For those who don't realise, a £20 "500W" power supply isn't very good, and unfortunately, the market is flooded with all kinds of tat like this. Good PSUs cost a fair bit of money, but where do you really draw the line between cheap and cheerful, and just inexpensive quality?
We found the VX550W is pretty much the cheapest quality
550W PSU on the market, however, there are quite a few modular units that compete with it, including the HX520W which can be had for around eight or nine pounds more
Others include the Cooler Master RealPower Pro 520W for £58.62
and the Gigabyte ODIN Pro 500W at £58.16
which are both modular but rated at a slightly lower power.
However there are a few non-modular units like the OCZ StealthXstream 500W which is just £38.72
. The OCZ is manufactured by FSP and reading around there are reports of noisy batches and high ripple under load, although they also say it does do what it's meant to.
Enermax is still charging a bit too much for its Pro 82+ range – the 525W is £57.87
in comparison. We've seen the 625W
, and it's very good indeed, but apples to apples and you'd likely buy the Corsair which is £8 cheaper and is rated 25W higher, or you’d opt for the modular alternatives which are the same price.
The most serious contender to Corsair is the Seasonic S12 II 500W which is just £51.57
. This is also non-modular, and you're buying top to bottom Seasonic design and build quality. It's unfortunate that the PC Power and Cooling Silencer 500W isn't available in the UK – the 610W is £70 which puts it well beyond the price of the VX550W for only 60W more.
The "problem" with the mainstream market is that it's extremely compressed in price and full of choice, there's no definitive answer – while the Corsair VX450W is just £41.31
, why not spend £8 more and get 100W extra to play with from the VX550W? That's a nice extra overhead so it'll keep the fan quieter for longer and survive future upgrades, unless you suddenly plan to throw half a dozen graphics cards at it in six months.
We'd strongly argue in favour of buying a modular unit for another £8 again. At this level you're unlikely to need all six SATA and Molex connectors, so we'd have to stress that a modular PSU is very much an investment. However, if you're on a very tight budget and have excellent cable management skills, then fire away and get the Corsair VX or Seasonic.
Continually, we find ourselves looking at great Corsair PSUs – the HX, the TX and now the VX have all performed fantastically. The VX550W does exactly what it says on the tin and even though our model dropped a fraction below 80 percent efficiency under significant 3.3V and 5V stress, it's very unlikely they'll ever hit these sorts of values in a real PC. Where it matters the Corsair VX550W works exceptionally well, hitting upwards of 85 percent efficiency throughout the rest of the tests.
We'd be torn between the significant benefits of buying modular, versus the extra cost and slightly lower power. I used the VX550W in my own home theatre PC for a few months prior to this review and it was nothing but fantastic. In this instance, cable management didn't matter since there was a large enough case that was designed just to be super-low noise: in that respect it worked perfectly. I even had to install an extra cathode it to tell if the system was on or off, simply because it was that quiet
I couldn't hear it unless my head was all of two inches away.
I had to swap it out for the Thermaltake Toughpower Q-Fan 650W we reviewed before the Corsair and while that quotes just 17dB you'd be very hard pushed to tell them apart. I'd still prefer to use the Corsair VX550W simply because the cables are better designed (4+4-pin EPS 12V instead of an 8-pin with a 4-pin tail), even though it's not modular.
For any Intel P35/P45 or AMD 770X, 780G based PC with mainstream components the VX550W should absolutely suffice, but it's not the
answer for everyone – there are a lot more ifs and buts than when we looked at the TX750W. If you do decide to buy a VX550W though, you won't be disappointed.
What do these scores mean?