A PSU (Power Supply Unit) is a bit like that kid no one notices in the class. You don’t know where she’s from, where she lives, what she does in the class — nothin. A PSU, much like that kid, is ignored… always. But if you’re building a mean gaming rig for yourself and just search casually for PSUs online, you’ll see that there are literally thousands of models for sale and they’re made by hundreds of companies.
This begs a seemingly simple question: Which one should you buy? Are they all the same or is there actually any difference between these PSUs? What is the best PSU for gaming? (I know I said only one question, but… indulge me). So, we at Game Gavel have created a list. It’s a simple PSU tier list written in decreasing order of their performance. Prices have been taken into consideration, as well.
However, before we get into the nitty-gritty of PSUs and their hierarchy, let’s take a look at what exactly PSUs do and how they work.
PSU (Power Supply Unit)
Most people who’ve been around computers would have seen the PSU. It’s the unit at the back of the CPU to which you plug the power cable. But if you haven’t, just take a look at the top-right corner of your CPU (No, no… do it now).
The PSU, in essence, converts Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC). The electricity that flows from the socket of your home is AC. However, computer components need DC to function normally. Ergo PSU. In addition, the PSU also regulates overheating of components. It does this by controlling the voltage. A change in voltage might happen automatically or manually.
Most PSUs are housed within the CPU casing itself. However, some enthusiasts like to use an external PSU. The advantage is that they are smaller in size and more pretty to look at. However, the number of people who do this is quite small. Therefore, for the purposes of this article, we’ll be restricting ourselves to internal PSUs.
It is always recommended to plug your PSU to an uninterruptable power source (UPS). The reasoning is that PSUs are the most exposed components to power spikes, surges, and things like that. A UPS will keep your PSU safe.
Choosing a PSU: A Quick Buying Guide
Veteran builders know where to look and what to buy. They have experience on their side. However, if you’re new to building rigs, welcome to the PSU quagmire. There are literally hundreds of companies that make PSUs. What’s more, they all look more or less the same. So, which one do you buy?
First off, know that there are many bad companies. So, a shot in the dark — more often than not — is going to be an expensive mistake. But all’s not lost. There are a few reputable, established players in the market. Seasonic, Antec, Corsair, CoolMax, and Ultra make excellent PSUs. However, choosing a PSU from a reputable brand doesn’t guarantee performance. There are a few factors to consider.
Factors to consider
If you’re set on buying a top-of-the-line gaming processor, you have two companies to choose from. Intel and AMD. Both make excellent gaming processors. However, not every product from their stables will suit your needs. It’s the same with PSUs too.
Always Read Reviews
Between the six or so companies that I mentioned earlier, there are at least 100-150 PSUs on offer today. That being the case, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of them aren’t really that great. So, always make sure that you read user reviews of the specific product that you’re looking to buy.
Heavier The Better
Lightweight smartphones and laptops are awesome, not lightweight PSUs. The reasoning is quite simple, actually. The PSU houses capacitors, heatsinks, fans, chokes, and much more. All these components work much more efficiently when they’re bigger.
For example, bigger heatsinks enable better heat dissipation. Bigger fans can turn at slower speeds and achieve the same cooling results. Lower speeds mean quieter functioning, and bigger fans can handle more load than smaller ones.
The Wattage Myth
The power, so to say, of a PSU, is rated in terms of watts. This rating in watts is actually the output of the PSU. As the output increases, so does the power of the PSU. Much like a car, you might think. Bigger the engine, the faster it is… except that’s not how it is, both, in cars and in PSUs.
Let’s say that your rig needs about 500W for ideal function. Irrespective of how powerful your PSU is, it only delivers 500W. Just because a PSU is rated at 2000W, it doesn’t mean that it’ll deliver that power. You already know the conclusion. Higher watt rating doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better. So, how do you pick the ideal one?
Well, most desktop PSUs are rated anywhere between 200 to 2000 Watts. To know the best one, you should first calculate how much power your CPU needs. This number is called the TDP (Total Design Power) of your system. TDP is simply the sum of the power requirements of all the components in your computer. There are plenty of free online calculators to arrive at this figure. Just punch in your components, and it’ll give you a TDP figure.
For the purposes of this article, let’s say the TDP of your system is 500W. A 500W PSU is NOT what you should be looking for. A bit of business 101. Companies want to show off that their PSUs have a high wattage. So, instead of ‘ideal working wattage,’ they display ‘peak wattage.’
PSUs aren’t capable of performing at their peak levels continuously. Actually, they can only output about half their wattage number for extended periods. They have about 50% to 60% efficiency. From time to time, they can achieve 70% to 80% efficiency. For your system that has a 500 TDP score, what you really need is a PSU with a 1000W rating. So much for our laws on ‘fair and truthful advertising.’
Efficiency and 80 PLUS Ratings
Efficient PSUs have better components, don’t waste a whole lot of power, they don’t get very hot — things like this, basically. They’re good. But that’s not the important part. If you’ve ever looked at a PSU or even if you’ve seen a PSU listed online, you’ll see that some of them have something called 80 PLUS rating. This rating is important. There are five ratings overall.
80 PLUS, 80 PLUS Bronze, 80 PLUS Silver, 80 PLUS Gold, 80 PLUS Platinum, and 80 PLUS Titanium. Titanium is the best rating that a PSU can get. The term 80 PLUS basically refers to the fact that the PSU is at least efficient to the tune of 80%. So, what rating should you go for?
Well, I’ll tell you this much. I was recently testing a few AMD gaming processors. I had a 16 core processor overclocked to almost 5GHz. I had a water cooler running at a good clip too. All that I needed was an 80 PLUS Silver PSU. Now, overclocking and a water cooler are not the most stressful things for a PSU, but you get the idea. For most people, including gamers, 80 PLUS, and 80 PLUS Bronze are more than enough.
With all this information assimilated, let’s get to the table itself. As mentioned earlier, the list places the most powerful PSU at the top and the least powerful one at the bottom. For convenience, I’ve created a tier system, which is explained just below the table.
Enthusiast – Tier 1
These are the best PSUs on the market. They are made from high-quality components, have a boatload of features, and of course, are very expensive. Is this for you? Nah. Not really. This is for enthusiasts who overclock their i9s, use powerful water coolers, and run multiple top-of-the-line graphics cards simultaneously. If you’re a casual user or even a casual gamer, you have no reason to buy these beasts.
NAME 80 PLUS Rating POWER Seasonic PRIME Series Titanium 1300 W be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 Platinum 1200 W Cooler Master MasterWatt Maker 1200 MiJ Titanium 1200 W Antec High Current Bronze 850 W Corsair - AXi Series Titanium and Platinum 850 - 1250 W Enermax Platimax Platinum 1200 W FSP Aurum PT Platinum 1200 W Bitfenix Whisper Gold 850 W Bitfenix Formula Gold Gold 750 W Aerocool Project 7 Platinum 850 W Corsair Rmi/Rmx Series Gold 1000 W Corsair HX/HXi Series Platinum 1200 W Gigabyte Aorus AP850 GM Gold 850 W Sentey Platinum Platinum 1000 W Thermaltake 1250D Platinum and Titanium 1250 W Superpower Gold Gold/Platinum 1000 W Corsair Vengeance Silver 750 W Riotoro Enigma Series Gold 850 W XFX Pro Gold Gold 1000 W
Workstation coolers are what you’re looking at here. Not just normal workstations, but high-end ones. PSUs in this tier are still quite expensive and again, gamers, even professional ones, don’t have much use for these. However, if budget isn’t a concern for you, this tier offers some excellent PSUs. Using these will effectively future-proof your PSU. There’s plenty of overhead room if you later decide to add in more components.
NAME 80 PLUS Rating POWER Antec Edge Gold 750 W Cooler Master MasterWatt Maker Series Platinum 1500 W Seasonic Focus Plus Platinum Platinum 850 W Seasonic Focus Plus Gold Gold 1000 W Seasonic Focus Gold Gold 750 W be Quiet! Pure Power 11 Gold 700 W Enermax Digifanless GX Platinum 550 W Seasonic SnowSilent Platinum 1500 W XFX XTS Platinum 1200 W Silverstone Nightjar NJ600 Titanium 600 W LEPA G1600 Gold 1600 W Riotoro Enigma Gold 850 W Sentey Solid Power SS Gold 850 W Thermaltake Toughpower Grand Platinum 1200 W EVGA GS Gold 650 W EVGA G3 Gold 1000 W Seasonic S12G Gold 750 W Seasonic M12II Bronze 850 W FSP Hydro G Gold 850 W
Prices decrease, obviously. But these are the PSUs that professional gamers are most likely to use. Veteran builders will vouch for these products. Most of the brands and models in this tier are known to be very good.
However, if you’re a new builder, don’t go for these. For one, they are still very, very expensive. You don’t really realize how expensive they can be until you actually go online and check the prices. If you’re new to this world, you don’t want to begin your experiments with these PSUs.
NAME 80 PLUS Rating POWER be Quiet! Straight Power E10 Gold 1000 W Antec Neo ECO II Bronze 650 W Bitfenix Fury Gold 650 W Seasonic G Series Gold 750 W Corsair CX Bronze 750 W Kolink Continuum Platinum 1500 W Fractal Design Newton R3 Platinum 1000 W Fractal Design Edison Gold 750 W Fractal Design Tesla R2 Gold 1000 W Antec TruePower Classic Gold 750 W FSP Aurum Pro Platinum 1200 W Super Flower Platinum King Platinum 650 W Vivo 24K Gold 650 W Silverstone Gold Evolution Gold 800 W Fractal Design Integra M Series Bronze 750 W Cougar GX - S Gold 750 W Riotoro Onyx Bronze 750 W XFX ProSeries Bronze Bronze 800 W Rosewill Silent Night Platinum 500 W Zalman EBT Gold 1200 W
This tier is the most popular one for gamers. Prices are low enough for gamers to afford these, and they are super-reliable and long-lasting. The build quality is great, and basically, these PSUs do their job without creating much of a fuss.
NAME 80 PLUS Rating POWER be Quiet! Power Zone Bronze 1000 W Cooler Master GM or GX Storm Bronze/Bronze 750 W / 750 W Lian TS Series Bronze Bronze 650 W Deepcool DQST Gold 750 W Silverstone Strider Titanium Series Titanium 1500 W Silverstone SFX Gold 800 W Silverstone Gold Evolution Series Gold 1200 W SAMA Armor Gold Gold 750 W PC Power & Cooling Turbo Cool Gold 860 W Seasonic SS Bronze 660 W XFX TS Gold Bronze 750 W Enermax Revolution X’t Gold 750 W Fractal Design Tesla R2 Gold 500 W Cooler Master MasterWatt Lite White 600 W Thermaltake Smart Series Bronze 850 W LEPA G Series Gold 1600 W Cooler Master GM Bronze 750 W Thermaltake Toughpower Gold Series Gold 550 - 1500 W Rosewill Capstone G Gold 1200 W Silverstone Strider Gold Gold 1500 W
If you’re a novice, this is the category that I’d personally recommend. These puppies have no extra features, they don’t look like they’re from the 2100s, but they do their job reasonably well.
The efficiency of these models aren’t as great as the ones mentioned above, but it’s not bad either. Prices, though, are significantly lower and for a novice builder, that’s important. You don’t want to invest too much into something that you’re still not very sure about.
NAME 80 PLUS Rating POWER Thermaltake Paris Gold 650 W Antec Basiq BP White 500 W EVGA 600 White 600 W Seasonic M12II Bronze 650 W Seasonic ECO Bronze 620 W be Quiet! Power Zone Bronze 1000 W Corsair Gaming Series Bronze 800 W Enermax NaXn White 450 W XFX XT Bronze 600 W OCZ ZT or ModXStream Bronze 1000 W Corsair CX Green Units Bronze 750 W
The PSUs in this category are budget PSUs, and unfortunately, that’s the only upside. Efficiency is quite bad, and so is the build quality and reliability. If you’re a gamer, this category just won’t cut it for you. Look further up. However, if you’re simply building a no-frills, basic PC, you might want to consider these. There are no promises made here.
NAME 80 PLUS Rating POWER Antec Basiq BP White 500 W EVGA B1 Bronze 700 W Rosewill Glacier Bronze 1200 W OCZ Fatality Bronze 1000 W Cooler Master B2 Series White 700 W LEPA MX-F1 White 650 W Antec VP Series White 630 W Fractal Design Integra R2 Bronze 750 W Thermaltake TR2 Series Available in White, Gold, and Bronze 850 W NZXT HALE 82 V2 Bronze 700 W
This is basically a compilation of “don’t buy” devices. They’re bad, and frankly, they shouldn’t be on the market. Avoid and survive.
NAME 80 PLUS Rating POWER Cooler Master Elite Series Unrated 600 W EVGA N1 Unrated 750 W FSP Hexa White 700 W
So, there you go. That’s the hierarchy list complete. Now, we haven’t even mentioned about 10% of the overall products currently in the market. But, as I mentioned earlier, there are way too many bad manufacturers out there.
The most important thing to look for when you’re buying a PSU is a well-known brand. Now, is that a bit judgemental? Yes, it is, but there are so many bad products out there that we, as customers, don’t really have any other choice. Better safe than sorry, as they say. If you’re not sure whether to replace your power supply, first you need to learn how to test a PSU. If it’s faulty, ditch it.
Let me know which one you eventually go with. It’s always great to hear from you people out there. Also, have I missed your favorite brand or model? Let me know why I should go ahead and include them!