ePower/PCMCIS Fanless 450 LION

ePower Technologies is an importer of Topower power supplies, as well as cases and accessories.  PCMCIS gets credited in the title of this review because they've slapped their sticker all over the product and product packaging.  PCMCIS is a distributor for ePower product.  A point of contact for VAR's, if you will. According to ePower's website, product is also available from MA*Labs and Amax, but it seems that the largest selection of product is in fact available from PCMCIS, probably because the ePower brand is pretty much all they sell.

This is a review of the Fanless 450 LION.  Although this power supply may prove to be quite the "lion," it's hardly fanless.  But I think the term is used loosely as anyone can see the 80MM fan at one end of the power supply.  One would certainly think the power supply is fanless when one plugs it in and turns it on.  The fan doesn't spin!  And quite honestly, neither does any of the fans hooked up to the fan controllers either!  The only noise coming from the PC comes from the hard drives and the CPU fan (if applicable.)  Not bad.

The documentation states that the fan doesn't kick in until the power supply is under a 250W load.  This isn't true.  When I hooked the power supply up to the load tester, I immediately put more than a 300W load on it and it the fan did not turn on.  It's apparent that they fan actually kicks in based on the power supply's internal temperature.

Likewise, the fan headers' voltage increases as the temperatures, as read by a small thermistor attached to the power supply, increases.  Unfortunately, we don't know what any of these temperatures are because the box and documentation state the fans turn on a "250W" and a graph on the side of the box only shows that the increase of RPM, rightfully displayed as the increase of noise, increases with the percentage of load on the power supply.

Our gratuitous inside shot.

The thermistor that controls the 12V Fan Only connectors.

It's now been 10 minutes since the 300W load has been placed on the power supply.  Still no fan noise.

The power supply looks very much like your typical Topower unit, except for a large heatsink sticking out of the back. This large heatsink also has a large cage around it, probably to keep curious fingers from getting burned.  This heatsink is attached to the usual heatsinks with some thermal compound and a few screws.  The externally mounted heatsink is actually an excellent idea and very important to low noise power supplies.  Move the heat to the outside of the power supply housing where it can be cooled by outside air.  This works very much in the same way heatpipes in laptops work.  In fact, I would have liked to have seen some sort of heatpipe moving the air from the inside to the out, but alas we have just heatsinks on top of heatsinks which means:  If you think that heatsink coming out of the back of the power supply is hot, imagine how hot the one it's attached to is!

You can see where the externally mounted heatsink is glued and screwed to the main internal heatsink.

Here's the cage that houses the semi-external heatsink.

20 minutes at 300W.  Still no fan.

There is a button on the back of the power supply one can press to turn the fan on.  Unfortunately, this doesn't turn the fan on at it's lowest or even middle RPM setting.  It turns the fan on full blast and IT IS LOUD. I would have liked to see this button NOT completely over-ride the thermostatic characteristics of the cooling system.  On that same note, I think it would have been nice to have the fan start spinning at it's lowest RPM from initial power up.  Because right now, this power supply is pretty warm.  And it's only going to take that much air to cool it back down once the fan does kick in.  That means a longer duration of fan noise at a higher RPM than if the fan had been moving air across the inside of the power supply all along.

The button that turns the fans on full-blast is easy to find.  Sort of like an "Oh Shit!" panic button.

35 minutes at 300W.  The Compu-Nurse so scientifically attached to one of the power supplies heatsinks reads 45C and voila!  A blue glow emits from the power supply and the fan starts spinning.  I chuckled a bit at the blue LED's.  Why have them there at all?  I mean, this isn't a bling power supply.  Is it there to tell you the fans are spinning?  I think I can hear that.  The lights not even on most of the time!  It's not a big deal... I just thought it was funny.

Let's take a look at the label on the side of the power supply and see what they're trying to sell us here...

Fanless 450 LION +3.3V +5V +12V -12V -5V +5VSB
Max Output Current 28A 45A


1A 0.8A 2.5A
Max Combined Peak Wattage 220W 336W 12W 4W 15W

With 45A on the 5V, this power supply obviously isn't trying to be ATX12V2.01, but that OK.  28A on the 12V is more than enough for most of us out there.  Now let's look at what connectors we get and the quantity of each...

ATX connector 20-pin
2 x 2 12V connectors 1
2 x 3 PCIe 0
6-pin Xeon/AUX connector 1
5.25" Drive connectors 7*
3.5" Drive connectors 2
SATA Drive power connectors 2
Fan only connectors (Thermostatically controlled 12V only connectors) 6

* One of the cables have EMI filters for use specifically with hard drives.

I'm rather disappointed that the power supply didn't have a 24-pin ATX connector.  Not that using an adapter is a big deal as the loss I've recorded is barely over 1%, I just think it makes more sense for someone to adapt a 24 to a 20-pin connector, if need be, rather than the other way around.  There's no PCI-e connector, but there is a filtered drive Molex, so if I were to use this with a PCI-e card, I would just use an adapter on that connector since 99% of the time I have more than one hard drive and would be hard pressed to determine which hard drive I'm going to use the filtered power connector on (sort of like picking a favorite child or favorite Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman.)

After the power supply ran for another 15 minutes with the fan spinning, the temps were back down to 42C as per my Compu-Nurse.  I hit the power button for the fan and proceeded with the tests.  Since this power supply is "only" a 450W and my Test Three runs the 12V 2A over spec as it is, for a grand total of 479W, I didn't do a "full load" test.

Fanless 450 LION Zero Load Test One (369W) Test Two (303W) Test Three (479W)
12V 11.58 11.92 12.46 11.53
5V 5.34 5.11 5 5.16
3.3V 3.35 3.26 3.26 3.24
Efficiency 46% 75% 75% 70%
Power Factor .58 .71 .70 .73

Well, we can certainly say this power supply does what it's supposed to do.   It's a shame it's not more efficient.  If it were, the power supply would run cooler and the fans wouldn't have to kick in as soon as they did (not as if they really kicked in all-that-soon. 

No doubt there's room for improvement.  Like I said; better efficiency, and, in my opinion, the fans really should keep SOME air moving.  Even if it only spins at 600RPM (the lowest revolution the fans will spin) it'd help keep the power supply cooler for a longer period.  Perhaps add the ability to maintain some fan spin after power off to help prevent damaging components.  More/different connectors (the 24-pin, PCI-e, etc.) would have been nice to see too.

All and all, it's a really nice unit. And at $150 it is expensive, but delivers on performance and minimal noise.  Couple what this power supply has to offer with a fanless water cooling system (the Zalman Reserator) or perhaps in an upside down case (like the Lian-Li V-Cool) so the power supply isn't subject to ambient heat and this power supply can run long -haul without the fan kicking in at all, making for a very quiet PC.

Certainly worthy of an 8.5.

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