Ultra X3 1000W PSU

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Product: Ultra Products X3 1000W Modular PSU
Provided by: Ultra Products
Real-Time Price:

Introduction:

The Ultra X3 1000W PSU that we have on the bench today is the second 1kW PSU we've tested.  Back in October we had a look at the Thermaltake Toughpower 1000W unit, and today we are looking at Ultra's 1000W offering and will see how it stacks up.  This unit is modular, very shiny and has a single 12v rail that offers up an impressive 70A.  If you have a power hungry gaming rig with multiple graphics cards, you'll want to keep on reading to see if this PSU has what it takes, or if it's all smoke and mirrors (hopefully not much smoke).

1000W Box
1000W Box

 

Cables - First Look:

Once you open the box, you are greeted with a smaller box that holds the cables for this unit.  There are a total of 18 cables in the box and enough connections to keep a couple of machines running.  The cables are not "sleeved" as such, but have a nice finish that is very flexible and manageable.

Box Of Cables
Box Of Cables

 

Below is a picture from Ultra of the cable lineup included with the 1000W Ultra X3 PSU.

Included Cables

 

One thing that I appreciate about Ultra X3 PSU's is the cable lengths and configuration.  Not only are there a lot of cables, but the cables come in various lengths that make it easier to tame the cable beast inside your machine.  These cables are extremely flexible, which makes things even easier.

Cable Lengths

 

PSU - First Look:

The Ultra X3 1000W PSU is not the heaviest unit we've tested, but it isn't a feather-weight either.  It is pretty stout and comes very well packaged.  The box is almost on the 1000W unit is red, where the 800W and 600W units we've reviewed in the past where simply black.  The red grabs your attention and makes you want to open the box and take a better look.

This PSU is only a little longer than standard Power Supplies and should fit into almost any case.  The exception will be cases that fit the PSU at the very top, and have a top exhaust fan.  This could pose a problem.

 PSU Profile
PSU Profile

 

Another thing I like about the X3 series from Ultra Products is the completely modular design.  Even the 24-pin motherboard connector is modular.  In some ways this is overkill, as every computer will need this cable.  However, in some tight cases, it may be easier to install the PSU without the large cable, so this is a welcome feature. 

 Modular Connectors
Modular Connectors
 Grill And Switch
Grill And Switch

 

Cooling is taken care of by a well-ventilated grill on the back and a large 135mm fan.  The grill also contains the standard Power connector and switch.  Some power supplies, like the Zalman ZM-850HP, don't have a power switch and this can be annoying.  Thankfully, the Ultra X3 1kW unit has a switch.  There is not switch for 110v/220v, but the PSU takes care of this automatically.

Before we tear this unit apart and see what's inside, let's take a look at the features, specifications and information from Ultra.


PSU Features:

The X3 PSU has a long list of features and information that are pulled for the Ultra site and quoted below for you.

Ultra pulls out all of the stops for their latest power supply. By combining our "EE" (Energy Efficient) platform, which converts as much as 85% of AC power into DC power during typical loads, with a quiet 135MM ball bearing fan, our patented modular interface and our Limited Lifetime Warranty, Ultra clearly dominates the market with the new X3 power supply!

The X3 is super efficient, using less electricity than other power supplies when providing power to your computer and it generates less heat. Cooling is substantial yet silent by utilizing a thermostatically controlled 135MM ball bearing fan and a honeycomb cut exhaust grill. The X3 also has full range active PFC, which improves apparent power used by the computer. The modular interface allows you to only plug in the cables you actually require for your particular PC. The X3 is ready for even the most high end gaming rigs by providing up to four 6-pin PCI-e connectors, and the 800W and 1000W models provide the newest 8-pin PCI-e connector for the latest 300W graphics cards.

If you're looking for an efficient, quiet, powerful, modular power supply with a Lifetime Warranty, there's no reason to look any farther than the Ultra X3!

 

Features

 

PSU Specs:

Truth be told, the list of features is pretty impressive, and it looks good so far.  Let's take a look at the specs of this PSU to see if Ultra can keep the ball rolling.   The first image comes from the PSU itself and is a close-up shot of the label.

 PSU Label
PSU Label

 

According to the sticker on the PSU, this unit can product a total of 840W on the 12v line and 160W on both the 5v and 3.3v lines for a total of 1000W.  If we do a little math though, we see that the 5v and 3.3v lines should be able to produce more power than the sticker says.  A 5v line with a 28A rating should be able to deliver 140W, while a 3.3v line at 24A should deliver 79.2W of power.  That adds up to 219.2W - not the 160W on the sticker.  At 100% efficiency, this unit could provide around 1090W to your system - in an ideal scenario of course.

Speaking of efficiency, this PSU is rated as an Energy Efficient unit and according to Ultra, this is how it's efficiency vs. load breaks down.

Efficiency Graph

 

Although it's rated as Energy Efficient and 85% efficient at Typical load, in now way above do we see the PSU doing better than 80%.

Output

It seems that somewhere the information hasn't gotten updated correctly.

On the next page, we'll open up this PSU and take a look around.


Open 'er Up!

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.

Fan Open
PSU Open - Fan


The high amperage of this 1kW PSU 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.

 Inside Full View
Inside Full View
Inside Close
Inside Close
   
 Inside Close Again
Inside Close Again
 12v Solder Job
12v Solder Job

 

Some of the components inside this 1000W 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.  The solder job on the main 12v line to the modular backplane on this unit is much neater and tidier than the 800W unit we recently reviewed.  There is still a lot of solder on the 12v lines inside the unit but it's not overdone.  Also keep in mind that these lines have to carry 70A of continuous power to live up to their specifications.

 

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 1000W 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 don't instill any confidence in the 1000W version of the X3 as compared to the 800W unit.  Overall voltage ripple and noise are quite high for a non-load situation, but this isn't necessarily representative of typical load results either.  The 3.3v line is up to 3.42 volts and is showing 44mV 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 52mV concerns me a bit.  Moving on to the large 12v line shows noise measured at 50mV - well within the 120mV spec.  You'll also notice that this line is "Hot" at 12.7 volts.  We'll have to see how it regulates when loaded, but 12.7v is pretty high - right on the 5% border line.  On this PSU, we've also included -12v information.  The -12v line is also showing 50mV noise and is running high at -10.6v.  This will likely smooth out when we put a load on the PSU.

At this point the voltage rails are all closer to their rated output and the noise is slightly lower on this PSU than its 800W sibling.

 

 

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 a little over a third of its 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 54mv and is slightly over the maximum allowable ripple and noise according to the ATX max specification.  The 5v ripple has also increased and measures 50mv, but the 12v line is solid at 68mv out of the allowable 120mv.  Voltages are also coming in line now, but all are on the high side.  The 3.3v line measures 3.39 and the 5v line is at 5.01v.  The +12v line is still hot at 12.6, 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 1kW stumble on the Tektronix TDS2002 Scope.  The average voltages are still acceptable, 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 pretty shaky at this load as the 3.3v line is now measured at 48mV - only 2mV below the maximum 50mV allowable measurement.  The 5v line is even worse and measures 66mV peak-to-peak.  Both the +12v line and -12v line are stable though and measure 74mV and 52mV ripple and noise respectively.  The performance of the 12v line, although quite good, is a little noisier than its 800W little brother as it has the same two 8800GTX's and an overclocked Quad Core CPU sucking the life from it.  The other line that really suffers and actually falls out of spec is the 5v line.

Performance Summary:

The Ultra X3 1000W 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 1000W PSU constantly had a Power Factor of 0.99 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.

Ave. Voltage

 

 Ave. Ripple

 

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 months, if not years on end.  A closer look at the quality of the power shows us that Ultra still 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 - 350W less that its maximum rating.  Although its stable during testing, this PSU actually fails to deliver on its rated capability.

We expressed concern with the 600W X3 PSU as well as the 800W X3 PSU and noisy lines, but were only able to test the first 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 are building 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.