Sparkle is mainly known for their video cards, and as we have seen, they tend to deliver. Power supplies might seem to be an odd place to branch off into at first, but it makes sense given that the graphics card is becoming one of the largest single power draws in a modern gaming system.
High-end PCs use a lot of power, and that power has to be tightly regulated. Voltage spikes, dips and fluctuations can cause malfunctions, or even dead components. It’s no exaggeration to say that your PC lives or dies by the quality of the power it receives. Over the years I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds of systems with fried circuit boards, blown capacitors and even cooked-off wire insulation, all caused by sub-standard power supplies.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at a power supply that aims to be as far away from substandard as possible: Sparkle’s Gold Class SCC-850AF. Let’s see if that sparkle comes from the luster of the finish, or the fizzling sparks of dying circuitry.
Sparkle has never been big on exuberant self-promotion, preferring instead to let the products speak for themselves—an approach I can always appreciate. Here then, is a list of features to get that discussion started:
- 850W Modular Power Supply
- 80 Plus Gold Certified
- Double Ball Bearing Fan
- All connector AU coating to keep Ultra high efficiency
- Full Thermal Control with super silent fan
- 12V peak at 80A
- Temperature control design mode
- Active PFC design
- Keep PSU fan running for 5-10 seconds after shut down to dissipate the remaining system heat and prolonging system lifetime.
- Ultra-quiet 13.9cm Fan with intelligent RPM control guarantees cool performance and silent operation.
- 99.9% 12V Power
- SYNC Transformer Array
- Double main electrolytic capacitors
- DC to DC circuitry design with solid capacitors
- Forward Safe Guard Circuitry Design
- Dual Layer main PCB 1.6mm thickness
- Quintuple 12V Rails
- 100A Mosfet 12V Rectifiers
- 20k µF low ESR secondary 105°C electrolytic capacitors
- Triple AC EMC Filtering stage
- Dual capacitors design to protect system safety when sudden shut down
One feature that stands out is the extended running of the cooling fan. As many cases use the power supply fan to help cool the rest of the system, letting it run for 5-10 seconds after the rest of the system has shut down helps to dissipate any remaining waste heat. If you’ve got a particularly hot-running system, this may well prolong the life of your components.
Specifications: UPC No. 843636004048 Series Gold Class Series Intel Specification ATX12V / EPS12V Energy Efficiency 80Plus Gold Modular Cabling Yes Fan 139mm Fan Fan Type Double Ball Bearing +12V Rail 5 AC Input Range Full Range: 100~240Vac Frequency 50/60Hz Input Current 10-6A +5V 30A +3.3V 24A +12V1 16A +12V2 16A +12V3 16A +12V4 18A +12V5 18A -12V 0.5A +5VSB 3A Total Power 850W 24P Mainboard Connector X 1 4+4P CPU +12V Connector X 1 6+2P PCI-E Connector X 4 SATA Connector X 9 (Max.) 4P Molex Connector X 9 (Max.) 4P FDD Connector X 3 (Max.) Dimension 175mm X 150mm X 86mm
The thing to note here is the current rating on each rail: a guaranteed minimum of 16 amps on each of the five 12 volt rails. This power supply is clearly designed for power-hungry components.
A Closer Look, part 1
With the “Gold Class” label so prominently displayed, there’s an expectation of extra fit and polish. Let’s take a closer look, and see how well Sparkle delivers.
Nice black and gold packaging, the hexagonal pattern brings to mind honeycombs, which implies that this PSU is sweet. Trivia bonus: honey is one of the easiest foods to preserve, lasting for decades or even centuries after it is stored. Obviously, no PSU is engineered to last quite that long, but Sparkle’s 5-year warranty puts them ahead of the class in terms of longevity.
On the back, we find the same list of features and specifications presented a page ago.
While the left-hand side is just a glamor shot, the right side provides a critical bit of info—namely, the number and type of connectors available. Given that high-watt PSUs like this one are often mated to component-stuffed systems, this is extremely good to know beforehand.
Opening the box up, we see…a cardboard cover.
Digging a little deeper, we find a folder containing documentation. Underneath that…
…we find yet another layer of protective packaging. Sparkle certainly wants to be sure this PSU comes to you in pristine condition; we certainly can’t fault them for that.
Opening the folder up, we see the manual and other paperwork tucked inside, along with a redemption card for a “free gift”. Exactly what this gift entails isn’t mentioned, but it’s a nice little incentive to complete the warranty registration.
Aside from the manual itself, Sparkle has included a detailed warranty instruction card and a printed report of the power supply’s efficiency curves. Obviously, this is a product Sparkle takes pride in.
Behind the cardboard partitions, we find the accessories. Aside from the usual power cord, we find a set of thumbscrews, some velcro cable ties, and a bag containing all the modular cables.
Opening up that bag, we see that Sparkle has certainly not skimped on connection options. Four 6+2 pin PCIe cables share space with three MOLEX and three SATA cables, each of these last two capable of attaching three devices each. While I wouldn’t recommend hanging a drive off of all of them, the range of options means you’ll not have to make awkward compromises to get your peripherals hooked up.
A Closer Look, part 2
Pulling the foam caps away, we see that the power supply itself is encased in a velvet bag–a practice normally reserved for precious gems or expensive liquor.
With that final protective layer removed, we can get a good look at the PSU itself. On the front, we see the modular plugs for the device cables, as well as the permanent cables for the motherboard. Sparkle has gone for a fairly foolproof setup here: only two types of plugs, distinguishable by feel as well as by sight. Four PCIe power plugs mean that powering two GTX 480s or two Radeon 5970s is possible without adaptors.
Looking to the sides, we see a reproduction of the box art…
…and an information sticker with all the pertinent information about the outputs of each rail.
On the back, we see the usual perforated grille, along with the AC plug and power switch. As is standard by now, there is no voltage switch; the PSU auto-senses the current coming in and adjusts accordingly.
Flipping it up on end, we see the large intake fan on the bottom. At 139mm, this fan can keep the PSU cool spinning at very low speeds.
Testing was done on the following system:
|CPU||AMD Athlon II X4 645 @ 3.1GHz|
|Heatsink||GlacialTech Igloo 5760|
|Motherboard||Jetway Hummer HA-09|
|Graphics card||Sparkle GeForce GTX 465|
|RAM||2x4GB SuperTalent DDR3-2000 @ 1600MT/s, CL9|
|Sound||Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Edition|
|SSD||Crucial RealSSD 256GB SATA 6Gb/s|
|HDD 1||Seagate 7200.10 500GB|
|HDD 2||Western Digital Caviar Green 5900RPM 500GB|
|Optical Drive||Plextor PX-B120U BD-ROM|
|Power Supply||Sparkle Gold Class SCC-850AF|
|Case||Silverstone Fortress FT-02|
|OS||Windows 7 Ultimate|
Installation was straightforward and simple. The SATA and Molex cables stretched well across the considerable length of the FT-02—almost 600mm from the PSU in the back to the drive cages in the front. The included velcro ties helped to keep everything tidy, and were easy to reposition as I tried out different cable arrangements across the back of the motherboard tray.
Testing was done in a fairly old-fashioned way: multimeter probes were inserted into the power connectors at motherboard, video card, and one of the hard drives. Then, I watched the multimeter while I powered the system up, booted into Windows and sat idle for a while, then fired up CPUBurn and FurMark and ran them simultaneously for an hour. Power on the 12V, 5V, and 3.3V rails stayed within 0.1v of optimal at all times, and never fluctuated by more than 0.02v. Also, putting my ear directly up to the exhaust grille during stress testing allowed me to hear…almost nothing. There was a slight whirr from the fan’s spinning at low speed, and nothing more.
Sparkle has a real winner here with the Gold Class SCC-850AF power supply. The fit and finish are impeccable, and the extra touches really add to the feeling of quality. With a price of ~$180 at time of publication it’s on the upper end of the range for 850W power supplies, but well worth the price for solid, no-compromise performance.