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Phaedrus PSU secret -- Inductors

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
This is a little secret I have that lets me instantly guesstimate the quality of the PSU within milliseconds of seeing its internals. Inductors.

An inductor is an electrical component used for various roles in electronic circuits, mainly modifying voltage in some way, whether that's changing voltage, smoothing it out, inducing signal, or whatever.

An inductor consists of copper (or other metal) wire tightly wound around a material that can hold an electric charge. The most common type are ferrite coil inductors, where copper wire is wound around a ferrite torus (or doughnut shape).

Choke-Coil-Inductor.jpg

Although other forms are also common.
auto-part-power-inductors-for-acura.jpg
transformer_inductor_and_coil.jpg
28_0.jpg


Don't confuse these with transformers, which are big, yellow, and usually in the middle of the PSU. There are usually two or three of them. They're related to inductors, but they don't count for this secret.



So here's the secret. Want to know the approximate quality of a PSU? Count the inductors. The more there are, the more likely it is that it's a decent PSU. The fewer, the more likely it's poor.

Why is this? Do inductors automatically make a PSU good? No. But many important features found in quality PSUs involve inductors, which are cut out for cost reasons in cheap-os.


EMI Filter -- Used to filter incoming noise and surges from the wall, and prevent the PSU's own noise from entering the mains.
Quality PSU - 2 to 4 coil inductors
Cheap PSU - 1 to 2 coil inductors
Crap PSU - 0 to 1 inductors

Power Factor Correction -- A complex topic, which I won't go into here--quality PSUs have it, poor PSUs don't
Quality PSU - 1 medium coil inductor (for active PFC)
Cheap PSU - 1 large yellow inductor (for passive PFC)
Crap PSU - 0 inductors (no PFC)

LLC -- More complex stuff. Some 80PLUS Gold PSUs use a design called "LLC Resonance". Basically in this case they have an extra inductor.
Some 80PLUS Gold PSUs - +1 inductor

Intermediate voltage regulation -- Small inductors near the transformers for improving voltage regulation on the minor rails. Optional.
Quality PSU - 0 to 2 inductors
Cheap PSU - 0 to 2 inductors
Crap PSU - 0 inductors

Main voltage regulation -- Large coils used for regulating final output voltage and filtering ripple
Quality PSU - 2 to 3 inductors (either 2 to 3 for indy regulation, or 1 main and 1 to 2 on daughterboards for a DC-DC design)
Cheap PSU - 2 inductors (for group regulation)
Crap PSU - 1 to 2 inductors

Secondary pi filter inductors -- Usually vertical ferrite inductors, not coils. Used for filtering ripple. Optional.
Quality PSU - 0 to 6 inductors
Cheap PSU - 0 to 3 inductors
Crap PSU - 0 inductors




Therefore it's obvious that quality PSUs tend to have lots of inductors for various tasks, while crap ones have few. I've even seen PSUs that have only one inductor in the entire circuit, and they're among the worst PSUs I've ever seen.

You can't just add up the number of coils you see and use that to make a firm decision on the quality and performance of a PSU. But you can use it as a quick snap-decision tool when looking at a unit's internals for the first time.
Edited by Phaedrus2129 - 8/15/11 at 1:24pm
post #2 of 14
There are some specific cases (Silverstone Strider Plus 750w, 850w, & 1000w) where they are still Indy-Reg but only use 2 Inductors.

The smaller of the two inductors on the secondary side regulates the 5v & 3.3v while the large inductor on the secondary side regulates the 12v.

It's a not so Rare case, as it's something that Enhance likes to do instead of going the DC-DC route as it makes the unit smaller and cheaper to make while still outputting the same level of power.
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post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tator Tot;14592764 
There are some specific cases (Silverstone Strider Plus 750w, 850w, & 1000w) where they are still Indy-Reg but only use 2 Inductors.

The smaller of the two inductors on the secondary side regulates the 5v & 3.3v while the large inductor on the secondary side regulates the 12v.

It's a not so Rare case, as it's something that Enhance likes to do instead of going the DC-DC route as it makes the unit smaller and cheaper to make while still outputting the same level of power.

Well that's still technically group regulated--just it's the +5V and +3.3V grouped, not the +12V and +5V like you normally see. Indy regulation implies each major output gets its own dedicated VR inductor.
post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phaedrus2129;14592851 
Well that's still technically group regulated--just it's the +5V and +3.3V grouped, not the +12V and +5V like you normally see. Indy regulation implies each major output gets its own dedicated VR inductor.
Any EE (or a person with that level/type of knowledge) will tell you, it's an Indy Reg when it comes to consumer PSU's since the 3.3v is derived after the fact.

It's an odd design and an exception to the rule more or less.

You might also want to add something about the Inductors used on DC-DC Modules
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post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tator Tot;14592882 
Any EE (or a person with that level/type of knowledge) will tell you, it's an Indy Reg when it comes to consumer PSU's since the 3.3v is derived after the fact.

It's an odd design and an exception to the rule more or less.

You might also want to add something about the Inductors used on DC-DC Modules

Wait, do you mean that one type of design where the transformer outputs +12V and +5V, then +3.3V is buck regulated from the +5V output? Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what that's called, but I'd still group it with group topologies, especially since it's more common in cheaper units that I've seen, including the One Inductor Wonders.

I also did mention DC-DC in the parentheses after indy reg.
post #6 of 14
My head just exploded with many much learnings!
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post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phaedrus2129;14592900 
Wait, do you mean that one type of design where the transformer outputs +12V and +5V, then +3.3V is buck regulated from the +5V output? Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what that's called, but I'd still group it with group topologies, especially since it's more common in cheaper units that I've seen, including the One Inductor Wonders.

I also did mention DC-DC in the parentheses after indy reg.
No, I mean to separate that part out (so it's more clear.)

Also, to be Indy Regulated, since the 5v & 3.3v are grouped together on modern PC PSU's, they can be grouped together for voltage regulation internally and still be called a Indy Reg unit.

If the 5v and 3.3v were supposed to be separated (ATX Guidelines dictate they should be grouped together) then it would be a group regulated unit.

It's not really a matter of how it's done, but what the dictation states, should be done.

There's also some DC-DC boards that only have a single coil and produce 5v and 3.3v; many solutions for many problems.
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post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Well it's a rough guide anyway. tongue.gif I've covered the most important cases--may edit that one to 2 to 3 inductors though.
post #9 of 14
Like I said, it's really the only notable exception besides the rare case of the DC-DC boards that just use 1 inductor on them.

Common practice is 3 Inductors no matter what for Indy Reg or 12v + DC-DC
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post #10 of 14
A joy to read lol, laughed at the bit with Crap PSU tongue.gif
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