PC Power Supplies
Power Supplies are one of the essential components when building a PC, and definitely worth investing in, for several reasons. Brand reliability, system wattage, efficiency, and cable modularity are the main reasons for investing in a power supply, and we’ll go over each section here.
Reliability is one of the bigger (if not the biggest) reasons to invest in your PSU. When you’re right in the middle of a game, or working on a project for a client, or streaming media content to some device in your house, you want to know that the internal components of the PSU will be able to handle the load.
High-intensity workloads are heavy in electrical draw, and can also generate a fair amount of heat. They also require “clean” power, which is to say, power that is stable, and doesn’t stutter around. Power that is “dirty” will still run your PC, it just won’t be as smooth, and it has an increased chance of failure mid-session.
There are quite a few PSU brands on the market, but 3 brands rise to the top every time. EVGA, Corsair, and SeaSonic are in the top 3, with EVGA having a pretty good grip on #1 overall. When buying the power source for your fancy, super-powerful PC, you want to be sure you’re giving it the best possible reliability you can.
System Wattage may seem like an obvious reason, but we’ll go over it anyway, and for good reason. While you may understand that you need to get enough power to “run your stuff”, you actually need a bit more as overhead. Power Supplies work best when just under full load, so having that extra bit will keep it running nice and smoothly.
Also, if you have any plans to increase the electrical load (adding another GPU, more storage/RAM, fans, or water cooling), then you need to make sure that the PSU has enough available power. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to buy a whole new PSU, which is extremely annoying.
Also, if you plan on playing games/running applications that will stress your hardware, and potentially make them “turbo”, you’ll need to have sufficient available power for that. I recommend a base of 500W, or at least 100W over the system draw. If you plan on adding more stuff to your system relatively soon, factor that into your calculation, and then tack on another 100W.
Efficiency is one of the areas that gets cut most often, along with our final section. Efficiency relates to how much power the PSU pulls from the wall to generate the wattage it is rated for. To put it more simply, a more efficient PSU will save you money on your electrical bill. If you have a 1000W+ PSU, and run it at load for 4hrs/day, idle for about 8, and off for the other 12, for a year, you’ll save about 60-100/year in electricity by using an 80+ Gold PSU (or better). The higher-efficiency PSUs pay for themselves in about a year or two, so they do work.
However, if you don’t really draw much power, you’re probably better off saving the money, and buying a lower 80+ Silver unit, as the savings from the increased efficiency are only seen best with high-wattage loads.
One thing to note, higher-efficiency PSUs will also waste less electrical energy as heat, so it’ll save you money on your HVAC bill as well. But, be careful, as while it may seem like a great option to buy a high-wattage, high-efficiency unit, to save a bunch of money, the efficiency savings only works while using the bulk of the electrical potential. In other words, if you only have a 350W draw, don’t buy a 1000W PSU, you’ll just be wasting money you’ll never get back in time. Buy about 100W 80+ Gold (or better) over the full system draw, and you’ll be fine.
The final option (and the option most often neglected) is cable modularity. Modularwhat….you might say. Cable modularity is how the power cables are sleeved, and bunched together.
Non-modular cables are often on the cheaper PSUs, but are harder to work with, and make for messier designs and cable management. These cable arrays involve all of the cables being bunched together in a big set. Semi-modular cables are on mid-range PSUs, and only have the motherboard+CPU power cables bunched together. Fully-modular cables have every cable individually sleeved, and none bunched together.
The advantage of Fully-Modular PSUs, is if you ever decide to use custom-sleeved cables (thinner sleeving that can be different colors, and is also easier to work with), the PSU is ready to have a whole new set of cables installed. If you were using a sem-modular PSU, then you couldn’t use new cables for the motherboard and CPU. If you were using a non-modular PSU, then you couldn’t swap out any cables for new premium-sleeved ones, and would be stuck with buying a whole new PSU.
While ultimately, these are all finer aspects of the component, and not “critical”, they should still be taken into consideration, as they can save you a headache...and some money too!
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