Purchasing a power supply for your gaming rig should not be an afterthought. Many people put this decision off to the end and pick whatever will fit into their budget. However, not all power supplies are alike.
Choosing a PSU for your system isn’t like choosing a brand of battery for a flashlight. You need to look for quality components and solid construction. How do you do that? Stick to name brands that have been tested in the market and have evidence to prove it.
A very important thing to consider is the amount of ripple allowed in a power supply. Ripple in electrical terms is an occasional shift in the DC output of a PSU which is receiving power from an AC source. Basically, there is an incomplete suppression of the alternating waveform within the PSU and what this means first and foremost to your rig is slow and steady damage being done to capacitors. Also, there is the possibility of the supply rail noise sending incorrect outputs and data corruption within digital circuits. Very simply put, think of a constant barrage of tiny power surges running through your rig. Most circuits are designed to take some of this abuse but not in heavy amounts over an extended period.
You also want to pick a power supply that offers high efficiency. These days you will see the 80 PLUS certified label on most name brand power supplies. This certification is not mandatory but many manufacturers are moving their product over to this standard. What an 80 PLUS certification basically means is that you are guaranteed a low waste of electric energy as heat under varying load levels. This reduces electricity use and bills. In 2008 to 2009, the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum standards were added to describe higher efficiency level certifications. In 2012, the first Titanium server PSU was announced and now we are beginning to see a few Titaniums being used by computer enthusiasts on a gaming level.
The efficiency of a system can be found by dividing its output power by its input power. The remaining input power is then lost to heat. A quality power supply will show its best efficiency ratings under high loads and will probably see less efficiency under small loads. This is similar to choosing a solid V8 engine that excels at high cruising speeds rather than one that can project you off the starting line fast and then taps out at the quarter mile.
The power supplies that we choose for our builds are 80 PLUS certified. We choose quality work horse components and don’t go for the units that are heavily weighted with aesthetics like digital displays. In other words, we are betting our money on Rocky, not Ivan Drago.
Before you purchase your next gaming rig or pick a power supply for your existing rig, check its ratings. Read quality reviews at websites like Tom’s Hardware or AnandTech but also use your own discretion. You have to understand that all reviewers have some level of bias. Each comes to the table with their own ideas when it comes to components and systems. Some will give a PSU low points for lack of aesthetics or matching components while others will stick to dollars vs. performance ratios. In the end, you need to decide for yourself but don’t scrimp on that PSU.