Are you planning to build a gaming PC now that GPU prices are finally falling? Chances are you have spent a lot of time researching which GPU, processor, RAM and motherboard you want, but what about the power supply?
For many, the power supply simply needs to work and fit their budget, but as you will see in a moment, not all PSUs (power supply units) are created equal.
The header specification for a power supply is of course the wattage, and this is a measure of how much power the PSU can provide. Some high-performance PC components, such as GPUs, have power requirements that have only increased over the years. It is widely rumored that the Nvidia GTX 4000 series requires even more power than the 3000 series, which itself needed quite a lot of power.
How much power? Well, the Nvidia GTX 3090 Ti can draw more than 400 watts, which is about as much as a small window air conditioner.
When you buy a PSU, you need to add up all the potential loads on your gaming PC. For example, if you have an Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti (450 watts) and an AMD Ryzen 5800X3D (105 watts), plus 200 watts for SSDs, RAM and built-in components, you need a PSU rated for at least 750 watts.
However, it is not a good idea to push a PSU to maximum capacity, as it may struggle to supply each component with stable voltages. This in turn will introduce errors throughout your system, which can be difficult to troubleshoot. The bottom line is that if you are going to push the gaming PC hard, you will want to buy a PSU with about 20 percent more capacity than the system requires on paper.
Have you ever wondered why some PSUs are rated “bronze” or “gold” or “platinum”? These rankings indicate an overall PSU efficiency, which is really just a fancy way of saying how much game heat a PSU creates.
What a PC power supply does is convert AC power from the wall outlet to DC that the components inside the PC can use. So let’s say you have a 1000 watt PSU and you run it at 100 percent load, just for the sake of simplicity. A Titanium-rated PSU will be able to convert the 1000 watts AC to 900 watts DC and 100 watts heat.
And just to push this example a little further, if you have a 1000 watts Bronze-tier PSU, it would only be able to convert 80 percent of the AC power that comes in, with 200 watts of waste heat generated in the process. When you say it like that, I think it really illustrates the material differences between PSU ratings. Wasting 20 percent of your power as heat is no joke.
As you may imagine, PSUs with higher efficiency ratings cost more money. That said, I have used lots of bronze rated power supplies today, and honestly, most of them have been great. I think for many people it makes sense to save money in advance and just eat the cost of electricity, but with rising energy prices around the world, I’m not sure the calculation makes sense anymore, especially if you do power-hungry games, 3D modeling or programming.
Notes on extreme systems
For most systems with one GPU (even a top-ten), a power supply of 1000 watts will usually be sufficient. But systems with more than one GPU need something in the range of 1200 to 1600 watts. However, if you live in North America with 110 volts AC, keep in mind that a 15-amp circuit breaker can only provide 1650 watts max.
Our PSU choices
The PSUs outlined below are organized according to power efficiency assessment. Each category will include high, medium and low wattage PSUs, and each category is selected based on specifications, network ratings and other intangible items as a guarantee.
Input may receive a portion of the sales if you purchase a product via a link in this article. We only include products that are independently selected by Input’s editorial staff.
Titanium-rate PSUs are the best of the best. They offer more than 90 percent efficiency, but cost one a lot more than their lower ranked equivalents. These will appeal to true performance tuners and people who love to flex.
Platinum-rated PSUs are a close second to titanium-rated devices in terms of efficiency, but fall a few percentage points behind at 100 percent load. These are good power supplies for players and people who need performance at the workstation level, but which are fine without the absolute efficiency at the top level.
Gold-tier power supplies are what I would consider a sweet spot for people who care about efficiency, but who are also price sensitive. They are almost 90 percent effective if you squint your eyes and you can get them for much less money.
Silver and bronze PSUs
I gather power supplies in silver and bronze together because they only differ in efficiency by two percent, and if you buy a PSU in one of these categories, you are probably trying to find something that is reliable and affordable. The difficulty with PSUs in bronze and silver is that some are totally junk, while others are solid as a rock. The ones we have chosen below have tons of user reviews and are a great compromise between price and performance.