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Power Supply

Power Supplies: 2021 Guide

I’m sure you already know what I mean…it’s the part that’s left last, and usually ignored: The PSU (power supply). Picking the right power supply has been quite controversial ever since consumers started building their own computers. You hear a word from here, a word from there, and you’re still confused! The aim of this article is to answer all the controversies and clear up things…

 

The technical side of things

Depending on where you live, the sockets in your home deliver different levels of voltage. We will use the North American standards to make everything easier, which is 110V. 110V is very high for what a PC needs, so a component called a transformer (find more about them here) converts the 110V into 12V, which is perfect for computers. This 12V can later be converted even further down to 5V or 3.3V depending on what the computer needs.

The current coming out of the sockets in your home is a type called “AC” (Alternating current). Alternating current is not constant as it doesn’t travel in one direction. This is not good for computers, as computers function on logic gates that require a constant supply of current in one direction. The solution? Well, an electrical device called a “Rectifier” (find more about them here) converts the Alternating Current “AC” into Direct Current “DC”.

Power Supplies now a days use components know as the X and Y capacitors. These are what you can call “Safety Capacitors” (find out more about them here). They also use a resistor called the metal oxide resistor, this is extremely useful so your PC doesn’t blow up in voltage spikes (find out more about them here), some unbranded and cheap power supplies may not use metal oxide resistors, so be careful not to buy one of those.

There are way more stuff that go on inside power supplies, but we kept it brief to focus on choosing power supplies, not how they work.

Inside of power supply

What’s all about these “Japanese” capacitors?

Capacitors made in Japan are very well known for their quality since long time ago, but let’s be real…that doesn’t explain why they are so expensive compared with their competitors in China or Taiwan. If we were living in the early 2000’s, I wouldn’t even need to explain why Japanese capacitors are great. But now in 2021, things have changed a whole lot!

Lucky for us consumers, our high demand results in high competition, which then results in manufacturers upping the quality of their products, while trying to provide a low price. This caused Chinese and Taiwanese capacitors to become way better than before, while still being relatively low priced.

To be fair to all sides, there is no harm in buying a power supply with Japanese capacitors, in fact it may be slightly better. It’s just the matter of the opportunity cost, as you can save a 100$ by buying a non-Japanese capacitor PSU, and invest it in your CPU or GPU. However, the choice isn’t that simple!

 

PSU Efficiency and Ratings

When buying a power supply, you would often look at the advertised Watt (power) number, 600 Watts for example. But did you know that your power supply draws in more power than advertised! Here’s why; waste energy can come in the form of sound, heat, light, etc., unfortunately we haven’t yet found a way of making our electrical components 100% efficient. Meaning that if you unknowingly bought a power supply that is 70% efficient and rated for 500W, it will draw in 850W of energy, as the remaining 350W are lost as heat.

Luckily, many power supplies now a days come with a “80+ rating”, as the name suggests, it guarantees that your power supply has 80% or more efficiency. But this rating system has its drawbacks! It increases the total costs for the manufacturers, as they have to pay in order to get a rating, this cost is passed on to the consumer as a higher price. The ratings start on a level called “Bronze certified” up to “Titanium Certified”.

 

Power Supply Ratings

 

Realistically, Titanium and Platinum certified PSUs aren’t really worth it, as they can be double or triple the price of the lower tiers. 80+ Gold certified is really the sweet spot!

 

 

Are Modular Power Supplies worth it?

This really depends on how much you value cable management! Modular Power Supplies won’t cause the “rat nest” problem in the PSU shroud, as well as giving you the flexibility of not using unnecessary cables, which hugely reduces cable clutter. There is also an aesthetic part to it, as you can use custom cables to enhance the visuals of your PC.

But this all comes with a high cost! Modular Power Supplies are considerably more expensive, but if you’ve got the budget, go for it!

 

Modular vs Non modular power supply

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it depends on your budget! But at least make sure you’re buying a well-known power supply with “80+ certification” (above Gold not necessary) , and has a long warranty incase anything happens. Good Luck with your next build !                                                                 

image credit: seasonictomshardware

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