UK Exclusive Review Manufacturers love to cram extra features into every part of a PC, but it comes as a surprise that Gigabyte - making its debut in the PSU biz - has managed the same trick with its new Odin GT 800W power supply.
Gigabyte has borrowed some aspects of the Odin from other high-end PSUs, so the casing is heavily perforated to aid cooling and the massive 140mm fan is the largest that would fit in the casing.
The cables are modular, using a system that Gigabyte calls Smart Cable Management and this is where we come across Odin's first oddity. There are four attached cables with the first supplying a 24-pin ATX connector.
The second carries both four-pin and eight-pin 12V connectors while the third and fourth are PCI Express power lines for graphics cards. These are branched to provide a two-pin connector alongside the regular six-pin plug so if you connect both in together they can power the new eight-pin connector that you find on AMD's ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT.
Curiously there are no native connectors for optical drives or hard drives so no matter what, you're sure to have to plug in at least one of the ancillary cables. There are six female connectors on the power supply. Two are colour-coded red and blue and are intended for the extra two PCIe graphics power cords. So yes, that's four PCIe connectors in total. Hello, HD 2900 XT CrossFire.
The other four cables each have three connectors, and if you plug the whole lot in you can run six SATA drives, five devices with Molex connectors and a single floppy drive. Annoyingly the latches for the connectors can block one another so you may have to unplug a couple of the cables if you decide to rearrange the cabling inside your PC.
So far, so normal, but then we come to the second oddity: the USB connection. You can either plug the connection directly to a spare USB header on your motherboard or you can connect a supplied adapter that feeds the cable out of the case to connect to an external USB port.
And why, you might wonder, would you want a data connection between your PC and your power supply? The Odin monitors both power draw and internal temperatures, much like the Bios monitors your motherboard, and the USB connection allows the Odin to pass this information to the Gigabyte Power Tuner software. That's a neat trick in itself but Gigabyte has extended the idea by adding four more connections to the power supply, all of which accept plug-in temperature probes that are 50cm long.
You can place these probes anywhere you like inside your case, perhaps to monitor the temperature of the northbridge cooler and the power regulation hardware around your CPU. The downside is that you have to fix the temperature probes in place, perhaps with sticky tape or a dab of glue.
Gigabyte has two other versions of the GT with 680W and 550W ratings, as well as three Pro units - 800W, 680W and 550W - that don’t have the Power Tuner connection. Later in the year, there will be a 1200W Thor that has support for three graphics cards through six PCEe connectors.
The Power Tuner software has three modes: Main, Configuration and Alarm. We took a couple of screen grabs of the Main screen first with an HD 2600 XT graphics card and then with an HD 2900 XT.
Power Tuner screen with HD 2600 XT
Power Tuner screen with HD 2900 XT
The corruptions on the HD 2900 XT screen were clearly visible and rather annoying. We were using a Core 2 Extreme QX6800 on an Asus P5K3 Deluxe with 2GB of Kingston DDR 3 memory, so the reported power-draw figures of 110W and 189W to run Windows seem quite reasonable. When we pushed the HD 2900 XT system with a gaming benchmark, the Odin reported a maximum power draw of 328W which correlated quite well with a draw at the socket of 355W.
Configuring the Odin is quick and simple, and our only disappointment was the button that allows you to disable the four blue LEDs inside the PSU as this setting isn't retained when you shut down your PC. And yes, it is interesting in a dweebish sort of way to see the results as the four temperature probes monitor the innards of your PC. If you want to know exactly how much stress you’re putting on each of the four 12V rails then the Odin will tell you, but the peak Watt figure is more of an annoyance than anything else. The first time you put your PC under load and see that you have plenty of Watts in hand you’ll feel a sense of relief but after that you’ll likely curse that you believed the power requirement figure on your graphics card box.
In the event that you overload your power supply, our experience suggests that you don’t have to wait for a software app to sound an alarm. Instead, the clues are the loud bang from the power supply, the acrid smell as the magic smoke is released and then the darkness as the lights go out. Here’s a Register Hardware rule of thumb: if you have a gaming PC with a single high-end graphics card then a 550W power supply is more than adequate, while a 680W PSU will handle any CrossFire or SLI set-up on the market. The Odin's 800W is way more than anyone needs. That’s not to say that the Odin GT Power Tuner feature is useless, as the configuration feature that allows the cooling fan to spin faster as the power draw exceeds a pre-set level may prove of interest.
It’s a handy safety net that allows the Odin to be effectively silent in daily use but when the going gets tough the cooling can increase to compensate. Gigabyte could replace most of the bells and whistles of the Power Tuner software with the simple advice: "If you can hear the Odin fan you’re about to have a problem."
Gigabyte's entry to the power supply market is very promising and we have no doubt that the support for four PCI Express connections will appeal to the overclocking fraternity. Perhaps the animated software and flashing blue LEDs will also generate some excitement, but we thought those aspects were a touch gimmicky.