5 Important Things to Consider When Choosing a Power Supply

October 20, 2015 | By @IVANZXT | PCDIY

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The power supply (PSU) is one of the most integral components of a PC, but often one of the most overlooked. While some builders aim for wattage that exceeds their PC and then some, other builders aim for a budget PSU that sacrifices quality and reliability.

Builders should think of the PSU as the heart of the PC because it provides energy to every component. And if you skimp in this area it can have costly (and annoying) consequences.

Here are 3 important things to consider when choosing a power supply:

#1 Wattage

The first thing you need to do when choosing a PSU is calculate the total wattage needed for your build. We would like to thank the folks at Outer Vision for creating the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator – one of the most-used PSU wattage calculators out there and an invaluable tool for determining the total wattage you should use in your build.

After you calculate total wattage, we suggest that builders account for total power plus a 20% buffer for safety and future-proofing. Doing so will allow you to dodge the cost of a new PSU if you decide to install SLI or Crossfire GPUs later on.

#2 Price

The second thing you should consider when choosing a PSU is to determine your budget. In general, setting aside between 10-15% of the total system build is a good cost per performance ratio.

For example, if you build cost is around $1000, then your PSU budget would be about $100-$150. However, this price can fluctuate depending on features, efficiency, and modularity.

#3 Rating

After figuring out your budget and power consumption needs, you may need to consider long-term energy savings. The 80PLUS organization has defined the efficiency standard for power supplies and gives us a clear example of what good efficiency is – something you should always strive to have on a PSU.

The 80PLUS certification standard guarantees:

  • Efficiency: You can find out which PSUs are certified on the official 80PLUS web site that guarantees you the specific energy efficiency.
  • Accurate Wattage:  Some PSU providers sell products by a peak power rated number. The 80PLUS certificate ensures the PSU produces 100% accurate wattage when used. True wattage is very important if you buy something based on peak power because it will not perform consistently without it.
  • Active PFC: Some reviewers call this APFC, which is short for Active Power Factor Corrector. The purpose of APFC is to make the apparent power equal to true power.  APFC corrects reactive loading from the wall outlet to the PSU and prevents energy from being wasted from the power company to consumer – giving greater efficiency for both the provider and consumer. At the same time, your PSU will have better voltage regulation while running slightly cooler, letting the PC perform as stable as possible.

NZXT recommends 80PLUS certificated PSUs for all of the benefits listed above and because it also saves you money! You can save up to $80 a year with an 80PLUS Gold certified PSU and is part of the reason why NZXT only offers 80PLUS certified products.

#4 Modularity

Another aspect of PSUs that often gets overlooked is modularity. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to figure out what type of cabling you need because there are only three options:

  • Direct Cable:  All PSU cables come from the PSU housing directly. This setting is cheaper in production or design, making PSUs cheaper to consumers. However, this is not good for the enthusiast who may need to change his build from time to time. Cable management is also much harder with a mess of spaghetti cables to deal with.
  • Semi-Modular: All necessary cables come from the PSU case directly such as ATX Power (20+4) connector, CPU (4+4) connector, and PCI-e (6+2) connector. Other non-essential plugs such as Molex (4-pin) and SATA (15-pin) connectors, are modular allowing you to remove them at will. Semi-modular offers middle ground pricing and is a decent cable management solution.
  • Full-Modular:  All cables are removable, making installation extremely easy and sleek. Cable management is extraordinarily easier with a full-modular PSU and it makes it easy if you change builds frequently or even if this is your first build.

#5 Looks

Okay! The last step for enthusiasts is to look at the visual design of the PSU to find one that matches the color theme of the build. Everyone has their own style and the most important thing how the system will look to you. Sometimes, a PSU can be used as an accent to your rigs instead of a junky black box at the bottom of the case.

So, Which PSU is For You?

Ultimately, choosing a PSU will come down to your own personal preference but I hope we cleared up some of the more surface-level problems. But if you’re still uncertain about anything, just let us know in the comments below and we’ll be sure to answer all your questions.

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@IVANZXT

@IVANZXT

I like to build computers and play video games. Chat with me on the official NZXT Discord server!