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BFG is a privately held US based company best known for their NVIDIA graphics cards, and as one might expect, they are a gamer focused company (their slogan is “The Gamer’s Choice!”). Graphic cards are not their only product however, as BFG carries product lines ranging from mousepads to motherboards, and in a place in between, they even carry power supplies like the one we have today - the BFG ES-800 watt power supply.
We reviewed the BFG Tech 800 watt unit just a few weeks back and were wondering why BFG decided to add another 800 watt offering to their lineup when they already had a decent one. BFG assured us that the ES Series is a big departure from their other PSUs. In fact, they feel so confident of the ES-800, they give it a lifetime (and we do mean lifetime) warranty and are opening the retail for it at a commanding $230 USD.
Well, this sounds serious. Time to crank the FAST-AUTO load system to 11.
Contents and Features
The ES-800 package comes with the typical goodies plus a pack of Velcro straps. You get mounting screws, the main power cable, a rather detailed manual, and of course, the unit itself. No adapters or extenders - hopefully a sign that none are needed.
The first thing that stands out with the BFG ES-800 is the finish. We've only reviewed one other unit that we think can compete with the ES-800's aesthetics (a Hiper RII). We can only describe it as “black chrome” or “titanium mirror,” or more succinctly, "sexy!" Pictures can't do it justice. And yes, it's a fingerprint magnet, but they polish off easily enough. This unit is certainly not dressed up to be a wall flower - you'll want to show it off. Of course, there is more to a PSU than a fancy finish, but hey, it makes a good first impression.
Looking at the specification panel, something else caught our attention. The 3.3V + 5V combined wattage is typical, so it wasn't that (although, they are each rated for a pretty hefty 30A). It was the massive 12V rail set that set us to thinking. The 12V1 and 12V2 can pump out 22A each - which is respectable. The 12V3 and 12V4 are rated on the panel at 36A each. That’s big. Moreover, the combined 12V rail wattage is 780 watts. You don't see that kind of combined wattage output on most 800 watt supplies. No, you see it on 900 watt+ units. Color us impressed.
Cables, Connections, Dimensions
The BFG ES-800 is not a modular power supply. That said, all of the wire harnesses are sleeved tip-to-toe and between connectors in black nylon mesh. That, along with the provided Velcro straps, will make for a good cable management experience. BFG didn't stop there either. They labeled the harnesses so you could tell which 12V rail powered which set of connectors. This is a nice bonus (especially if you test power supplies).
|Harness||Connectors and Lengths|
|1||ATX 24/20 Pin mainboard connector. 19" long.|
|2||SATA power cable with connectors at 19”, 25” and 31".|
|3||SATA power cable with connectors at 19”, 25" and 31".|
|4||Peripheral power cable with 4 pin molex connectors at 19”, 25", 31" and floppy at 37".|
|5||Peripheral power cable with 4 pin molex connectors at 19”, 25", 31" and floppy at 37".|
|6||PCI-E 6/8 pin connector at 19" and PCI-E 6 pin at 24".|
|7||PCI-E 6/8 pin connector at 19" and PCI-E 6 pin at 24".|
|8||EPS/12V 8 pin CPU power connector at 19" w/ 4 pin connector at 24"|
Connector wise, BFG has all the bases covered and then some. There are enough connectors on this power supply for just about any configuration. Each of the two PCI-E harnesses has a 6/8 pin PCI-E connector AND an additional 6 pin connector. This means the PSU could conceivably power a four video card system - if you could find one to put it in. The 12V/P4 harness sports both a 4 pin and 8 pin plug (not simply a break away, both plugs). The mainboard connector is a 20/24 pin convertible. You really shouldn't need any adapters for this PSU; if you do, send us a picture! You will have extra connectors around (to tempt you into going overboard with added fans).
Cable lengths are adequate, so extenders are out of the picture as well. It's all there ready to go in the ES-800. Nice set up BFG!
The dimensions of the ES-800 watt are 3.4” tall, 5.9” wide, and 6.5” deep. That's close to the ATX v2.2 physical specification, but a tad deeper (or longer) than the 5.75” called for. We know why large PSUs need this extra length - they need the space. What we don't know is why companies keep saying they adhere to the ATX 12V form factor specification when they don't exactly. As we have said before, BFG is far from alone in this “mistake”. To BFG’s credit, the ES-800 dimensions are clearly printed on the box and available online. BFG isn't hiding anything. Just don't assume that because it says “ATX” on the box (of any PSU) that it will fit in your system. As we find ourselves saying in many of our PSU reviews, make sure you measure your case (and add a bit of extra room for cabling).
With a specification panel like the ES-800’s, you know we are going to open it up, right? We like to open PSUs to give us an idea of the build quality and philosophy behind the unit. Our opinions of internal part quality don't usually figure in our score (our testing takes care of that), but it's all useful information, right down to seeing if we can tell who actually makes the unit.
NOTE: Opening up a PSU not only voids your warranty, but also presents a serious health risk. Even after turning off and unplugging a unit, there can be enough charge stored to fatally shock anyone poking around inside. Regardless of what you may have heard about “draining” circuitry and other methods of discharging a PSU, these are simply risk reducers – not risk eliminators. In short, let us at HardwareLogic be the ones to stand in a bucket of sea water while snapping shots of the internal componentry, and keep the cover on at home.
All we could say was “Wow” when we opened this baby up. Somebody has a shoe-horn because this sucker is packed tight. There are six small to medium black anodized (not painted) aluminum heat sinks, three separate PCBs, and three rather large electrolytic capacitors. A filter sits over the AC input to do a bit of house cleaning on the incoming mains and there appears to be an extra transformer. Something is different here.
After a bit more looking we find that there appears to be two power supplies in this unit. The small one seems dedicated to 5VSB and power-on system. It sits on its own PCB with a large 450V, 150uF, Nippon Chemi-con cap, transformer, and a bunch of surface mount resistors. BFG informs us that this is an efficiency move. During standby, the 5VSB rail can rely on its own unit rather than being forced through filters and protection circuitry designed for the 800W side of the unit. We can't help but think this also relieves the 800W side from dealing with the generally minor load of the 5VSB.
Back to the main unit, the primary side sports two capacitors. The first is a large Hitachi 85°, 450V, 560uF cap (pictured above - lucky frog not included) and the second is a good sized 105°C 450V Nippon Chemi-con. All of the other smaller electrolytic capacitors appear to be Nippon Chemi-con as well. Both Hitachi and Nippon Chemi-con are top tier capacitor suppliers. No skimping here.
The third PCB we saw actually does show up in other PSUs as well, but it's about twice the size we have seen in other PSUs (if we see them at all). This PCB contains all the power protection circuitry and the fan controller. We can't say that being bigger means it's better, but we can't say it doesn't either.
As far as re-branding or who actually made this PSU, the answer is nicely screened onto the main PCB. This is an Andyson unit, and we think it's a modified AD-M800AE with frequency conversion. You can think of frequency conversion as a sort of dynamic balancing that the unit does whenever there is a change in load. Very nice choice of sources for BFG to make.
Cooling in the ES-800 is supplied by a 138mm Globe fan. Globe has been around for a very long time and makes OEM fans for a number of folks. This particular model (RL4Z B1382012H) is a custom job from Globe designed specifically for this unit. It's a ball bearing slimline (20mm thick), 9 fin, 12V, high speed (1500 RPM) fan that will push 95+ CFM (maybe over 100) at less than 32 db. At full tilt this fan will sip less than 5 watts and BFG tells us that the fan will operate on as little 3V (half the norm), making it inaudible at idle loads. The question is, will it keep this unit cool enough to maintain voltage regulation? That's what our testing is for.
Our performance tests are done with a load testing system. This system allows us to configure a series of known loads to put on a PSU. More information on our PSU testing methods and philosophy can be found here
*Efficiency results include wattage from the -12V and 5V SB rails.
|Test||5V||3.3V||12V1||12V2||12V3||12V4||-12V||5V SB||T in (°C)||T out (°C)||Watt in||Watt out||Eff. %|
Right off we have to put out some notes about the tests you are about to see. For a number of reasons, the BFG ES-800 is about to go through our hardest testing barrage ever. We should explain why:
- First, we recently completed Phase I of a 2 phase reconfiguration to our load system. The ES-800 will be the first PSU to experience it. We know from experience that our guinea pigs don't always make it as we iron any new kinks we find.
- Second, we are in a new lab and the ambient temperature is 5-10 C higher than we have been testing at. This will put added strain on the BFG ES-800, but the temps are not so high that the unit shouldn't handle it. It's just worth mentioning.
- Third, because of the way the ES-800 distributes its power (based on the specification panel), our Test #2, which is usually a “Typical” load test, is going to be more of a “Very Heavy” load test. So, instead of seeing our normal “light, typical, heavy, and Max” regiment in tests 1 to 4, the BFG will get “Light, Very Heavy, Heavy, and Maximum” suite. We could have changed the test, but we said in our methods we wouldn’t – so that is how the dice fall.
- Lastly, BFG told us that this unit will do something unique. It will give 80+ efficiency at <20% load. That's unusual. Further, the specification panel says that the 5V and 3.3V rails don’t need to be loaded at all and the PSU will operate without burning itself up. That's also unusual. So, while we are not in the habit of custom testing (nor are we going to get in the habit), we do think it's worth it to test both these claims with a single additional test.
On to the actual testing!
As we said above, our Test 1 and 2 are normally approximate to “light” and “typical” proportional loads. However, in this case, Test 2 is closer to a “very heavy” load. We were interested in seeing exactly how well the ES-800 would take the sudden hit of going from ~300 watts to ~730 watts. We don't “ramp up” in our tests, the load change is immediate. What we found was pretty amazing.
The ES-800 not only took the punch, it acted like almost nothing happened. Sure, there was a little bit of voltage wander on the rails, but it was <1% on all but the 12V3 rail. And we mean all – even the minor rails held to <1%. As for that 12V3, it only deviated 1.3%. In a test spanning this much wattage, deviations of twice what we saw would have us impressed. Of course, maybe we just hit a sweet spot? The rest of our test would tell.
Moving from Test 2 to 3 was actually a decrease in wattage. The ES-800 showed very little change. Of course, the overall wattage change was less than 20 watts between these tests, but it does represent a unit coming out of a moderate crossload (in Test 2) toward a more proportional load (in Test 3). Not as informative as we would like, but it bodes well for our upcoming crossload tests.
From Test 3 to Test 4 we are back on track, going from a “Heavy” load to a “Maximum” load. Test 4 is the soul crusher. If BFG mislabeled this PSU, Test 4 should tell us. And, what Test 4 told us was that, if BFG did mislabel this unit, they went the wrong direction. The voltage variation from Test 3 to 4 was minimal. We did see the 5V and 5VSB rails get close to 2% deviation, which we would consider impressive - had all the other rails not distracted us with a <1% deviation!
Summing up Test 1 thru 4, the ES-800 achieves a rank well into the excellent or superior range. Overall, we saw no more than 2.6% voltage wander (5V and 5VSB) with the 12V rails hovering around 1% wander maximum. Keep in mind that our ambient temps during these tests were 5-10 C high than we normally test at. That puts even more stress on a PSU. So we now know that the ES-800 is among the best, if not the best, we have seen at handling proportional loads. Of course, we have seen PSUs do an excellent job in our proportional load test before – only to falter when we hit the crossloads of Test 5 and 6.
Test 5 and 6 are our extreme crossload tests. Of the two, Test 5 is the most plausible (though extreme) of what might occur in a modern computer system. The loads are light on the 5V and 3.3V rails while heavy on the 12V rails. And how did the ES-800 perform going from a maximum proportional load to a heavy 12V crossload? It simply acted like nothing had changed. The worst deviation we saw was from the 3.3Vrail at 1.25%. And the rest of the rails? How about <0.5% voltage wander moving from an extreme maximum load to an extreme 12V heavy crossload! That includes the typically looser minor rails! That’s actually beginning to approach meter error. We are not done yet, though.
In Test 6 we reverse the crossload to put a heavy load on the 5.5V and 3.3V rails and a light load on the 12V rails. This is where we often see a PSU show large amounts of voltage wander. The ES-800 at least showed us that it noticed the change in load – before sloughing it off with a maximum voltage change of 2.8% on the 5V rail. All of the other rails appeared to yawn at our FAST-AUTO system, showing less than 0.7% deviation. We can only say, "Wow!"
Looking at all of our tests combined we see a superior unit ranking among the top units we have reviewed. These tests show the ES-800 can hang with the likes of upper end Hiper and PC Power and Cooling units. The voltage deviation on the 12V rails remained below 1.5%. All other rails remained below 4% (some way below 4%). The ES-800 showed rock solid results in our normal tests, even with the above mentioned deviation from what we normally do. Through all of our tests, we never heard the fan. We should point out that the unit does run hot, and we saw temperature deltas over 20°C. But we never heard a peep from the unit.
Efficiency was very surprising to us. We would have to look, but we think this may be the highest efficiency we have seen. The average over all tests was 83.5% with the average of tests 1, 2, and 5 (most realistic operating conditions) coming in at 83.9%.
We aren't done yet though.
As we mentioned above, BFG made some claims that we felt warranted a look into. They said the unit would produce 80+ efficiency at loads <20%. They also said the unit would run without issue with no load on the 5V and 3.3V rails. Both of these things are unusual in a PSU. So, we decided to test them. And, to make it even harder, we decided to test them at the same time. Behold, the 7th Test:
|Test 7||5V||3.3V||12V1||12V2||12V3||12V4||-12V||5V SB||Watt in||Watt out||Eff. %|
|Load (A)||0.00||0.00||2.00||2.00||3.60||3.60||0.00||1.00||NA||145 (Est)||NA|
We ran the test for 30 minutes just to see if the unit would shut down or fry from having no load on the 3.3V and 5V rails. Nothing happened! It just putted along. Further, while we only loaded the unit to about 18% of its over all wattage and ~10% of the rated amps on the 12V rails, efficiency came in at over 85%! Great job BFG!
|Cables, Connection, Dimensions|
|Warranty & Support|
|Price & Value|
A gauntlet has been thrown. We aren't ones to drop names on who threw what, but their initials are BFG.
With the ES-800, BFG kicks it up a notch, and then kicks it up about six more notches. From the black chrome finish to the "no connector left behind" approach on the sleeved harnesses, the BFG ES-800 is a feature rich unit. The rail annotation on the 12V harnesses is a plus along with a very detailed manual. Efficiency in this unit may be the best we have ever seen and should provide the end user with 83-84% efficiency under typical use. Performance based on voltage wander ranks well up with quaility units from PC Power & Cooling and Hiper (read as "superior"). Price wise, the BFG ES-800 is not an inexpensive unit. The MSRP is $230 USD and street prices are starting at $177 USD. However, for a unit of this quality, the MSRP is not out of line, much less the street price. It's also quiet to boot (please note pun). All of this backed by a lifetime warranty (10 years outside the US and Canada). What can we say? Let's have a party!
Of course, we always feel we have to nit pick about something, both for our reader's information and maybe as a help to folks who sell PSUs. In this case, it's a difficult task. The 5V rail could be tightened up a bit. It's very good, but not on par with the killer 12V rail performance. And, we have to point out that this unit doesn't meet the ATX v2.2 spec for physical size. It's close, though, and the dimensions are both on the box and online.
With its flat efficiency curve and rock solid performance, we can recommend the ES-800 to anyone needing a PSU up to 800 watts. You will spend a pretty penny, but with a lifetime warranty you can consider it an investment. This is a PSU that will deliver high efficiency even in a power sipping build, so you can install it in a system and have room to grow without worrying about efficiency loss at low loads and still get very stable performance. To quote Jen Hsun-Huang, BFG just opened up a can of whoop ass on the competition...
If you are wondering if this PSU meets your wattage needs, try out eXtreme’s wattage calculator.
It's always nice to have more than one opinion on a component before you spend your hard earned money. For one, we may see something others missed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic, we'll not only give you our recommendation, but also point out some reviews from some other great sites around the web.