Ultra X3 800W Modular PSU

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Product: Ultra X3 800W Modular PSU
Provided By: Ultra Products
Price: $249.99USD MSRP

Introduction:

There was a time when gamers and enthusiasts didn't pay much attention to their power supply when upgrading their machine.  Things have changed recently though as systems require more power thanks to power-hungry graphics cards and quad-core processors.  These days, a well-equipped machine can easily draw 600W of power consistently, and extreme users will find them needing even more power than that.  Today we are looking at a well-equipped PSU from Ultra Products and will find out if the 800W X3 has enough power for our test rig.  We'll be stressing this unit in the real world, monitoring watt usage and recording rail stability with our Tektronix TDS2002 scope.  Take a look at our PSU testing methods for more details on our PSU testing platform.

Ultra Box
Ultra Box

 

About the X3:

The X3 PSU from Ultra is their third major revision to their modular PSU line.  These power supplies are completely modular - including the 24-pin motherboard connection - a first in modular PSU design.  While some may not like this idea, as more connections can lead to more trouble and a higher amount of products RMA'd, I like modular PSU's very much.  It is very handy to only plug in the wires you need.

Features

Every X3 PSU from Ultra has a single large 12v rail.  While some companies have as many as six 12v rails (see the Zalman ZM850-HP), Ultra believes that a single, solid, high-amp rail is better than several lower-rated rails.  We'll see when it comes to testing, how this rail holds up.  The X3 800W unit has a +12v rail rated at 36A while this 800W unit is rated at 55A.  Once you get into the 1kW unit, we see the +12v rail climb up to 70A, and the new 1600W unit has an insane 117A rating on its single +12v rail.

 

Before we take a look at what you get with this unit, I thought you may be interested to see how it balances the sum of its 800W load.

Energy Efficient

According to the specs on the product page, the PSU has a 28A +5V rail, a 24A 3.3V rail and a massive 55A +12V rail.  These actually differ than the label on the PSU, but we'll get to that in a minute.

 

In The Box:

The Ultra X3 600W PSU comes in a rather large box, and is quite heavy.  If heavy means quality, this should be a good PSU.  Inside the box is a smaller box that houses all of your modular cables, a power cable and some screws for mounting this unit in your case.

Box Of Cables
Box Of Cables

 

Because of the modular design, the Ultra X3 is simple to install as it has absolutely no cables dangling to get in the way or to hang up on your tall CPU cooler.  I ♥ modular.

 Back Grill
Back Grill
 PSU Label
PSU Label
Modular Connections
Modular Connections

 

As you can see, the X3 has an amazing finish that shows fingerprints, smudges and dust irritatingly well.  As we take a look around this unit, we see that it comes with all the usual amalgamation of stickers stating that it has passed certification.  Also on the side of the unit is a label touting the amp rating of each rail.  You'll notice that the actual PSU shows a +12v rail rating of 60A, not the 55A stated on the product page.  This brings the +12v line up to 720W.  If you are good at math at all, you'll notice that the rails add up to much more than 800W.  This is important to note, as each company figures things out differently and not all PSU are created equal.

Ultra uses a nice slow 135mm fan that makes very little noise and cannot be heard above the stock cooling on most graphics cards.  With an ambient sound level of 39.9db in our shop, we measured the fan at 42.3db at 6 inches.  For all intents and purposes, this fan is silent.  After a few hours of stress testing at a 650W load, I thought I heard the fan get quite loud.  It turns out that it was the northbridge fan on our 680i based motherboard.  We were overclocking and the chipset was getting very warm.  As far as the X3 800W PSU goes though, we could not  hear the fan at all during testing.


X3 800W PSU Cables:

Ultra has provided a plethora of cables for massive amounts of connectivity with this unit.  There are a total of 19 additional cables with this unit that allow connecting a total of 28 devices, including three fans + motherboard connections.  If you need more devices inside your case than that, you'll probably need a bigger PSU to go with them.

The beauty of these cables is that they are so flexible.  This is thanks to the Ultra Products "FlexForce" Slim Cable design.

FlexForce

FlexForce is a beautiful thing.  These cables can be bent quite sharply and tucked into a small gap to help hide the cables and make your case neat and tidy.

 

Cable Lengths
Cable Lengths

 Included Cables
Included Cables

 

If you need more cables to power your computer, you've got more hardware, fans and accessories than most people.  One thing that I really like about the cables included with this PSU is the diverse lengths.  If you need long cables to reach drives in a large case, they are included.  On the flip side, there are also shorter cables to reach in smaller cases.  Not only are the length choices great, but these cables are very flexible as well.  This makes for a great set of cables that enhance the looks of a sleek power supply.

 

Inside the X3:

Please keep in mind that when opening a power supply you immediately void all warranty.  You also run risk of harming yourself if you should in fact accidentally discharge a capacitor through your finger, ear or lips.  Please don't open your own PSU as it could be hazardous.

 Open Profile
Open Profile
 Full Open
Full Open
   
 Large Coils
Large Coils
 Solder Gobs
Solder Gobs

 

Some of the components inside this 800W unit are just downright massive.  This is because of the single high current 12v rail.  This is the largest coil I've seen in a PSU to date, but I'm sure the one inside a 1200W or 1600W PSU are much larger.  If you belong to the "bigger the gob the better the job" philosophy when it comes to soldering, the X3 800W is a winner.  There is a lot of solder on the 12v lines inside the unit.  They have to carry 60A of continuous power to live up to their specifications.

This high amperage produces quite a bit of heat, although with an 80%+ efficient PSU, the heat is somewhat reduced over less efficient units.  Still, cooling must be done and it's taken care of by some rather large heatsinks and the single 135mm fan.

135mm Fan
135mm Fan

 

On the next page, we'll begin testing this unit to see how it stands up to a fairly demanding system.


Testing the X3:

In the past, we've prided ourselves on real-world testing.  For graphics cards, CPUs and memory, what matters is what takes place in real applications and games.  We also held that philosophy for PSU testing, but after a while, we realized that there is more to a PSU that being able to run a machine stable over a few weeks or months.  In reality, if there is a lot of ripple, this can damage sensitive traces on your $700 graphics card or $1300 CPU.  A multi-meter alone is not good enough to check PSU voltage stability.  It's for this reason that we've updated our PSU testbed, and will continue to improve the detail and quality of our PSU reviews.  That being said, we will still be testing the PSU in a system and will be including stress tests from real components in the real world.

We recently purchased a Tektronix TDS2002 60MHz Dual Channel scope and it has already become invaluable around the shop here at BCCHardware headquarters.  I've used it to troubleshoot everything from PSU's to Radars, and we are using it today to check the stability of the X3 800W unit from Ultra Products.


Test System:

 

15W (No Load) Tests:

We initially plugged the PSU into an EZ PSU Tester 3 in order to power it on for our "idle" measurements.  As noticed below, the voltage rails were fairly stable with no load, but these aren't necessarily indicative of overall load performance.  According to our Kill-a-Watt, the power draw was 15W.  We have started to include these non-load results and compare with other power supplies to see how they manage a non-load situation, and how much power the PSU itself will draw.

 3.3v at 15W
3.3v at 15W
 5v at 15W
5v at 15W
   
 12v at 15W
12v at 15W
 -12v at 15W
-12v at 15W

 

The graphs above scare me a little bit as far as overall voltage ripple and noise go.  The 3.3v line is up to 3.44 volts and is showing 46mV of noise.  Keep in mind that maximum ripple on this line should not exceed 50mV and we're almost there.  You can see the ripple in the 5v line under a non-load situation.  That doesn't concern me too much, but the fact that it is out of spec at 58mV concerns me a bit.  Moving on to the large 12v line shows noise measured at 52mV - well within the 120mV spec.  You'll also notice that this line is "Hot" at 12.6 volts.  We'll have to see how it regulates when loaded, but 12.6 is pretty high - right on the 5% border line.  On this PSU, we've also included -12v information.  The -12v line is showing 54mV noise and is running high at -11.7v.  This will likely smooth out when we put a load on the PSU.

 

380W Tests:

To load things up a bit we overclocked the Q6600 to 3.0GHz and let the system run Folding @ Home for team BCC.  This put some stress on the PSU and brought it up to just under half of the rated output.  Even with four Hard Drives, a couple of 8800GTX graphics cards in SLI and a bunch of other gear, we're only up to 380W.  This shows that unless you're doing some incredible things, a medium ranged PSU will likely have enough juice.

 3.3v at 380W
3.3v at 380W
 5v at 380W
5v at 380W
   
12v at 380W
12v at 380W
 -12v at 380W
-12v at 380W

 

When pulling more power through the X3 we see the ripple and noise once again play a factor.  While the average voltage measurements look fine according to a multi-meter or software such as OCCT, in reality, noise and ripple happen very fast and other testing methods cannot capture the rapid rippling that takes place.  It is for this reason that we've started to revamp our PSU Testing Methods.  The 3.3v ripple actually increased once again to 50mv and is the maximum allowable ripple and noise according to the ATX max specification.  The 5v ripple has also increased and is also measured at 50mv, but the 12v line is solid at 54mv out of the allowable 120mv.  Voltages are also coming in line now, but all are on the high side.  The 3.3v line measures 3.41 and the 5v line is at 5.1v.  The 12v line is still hot at 12.5, and the -12v line is now dropped to acceptable measures at -12.4.

While many people may not see a drawback of running higher voltages, it is a bit of a way for companies to "cheat" on their delivered AMPs in my opinion.  If you have higher voltage, you don't need as many Amps to do the same task.  As long as everything is within reason, this is not a bad thing, but constant over-voltage can cause issues down the road.  That being said, under-voltage is more dangerous as it requires higher amp and causes the voltage regulators to produce more heat.

On the last page we'll take a look at full 650W tests and wrap things up.


650W Tests:

We've seen the X3 800W PSU start off kind of shaky with some high ripple and noise values on the 3.3v and 5v lines, but its big selling feature is the massive 12v line.  This has remained solid so far.  This next setup is the maximum power draw that we can currently put on a PSU with our test system.  We could hook it to more than one computer as I've seen other people do, but this is real-world and not many people will share a PSU with more than one computer.  Following are the measurements of our test system when running at 3.2GHz on the Q6600 with both graphics cards overclocked slightly.  The system is running four instances of Folding @ Home for team BCC, and is looping a single demo test in 3DMark06.  We are running 3DMark at 1680x1050 at 8x AA and 16x AF in order to stress the graphics.  This heated things up and brought us a nice 650W load.

 3.3v at 650W
3.3v at 650W
 5v at 650W
5v at 650W
   
 12v at 650W
12v at 650W
-12v at 650W
-12v at 650W

 

With our test system running wide open, we see the X3 800W stumble on the Tektronix TDS2002 Scope.  The average voltages are still high, and if you're testing with a multi-meter or a software program you'll be quite happy.  The truth is though the PSU tests out of spec at this load as the 3.3v line is now measured at 58mV - higher than the 50mV allowable measurement.  The 5v line is even worse and measures 60mV peak-to-peak.  Both the +12v line and -12v line are stable though and measure 56mV ripple and noise each.  The performance of the 12v line is quite remarkable as it has two 8800GTX's and an overclocked Quad Core CPU sucking the life from it.  The other lines are not so fortunate though.

 

Performance Summary:

The Ultra X3 800W PSU was solid is the real world as our system suffered no instability and overclocked just as good as with other Power Supplies.  According to the Kill-A-Watt the X3 800W PSU constantly had a Power Factor of 0.97 out of a possible 1.00.  According to a multi-meter, the rails were well within spec at both non-load and full-load tests.  Analyzing the power with the Tektronix scope showed different results.  We constantly saw lots of noise on the 3.3v and 5v lines that actually exceeded the limit of the ATX specifications.  Will it affect system stability and integrity over the long term?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not, but this confirms as to why we need to test products more thoroughly.

 Average Ripple

 

 Average Voltage

Please consult our PSU Testing Methods guide to better understand how we test the power supply and where we get our information from.  If you have any questions, they will likely be answered in that document.

 

Conclusion:

This is really tough to draw a conclusion on this PSU.  For the average consumer it's going to be great.  It looks fantastic, has modular connections, is quiet and provides many systems with enough power to run flawless for days, if not months on end.  A closer look at the quality of the power shows us that Ultra has some work to do with regulation and noise.  In all reality, it will probably work fine for years.  However, this unit actually falls out of spec when loaded at 650W - 150W less that its maximum rating.  Although its stable during testing, this PSU actually fails to deliver on it's rated capability.

 

We expressed concern with the 600W X3 PSU and noisy lines, but were only able to test that unit out at 400W.  The X3 is very similar and the main difference is the heftier 12v line.  Ultra needs to work on better regulation of the other lines as well.

Pros:

  • Excellent finish
  • Completely modular
  • Very quiet
  • Lots of cables and good length 

 

Cons:

  • Measured ripple and noise out of spec at high loads

 

With our first PSU review since our updated platform, we've changed the face of PSU reviews here at BCCHardware.  Our testing guidelines have set the bar incredibly high, but not impossible to reach.  As we review more Power Supplies, we'll build a database with these new figures and be able to compare more power supplies to each other.

BCCRating

 

We'd like to thank Ultra Products for sending us the X3 to review.  We do feel that they need to work on their 3.3v and 5v regulation and then they'd have themselves a winner.

Please feel free to post your thoughts, comments and questions about the X3 800W PSU from Ultra in our forum.  We'd love to hear your feedback.