Some of you may have heard the rumours that I was reduced to a pile of smouldering ash after over-zealously pushing a Chinese made no-name 1500w (relabelled 500w) PSU beyond its limits last year. And yes, everything you heard was true. Unfortunately for me though, my esteemed colleague Tom Logan wasn't going to simply let me rest in peace. Instead he exhumed my body, (probably fondled it inappropriately -ed), and by combining the power of his 1,000 CPU strong J@H (Jim@Home) server farm, was able to re-animate me so that I could bring a steady stream of PSU reviews back to OC3D once more.
Of course, everything I've said up to this point is complete nonsense. But I think you'll agree that it makes for slightly more interesting reading than "The wife gave birth to our Daughter, and I decided to take a well deserved break"!
So, today is my first PSU review in almost a year. And what better way to get back into the swing of things than with a PSU from a manufacturer who simply refuse to churn out drab black boxes....
Cougar - Not just your best friends mum
Cougar first came to us in October 2009 with their 1000CM 1kw PSU. Fresh on the UK scene at the time we agreed to take a look and came back to them with some constructive criticisms regarding the unit. Much to our surprise, a month later they delivered a revised version of the PSU to our offices which addressed most of the issues and earned a recommendation from us.
Since then it would appear that they have been going from strength to strength, with a vastly expanded range of PSU's available in wide selection of outputs and designs. Today though I'm going to be concentrating on the latest and greatest model in the line-up, the GX 1050w. Let's get cracking....
Starting at the most logical place - the beginning, we can see that Cougar have changed their design very little from the original 1000CM unit. The theme is dark with a feint orange/gold pinstripe and a glassy Cougar emblem takes up the majority of space (almost like Cougar didn't really have an artist available to help with the design). Around the back of the box is the usual specs list in the four main Euro languages along with a brief explanation of some of the PSU's technologies and the obligatory rail layout diagram as reproduced below.
|Cougar GX 1050w Rail Layout|
25A appears to be the magic number here as every single one of the rails barring the -12v and +5VSB is rated...well more likely limited...to that amount. The GX 1050w has a total of six +12v rails capable of a combined power output of 1008W (84A), which certainly will make my testing of the unit more involving. However, as most enthusiasts will probably tell you, there's no clear winner when it comes to single rail vs multi rail configurations, so I'm not going to get into that debate.
Up to 93% of efficiency, compliant with 80-PLUS® GOLD efficiency requirement .
DC-DC technology provides highest efficiency, most stable performance, and perfect regulation (Regulation <3%).
CLC FILTER DESIGN
CLC filter design efficiently suppress Ripple/Noise ‹1%
HIGHEST DURABLE & RELIABLE SOLID CAPS FOR 12V,3.3V,5V
The best solution for a High-End PSU by using solid caps for 12Vs, 3.3V, 5V, solid caps provide highest efficiency, best reliability, and extend power lifespan.
105°C JAPANESE CAPACITORS
COUGAR® use highest durable 105°C Japanese capacitors providing uncompromised performance and reliability and delivering 4 times the lifespan of conventional 85°C rated capacitors.
HIGH PERFORMANCE AT 50°C
Non-stop high performance and full rated wattage at 50°C/122°F ambient temperature.
HDB (Hydro-Dynamic Bearing)
140mm FAN Advanced HDB (HYDRO-Dynamic Bearing) fan provide best lifespan and super silent performance. Temperature-controlled design adapts its rotating speed to the PSU temperature. Even on its highest rotating level the fan is still quiet enough to be barely noticeable.
Automatic dynamic load distribution on multi-12V line provide power separately to the GPU and the CPU. If you are not using all output lines, the PSU automatically reroutes needed power from unused lines. This improves the performance and safety of the 12V lines considerably for systems with high-end graphic cards in SLI® or CrossFire® mode and provides high voltage stability to keep components safe.
Other notable specs as extracted from Cougar's much longer list on their website, include impressive 93% efficiency, DC-DC voltage conversion and <1% ripple thanks to a 'CLC Filter Design'. These are all things we should be able to test over the next few pages, so it will be interesting to see if the GX lives up to the marketing spiel.
Inside the box everything is compartmentalised to minimise any transportation damage. Cougar have provided a generous bundle of modular cables along with some velcro cable ties and the usual mains cable + case screws. Essentially, everything you need to get up and running.
Jumping straight in with some pictures of the unit, we can see that Cougar have gone for an off-black wrinkle powdercoat finish complimented by a gold fan grill. This not only makes the unit look (and feel) quite rugged, but also gives the impression that you've purchased a premium brand unit.
Moving around to the back, we can see a total of eight modular connectors along with a small bundle of hard-wired cables exiting the unit. As expected, the red connectors are designed to used exclusively with PCI-E graphics cards, whereas the black connectors are for both SATA and Molex modular cables. Cougar has also thoughtfully printed the +12v rail number below each bank of connectors, making it easier to balance the load on the unit.
Now let's move on to the fun bit - dissecting the unit...
Insides & Cables
No good PSU review is complete without the reviewer risking his life by pulling apart the unit and then attempting to put it back together again. Well, OK that's a bit of an over exaggeration, but in order to make the task of testing PSU's more exciting, thinking of them like ticking time bombs certainly helps keep the blood pumping. DON'T TOUCH THE YELLOW AND BLACK WIRES...NOOOOO *BOOM*.
Taking a birds eye view of the unit, the first thing to grab my attention is the two large transformers slap-bang in the middle. This is a good thing as it shows that potentially the GX 1050 isn't just one big +12v rail split virtually into six with a +3.3v/5v board tacked onto the side. But more likely a genuine dual +12v rail unit split in a similar way.
The overall layout of the unit is also quite neat with plenty of space around most of the components, and none of that white goopy goo smeared over everything which tends to hurt cooling. And while we're on the subject of cooling, the fan used inside the GX 1050 is manufactured by Power Logic and pushes 95CFM at 33dBA.
The primary caps are manufactured by Nippon, a Japanese company that produces some of the best capacitors in the industry (and has a name very similar to how you'd describe a woman's breasts on a cold day). Thankfully these Nippleon's...I mean Nippon's are rated to 105c, so there's no chance of them bulging outwards any time soon.
The GX 1050 has two DC-DC daughter-boards that are mounted vertically in front of the main wire loom. These step down the voltage from +12v DC to +3.3v and +5v for the other main rails. Cougar has ensured that as much ripple as possible is suppressed at this stage by using a fairly large bank of solid state caps.
Moving on to the cables, we can see that Cougar has sleeved both the hard wired and modular connectors in the same black, white and orange sheath used on their other models. It's the kind of thing that gets people split down the middle, and can attract as many customers 'looking for something different' as it will loose customers 'looking for something plain'. I personally like it and would be almosy tempted to build a PC around the design....maybe another day :)
Aside from the usual assortment of SATA and Molex connectors, Cougar has furnished the GX 1050 with a total of six PCI-E connectors, all of which can be converted between 6/8-Pin formats. The ATX cable is also capable of powering both 20-Pin and 24-Pin motherboards as are the EPS-12v connectors. The full list can be seen below:
|Cougar GX 1050 Connectors|
|ATX Connector||Native||1x 20+4 Pin|
|EPS-12v / P4-12v Connector(s)||Native||1x 4 Pin / 1x 8 Pin / 1x 4+4 Pin|
|Floppy Disk Connectors||Modular||1x|
|PCI-E Connectors||Native / Modular||6x 6+2 Pin|
Now that we've got the formalities out of the way let's move onto the testing...
Simulated Load Results (Graphs)
For those of you not familiar with the layout of our relatively new graphs, the highest and lowest values on the Y-axis (voltage) represent the maximum and minimum voltages allowed by ATX specifications. If the results should fall outside the graph at any time, then that's an instant FAIL. However, merely staying inside these boundaries does not necessarily indicate a good PSU. In order to display truly great voltage regulation, a PSU must stick as closely as possible to the thick white horizontal line (ideal voltage) as possible.
You will also notice that the graph is split into three sections as depicted by the Green, Amber and Red backgrounds. These indicate normal usage (green), heavily uneven load distribution (amber) and overloading of the PSU (red). For the most part all we need to worry about is how it performs in the green section, but good performance in the other sections will undoubtedly earn the PSU extra brownie points.
For a better understanding of now we conduct our PSU testing and how these results were obtained, please be sure to check out the tabulated results over on the next page.
The Cougar GX gets off to a good start with the +3.3v rail which drops only 0.07v from 'idle' to fully loaded. This gives the graph a nice gradual downward slope, rather than a full-on vertical drop that we've seen on some units in the past. The only let down for the PSU is how it responds in the Max Load test. Despite only running at 47w over its rated output, the +3.3v rail plummets to 3.15v showing that it really isn't happy.
A similar trend can also be seen on the +5v rail where the voltages are really quite solid between the normal idle and fully loaded tests, but take a turn for the worst once the PSU is run slightly outside of specs. Obviously this won't be an issue for most of us, as it takes quite a system to draw over 1050w.
And here we have the star of the show, the +12v rail. That rail is so solid that The Rock would be shaking in his boots. Seriously, a drop from 12.06v to 11.94v is nothing at all and additionally both of the cross-load results are quite solid as well. Unfortunately though the Max Load result suffers the same fate as the +3.3v and +5v rails, dropping significantly once the unit is run slightly outside of spec.
Finally it's the tree hugging bit. Cougar have had the GX 1050w certified as an 80Plus Gold unit, which essentially means it must be 88% efficient at 210w / 1050w loads, and 92% efficient at 525w. As we can see, that's absolutely no problem for the GX with just over 92% efficiency at 532w and 88% efficiency or greater in the rest of the standard tests.
If you're interested in how the GX performed under the oscilloscope. Read on....
Simulated Load Results (Tables)
If you've seen the simplified graphs over on the previous page you will undoubtedly already have a good idea of how the Cougar GX 1050 performs. However, certain results from the test can be too difficult to incorporate into the existing graphs, and for this reason all of the result data is also provided in the table format below.
All testing is conducting using OC3D's trusty SunMoon SM-268+ DC load tester. This equipment is capable of placing a user specified load on all of the PSU's rails (+3.3v, +5v, +12v, -12v, +5vSB) up to a maximum load of 1680w. As the maximum load for this device on the +12v rail is restricted to 75A we can also call on additional help from our Analogic Series 2000 DC load tester, so that anything up to an additional 166A can be added if necessary. All testing is conducted at 50°C (±5%) with the results being recorded using a Fluke Multimeter and Thermostat.
|Cougar GX 1050w @ 50c|
|+3.3v||+5.0v||+12v||+5vSB||-12v|| AC Watts / |
|Efficiency|| Intake / |
|5.00A||5.00A||18.25A||1.00A||0.12A||296w / |
|90.87%||49.6°C / |
|92.52%|| 50.2°C / |
|15.00A||15.00A||54.75A||3.00A||0.37A||859w / |
|90.91%||51.5C / |
|20.00A||20.00A||73.00A||4.00A||0.50A||1177w / |
|88.53%|| 50.4°C / |
|20.00A||20.00A||1.00A||0.00A||0.00A||216w / |
|81.48%||50.7°C / |
|1.00A||1.00A||73.00A||0.00A||0.00A||955w / |
|91.41%||51.6°C / |
|25.00A||25.00A||74.50A||4.00A||0.50A||1245w / |
|88.11%||50.1°C / |
A quick browse over the results shows that the GX 1050 puts out its best numbers at 50% load. The efficiency is extremely close to Cougars stated 93% given the margin of error, the +12v rail is at bang-on 12.00v and the +3.3v and +5v rails are also extremely close to their ideal values. Things don't change much either when the load is increased all the way up to 100%. All rails remain extremely tight, and the only result that dips slightly is the efficiency.
Similar things can also be said for both of the cross-load tests, where the GX exhibits stable voltages once again. In fact, the only area that lets the Cougar down slightly is in the Max Load test where the unit fails to deliver much more than 1097w without the voltages falling drastically. This possibly shows that the Cougar is stretched to its limits already and has been designed to deliver 1050w..and not a drop more.
|Cougar GX 1050w Scope Results @ 50c|
Ripple refers to the small fluctuations in voltage that occur in all PSU's on a millisecond scale. Large quantities of ripple on a PSU can damage or kill components in your PC over time and therefore testing a PSU's performance in this area is just as important as any other part. ATX specification states that ripple should be no higher than 50mV on the +3.3v/+5v rails and 120mV on the +12v rails, so what we're looking for in the screenshots above is for all rails to stay well within these limits during Test 1-4 at the very least.
Aaaaand......we have a pass! The GX 1050 manages to keep everything well in check throughout all of the standard tests 1-4 with a maximum ripple of 64mV on the +12v rail and 32mV or less on the other rails. Although this may not be the best results I've ever seen from a PSU, it's certainly one of the better outcomes.
To sum up what we've seen over the past few pages, the flagship Cougar GX 1050 is an attractive looking unit that separates its self from the rest of the crowd with some interesting styling choices. It may not be everyone's cup of proverbial tea as far as the multi-coloured sleeved cables go, but it's good to see that Cougar have picked a signature design and are sticking with it.
In terms of performance, the GX performs near the top of the pack in rail stability and efficiency, but doesn't quite have what it takes to raise the bar. The 93% efficiency that Cougar quote on their packaging was _almost_ obtained by us during the testing, though you are only likely to see this kind of level if you are running the unit at around 500w.
Ripple results are top-notch, possibly testament to using only high grade Nippon Chemicon primary caps along with solid state secondaries. And from what we could hear over the whir of the OC3D PSU testing equipment, the unit managed to stay cool and fairly quiet throughout.
All that remains now is to mention the fact that the unit does not like being pushed outside of specifications. While most PSU's we've tested in the past will happily chug along at 75-100w above their rated output, the Cougar GX 1050 simply refused to give us anything more than what we'd paid for and topped out at just under 1100w with some shoddy voltages. Of course, we can't really hold this against the Cougar as it does exactly what it says on the tin, but being of German origin we'd have expected it to be significantly over-engineered.
Just to mix things up slightly we also have a video review by TTL who will cover his thoughts on the way the unit looks and also cover points that I have raised during the testing of this unit for all of you out there that are not big readers but have voyeur tendencies!
So just to recap in a way many of you football fans will understand now the season has just restarted, the Cougar very much deserves to be in the Premier League and would sit very firmly in the top half of the table. Its performance over the entire season wasn't consistent enough to make it a title contender. Considering this is only their second season Cougar are definitely a team to watch because we have a feeling with a few changes in the transfer window that they could be back with their eyes firmly placed on getting that trophy!
- Stable voltages on all rails across all normal tests
- Ripple kept in check with some well spec'd Jap Caps!
- Unique looks
- Fairly silent (and cool) from what we could tell.
- Doesn't like being pushed beyond 1050w
Thanks to Cougar for the sample on test today, you can discuss your shock and horror of Jims return in the forums.