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.
Seasonic SSP-450RT 450W 80 PLUS Gold ATX12V v2.3 Power Supply
Corsair Builder Series CX500 500W PSU
Antec EarthWatts EA-380D Green Power Supply
Standard ATX power supply Seasonic 430w S12II 430B
EVGA 500 W1 80+ Continuous PowerCertified Power Supply
EVGA SuperNOVA 850 T2 Power Supply
Enermax Platimax Series Power Supply
Corsair AXi Digital ATX Series Power Supply
Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 80 Plus Plantium 850W Full Modular Power Supply
FirePower Silencer Mk III Series 500W Modular Power Supply
EVGA SuperNOVA P2 Series Power Supply
Corsair HXi High Performance ATX12V 1200 Power Supply
OCZ Technology ZX Series 1250 W Modular Power Supply
EVGA SuperNOVA G2 Series Power Supply
Thermaltake Toughpower XT Series Power Supply
For a reasonable price, this budget power supply gives you the perfect combination of power and efficiency. It has an 80 PLUS Gold rating, which is pretty much as good as you can find for the cost of this power supply. That means it has a 90 percent efficiency rating and you just won’t find a better option without paying more money. At 450W it may not be the most powerful PSU on the market but the high efficiency rating means you get better performance from it than a more powerful model with no 80 PLUS rating at all. You also get plenty of connections with this model as it includes the main connector along with four SATA connections and two 6+2 PCIe cables. This PSU also has a pair of 4Pin MOLEX cables and a 4+4Pin connector for the CPU.
This is a really terrific power supply that would be the very best option if it just had a slightly higher efficiency rating. The 80 PLUS Bronze rating is decent, but certainly not as good as a Gold rating and it means this PSU loses more power to heat. However, with 500W of power, this is a great choice for a mid-range system although it's still too low for a high-end gaming PC with a serious video card. One of the best features of this power supply is it has a modular design, which means cables can be unplugged from it thereby reducing clutter within your computer case. It comes with a main power cable and dedicated CPU connection, along with a pair of PCIe cables, five SATA connectors, and four 4Pin peripheral cables.
This model produces 380W of energy, which is enough for a motherboard, drive or two, and maybe a low-end video card, but much more than that will require a more powerful model. The 80 PLUS Bronze rating is pretty good for the price, but a Silver rating would have been ideal. You get a lot of cables and connecting cords with this one, which is nice, including a connector for the motherboard, along with five SATA and multiple Molex connections. This model actually doesn't come with a power cord, to reduce waste if you already have one, but if you don't have an appropriate power cord, then you will need to buy a separate one. This is a great budget power supply, even if it doesn't provide a ton of energy. If you need something really powerful for your system, then this is definitely not a good fit.
This is a good choice if you're putting together a middle-of-the road system and need a budget power supply, because it only provides 430W of power. That means it's a good fit for an older system or a pretty bare bones setup, so keep that in mind as you look at this model. The 80 PLUS Bronze rating is pretty good (considering the low power level and price) but that means only 85 percent efficiency. You would not expect a ton of connectors on a PSU with such low power, but this one actually does include a great number of options. It has the main power connection along with ATX and EPS for the CPU on the motherboard as well as six peripheral 4Pin connectors, four SATA cables, and two PCIe connectors. One thing to keep in mind is it only has a 6Pin PCIe cable without a 6+2Pin connector for more powerful video cards. That's probably not an issue considering the 430W of power provided, but it does limit your video card choice.
If you're looking for the best wattage possible for your money, then this model from EVGA is what you want. The retail price on this one is less than $50, which makes it a terrific bargain for a 500W power supply. Of course, if you're setting up a powerful gaming rig then that probably won't be enough for you but it should work well in a lot of budget-friendly computers. The real issue with this PSU is it only has a basic 80 PLUS rating, not even a Bronze rating. That means it is only certified to be 80 percent efficient which is quite low. However, there are a number of budget PSUs on the market that don't have any 80 PLUS rating, so this is still a better option offering great power at a low price. It includes a 4+4 CPU cable along with two PCIe cables, both of which are 6+2Pin connectors. This model also provides six SATA connections and three 4Pin peripheral cables.
While there may be a somewhat limited number of models available in this series, those offered are some of the best PSUs on the market. There are four different PSUs in this series from EVGA, including 750W, 850W, 1000W, and 1600W models. These are all fairly high wattages which makes sense for a series clearly designed for high-end systems and serious gaming PCs. All four have an 80 PLUS Titanium rating which is the absolute highest level of efficiency available, tested to run at 94 percent efficiency or better under usual loads. These are all fully modular as well which makes them easy to set up while reducing clutter in your computer case. They all have a modern, single-rail design with extensive over/under voltage and over power protection, along with a 10 year manufacturers warranty that's impossible to beat.
There's a lot to like about this series from Enermax, no matter which model best suits your power needs. The 600W, 750W, 850W, and 1000W models are semi-modular, with some primary cables permanently installed on the power supply and the rest left optional for you to connect. In contrast to this, the 1200W and 1350W models are fully modular, so you can disconnect every cable from them as needed. This entire series is 80 PLUS Platinum rated for incredible power efficiency, which minimizes internal heat buildup and helps keep your electric bills down at the same time. All of these picks also use a multi-rail design, providing you with excellent protection for your computer components in case of a catastrophic power event. The five year warranty on this series isn't amazing, but it's good enough considering all the other features on these models.
There are some great features in this series of gaming PSUs, but there are also some things that detract from them for overall value. In terms of power efficiency, you're not going to find many better options out there than these offerings from Corsair. The 760W, 860W, and 1200W models are all 80 PLUS Platinum rated, while the 1500W PSU is Titanium rated for near perfect power efficiency. All of these are also fully modular which means you can disconnect every single cable from them and only use those cords you need in your system. While semi-modular designs are good, it's pretty hard to beat full modular for ideal customization and internal clutter reduction. These PSUs utilize a single-rail design which would have been an issue in the past, but modern standards make single-rail PSUs ideal for serious gaming. Corsair offers a seven year warranty on this series.
One thing to consider when looking at this power supply is whether you prefer a single or dual-rail PSU. Most of the models within this series use a single rail design while a few of them have dual-rail designs instead. Both are great options for a high-end gaming PC, but it's something to keep in mind while building your system. The other major inconsistency in this series is the 80 PLUS ratings available; most of them are Gold rated, which is pretty good, while others have a Platinum rating which is obviously much better. This series uses both full and semi-modular designs, depending on which model you choose. A seven-year warranty also applies to any model in this PSU series which helps protect your investment and ensures your system runs reliably for a long time.
While there is certainly a lot to like about this series from FirePower, there are just a few limitations that hold it back from being the very best on the market. There are only three models available in this line which gives you options for 750W, 850W, and 1200W PSUs. That should work for a wide range of gaming PCs, but a couple more models would certainly be preferable. The semi-modular design of this series gives you a lot of control over what cables you have in your system but fully modular is ideal. Perhaps the biggest issue with this series is the efficiency rating among the three available models. While the 1200W PSU has an 80 PLUS Platinum rating for excellent efficiency, the other two models have Gold ratings. While this isn't terrible, it could present an issue in a high-end, overclocked gaming rig. The seven year warranty is quite good and applies to all models in this series.
This is definitely one of the best power supply series on the market and within it there lies a model that's perfect for just about anyone. You get a wide range of options with this series thanks to six different models that include options for 650W, 750W, 850W, 1000W, 1200W, and 1600W of power. This lets you choose just the right PSU for your setup, ranging from a solid mid-range computer to a high-end system in need of a tremendous amount of power. All of these picks have an 80 PLUS Platinum rating which means they offer some of the best energy efficiency available. The modular design on these PSUs makes it easy to install and setup, so that you only have to connect the cables that you need. EVGA provides a 10 year warranty on these power supplies which assures the buyer they're designed to last a long time and keep providing your computer with efficient energy.
750W of power should be enough for a wide range of computers, though not enough for a high-end professional video editing system, which is why this series goes all the way up to 1200W if you need more power. The fan on this series runs quietly, especially during low-power usage periods, though the most powerful models may produce more noise during intense usage. The 80 PLUS Platinum rating means you get efficient power that helps keep your energy costs down and your system running smoothly. This series also has a fully modular design so you can determine exactly what cables you need connected and thus keep the inside of your computer clutter-free. Corsair offers a seven-year warranty on this series which is quite good, though not as long as what EVGA offers on the SuperNOVA P2 models.
The ZX Series from FirePower has a lot of great features that make it an excellent option, but a few weaknesses hold it back from being quite as good as some other models on the market. They have a fully modular design, which is great for high-end computer setups since it reduces cord clutter and makes cooling more effective. The range in power levels from 850W to 1250W gives you great options for just about any high-end setup you might want to build, but the different models are a bit limited. There are only three available: 850W, 1000W, and 1250W. They all have an 80 PLUS Gold rating, which is quite good, but cannot compete with Platinum rated models available from other manufacturers. This series is covered by a five year manufacturers warranty.
This power supply has a fully modular design so every cable connects individually, which lets you keep the inside of your computer case tidy and free from clutter. You get a good number of PCIe connections and SATA cables with these models, which should be sufficient for most computer setups. While it would be better if this series was 80 Plus Platinum rated, the Gold rating is still quite good and ensures excellent overall efficiency. Perhaps the greatest strength of this series is that there are eight different models available: 550W, 650W, 750W, 850W, 1000W, 1050W, 1300W, and 1600W. EVGA offers a simply unbeatable 10 year manufacturers warranty for this series.
Overall, this is a great PSU series from ThermalTake, but you need to look at each one individually to choose just the right model. While most other top-of-the-line PSUs have a series that is consistent with all having the same rating and design, this one is a bit inconsistent. For example, different models have different fan sizes and multi-graphics card compatibility. They also have support for different numbers of cables, such as the 550W model having two PCIe connections and six SATA cables, while the 1500W PSU has 10 PCIe cables and 16 SATA connectors. Ratings are also a bit inconsistent between models. There are two different 1200W PSUs in this series with one having an 80 PLUS Gold rating while the other has an 80 PLUS Silver rating. Make no mistake, these power supplies are all very good performers, but the technical differences between them can be frustrating.
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.