State of the art Processor? Check. Ridiculously powerful graphics card? Double-check! A strong and trustworthy power supply unit that will continuously feed your computers with all the power they could possibly need and won’t literally explode if you look at it the wrong way…?
For many more users than anyone should be comfortable with, that last question remains unanswered, or the answer doesn’t turn out to be adequate. Without a power supply, your fabulous new computer is just a glorified pile of dust-gathering parts.
With one of questionable quality, it is a bona fide fire hazard. That is why spending a few minutes researching what qualities a good power supply needs to have is probably the smartest decision you can make concerning your rig.
The trouble with selecting a proper power supply is that there is a huge assortment of them out there. Literally dozens of companies produce them and the differences in performance and price can be staggering.
As if that wasn’t confusing enough, a supply’s specifications doesn’t need to mean exactly what they say, there’s a wide disparity between the quality of internal components, efficiency and safety.
Looking at a unit that’s been labeled as putting out 500W of power tells you next to nothing about its performance, hence a little more research is required to get a basic idea of what really makes a power supply unit a sound investment.
It’s great that we’re living in the information age and users from across the globe can band together to shed some light on different models’ strengths and weaknesses. Before you commit to buying a power supply, it is a great idea to read up on what other, more experienced users are saying about the model you had in mind, and look for possible alternatives if it ends up not being up to snuff.
Also, you should approach buying it with a firm understanding of which components the unit will power, how much you plan on pushing its limits, and how much money in your budget you’re willing to allocate to the power supply. Inexperienced builders often make the mistake of assuming that any old unit will do, and end up paying for a new PC’s when the defective component ends up frying all the others.
If you keep in mind the features the best power supply needs to have, you’ll enjoy a system and possibly one or two more after it with no trace of electrical faults.
Advertised vs. real wattage – Quality power supplies deliver as much power through their 12V rail(s) as advertised. On the other hand, products from less trustworthy manufacturers might be labeled with one wattage, but fail to come anywhere near that in real world application. You’ll need to consider one of the dependable manufacturers mentioned in the reviews below or a similar well-recognized name to be sure that the supply’s potential and actual output are one and the same.
Output stability – Being able to reach, let’s say, 600W at maximum and maintaining that kind of output in a stable way are two entirely different things. Of course, fluctuations are unavoidable since you’re dealing with power conversion after all. Still, standards have been put in place which regulates how much of an offset is considered tolerable.
A standard power supply will have an offset of +/- 5%. With a great one, this is further reduced to +/- 2%. This means that you can put pretty much maximum stress on the unit and not fear constant system shutdowns.
Cool running – As the power supply’s main job is to convert the grid AC power to DC, something PC components find a little more palatable, it’s no surprise that it generates a lot of heat during the process.
There are a few things a good power supply comes equipped with to keep the heat at bay though. A combination of efficient operation, good construction and a solid, large fan will all contribute to lowering both the amount of produced heat and the time it lingers on in the system.
An abundance of connectors – particularly important for more expensive builds that feature more graphics cards and a lot of storage space. Better units give you the most options, and the more advanced ones also don’t force you to keep unnecessary cables in the case, freeing up room for other components and better circulation of air.
|EVGA 500 W1, 80+ WHITE 500W, 3 Year Warranty, Power Supply 100-W1-0500-KR||$||4.6/5|
|EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G1, 80+ GOLD 650W||$$||4.6/5|
|Apevia ATX-VS450W 450W Power Supply||$||4.2/5|
|Corsair RMx Series, RM850x, 850W, Fully Modular Power Supply, 80+ Gold Certified||$$$||4.5/5|
|Thermaltake SMART 600W Continuous Power ATX 12V V2.3 / EPS 12V 80 PLUS Active PFC Power Supply||$$||4.5/5|
|Corsair RMx Series, RM1000x, 1000W, Fully Modular Power Supply, 80+ Gold Certified||$$$||4.5/5|
|SeaSonic 650-Watt ATX12V/EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Active PFC Power Supply SSR-650RM||$$$||4.4/5|
|Rosewill Glacier Series Continuous 80 Plus Bronze Certified Semi-Modular Design ATX12V/EPS12V 600W Power Supply Glacier 600M||$$||4.3/5|
|Apevia ATX-JP1000W 1000W Power Supply||$$||3.4/5|
|Antec VP-450 Power Supply||$||4.4/5|
To give you an idea of what a power supply which fulfills most if not all of the criteria above looks and performs like, what follows are the reviews for five such units. Each has a number of features that make it more viable for a specific kind of PC configuration and the buyer’s budget.
If you’re an avid gamer, chances are you’re already familiar with EVGA as a top tier name in the world of graphics cards. They make power supplies as well, and these aren’t half bad either! This 500-watt unit is ideal for any kind of mainstream PC used for gaming, media streaming or content creation.
It is an inexpensive yet fully functional unit and it’s safe to say that EVGA has achieved a great balance of its available features and an attractive price which won’t hurt your wallet. It’s a no fuss, no stress power supply that’s bound to find a long-term home in many a household’s family PC.
Another one of EVGA’s excellent power supplies. The G1 is a step up from the previously mentioned model both in terms of the wattage it can supply and the efficiency level at which it does this.
Computer enthusiasts looking for that extra notch of power to fuel their needs with will find that the G1 is a capable unit which won’t drop in performance, even after extended use.
EVGA is so committed to this model’s quality that they’re giving an almost unprecedented 10-year limited warranty along with it. This alone would make buying it a fantastic deal, but it’s the supply’s performance features that give it unquestionable value.
Most budget-build PCs run on equally cheap power supplies. While it is generally a good idea not to skimp out on this most vital of components, doing some research and coming up with a gem like this model from Apevia can be well worth it.
This is the perfect kind of power supply for modest PCs which won’t be running a demanding graphics card anytime soon. It’s also an option with great value as a substitute unit when replacing a pre-built’s generally shoddy one, or for nostalgic retro builds which only need a fraction of the power of today’s gaming rigs.
Regardless of how well they perform, none of the previously mentioned power supplies could tackle something as demanding as a cutting-edge PC intended for 3D animation or gaming at ultra-settings in 4k resolution. Corsair, one of the biggest names in the industry, gladly steps up to the challenge with a power supply that has a stellar track record of fulfilling the needs of power hogs in any build.
Whether you need a dependable unit which can tackle highly-overclocked, liquid cooled GPUs and CPUs, or want a good amount of leeway for future upgrades, you can rely on the RM850x to keep all your components “well fed” and never need to worry about damage caused by surges, voltage spikes or other power-related issues.
Last but certainly not least, we have a unit from Thermaltake that takes the thrifty approach to mid-tier model shopping and manages to stand out in this oversaturated market segment thanks to its solid performance and the right set of compromises that helped lower its price and give it a lot of value for the average PC builder.
At 600W it will easily handle an up-to-date gaming system, not to mention any and all less taxing ones. Corners were without a doubt cut to produce it, but the features which aren’t present would have been mostly noticed by enthusiasts anyway. For most users who expect a flawlessly working product that will keep up with their everyday demands, there’s hardly a better solution.
As you can see, finding the right supply for your needs isn’t all that difficult when you’ve got a few basic parameters to help you narrow down the search. Since the needs of different consumers are so diverse, it’s great that there are exceptional products to integrate into your PC at any level.
Apevia has the right answer for the budget builder, Corsair is king for enthusiast builds that demand only excellence, and for every kind of in-between build the likes of EVGA and Thermaltake have got you covered.
Investing in any of these is an investment into a carefree future, at least when the health of your PC and its power requirements are concerned, and will prove to be a smart decision as their specifications and overall performance set them apart from other models. Whichever supply you decide to purchase in the end, you can look forward to many years of good service.