We had the opportunity to have a conversation with Seasonic's product manager, Kevin Hu. Seasonic was founded in 1975 and they are one of the first manufacture to make power supplies for the PC industry. They are well respected in the power supply industry and are known for making high quality power supplies. Kevin was kind enough to answer some of our questions about power supplies, and the current and future state of the power supply industry.
[RT]: Hello Kevin, can you please introduce yourself and tell us what your role at Seasonic is?
[Kevin]: Hi my name is Kevin Hu and I am one of the product managers at Seasonic. As a product manager, I’m mainly responsible for product planning, product integration and projects management for both our retail and bulk power supplies.
[RT]: How long have you worked at Seasonic and can you describe a typical day?
[Kevin]: I have worked at Seasonic for 19 years. My typical day at Seasonic contains a big portion of teamwork, and that applies to most of us at Seasonic. During the day I will need to do multiple discussions with either our CEO or my colleagues from my team and or from members of various other departments because there are many challenges when creating and managing products. We always need to work together to figure out how to overcome them in the most efficient way. A lot of times things are challenging and frustrating but when we overcome the problems one by one, the sense of accomplishment makes me really proud of being on the Seasonic Team.
[RT]: What would you say is the most important factor when shopping for a power supply?
[Kevin]: Reliability. Unlike other components in the PC, PSU does not have that many exciting choices, but you would want it to be as stable and safe as it can be so it can support your system for a very long time even after several upgrades in other components. As a PC hardware enthusiast, I always look for PSUs from a company that is knowledgeable about its products and dedicated to its core values while placing great emphasis on customer satisfaction and full after sales support. I want to buy the product from a company that I know I can rely on, even long after the purchase. For example, a long period warranty is a great proof that this company is reliable; it means the company trusts its products.
[RT]: Do you find the power supply market more competitive these days due to so many brands coming into the market?
[Kevin]: The power supply market is a relatively limited market since power supply is something that you only buy it when you need it, and most people only need one, so it has always been competitive. There may be brands coming into the market but most of them are already well established brands of other peripheral components who now decided to join the PSU market. In fact, the PSU market is more and more consolidated to fewer and fewer brands. In most markets, the top 4 or 5 brands will take up probably 70 ~ 80% of the market because this creates more efficiency for the channel partners. I would say that we still keep ourselves in that 70 ~ 80% in the PSU market.
[RT]: Can you please explain what is the OneSeasonic initiative?
[Kevin]: I can probably spend a whole day if I am going to explain all the details about OneSeasonic since it is a pretty big project. But too keep it simple, we started this initiative to consolidate and unify all our products across different time periods and different series for easier product understanding and brand awareness and simplicity in many aspects including naming, packaging, accessories update, etc. The most obvious update will be the change in product naming. Under OneSeasonic naming, we simplify the series name to denote the product’s position, i.e. PRIME is our top-tier flagship, Focus denotes the mainstream and CORE represents the essential. After the series name, the first letter indicates the efficiency; T for Titanium, P for platinum, etc. The second letter denotes modularity; X as fully modular, M for semi modular and C as fixed cables, then the number at the end shows the wattage. Basically one can easily get all the basic information once they see the product name. I think it’s pretty neat. Besides naming we also consolidate and update many other details in packaging. Essentially, we would like to improve customers experience and to make their decision making process and understanding of our product much easier with OneSeasonic initiative.
[RT]: What are some challenges with making fanless power supplies?
[Kevin]: The Seasonic Fanless series are premium products that use the highest level of components and technologies to ensure it is ready for any and all working conditions. The most challenging part with making the fanless power supply is to figure out the heat dissipation design. We not only want to make a fanless unit, we want to make it extremely efficient and very importantly, reliable by not just putting in many heat sinks trying hard to dissipate the heat but by applying intelligent component usage and placement. Even when we have a design ready, our R&D team still needs to run countless tests to make sure it meets our highest standards and keep modifying and keep testing until it optimizes heat removal in operation which is part of the process for quality and performance.
[RT]: Most people rarely need more than a 500W PSU because computing technology has become very power efficient thus resulting in a lower overall power draw. What are your thoughts on this and does Seasonic plan on releasing more high quality 450W-500W PSUs?
[Kevin]: Although that statement is very true, Seasonic’s market position has always been aiming for the mid-high end systems. Our best selling PSU is still around the 650W-750W range. Our customers are mostly gamers, overclockers and PC hardware enthusiasts who require higher power draw, so we will put our main focus above the 450W-500W range. As well, the 600W range provides more flexibility and better future proofing. However, we are very proud that we have one of the most comprehensive line-up of PSUs in the industry and we do plan to release new 80+ Platinum efficiency fanless PSUs in the 450W-500W range. I’m sure that is going to be exciting.
[RT]: Seasonic's Focus SGX line of SFX-L PSUs is great but the Small-Form-Factor (SFF) community would absolutely love for Seasonic to release an SFX PSU line. Are there any plans in the future to release a consumer SFX PSU line?
[Kevin]: The reason why we started with SFX-L to enter the SFF market is that we consider silence as one of the most important feature for a power supply. We insisted to use the 120mm fan in our first small-form-factor PSU to keep the PSU as silent as possible. While we are working on more efficient and higher wattage SFX-L PSU, our team is also committed to developing an SFX line that can be as silent as the SFX-L even with the smaller fan.
[RT]: Is there a trend towards SFF PSUs and how big is the market within the SFF niche?
[Kevin]: Yes definitely. Now there are more and more remarkably powerful and efficient single graphics cards in the market, people don’t need as much space for GPU in their system anymore. As a result, you can find that there is an increase in variety and popularity in mini ITX case on the market. Although ATX will still dominant the PSU market but the SFF PSU surely has its potential.
[RT]: What causes coil whine in a power supply?
[Kevin]: There are many reasons that cause coil whine in a power supply. Normally the power supply would not whine by itself. Coil whine in PSU often happens when the VGA’s uptake of power and drop in power need’s speed of change exceeds the specification allotment of the power supply. We make our PSU to Intel specification but sometimes the high end VGA in intensive usage conditions may exhibit conditions that are outside of the specification range set by Intel or the PSU manufacturers, which will cause the coils and windings to oscillate and therefore, coil whine.
[RT]: When shopping for PSUs, often times companies will advertise their PSUs as having 100% Japanese capacitors. Why is this important?
[Kevin]: Japanese capacitors are known for their superior quality. Although most of the capacitors are made in China, Japanese branded capacitors are often built under more stringent conditions and quality control. A PSU that has 100% Japanese capacitors suggest that the PSU is well-protected from many problems such as leakage and overheat, thus the PSU will have a longer life-span. It is a strong statement showing the consumers that this PSU does not make compromises on its component.
[RT]: If there was one key aspect you would say sets Seasonic’s PSUs apart from the competition, what would it be?
[Kevin]: Sea Sonic has focused on power supply and power supply only for nearly 45 years. In fact, next year, 2020 is going to be our 45th anniversary. The company was founded by engineers and is still run by engineers even to this day. We maintain our core identity with the extreme passion in engineering, design and manufacturing through the decades. It is difficult to survive for that long period of time in this ever-changing industry and it is way more difficult to thrive, but Seasonic certainly has done it. It is the insistence for the top quality PSUs and never ending improvements that makes Seasonic, Seasonic.
[RT]: Last but not least, where do you personally see the power supply market heading in the future?
[Kevin]: The size of the power supply market may not be as it is now, but the PSU market will always exist because there is always the need to make AC input into usable DC output. The most important thing is that, Sea Sonic, as the industry leader will stay relevant through our strength in technology and quality.
[RT]: We would like to thank Kevin for taking the time out to do this interview.