Antec kindly sent us the EA-380 from this range, an entry level 380W PSU with the claim to fame is that it is certified to be 80 PLUS compliant. In case you're wondering, 80 PLUS is the new standard for energy efficiency in power supplies, that requires them to be at least 80% efficient at 20, 50 and 100% load. Incidentally this new specification came in as previously a PSU's efficiency was only rated at full load, but were often significantly less power efficient at lower loads, which is where a PSU will spend most of its time.
The unit arrived in a pleasant looking box, that we assume is made from recycled cardboard, and contained the PSU, power cord, a few bits paper detailing warranties and instructions and four mounting screws in a small plastic bag just about large enough for a bird to choke on.
As you can see, the unit itself is very utilitarian, there are no see through sides, glowing fans, fan controllers or modular plugs, this is about as basic as it gets. A total of seven cables pour from the chassis, providing power for six IDE drives, a floppy drive, two S-ATA drives and one PCIe connector along with the ATX and auxiliary 12V connectors. If you're going to be running a dual graphics card PC you'll have to spring for the 500W model that has two PCIe power connectors.
If you're looking at a 380W PSU, chances are you're not running a monster system, which means you're bound to have a few cables left over once you're done connecting it up, and not having a modular design means you'll need to find somewhere to stash the leftovers.
I decided to test the PSU on my own personal PC. Having originally sprung for a 600W PSU when I built the machine, I was curious to see how Nova's talk about not needing massive power supplies to run your machine panned out on my PC. Running an AMD 64 X2 4000+ processor on an ASUS mobo with 2GB of DDR RAM, an ATI X850 graphics card, two hard drives and a DVD Writer; I figured this should push Antec's EA-380, in fact I was slightly dubious about whether it would run at all.
It turned out that my misgivings were completely unfounded, the PC booted fine and after a few days of usage it was still running perfectly, despite running a barrage of games and benchmarks repeatedly overnight to make sure I was loading the PSU as much as possible. Even at its most strenuous I was only pulling about 250W, giving the EA-380 room to spare, and throughout my tests the voltage output was rock solid.
The 80mm low-noise fan was fairly quiet, certainly quieter than my GPU fan under load. The unit didn't get particularly warm even after running for several days non-stop, so the design is obviously good enough to keep airflow up.
I was impressed by the performance of this offering from Antec, it's not going to be the first choice for enthusiasts, but it will happily run today's entry and mid level PC's. Its high efficiency means you'll shave a few bucks off you power bill and help do you bit for the environment, but this may offset by your addition to global warming thanks to the warm glow of self-satisfaction you may develop.
At around $50 or £30, it's quite reasonably priced, but not the cheapest PSU you'll find, and the small price increase is easily justified by the high quality of components used to make sure of the 80 PLUS certification. If 380W is a little too low for you the EarthWatts range also has a 430W and 500W version. Should you buy one of these make sure you recycle all the packaging. ?
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