How to Discover Your Power Supply's Real Manufacturer
By Gabriel Torres on November 15, 2010
More and more traditional companies from other segments are entering the PC power supply market. However, the majority of them actually don’t manufacture their products. In this short tutorial we will teach you how to find out who is the real manufacturer of a given power supply.
We can separate power supply companies into three groups: the ones that design and manufacture their own products (the minority), the ones that design their own products but hire another company to manufacture the products for them, and the ones that use OEM products, i.e., another company designs and manufactures their products, but adding the label, box and manual from the contracting company. Almost all well-known manufacturers that aren’t originally from the power supply business fall in this last category.
Is this bad? Maybe. As the quality of the power supply will not depend on the labeled brand but on the real manufacturer, a given brand can provide a terrific product line on their original business (memory, cooling or whatever) but a different quality level for their power supply line. But we strongly believe that manufacturers will choose other manufacturers with the same quality level or they would get burned pretty quickly.
We can also have the funny situation of two different brands providing exactly the same power supply, as many original manufacturers are providing products to more than one brand. In some situations you can also find the same power supply on the market under the real manufacturer brand.
Everything will depend on the agreement between the two companies, as this agreement will say if the original manufacturer can or cannot sell their products to other companies or even sell them under their own brand. Sometimes they will agree that products picked to be manufactured under brand “X” will be exclusive, but other products can be sold to other companies. Sometimes the agreement will say that after “x” months the original manufacturer has the option to also sell the same product under their own brand or to sell it to other companies to be labeled under different brands.
Keep in mind that a company can buy power supplies from more than one source. If you find out that model ABC from brand MNO was manufactured by company XYZ, this does not necessary mean that all other models from MNO will also be from XYZ.
So, how can we find out who is the real manufacturer of a given power supply? There are some ways.
Today, the best way to discover a power supply real manufacturer and original model number is through its 80 Plus report, provided that the unit is 80 Plus-certified, of course. Using this method you don’t need to disassemble the power supply or even have it in your possession, and you also may be able to find models from other brands that are internally identical to the unit you are researching. We will explore this technique in the next page.
If the power supply isn’t 80 Plus-certified, you may be able to find its real manufacturer without opening it by checking its UL or TÜV SÜD registration number, if one is provided on the power supply box or label. However, as more and more companies are getting their own UL or TÜV SÜD registration number, in most cases today the number will decode to the brand that is selling the product, and not the original manufacturer. We will teach you how to decode the registration numbers in pages three and four.
If using the above-listed techniques you aren’t able to determine the real manufacturer of a power supply, then you will need to look at its internals. At first you may think that this isn’t an option, since opening the power supply voids the warranty. However, sometimes you can discover the real manufacturer by simply looking inside the unit through its venting holes. For example, most power supplies manufactured by a company called CWT use green adhesive tape inside the unit. So, if by looking inside the unit through its venting holes you see that the transformers and several other components are wrapped in green tape, you probably looking at a unit manufactured by CWT.
Of course if you can't determine the real manufacturer by simply looking through the venting holes, you will need to open the unit, thus voiding its warranty. Then, inside the unit, you need to look for evidences of the real manufacturer. We will show you several examples on how to do that throughout this tutorial.
Today, the easiest way to discover the real manufacturer and the real model of a given power supply is by analyzing its 80 Plus report. Of course, if the power supply isn’t 80 Plus-certified you won’t be able to use this trick (in this case, skip to the next page to learn other identification methods).
This is possible because Ecos Consulting, the company behind 80 Plus, doesn’t retest rebranded power supplies, they simply get the report of the original power supply and change the name of the brand and model. A complete explanation of this process can be read here.
Each 80 Plus report has a field called “Ecos ID #.” When a power supply is rebranded (i.e., an identical copy of another power supply), Ecos Consulting use the same identification number as the original power supply, but adding a “.1” after it.
So, a power supply with an Ecos ID # of “123” is the original power supply, while an ID “123.1” means the unit is a copy of the power supply that has the ID number “123.” It is important to understand that Ecos Consulting only started using this scheme more or less recently, so this standard is not valid for older models.
How can you discover the original manufacturer and original model of a power supply? First, open the 80 Plus directory and find the 80 Plus report for the unit you are researching. Open it and find its “Ecos ID #.”
Then, you will have to perform two Google searches, because the URL for the 80 Plus database has changed recently and Google isn’t fully updated yet:
Ecos ID# 123 site:80plus.org
Ecos ID# 123 site:plugloadsolutions.com
Of course you will have to replace “123” with the Ecos ID # of your power supply, removing the “.1,” if present. As explained, if the Ecos ID # doesn’t have a “.1” after it, it means you are facing the real deal, the power supply you have was really manufactured by the company that is selling it.
For a real example, consider the OCZ Z-Series 850 W power supply. It has “1495.1” as its Ecos ID #. After making our two searches at Google, we found out that this power supply is actually a rebranded High Power HP-850-G14C, because this power supply has the same identification number but without the “.1” after it. Not only that, we found out that the Thortech Thunderbolt 850 W is also a rebranded High Power HP-850-G14C (because it also carries the 1495.1 Ecos ID number), meaning that internally the OCZ Z-Series 850 W and Thortech Thunderbolt 850 W are identical.
If the power supply you are trying to discover the real manufacturer isn’t 80 Plus-certified, then the second way to try to discover its real manufacturer is through its UL registration number.
On the label of almost all power supplies there is an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) record number, usually very small under a logo that looks like an “UR” seen in the mirror (we will show this logo on the pictures below, so you will know exactly how this logo looks like). With this number, you can go to UL’s website and check who is the owner of that record.
Click on the link above and enter it on “UL File Number” and then hit “Search.” Then you should see the name of the company that applied for the UL certification.
If the system returns the name of the power supply brand and you know that it is not the real manufacturer, this means that the company paid to have its own UL number, and you will have to use other methods for discovering the real manufacturer.
For example, consider the power supply shown in Figure 1, which is sold by OCZ. Researching this UL number the system returns “OCZ Technology” as the registrant and since we know OCZ doesn’t have factories, this means that they paid to have their own UL number.
But if you are lucky, you will be able to discover the real manufacturer. We give a few examples below. Try entering the UL numbers provided in the pictures below on the UL website to see how this works by yourself.
Our friend JonnyGuru has a complete list of all known UL numbers, with the real manufacturers, link to their websites and which companies sell relabeled power supplies from them.
Unfortunately power supplies that aren’t targeted to be sold in the USA may not have a UL number. And a few power supplies carry the UL logo but not the UL registration number. And we have even seen a couple of very low-end generic “Made in China” power supplies with fake UL numbers (numbers copied from another power supply)!
Another agency that some manufacturers certify their units with is called TÜV SÜD. Although not as popular as the UL, you may be able to discover the real manufacturer of the power supply by searching for the TÜV SÜD registration number on the website below, if a TÜV SÜD registration number is provided on the power supply label or on the power supply box. Notice that while good power supplies will carry the TÜV logo, only a few have the certification number printed. Make sure to take a close look at both the product label and the product box, because sometimes the logo on the label doesn’t have the registration number but the one on the box has or vice-versa.
On the link above, select “Certificate number” on the “Please select category” drop-down box, enter the certification number on the “Search” box and hit “Go.”
Power supplies may carry other certifications with their respective registration numbers; we only covered UL and TÜV SÜD because they are the main ones.
If you couldn’t find out the real power supply manufacturer by using the techniques described before, you may find the real manufacturer by carefully inspecting the power supply. Although ideally you have to open the power supply to better look for evidences that may point out who the real manufacturer is, sometimes you will be able to spot these hints by looking through the vent holes from the unit, so not necessarily you will have to open your unit (what would void the warranty).
On this page we will show you how to identify power supplies manufactured by CWT (Channel Well Technology), while in the next pages we will cover other companies.
Power supplies manufactured by CWT are usually easy to spot, because this company is the only one that uses green adhesive tape everywhere inside the power supply. So if you look inside the power supply and you see green transformers and green tape everywhere, you are probably dealing with a unit manufactured by this company.
Of course not all power supplies from CWT have so much green tape (see Figures 8 and 9 for examples). Two other tells from CWT units is the name “CWT” written on the transformers and the use of transformers from a brand called Viking. Note, however, that not all power supplies using Viking transformers are manufactured by CWT. Also, in some cases the manufacturer removes the “CWT” name from the transformer.
Some models will have “CWT CO., LTD.” written on the printed circuit board, as shown in Figure 10.
FSP is another power supply manufacturer widely used by several brands. This company may also be referred as Sparkle, Sparkle Power or simply SPI (Sparkle Power, Inc.), which is a company from the same group.
The most common tell on FSP power supplies is the name “SPI” printed on top of the transformers.
Another thing that you may find on units manufactured by this company is FSP’s logo printed on the printed circuit board.
And you can also find the name “FSP” in the beginning of the model number printed on the printed circuit board.
The greatest tell from power supplies manufactured by Seasonic is the presence of the manufacturer’s logo printed on the transformers, as shown in Figure 14.
Power supplies manufactured by Seventeam will usually have the letters “ST” printed on the transformers.
Of course if you find the name “Seventeam” written on the printed circuit board there is no doubt of who the real manufacturer is.
Another real power supply manufacturer is Enhance Electronics. One of the methods to say a power supply was manufactured by this company is paying attention to the wires that are soldered on the AC power cord socket. This manufacturer uses a black wire, a white wire and a green/yellow wire. We know that this identification method is far from being “scientific,” but all other manufacturers use brown and blue wires on this receptacle!
Some power supplies manufactured by HEC/Compucase will have the name “HEC” printed on the transformers, as illustrated in Figure 19.