Almost every part of your new custom-built PC is already selected and has been meticulously researched, but what about an adequate power supply?
Believe it or not, this is the most shockingly under-researched component, and not just for first-time PC-builders! This is perplexing as there’s nothing as crucial as a robust, reliable PSU to keep your system working in tip top shape.
Having read the above paragraph, you are probably asking yourself, what kind of power supply do you need.
As with most questions of that type, the answer depends on what the power supply will be used for and how much you are willing to invest in some extra features. To get more than just a vague answer, do continue reading.
Wattage is the number manufacturers like to display in bold next to their PSU model’s name. It determines how many components the supply can support at any given time and the maximum quality of some of these components, most notably the graphics card and the processor.
In theory, more watts equals more raw power these components can take advantage of. In practice however, and especially when so called value models are concerned, this isn’t always true
A power supply might be able to produce a certain wattage on paper, but fail to do so in real working conditions. Luckily, manufacturers are obliged to label their models with a table that shows how much amperage is produced at a given voltage.
Today’s systems draw the most power at 12 volts as this is the standard for powering the motherboard, CPU and GPU. Multiply this by the amperage shown in the table, and you’ve got the power supply’s realistic watt output. If that is significantly lower than the advertised wattage, you ought to steer clear of that particular model.
You should take advantage of an online calculator for determining the minimum wattage of your unit by putting in every component it will power and taking note of the end result. It’s always a good idea to buy a quality power supply whose actual wattage exceeds the calculator’s answer by a safe margin.
This will make sure that the power supply isn’t working at max capacity which shortens its lifespan, and will give you headroom for future expansions. 100 watts is a comfortable number, but if you have the budget, 200 is even better.
More power needs equal bigger electric bills, so the unit needs to be able to convert as much of the grid’s power into usable direct current with minimal losses in the form of heat.
That’s where the 80 PLUS rating system comes in. It measures efficiency at 20, 50 and 100 percent loads and is awarded to power supplies that manage to get a score of 80 percent or more.
White or regular is the most basic while titanium exceeds 90 percent on all loads. The latter is also the most expensive, but is rarely needed since silver or gold are marginally less efficient while being noticeably cheaper.
The first factor you should consider that isn’t strictly power-related is the power supply’s modularity. Non- modular ones have fixed cables that stick out of them.
The better the supply, the more cables it tends to have, some of which you probably won’t need to use and they just take up space in the case that could be used better to optimize airflow.
Modular supplies eliminate this problem by allowing you to connect only the cables that you truly need. They’re more expensive, but well worth it for easier cable management and better temperature regulation within your PC.
If you’re not ordering online, check the supply’s weight. More often than not, beefier units indicate that the capacitors and other components inside are of a better quality.
Bigger fans are better too – a 120 or better yet, a 140mm fan, needs to spin less to eject as much hot air out of the case as a smaller one, making for an all-around quieter and cooler system.
Lastly, although not nearly as important, cosmetics have become all the rage recently. RGB fans, brightly-colored cables and other frills are certainly nice to have, but should never be a priority over reliability and quality.