Quiet states that they use an optimized circuit board layout in order to promote better cooling and performance. The PSU internals are installed on a raised-platform inside the case to allow for better airflow.
While we would have preferred to see larger heatsinks installed on the PSU, the installed heatsinks seem to work extremely well. Even after running at 100% load for more than 24 hours, the power supply was cool to the touch and voltages were dead-on stable.
We installed the StraightPower 600W PSU into a full tower case which housed the following components for testing:
Simply connecting the power supply to external capacitors is nothing compared to real-world testing. In order to see how the StraightPower 600 handles itself in grueling and power hungry conditions, we test using a digital multimeter to record all voltages. We test every possible connection on the +3.3V, +5V, and all four +12V rails. We perform the following tests:
- Computer at idle
- Playing a full-length DVD movie
- Running 3DMark 2003 tests
- Running at 100% load for 24 hours using Prime95
Throughout the tests, we performed large file copies (in excess of 60GB) in the background in an effort to max power output to all six hard drives.
Every cable and every connector is tested while performing the above tests. It's time-consuming, but we believe it provides us with a better idea of the voltages we are more likely to get in a real-world environment. There was absolutely no fluctuation in the voltages recorded during any of the testing we performed. The Be-Quiet StraightPower 600W PSU proved to be an outstanding stable performer.
There are a lot of things to consider when making a decision on the power supply for your system. After an exhaustive amount of testing, we believe the StraightPower 600 shakes down as follows:
Cables & Connections
Cooling & Noise
Warranty & Support
Price / Value
Be-Quiet has created another winner with their StraightPower 600W Power Supply. It handled everything we threw at it and asked for more. By all measure this is an great PSU, though a few key issues kept it from being outsanding. Provided that they open up in the North American market, this is an excellent choice for a 600W PSU. A better score could have been achieved if they had offered just a few features more that would set it apart from its 550W sister.
If you want Silent operation and excellent power, the StraightPower 600W is an excellent choice for any of your current PC computing needs.