Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dangerous Prototypes ATX Breakout Board [Review]

The day after I posted my review of Sparkfun’s Benchtop Power Board Kit, Dangerous Prototypes posted their latest project, the ATX Breakout Board. Curiosity got the better of me and I ordered one. After waiting for the shipment for the Orient and a few days of playing tag with my postal carrier, he finally got a signature for the international parcel and I got the Dangerous Prototypes ATX Breakout Board in my hands. Add a month or so of moving it around and doing other stuff, and voila a post. Let’s check it out.

The first thing I noticed out of the box was that all the nuts holding the binding posts in the circuit board were loose. Not a big deal, but I also found the -12v binding post's plastic cap was separated from the metal insert that screws it onto the binding post. Things should show up in one piece, but this isn’t anything I’m going to get worked up about. I'm sure Dangerous Prototypes and Seeed Studios would make good if I choose to contact them, but I'm not willing to go through the, admittedly small, trouble of getting a replacement. I just don’t care.

There’s nothing to assemble on the ATX Breakout Board unless your power supply is old enough that it requires a minimum load to operate properly. Dangerous Prototypes includes a big, 9 watt, through-hole, resister for the end user to solder on the board if required. With newer power supplies the board will work fine without the resister, and it’s a good idea to leave it out unless you absolutely need it. Otherwise, it just makes heat and wastes energy. The power supply I used with the ATX Breakout Board worked just fine without the resister.

Hooking up and using the ATX Breakout Board is exceedingly simple. The board has a 20 pin ATX connector that can be used with either a 20 pin, 20+4 pin, or 24 pin ATX connector. A little persuasion might be required to get the 24 pin plug to fit, but mine went together without too much resistance. Even though the ATX Breakout Board’s outputs share a common ground, the binding posts are spaced to the 0.75” standard. This allows the use of dual banana plugs on at least the 12v rail. With the board hooked up and running, all the LED’s lit up and I got all the respective voltages from each of the rails. I shorted each one to ground to verify that the fuses worked as expected but there’s not much more to test. Just about everything else is dependent on the power supply used with the board.

If you’re not looking for a kit, this board is just about perfect for its intended application. The LED indicators, power switch, self-resetting poly fuses, and sub $15 price tag make it a compelling choice for turning an ATX power supply into a usable bench top supply. Inexpensive parts and surface mount components help keep the price down. Without ordering a significant number of these, I can’t be sure that the bad binding post is an anomaly, but I suspect that mine is an outlier. I could chalk it up to cheap Chinese parts, but I don’t think that’s fair and I don’t want to generalize like that without more than one data point to back it up. Otherwise, I would recommend the Dangerous Prototypes ATX Breakout Board to anyone looking to use an old
ATX power supply for something other than
powering a PC.

 Links: Dangerous Prototypes, ATX Breakout BoardSparkfun Bench Top Power Board Kit [Review]

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