NorthQ Black Magic Flex 850W PSU
- Sean Potter
With the ever-increasing amount of components inside PCs, it's important to have a capable power supply in the system. SLI and CrossFire can add an additional tax on power supplies, rendering even yesterday's 500W power supplies worthless in today's high-end systems.
NorthQ sent me the Black Magic Flex 850W power supply to satisfy my power-hungry CrossFire system. Tthe Black Magic promises to stand up to my power requirements and do so quietly with a 135mm fan. The Black Magic also features a modular connection system, allowing me to only use the cables I really need.
Despite these features, I plan to investigate on whether or not the unit can provide me with a stable system with power to spare. I'm also curious to see how well the 135mm fan performs.
The front and back of the box are the same, which is an odd thing when it comes to computer hardware. Regardless, the front and back both display a picture of the unit with no cables hooked up. On the right side of the box are the unit's major features.
Opening the box, I found a block of foam inside. Of course, the Black Magic was held inside. Again, this is also different for computer component packaging, but I don't see it posing a problem to the unit's safety.
After looking at StarTech.com's 750W power supply, I was expecting the Black Magic to be a little bigger than it actually was. With its size, I think I'd be able to squeez it into a MicroFly case. Sadly, I can't fit CrossFire into such a case.
All the wires were connected to the power supply when I unpackaged it, and holy connectors, Bat Man! I don't know if I could dig up a case to fit the amount of hardware NorthQ is trying to power here.
A panel on the unit connects to all the modular components, so there's not need to worry about something not fitting somewhere else. It's very uniform.
The back of the Black Magic is primarily mesh, with the important ON/OFF switch, three-prong AC connection, and mounting holes. Interesting to note is the lack of a 115v/240v switch. Many new power supplies have the ability to switch between the two major voltages without the use of a switch.
Before installing the unit, let's look at the Black Magic's features and specifications.
- Over Power/Voltage/Current/Temperature Protection
- Short Circuit Protection
- 12 - 20dB noise level with ultra low noise 135mm fan
- High Power ATX2.2 850Watt PSU
- Active PFC
- 80+ Efficiency
- 4 x +12v power rails
- 135mm low noise fan installed
- Fixed ATX & Extension cable
- Semi modular system with flex cables
- 9 * S-ATA connectors, 6 * Molex connectors (modular)
- 4 * 75Watt PCI-E lines for Quad SLi & Cross Fire (modular)
- Black coated case and black fan with black fan grill
- Lifetime : 100,000 hours at 25Â°
Cables, Cables, Cables
|24/20pin ATX cable||1||~23in.|
|8pin motherboard extension cable - with 8pin / 4pin adapter||1||26.5 in.|
|6pin AND 6/8pin PCi-express cable (1 on each rail)||4||20 in.|
|S-ATA plug on 3 cables (3 x on each cable)||9||31.5 in.|
|Molex plug on 2 cables (3 on each cable)||6||31.5 in.|
|Floppy plug on 2 cable (1 on each molex rail)||2||6 in.|
This makes for a grand total of 11 cables coming from the power supply, with plenty of length to fit the biggest server and full tower cases. The fixed cables are both sleeved, but the remaining cables are a matte black, with little visual appeal. Sleeving these cables would have been beneficial to the appearance.
Since my typical benchmark system resides in a MicroFly micro-ATX case, I'll be using my workstation to test NorthQ's Black Magic 850W power supply. The workstation features three Radeon HD4850-class video cards in CrossFireX, as well as a quad-core Intel CPU.
|Motherboard||ASUS P5E64 WS Professional|
|CPU||Intel Core2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.4GHz|
|RAM||2GB Patriot DDR3-1666|
|Hard Drives||2x Western Digital 36GB Raptors
2x Seagate 160GB SATA2
2x Maxtor 250GB SATA2
1x Hitachi DeskStar 7K1000 1TB
|Video Cards||Sapphire Radeon HD4850
Sapphire Radeon HD4850 Toxic
Palit Radeon HD4850
|Sound||Creative SoundBlaster Audigy|
|Misc.||HighPoint RocketRAID 3120|
|Operating Systems||Windows Vista Business 32-bit / Gentoo Linux 2008.0 64-bit|
Of course, my hope is that I have enough hardware to properly stress-test the Black Magic.
As with most power supplies, installation was quick and easy. After securing the power supply to the case, I connected the mother board connections.
Next, I looked around at my components trying to figure out what else I actually needed. I added this cables in one at a time, trying to tuck away excess cable under the motherboard tray or in the 5.25" drive bays.
After it looked satisfactory, I plugged the Black Magic to the wall's AC outlet and switch the power supply to the ON position. The computer came to life... silently.
I'll be utilizing OCCT to measure the voltages of the various connections. I'll also verify these results with lm_sensors in Linux. Ideally, I'd like to monitor the voltages in Linux, but there isn't yet an application for Linux that will stress test the system and graph the results.
Although NorthQ's Black Magic 850W power supply does promise 80% efficiency or greater, I won't be looking at this. For the review, I'd like to look at the unit's performance in a workstation setting. With a workstation, I believe it's customary for the machine to draw large amounts of power regardless of how efficient a power supply may be. Of course, the other reason I could be neglecting this section is because of my trusty Kill-a-Watt fried during a storm and no longer measures amperage for me!
Let's look at how the Black Magic performed over the course of an hour with the CPU being run close to 100%. First, the CPU's VCore:
Follow this with the 3v line:
Next, I have the 5v line:
Lastly, the 12v line.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
I can't say I'm not impressed with NorthQ's 850 watt Black Magic power supply. From it's relative compact size, to quiet 135mm exhause fan, the power supplied looks great. I'm still undecided on whether I like their cable style or not, but I'm leaning towards the feeling that I like sleeved cables more than the Black Magic's flat cables.
Performance-wise, the Black Magic was excellent and barely fluctuated. Under full load, the 3v line only dropped to 3.28v, the 5v stayed more or less where it was supposed to be, and the 12v changed the least, but also was slightly higher than the other two.
Overall, NorthQ has a fantastic product when it comes to the 850w Black Magic. Plenty of power, relatively compact, and great performance. Unfortunately, it's not yet available state-side, but hopefully it will be soon.
- Strong Voltage Regulation
- Long, Flat modular cables make for easy cable management
- Plenty of connections
- Small size compared to some high-wattage units
- 135mm fan runs reasonably silent
- Non-sleeved cables are a little unattrative
- Can't be found in North America yet!