A visit to the Enermax Lab in Hamburg – 6 PSU tested
The lab and equipment
Now we’ve reached the interesting part for most LAB501 readers, mainly high-tech enthusiasts and hardware geeks. Despite the fact that it doesn’t occupy an entire room – as you would imagine – the testing equipment present in the Enermax lab is downright impressive, summed up in a single word: Chroma.
Chroma is the world’s largest manufacturer of Automatic Testing Equipment (ATE) for power supplies. A testing platform is formed by one or more mainframes, which houses a number of modules, set up and configured according to particular requirements (a maximum of 4 modules for the 6314 mainframe or 2 modules for the 6312 version).
I’d like to point out something here, when compared to Chroma, other solutions from SunMoon, FastAuto or TechRed tend to look like “toys” designed for testing PSU’s for fun. Chroma plays in a whole different league, but also their equipment can cost 10 times more than the previously mentioned competitors and require a very high level of knowledge and a lot of work to set up and use properly.
For our test we had at our disposal a platform composed of two Chroma 6314 Mainframes, each housing 4 (four) Chroma 63103 modules, each being capable of generating a 300W load, for a total of 2400W. 6 (six) modules are loading one rail each (3.3v, 5v, 12v3, 12v4, 12v5, 12v6), while the other two modules are loading the 12v2 rail for a maximum capacity of 600W (50A).
Above we have a newer generation Chroma Mainframe, the 6314A, outfitted with two modules. The first one is a Chroma 63102A which can simultaneously load two rails, up to 100W per channel, used for the 5vSB and the -12v rails. The second module is a massive Chroma 63106A that can put an 800W load on a single channel, being used to load the 12v1 rail. Everything can induce a staggering 3.2KW load (excluding the 5vSB and the -12v rails), which is much more than any PSU can output now or in the next 4-5 years.
On top of the mainframe tower, we find the Chroma 66202 Analyzer. This monitors the AC side of things and reports the AC Voltage, AC Amperage, AC Power Draw (in Watts) and the PFC value. Do not mistake this for the usual wattmeter we typically use, the Chroma 66202 is in a completely different precision class.
Also deserving some special attention, the connector board is an in-house design by Enermax (Chroma does not offer such equipment, only measurement and load banks). For the ripple and noise measurements we used a high-end digital oscilloscope, a Tektronix TDS 3014C, connected to the rails with two capacitors sized in accordance with the ATX12V Power Supply Design Guide.
The connector sockets are situated on a thick heavy duty PCB which can sustain very high loads without negatively impacting the measured values. The Chroma modules display the current in amps (measured by a sensor inserted between the load and the PSU) as well as the voltage at the connecting terminal.
Chroma recommends placing the measuring probes together with the load wires, at the edge of the PCB. However, this method can’t offer a truly precise reading because both the PCB and the connectors generate resistance. For more precise measurements, we positioned the probes directly into the power supply connectors.
When it comes to precision measurements, Chroma goes beyond the typical high-end voltmeters, going below the mV range. More so, to maintain the highest level of precision, both the oscilloscope and the Chroma modules are calibrated annually by a specialized company.