Some argue that CPU or a GPU is the most important part inside a PC, but we can tell that that title may go to a power supply unit, also known as a PSU. Ok, maybe it is not the most important but not a thing you need to save money on when shopping for a brand-new PC. People frequently neglect this crucial component thinking that the cheapest option will do the job. Sadly, this leads to unnecessary high power consumption or even damaged components. Yes, bad PSU can destroy everything inside your PC so choose wisely. It would be a shame to toast a $3000 worth of PC hardware because of one cheap PSU. This article will tell you how to choose a good PSU for your computer, which specs you need to consider and pinpoint some good options from different OEMs and for different budgets.
What PSU Manufacturer to Choose?
PSUs are no CPUs. If you can get either AMD or Intel CPU for your computer, PSU is filled with a plethora of different options from different manufacturers. We can’t provide a comprehensive list of which OEM is the best and which is the worst but we can tell you in general how the picture looks like.
- Higher-end segment: Seasonic, be quiet!, Thermaltake and EVGA.
- Middle-range segment: Corsair, FPS, Chieftec.
- Low-end segment: ZAMLAN, DeepCool, Cooler Master, AeroCool.
All these manufacturers provide different PSUs for different needs and budgets. Higher-end OEMs from our list are well-known for their top-notch quality and reliability. At the same time, more affordable options from other manufacturers may also serve you well.
Word of caution: when shopping for parts for your new computer, you will encounter cases with prebuilt PSUs. Don’t buy them! These may look tempting to buy and save money, but they are not a good option. Such PSUs may work well in an office machine that does not work under load, but they are not well-suited for heavy loads. This is no joke; bad PSU can destroy your hardware!
Choosing Power Supply for PC
The main characteristic of a power supply unit is its … power or power capacity. Long story short, this parameter defines the amount of power a PSU can suck from a wall socket and deliver it to your system. It is measured in watts. For example, 600 W. Most office computers don’t need more than 400 W PSU. Gaming system to require more—from 500 to 700 W. Those who want to use PCs with CPUs like Intel Core X or AMD Threadripper need even more powerful power supplies. The same applies to overclock. Cranking up clocks of your CPU or GPU may double or even triple power consumption so make sure you have enough overhead when planning to buy a PSU for overclocking.
Choosing a PSU power is a bit tricky. The first thing you need to know is that 700 W PSU won’t make your PC run faster than 400 W PSU if your PC consumes like 300 watts. The only difference is that 700 W PSU will be less efficient that 400 W since the peak efficiency is achieved when your PC runs at 50 to 80% of its power.
Nowadays it is very easy to calculate which PSU fits you the best. Be quiet! and MSI offers dedicated PSU calculators to estimate the approximate PSU power for your components.
PSU Efficiency and Certificates
After checking the power, you will find something called “efficiency certificate”. It can be 80, 80 Bronze, 80 Silver, 80 Gold, 80 Platinum or 80 Titanium. While higher power does not mean better performance, higher certificate converts to better efficiency. Here is how to understand that.
PSU can’t convert 100% of the power drawn from the socket to disposable energy for your components. It means that in order to supply 80 watts of power a PSU draws around 100 watts from the socket. The higher efficiency gets, the lower is the difference between drawn and supplied power. As a result, your PC consumes less power and your electricity bill gets lower. Profit!
Here is the list of PSU certificates with examples from different OEMs:
- 80 Plus. A PSU with 80 Plus can maintain the efficiency at 80% at loads of 20, 50 and 100% of the maximum.
- 80 Plus Bronze. Raises requirements to 81% under 20 and 100% load. Under 50% efficiency should be at least 85%. In this segment solid options are Corsair CX Series 650, EVGA 500 BR and be quiet! System Power U9. All these models are available with different power limit.
- 80 Plus Silver. A PSU gets this certificate if it supplies 85% under 20 and 100% load or 89% under 50% load. We recommend checking be quiet! Pure Power 10 or Corsair Professional Series HX.
- 80 Plus Gold. Establishes requirements for efficiency of at least 88% with a load at 20 and 100% and at 50% not less than 94%. EVGA 750 GQ, Seasonic Focus SGX-650 and be quiet! Straight Power 11 650W.
- 80 Plus Platinum. Requires that at 20% of the load the efficiency is not less than 90%, 50%—not less than 94%, and under full load—from 91%. Check out Seasonic Prime PX-850 and EVGA Supernova 850 PQ.
- 80 Plus Titanium. The most efficient and the most expensive. 90% at 10 and 100% load and 96% at 50%. CORSAIR AXi Series and Seasonic Prime 850 Titanium are nice options to consider.
It is important to note that the “metal” certificates are not awarded to power units that operate only on European networks in the range of 200-250 V, but not support the US network. Therefore, the absence of a label can only mean that the product is not designed for the US, but that doesn’t mean that this is a low-quality product.
Modular, Semi-modular or Non-modular PSU?
This parameter is completely up to you. If you don’t care how your system looks like, get non-modular PSU. It will be cheaper and shorter (modular PSU is usually a bit longer because of additional connectors). As a downside, you will get a cluttered space and poor airflow. If you can’t afford modular PSU, get a semi-modular. They are cheaper than modular PSU but at the same time offer the same flexibility. All the cables are removable except the 24-pin ATX which will be plugged in in any case. Modular and semi-modular PSUs save you a lot of space inside the case, make the system look nicer and significantly improve the airflow. Want your system to look nice and stay as cool as possible? Get a modular or semi-modular PSU man.
Sleeved or Non-sleeved Cables?
Sleeved cables have no particular effect on your system except the look. Sleeved cables have a much better look, especially when correctly combine with the rest of the components. There’s nothing wrong with non-sleeved cables. Such PSUs are cheaper but at the same time, a system may look like a mess.