Best Power Supply
Power supply units may not be the most exciting PC component, but they are of course very important and can have a tremendous overall impact on your system. While your personal power requirements will depend entirely on the specific components in your computer, the average PC requires a bare minimum of about 400W. The best practice is to multiply your needs by one-and-a-half, to keep from running your PSU at full capacity, which can cause it to be less efficient, heat up more, and fail faster.
In addition to pure wattage, make sure you're getting the right types of connectors, especially with video cards requiring their own dedicated power source. If you're concerned about efficiency, look for 80 PLUS ratings, with an eye toward bronze, silver, gold, and platinum tiers. Power supply specifications include a lot of important technical information, so take a look at the power supply buyer’s guide below for more details and suggestions on finding the right model for your system.
Best Power Supply Overall:
When it comes to overall quality for a power supply, it's important to look at key aspects such as 80 PLUS rating for power efficiency and cord options and connectivity. The 80 PLUS rating on a power supply indicates how efficient the unit is, with higher ratings indicating greater efficiency and less wasted power due to heat loss and other factors. You should consider how many connections come with a power supply as well as how they can be connected to the PSU and other components. These different power supply series have individual models that cover a wide range of wattages, so use a voltage calculator to determine how much power you need.
We've chosen these picks as the best power supplies overall because each of these series includes at least three different models, giving you options for the amount of power you need. All of these series also offer at least one model with an 80 PLUS Gold rating, though most of them have multiple models with Gold or better ratings. Lastly, these picks all feature modular designs which makes them easy to set up and use, plus reduces clutter and improves airflow within your computer tower or case.
There are a few different SuperNOVA PSU series from EVGA, and the P2 is among the very best. There are six different models available, ranging from 650W to 1600W of power, so you can choose the very best PSU for your needs. These models are all fully modular, to minimize cables in your computer case and they have 80 PLUS Platinum ratings. Read Full Review
This terrific series features full modular connectivity for the cables and a ton of connections for your internal components. The 80 PLUS Platinum rating on this series means all of these models offer great power efficiency. There are four different models available in this series, including 750W, 850W, 1000W, and 1200W PSUs. Read Full Review
This series from FirePower gives you great options for highly efficient PSUs between 850W and 1250W, which should be perfect for just about any high-end system. The 80 PLUS Gold rating on this series is very good, though not as efficient as some models on the market. Perhaps the biggest weakness of this line is that only three different models are available which limits your options. Read Full Review
The features of this series are excellent for a lot of computer setups. The modular design is great, with a low-noise fan, and a ten-year warranty, which is far more protection than most other PSUs on the market. This series is 80 Plus Gold rated, which is not quite as efficient as Platinum, and comes in eight different models from 550W to 1600W. Read Full Review
This is a terrific series of power supplies, but there are a number of inconsistencies from one model to the next that make it less than perfect. While there are 13 different models in this line, from 550W to 1500W, there are major differences between them such as three having an 80 PLUS Silver rating while the rest of 80 PLUS Gold ratings. Read Full Review
Best Gaming PSU:
A really good gaming PSU needs to provide excellent, reliable power that can keep a high-end gaming rig running for countless hours. While no piece of equipment is going to work at 100% efficiency, higher 80 PLUS ratings help ensure as much power efficiency as possible. In the past, a multi-rail PSU was preferable for a high-end gaming system, but now a single rail is sufficient as long as there is proper overpower protection. You'll want to make sure you choose the right wattage for your particular setup, so use a power supply calculator to figure out just what model you'll need.
We've chosen the following as the best gaming PSUs thanks to at least one model in each series with an 80 PLUS Platinum rating or better which ensures each has excellent energy efficiency. These series also give you great options for the amount of power you need, with at least three different models in each and maximum power of 1200W or more. Lastly, all of these models are manufactured with modular designs which let you minimize clutter within your computer case while making their setup quite easy.
This is a very impressive power supply series with the best efficiency rating possible and a number of different models to meet any need. While only four available models can be a bit limiting, you can choose from 750W to 1600W, depending on the demands of your other components. The 80 PLUS Titanium rating is excellent, and applies to all of these models. Read Full Review
This series is a great combination of just about everything you could want from a gaming PSU. Although some of the specs can vary depending on the model, every PSU in this series is 80 PLUS Platinum rated for incredible efficiency and they all have five-year warranties. All of these PSUs are multi-rail models which is an excellent design for a gaming computer, and they are either semi or fully modular. Read Full Review
While the AXi Digital series from Corsair may not have as many models as something like the Enermax Platimax series, the few models available are excellent. All four of these models are 80 PLUS Platinum rated or better and include digital controls for optimal efficiency. Read Full Review
This series has a semi-modular design that is easy to use and provides plenty of connections for your components. One thing to keep in mind is that there are some inconsistencies within the series. There are 17 different models available in this series and while seven of them are Platinum rated, the other 10 are only Gold rated. Read Full Review
This is a great series of power supplies for any gaming PC, but there are a few issues that keep it from being the very best of the best. Only three models are available, which is a bit limited, and they cover between 750W and 1200W of power. The semi-modular design is pretty good, though fully modular would be preferable, and only the 1200W model has an 80 PLUS Platinum rating. Read Full Review
Best Budget Power Supply:
In looking at good budget power supplies, the best models typically offer great performance at a reasonable price. All of these should be available for about seventy five dollars or less, and many of them can be found for around fifty dollars. While more power is almost always a good thing, this list includes power supplies that offer different wattage levels so that you can find the power supply that's just right for your needs. If you're looking to put together a high-end computer for serious PC gaming or extensive video editing, then these aren't great options; however, they're perfect for a simple computer with low power requirements.
We've chosen these as the best budget power supplies because they have at least 80 PLUS certification which means they operate efficiently and lose a low amount of power as heat loss. All of these models also have a minimum of 350W of power which is sufficient for a basic computer although certainly not enough for a powerful gaming PC. However, you get at least four SATA cables, two peripheral cables, and one PCIe connector with these models to give you plenty of connections for all of your computer components.
This is an excellent power supply with about the highest 80 PLUS rating you are likely to find in this price range. 450W is a great amount of power for a budget model, and when combined with the efficiency rating, it just offers everything you could want. It has a main 20+4 power connector, four SATA connections, and two 6+2 PCIe cables. Read Full Review
Here is an excellent power supply that would definitely be the best option if it just had a higher efficiency rating. While 80 PLUS Bronze is pretty good, it just cannot compare with a PSU that is Gold rated, though 500W of power is quite good for this price. It has a modular design, which lets you choose what cables to use, with two PCIe cables and five SATA connectors. Read Full Review
If you don't need a ton of power, and you want a really earth-friendly option, then give this model from Antec a good look. It is 80 PLUS Bronze certified and though it only produces 380W of power, it runs quietly and includes a low-noise fan to keep it cool. The low power means this is definitely not a good choice for a high-end computer, and it only has a single PCIe connector along with five SATA cables. Read Full Review
This is a pretty nice power supply that can work well in certain setups but just cannot quite compete with what else is on the market. It offers 430W, which is pretty good, but also a rather strange amount that could be better. This model comes with a great number of cables, including six peripheral connectors and four SATA cables. Read Full Review
The price and power output on this unit just cannot be beat. It's a 500W model that you can pick up for $50 or less and it has plenty of cables and connectors for your components. The real weakness with this PSU, however, is that it only has a basic 80 PLUS rating, meaning it really has low power efficiency. Read Full Review
Power Supply Buyer’s Guide
While the performance and speed of a system might rely mostly on components like the motherboard, CPU, and memory, all of a computer’s hardware relies on the power supply to function. Flashy video cards might look good and have impressive names, but they’re meaningless without the right power supply. The maximum power or wattage might be the single most important specification when looking at a PSU, but there are other elements to consider. Getting enough power and having the connections you need are vital to setting up a computer.
The form factor or type usually refers to the size of a power supply. It’s important to choose a model that fits your computer tower. The most common is an ATX power supply, which should easily fit into a full or mid-size tower. For smaller computer cases, consider a Micro ATX or Mini ITX power supply. The form factor can have an impact on the number and types of connections, as well as maximum power, so you’re generally better off getting as large a model as you can fit.
A power supply plugs into a wall outlet, bringing power in from a home or office and controlling how it’s distributed throughout your computer. You want to choose a PSU with a high enough maximum power level for the components in your computer. A good standard to remember is that a basic motherboard, processor and memory combo will require about 200W, depending mainly on the CPU, and whether it's a basic, mainstream, or enthusiast-level motherboard.
A single hard drive or optical drive uses up to 30W, and video cards generally take at least 100W - 200W each. So the average PC would require a bare minimum of about 400W. However, you don’t want to run at the bare minimum, so multiply what you think you need by about 1.5 times. If you think you only need 400W, then consider a 600W or 650W power supply. Once you start adding multiple video cards and very powerful CPUs, then you’re going to need an 800W or even more powerful PSU.
There are quite a few different PSU manufacturers out there, so consider your options carefully. Some of the most common and popular companies include Corsair, Thermaltake, Antec, and CoolerMaster. There are many more companies which manufacture adequate power supplies, so it can be hard to narrow down exactly which model to look at. Keep in mind the warranty offered by a manufacturer and look for a PSU with a five or seven-year warranty. Other considerations, like maximum power and efficiency, however, are going to be more important than the manufacturer.
The efficiency rating on a power supply indicates how much of its total power is maintained at a steady pace, with little lost during operation. 80 Plus is the bare minimum you should look for, and there are a number of even better rating levels. Each level means the power supply has been tested and is increasingly efficient.
80 Plus means the PSU has an 80 percent efficiency rating. 80 Plus Bronze has about an 82 percent efficiency rating, 80 Plus Silver comes in around 85 percent, 80 Plus Gold has a rating around 87 percent , while 80 Plus Platinum is about 90 percent efficient. The highest level, 80 Plus Titanium is about 92-94 percent efficient. Higher levels are usually more expensive, so pick a PSU with the highest efficiency rating you can afford.
Connections and Modular Designs
A power supply has a number of connections that go from it to the different components in a computer, including the motherboard, hard drives, video card, and case fans. You need to know what kinds of connections you need and how many of them. That includes 6+2-Pin PCIe connectors, SATA power connectors, and the main motherboard connector.
Motherboards typically use 20Pin or 24Pin connections, and some power supplies use a 20Pin with an optional 4Pin connection for compatibility with motherboards with both 20Pin and 24Pin connectors. A modular design means the power supply has detachable cables and connectors. PSUs can have half a dozen or more cables, and unused connections easily get in the way and are hard to work around inside a computer case. So consider a modular PSU to help you keep the inside of your case streamlined.
The +12V rail on a power supply is what provides power specifically to highly demanding components, primarily the CPU and graphics card. You want to look at how many rails the power supply has, as well as the amperage on each of them. Most power supplies have a single +12V rail that distributes power to the CPU and graphics chip. With just one rail, make sure the amperage on that rail is high, as this allows a lot of power to go to your CPU and GPU.
Some power supplies have multiple +12V rails, which splits the power and amperage between each rail, rather than having all the power go through a single one. Multiple rails are somewhat safer, since all the power on a single rail can potentially overload it more easily. Ultimately, one rail or two +12V rails can give you any level of performance you need, but multi-rail PSUs are somewhat less likely to damage components if there is a short. Maximum power and enough connections for your system are more important than the number of rails.
CrossFire and SLI Support
Although related to the number of connections in general, make sure you specifically look at how well a PSU is suited to a CrossFire or SLI setup. If you plan on using multiple video cards together, then make sure it has plenty of 6+2-Pin connectors for PCIe components like video cards. Beyond that, many power supplies clearly indicate that they are ready for CrossFire or SLI, which means they have powerful +12V rails with plenty of amperage to support a demanding CPU and multiple video cards.
Cooling and Noise Levels
Power supplies often generate a lot of heat, so make sure you pick a model with enough fans to keep it running as cool as possible. The more powerful the PSU, the more you should consider cooling, with larger, faster fans offering the best cooling. If you’re picking a high-power PSU, then look for a model with multiple fans to really reduce heat. This can also generate a lot of noise, so look at the noise level of the fan or fans on a power supply to make sure it won’t be excessively loud.