How Important is Your Computer PSU ?

So you sit down to send an important email, waiting for your computer screen to come alive. Seconds pass, then a minute, nothing is happening, whats up? Upon a little more investigation it looks like your power supply went south, taking a permanent vacation.

No one needs the inconvenience. Choosing a power supply from a recognized manufacture is key. Today ATX power supplies are the recognized standard for consumer PC’s with server and enterprise offerings available for business use. three key items stand out as being critical when selecting a power supply, efficiency, output and dedicated rails. Of course there are other features that are important but these 3 are the holy grail of power supplies, especially if one is an avid overclocker and that’s the direction of this blogg. Power supplies today range from 200 to 1500+ watts , the higher wattages geared to the higher end components and enthusiast class. As a rule of thumb, utilizing 60-70% of a PSU’s rated wattage is ideal leaving future room for expansion. Purchasing a larger PSU will not use more power as it is the system components which consume the power, so a 500 watt PSU will consume as much as a 1350 watt PSU with the same components inside.

Is higher Efficiency Rating Worth The Cost?

Power supplies come with ratings like other electronic devices such as TV’s. Typically with each rating the product is becoming better or has better components used within it. Higher quality components lead to reduction in power consumption, heat output  drops and ambient noise is lowered, fan size also plays into this last variable. Power supplies are tiered with ratings such as c 80+ certification , 80 Bronze, 80 Silver, 80 Gold, 80 Platinum and finally Titanium. Of course Titanium is as it sounds , more expensive. PSU’s rated 80+ deliver 80% of their rated wattage as power to your system components, 20% is lost via heat transfer. The average auser will get by with an 80+ or 90+ Bronze PSU rating. Silver and Gold power supplies are worth it if they are on sale and fit ones budget. One of the Leaders in the industry is Corsair offering a detailed explanation on PSU efficiency.

Modular or Messy Cabling ?

Cabling is always a methodical chore when working within a confined space if you have spent time building your own PC’s,  especially as the trend to a smaller computer cases is the new trend. Power supplies today offer the consumer the ability to choose which connectors they require. Some power supplies come with all hard cabling attached. Modular PSU’s give one the choice to choose what is required above the basic ATX 20+4 pin main power connector. Partially and fully modular supplies at a higher cost offer the user ability to selectively choose exactly what they need to reduce cable clutter within the case and also to aid with better air flow management as cases become smaller.

Riding the Power Rails!

Along with the identified wattage on PSU units is indication of single or a multi +12V rail. Multi rail units split a PSU’s output over two or more +12V rails. A single-rail power supply has the drawback that it can direct much more current into your components while multi rail can’t share power among different rails. Multi rail units require more attention when connecting your devices. This drawback proves to be a bonus when there is a potential device failure. The overload current protection (OCP) mechanisms within the multi rail PSU monitor each rail and will shut the whole unit down if overload is detected on any of the rails.  On a single rail this mechanism only activates once a much higher amperage is reached which could result in a major overload.

So the question becomes , which is better? Neither one is better than the other, they both have their place and function. For the dedicated enthusiast most will choose the multi rail option and for the average consumer a quality single rail PSU is sufficient. Companies such as Corsair, Seasonic, Enermax, Antec and Lepa are all industry leaders and you can’t go wrong with a PSU from any of these,  An excellent site to visit is Extreme Outervision which will assist with sufficient wattage requirement of your components.

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Author – Cisco Kidd

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