Antec HCG-520M Review
Greater than 1kW power supplies certainly are fancy and popular, but the truth is, most users do not require that kind of power, including gamers and overclockers. The majority of power users prefer a power supply tailored to the needs of their system rather than the most powerful product on the shelf. To this end, Antec presented their High Current Gamer series, consisting of units ranging from 400W up to 900W, modular and not. Today we are having a look on the most popular version of the series, the HCG-520M. As the name suggests, it is a 520W rated power supply and of modular design.
Although neither the peak power of 520W nor the 80Plus Bronze certification will sound like much to the hardcore enthusiast, the output of the HCG-520M is plentiful for the majority of single-GPU gaming computers. As the power supply may be found retailing for as low as $81.84 at the time of this review, we can easily figure out what is making it so popular. But how well does it perform? Read on to find out.
Antec High Current Gamer 520W Power Supply Features:
- 520 watts of Continuous Power
- 80 PLUS Bronze certified — up to 87% efficient
- High Current Hybrid Cable Management — special 10-pin and 5-pin modular connectors for High Current rail
- Quiet 135 mm Double Ball Bearing cooling fan
- Stealth Wires: all wires darkened for minimal visibility in chassis
- All Japanese brand capacitors for reliability
- Thermal Manager: an advanced low voltage fan control for optimal heat & noise management
- Up to 90% power available on +12V rail
- ATX12V version 2.32 and EPS12V version 2.92 compliant
- Heavy-duty protection circuitry on all rails prevents damage from a variety of dangers
- MTBF: 100,000 hrs
Unboxing the power supply
The HCG-520M power supply comes supplied in a sturdy cardboard box, not unlike most Antec products. The design is colorful, mainly focused on promoting the primary features of the power supply.
Detailed feature descriptions and the number of the connectors that this power supply offers may be found at the rear side of the box.
There hardly is anything supplied with the HCG-520M, except from the basics. There is only an A/C power supply cable, mounting screws and a very basic product overview leaflet. As this unit is partially modular, there are also four cables supplied along with the unit.
While the cables of the HCG-520M look like any other ordinary sleeved cable, Antec improved their appearance by using half black-half colored cables for all of the voltage lines, an original and efficient modification. The HCG-520M offers two 8 pin PCI-E connectors, 5 SATA connectors, 4 Molex connectors and a single floppy connector.
Antec went with a by-the-book chassis design and so the size of the HCG-520M complies perfectly with the ATX design guide, with the unit being exactly 160mm deep. Aesthetically, the HCG-520M is a black power supply without many bells and whistles; however there are several visual enhancements, with which Antec is hoping to please gamers.
A striking red side sticker with the company logo and the output of the power supply can be found covering most the side of the HCG-520M unit. Yet another company logo may be seen at the lower right corner, embossed on the chassis this time.
As it is common with gamer-grade products, the sticker with the unit's electrical specifications and certifications has been placed at the top side of the HCG-520M.
The simple plastic connectors for the modular cables may be found at the rear side of the unit, along with the native ATX and CPU power cables which are coming out from an overly large hole on the chassis. The sleeving of the ATX cable is not plain black, with a red X-pattern formed across the length of the cable.
The majority of the front side of the HCG-520M is perforated, with only a simple on/off switch next to the A/C cable plug. A smaller version of the side sticker has also been placed under the A/C cable plug and switch.
A look inside
Antec chose a simple black 135mm fan, supplied by Adda. This particular model (ADN512MB-A90) features a ball bearing fan and can reach a maximum rotational speed of 1700RPM.
The HCG-520M is based on a Seasonic S12-2 platform, a moderately popular design among middle range power supply units. It is noteworthy to mention that even though the heatsinks are quite small, the internals of the unit are crowded, with a lot of silicon glue going around (the white stuff) securing the parts mechanically together.
Half of the filtering stage can be found on a little PCB behind the A/C plug receptacle, while the other half has been installed on the main PCB. The filtering stage totals six Y capacitors, two X capacitors, three coils and a MOV.
A single Rubycon 330uF/400V capacitor has been installed at the primary side of the unit. Rubycon is a brand well known between and favored by enthusiasts. The primary bridge can be seen mounted on its own small heatsink.
Each and every of the secondary side capacitors have been supplied by Nippon Chemi-Con, making this product an all-Japanese affair.
In order to be able to effectively and efficiently test any computer power supply unit, we developed and constructed our own proprietary testing station. Our testing station consists of a number of power resistors and small capacitors, which in turn are connected to a RS485 electronic relay array which allow our load to be controlled through computer software alone.
When accuracy and speed are of critical importance, a simple multimeter or voltage meter is not sufficient for the task. To ensure the quality of our testing, an USB laboratory interface is being used to continuously monitor and record the readings of all voltage lines simultaneously. For ripple measurements, an oscilloscope is necessary and we chose the USB Instruments Stingray, the most widely used oscilloscope amongst low voltage PSU engineers and testers.
For accurate testing and repeatable results, a stable power input is also required. Thus, we are providing power to our test samples through a 3kVA VARIAC which allows us to control the input voltage of our test samples and also perform efficiency tests under both 110V AC and 230V AC input. A Lutron DW-6091 is also being used, monitoring the input voltage, real and apparent power, power factor and amperage.
A power supply testing procedure would not be complete without thermal and acoustics tests. For our acoustics tests we are using a SL-5868P digital sound level meter, placed 1 meter away from the unit (DIN standard). Two PT100 sensors and their respective displays are being used to monitor the ambient temperature and the exhaust temperature of the unit.
Testing results (Regulation & Ripple)
Antec definitely improved the base Seasonic design as the HCG-520M now delivers exceptional filtering, with the maximum recorded voltage ripple barely hitting 22mV on the 12V line, nearly 6 times lower than what the design guides dictate as the operational limit. On the other hand however, the voltage regulation circuit could use an upgrade. Even though the 12V line is tightly regulated, a difference of over 4.5% between 20% and maximum load occurs on both of the minor voltage lines, nearing the acceptable limit of 5%.
Testing results (Efficiency, Noise & Thermal)
Being an 80Plus Bronze certified unit, we did not expect breathtaking efficiency from the HCG-520M. The power supply however does honor its certification, with the efficiency peaking at 86.4%/85.6% when powered from an 110VAC/230VAC power source respectively. The minimum recorded efficiency was 82.8%, when the unit was fully loaded and powered from a 110VAC source.
The thermal performance of the HCG-520M is acceptable but, considering the unit's mediocre power output, it could have been much better. Nevertheless, even though the maximum temperature delta was 12°C at maximum load, the delta remains at 4-5 degrees across the entire nominal load range.
As expected after examining the thermal performance of the HCG-520M, the noise levels of the unit are low as long as the unit is below 50% load, beyond which point they will continuously rise as the fan will be trying to cope with the increasing cooling demand. The result is a unit which is quiet while nominally loaded but quite noisy as long as it remains under stress.
HCG-520M review conclusion
As we mentioned in the introductory page of this article, most adept PC users realize that they do not need monstrous units for their everyday or even for typical PCs. Antec presented the HCG-520M as a high quality solution for gamers and enthusiasts who do want a high performance product but own a system which does not really require a massive power output. Truly, the internal quality of the HCG-520M is amongst the best we have ever seen, especially at this low a power range. Antec's choice of components might have been expensive but undoubtedly they will increase the longevity of the power supply and, although we do not really like the presence of so much glue, the assembly quality is above acceptable.
When it comes to performance, the HCG-520M leaves mixed feelings. Electrically, the HCG-520M excels over ripple suppression, displaying outstanding filtering and thus there is virtually no ripple at all, but the regulation on the minor lines is weak, allowing the lines to fluctuate by as much as 4.6% between 20% and maximum load. Thermally and acoustically, the unit does perform great while nominally loaded but it will not enjoy being heavily stressed for prolonged periods of time. Finally, the efficiency of the HCG-520M is very good but not much better than what anyone would expect from an 80Plus Bronze certified unit.
With a retail price of $81.84 at the time of this review, the Antec HCG-520M offers good value for money but is not beyond the reach of competition, as multiple similar products may be found within the same price range. Although most people would buy the modular version of the HCG-520 for the aesthetic improvement over the normal unit, the HCG-520M is certainly worth the extra cost even if your case does not have a windowed side panel. The retail price difference is miniscule, less than $10 at the time of this review, while the modular design and the half-black cables are definite visual and practical improvements.
Legit Bottom line:The Antec HCG-520M unit is recommended for casual gamers and adept PC users who are going to power single GPU gaming systems or typical home PCs and would like to use a reliable and visually attractive product capable of good overall performance.