Before assembling their own PC, the PC builder normally has a checklist of essential hardware that will make their build the most powerful, tailored machine that they can construct; whether it’s buying that high-end graphics card or a sleek illuminated PC case. Upon erecting their monolith gaming or media machine, however, something starts to falter. The machine still lags behind their expected performance. The builder has made an amateur mistake; they’ve forgotten the fundamental essentiality of a good PC power supply.
Even though they are typically quite far down the list of important hardware for a PC builder, the PC power supply is actually a critical part of a build. The choice is just as typical as your graphics card or motherboard in the long run. Choosing the quality of hardware can be the deciding factor between a well-tuned system and a lagging let-down. You could experience crashes, boot failures, or, in a worst-case scenario, a cheap power supply can catch alight and destroy your entire build. Your investment is key early if you wish to save all your precious, expensive hardware.
Nobody should deal with this ‘techxiety’ as a builder. The good news is that there is a wide range of valuable and advanced power supply options available. Whether it’s a budget unit that runs your bulking PC build satisfactory or a high-powered unit that can effortlessly support even the most demanding of gaming PCs, there’s a choice for you. This article is about helping you figure out which option fits you.
What is a PC power supply? Important, that’s what!
Also known as a PSU, a power supply unit is the unrecognised champion of functionality and usage for your PC. As is the case with most machines, every piece of its hardware needs power. Your PC is no exception. Without a suitable power supply, the components won’t be able to work at their full potential.
Deciding your PC power supply falls on deciding what purpose you require of it; gaming requires much more power than an average PC, for example. Forget about graphics cards and motherboards, monitors, or high-end gaming mice; power is the most critical aspect of a gaming PC. It’s essential you find the right PSU that matches your extensive needs, whatever they may be.
What to consider from your power supply unit
As every build has its own unique requirements dependant on the builder’s own preferences, it is important when thinking about your power supply to consider the fundamental understanding of what you need from it: Overall wattage, and rail specific power.
Overall wattage is the deciding factor in how much power your system will demand in order to operate. Remember about the adaptability of your system: your PC may change as different, more attractive hardware is released. Your PC is going to change in shape and size, it is much better, then, that you remain future-proof and buy an oversized power supply unit; oversized power supplies can easily work with undersized systems, but sadly it does not work the other way around. If you plan to upgrade, it’s better to already own a larger unit that can be adapted to your new system, rather than needing to buy a newer PSU.
The next factor is rail specific power: the measurement of how much each individual component in your build demands from your power supply. If you have a mainstream or smaller PC, this usually isn’t anything to worry about as your components will only require a modest amount of power. However, if you are a gamer with a high-range GPU, then this is an essential factor to consider because of how much power it will zap from your PSU.
Assembling a PC is all dependant on Form Factor, the physical arrangement of all your components that makes them compatible with one another. Power supply units come in a variety of forms and it is important to make sure that they will work with the rest of your machine. There’s no point in buying a high-end engine for your car if it won’t fit under the hood of your Mini Cooper! Make sure everything matches and configures. Advanced Technology Extended (ATX) is the most common form factor specification currently suited for power supplies, although these have variations, from micro-ATX (for smaller PCs) to ATX12V’s. Do your research before you buy and consider what hardware you want your PC to be able to accommodate.
Modular or fixed connection?
Every component that needs power is going to need a solid connecting source from the power supply unit in order to operate at full capacity and without interruption. You have two options: modular or fixed PSU connectors.
The more expensive option is modular PSUs. Modular’s use only the cables that you need for any components that need to be connected, meaning a much more efficient use of power.
A fixed PSU is less flexible, as all the cables are already attached to the PSU and cannot be removed. While fixed PSU’s may be more cost effective, they are also a lot uglier and disorganised for the prideful PC builder that may want their build to have a tidy PC interior that isn’t lined with a web of wires.
A PSU’s power efficiency is the power supply that the power component is draining from the main power source of your house for your machines internal components; the process that your PSU uses to convert that power into its direct current.
For obvious reasons, you want your power efficiency to reach its full potential. One factor can certainly affect this the most: heat.
Heat can be a killing factor of any internal hardware. Excess heat can fry your power supply if you’re not careful and should be considered a contributing issue towards your final purchase.
To have a longer lifespan, you want your computer to run as cool as possible; look for a higher efficiency rating when searching for your ideal power supply unit. There’s no point in going cheap with your PSU if it is going to ultimately cost you more to purchase a better replacement further down the road when it starts to fail on all your internal components.
How much power do you really need?
The signs of a good PSU are that the component will remain silent and won’t produce noticeable heat. If you buy a cheaper quality power supply, you risk getting hardware with a loud spinning fan, which generates more heat, and overall will be very infectious to your energy bill. This will risk killing your PSU while it is in its prime.
If you want to upgrade your PC in the future or overclock it, then you’ll want to get a higher wattage PSU than is usually recommended. Get a power supply unit that is about 10% higher than you currently need. In the future, you may very well need this kind of power.
Aim for the 1000W+ range. This will futureproof your machine. Gamers, take note: if you want to play high-end gaming with your best components, anything below 600W will fail to give you your desired power.
The search for your power supply is just as essential as any choice of conventionally flashy hardware. For builders, make sure that you find a power supply that is a trusted supplier, matches your form factor requirements, and has all the cable ends that you need. Make sure you consider the varying options that can also affect your PCU purchase – modular and fixed, for example. If you don’t think about your power supply now, you may very well find yourself further down your computers lifespan cursing the day that you went cheap on one of its most important components.
The authors personal choice is a wholesome power supply unit that ticks all these boxes, with a reliable brand behind it, and an amazing airflow system. With a fully modular cabling system, you only need to worry about installing the cables that you need.
With the right power supply finally fixed inside your computer, watch as the rest of your internal components light up and meet their full potential matched at unprecedented rates.