The power supply is one of the most important components when it comes to building a custom PC, whether we’re talking about a “normie” computer or a gaming rig. Every component inside your PC runs on electricity, and gaming rigs require a lot of juice for everything to run smoothly, hence how to choose the best power supply for gaming is our topic for today.
How to Choose the Best Gaming Power Supply
The PSU acronym stands for power supply unit, which can be described as the engine of your gaming rig. Gaming hardware, and especially graphics cards, is known to be more power-hungry compared to “normie” components. Gaming rigs are the equivalent of sports cars, hence regular PSUs may not be capable to deliver enough juice, especially when high-end CPUs/GPUs are paired with gaming motherboards and the like.
Also, it wouldn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on components (for example the best CPU for gaming will cost you at least 300 bucks, and I am being modest here) and then pair that fancy hardware of yours with a subpar PSU. If the PSU cannot provide enough power to your monster GPU or that crazy high-end processor, you’ll experience drops in performance on a daily basis.
However, gigantic PSUs (over 1000 watts) are not necessarily a must-have for most people, unless you’re running an obscene rig with the most power hungry CPU on the market, doubled by multiple GPUs and enough case-fans to take you to the moon and back.
How Much Power Do You Actually Need
This question is an easy one: here’s an online tool which can help you figure out how much power is necessary for a given gaming rig. It’s not the only one (check this out too), but it’s pretty good. Just answer some basic questions and you’ll know approximately how much power you’ll need for a given configuration. It would be smart to plan in advance and give you some extra head-room, if you know what I mean, i.e. to buy a PSU which is a little stronger than what you currently need. For example, if your system is rated at 400 watts in peak mode, it would be smart to buy a 600 watt PSU, just in case.
The point being, you may want to upgrade your CPU in the future or to add another GPU or whatever. Thus, it would make perfect sense to already have a power supply capable of handling better hardware, right? Also, keep in mind that all high-quality power supplies feature a special rating, which describes their efficiency. For example, the 80+ rating is the most popular, and it certifies how efficient a given PSU actually is.
There are 6 levels of efficiency: the base level, which is between 80 percent and 82 percent, the bronze, between 83 percent and 85 percent, silver, between 85 percent and 88 percent, gold, between 88 percent and 92 percent, platinum, between 92 percent and 94 percent and finally titanium, which makes for the highest 80+ rating, describing a PSU that boasts over 95 percent efficiency.
Okay, so what is efficiency, you asked? For our big-brained readers, check out this formula:
Efficiency = DC Power / AC Power
To make it really easy, the efficiency rating reveals how well a given PSU converts the energy pulled from the power source (AC) into DC (direct current). Basically, a 600-watt power supply with an entry-level 80+ rating will deliver 480 watts of DC juice for your components to feast on. The same 600-watt power supply with a titanium efficiency rating will deliver 570 watts of DC current. That’s quite a difference by any metrics, don’t you think?
This factor is important if you decide to, let’s say, overclock your CPU. You can easily go from a CPU with a stock TDP of 91 watts to 150 watts, i.e. an overclocked CPU can eat anywhere between 30 to 60 percent extra juice (or more). Here the efficiency of the power supply comes into play. The more efficient a power supply is – the better. Keep in mind that the GPU and the CPU are the most power hungry components in gaming rigs.
If you’re a hardcore gamer, go for at least 80+ Gold rated PSUs, and nothing below 600 watts, especially if you’re looking to upgrade in the future.
Form Factor Issues
PSUs come in different shapes and sizes. The most common form factor is ATX, with variations like micro-ATX, ATX12V v1.x, ATX12V v2.x. ATX stands for Advanced Technology Extended by the way. The micro ATX variety is not common in gaming PCs, due to its small size that makes it too weak to handle modern GPUs and CPUs. Speaking of ATX, ATX12V and other form-factors, the difference is in the connectors attaching the PSU to the power supply; more precisely, the number of pins that connect the PSU to the PC’s motherboard.
Basically, make sure your motherboard is compatible with your PSU before buying it. The industry standard is 24 pins. It used to be 20 pins until recently, and the increase is due to modern high-powered motherboards which require extra juice for delivering a significant boost in performance.
Modular Design or Not
To begin with, a modular power supply will cost more than a fixed one. The modular design differs from a fixed design in terms of cable management; the latter comes with the cables already attached to the power supply, as they cannot be taken off. Modular PSUs are more versatile, and they allow you to save space due to the fact the cables are not hard wired. Also, modular power supplies tend to look better in window-case PCs, due to better cable management, i.e. you can use the cables as you see fit, on a “need at a given time” basis.
Keep in mind that if you’re a dedicated gamer, choosing a high quality/high efficiency PSU will help you save money on your electricity bill long-term, and will also prevent your gaming rig from getting damaged due to short circuits/power surges and what not, thus increasing the life span of hardware components (again, saving you money in the process).
Generally speaking, PSU’s between 400 watts and 600 watts are regarded to be entry level in the gaming community. However, a 600W PSU may be enough for the vast majority of PC builders, especially people on a limited budget. The next tier is 600W-800W, for gaming rigs boasting high-end CPUs and GPUs. Next, we have the almost-bonkers 800W-1000W PSUs, which are required for juicing monster rigs boasting high TDP CPUs (overclocked eventually) and 2x high-end GPUs.
Finally, there’s the 1000W and above level, for fanatics and alien spaceships. Now, let’s take a look at some of the best power supplies out there, right after a short commercial break.
1. Thermaltake Toughpower Grand RGB 1200W
Last but not least, if you’re looking for the best power supply for gaming “on a budget”, though this baby is not actually cheap, the Thermaltake Toughpower Grand RGB 1200W would make for a very interesting choice. For a couple hundred bucks (give or take), you’ll get 1200W of DC power-output, a 140mm Hydraulic-Bearing RGB Led Fan featuring a 256 colors Riing RGB with five distinct lighting modes, Japanese capacitors, ultra quiet operation on low/medium loads, low ripple noise, industrial protections, an amazing 10 year manufacturer’s warranty…need I say more?
What I like the most is that you can disable the RGB light-show if that’s your cup of tea, and also the fact it would be very difficult to find a better PSU in its price range, RGB or not.
- great value
- RGB lighting
- Platinum rated
- impeccable build quality
- industry leading ripple control and voltage regulation
- smart 0 RPM mode
- fully modular
- as usual, cables could be better
- no RGB 4-pin i.e. no sync con
2. EVGA SuperNOVA 1600 P2 80+ PLATINUM
I know that you’ve heard it before countless times, but the SuperNOVA 1600 P2 Platinum is arguably one of best PSUs money can buy, provided you’re not going for custom-made gear. The Platinum efficiency along with this PSU’s gigantesque capacity makes it a true flagship, because Platinum beats Titanium, right? Wrong, you didn’t read the preamble carefully.
Even if in real life platinum is more expensive than titanium, in our geek-world, Titanium rating beats Platinum in terms of efficiency. Hence, compared to the previous Corsair PSU, this EVGA is lower rated efficiency wise, but it boasts the same enormous 1600W output, silent operation and top performance levels. And yes, it also costs a lot of dough.
For that kind of money, you’ll get a lot of gear though, as the SuperNOVA 1600 P2 Platinum is both NVIDIA SLI and Crossfire Ready, and it’s backed by a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- this is currently EVGA’s flagship, i.e. the best the company has to offer
- good ripple suppression
- excellent build quality, amazing ripple suppression
- high output, great efficiency even at low loads
- ECO mode really gets the job done, yet be advised: it’s not designed for gaming
- includes self-tester
- price, size (also weighs a ton)
3. CORSAIR AX1600i
With the CORSAIR AX1600i we’re entering almost science fiction territory, since we’re talking about a near-perfect 80+ Titanium certified 1600W modular digital power supply. This thing could power a Dodge RAM, being everything about sheer power. And yes, as you may already suspected, high performance comes at a high price.
Now, despite being rather costly, you must know that the AX1600i is built for modding fanatics who are looking for ultra-low ripple, high output and ultimate reliability, offering us a glimpse at the future of PSU design. Yes, folks, it is that good.
- digital platform, monstrous capacity
- all the cables and connectors in the world
- state of the art design/platform
- long hold up time, amazing ripple suppression, perfect voltage regulation
- 1600W is more than enough to satisfy the craziest crypto-miner or overclocking fanatic
- MTBF 100,000 hours, 10-year manufacturer’s warranty
- built using top tier/industrial grade components, like Japanese capacitors and high-end gallium nitride transistors
- CORSAIR LINK software allows you to monitor/control/adjust power settings and switch OCP on the fly
- low noise due to 140mm FDB cooler
- whisper quiet (0 RPM mode) at low/medium loads, which means almost all the time for most people
- fully modular, built like a Russian tank
- will cost you an arm and a leg
- could’ve had better cables
4. EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G1+
The EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G1+ is a fully modular 80+ Gold certified 850-watt spewing PSU, backed by a ten-year warranty. For modding aficionados, it’s worth mentioning that this beast comes with a rather rare feature, and I am talking about Power ON Self Tester.
Another important thing that must be said is that according to independent testers, this baby is worth Platinum, not Gold certification, i.e. EVGA did a much better job in terms of efficiency than they are telling you. That’s probably due to marketing decisions, who knows? And that’s why the SuperNOVA 850 G1+ is arguably the best computer power supply in its price range/power output.
- stellar efficiency, better than advertised
- excellent ripple control and voltage regulation/stability
- ten-year warranty, fully modular
- offers 2 EPS & 4 PCIe connectors
- impeccable workmanship
- amazing value for the price asked
- nothing really
5. Seasonic Prime 850 Titanium
The Seasonic Prime 850 is a real monster, making for a flagship 80+ Titanium class efficiency certified modular PSU, which comes with an amazing 12-year warranty and, a rare treat for gear fanatics: power on self-test! This bad boy is capable of delivering 850 watts of sheer power on demand, and it’s built using industrial grade components, which is reflected in its amazingly long warranty period.
If you want the best for your high-end gaming rig, the Seasonic Prime 850 really has it where it counts: high efficiency, a pure modular design, the company’s patented premium hybrid fan control, and a fabulous internal design (cable-free connections) for enhanced performance and reliability.
- 12-year warranty
- stellar power delivery
- technically impeccable (perfect workmanship, excellent ripple handling, epic voltage regulation, ultra high 20 percent load level efficiency)
- amazing value for money
- the 135mm FDB fan is discrete even under heavy loads
- lots of accessories in the retail bundle
- nothing, except for the price tag
6. CORSAIR RM850x
Now, we’re entering the “power overwhelming” bracket, with the Corsair RM850x, which makes for an 850 watt 80+ Gold certified modular PSU, built by one of the world’s most famous companies. The RM850x is designed to offer a balanced approach between quiet operation and top performance while keeping the price-tag relatively affordable.
Speaking of “whisper-quiet” performance, the fan will most likely stay at 0 RPM during routine tasks, like media playback and browsing. What’s really amazing about this PSU is that the power delivered in “full throttle” mode meets and exceeds the 80 Plus Gold certification, as per independent testing. If you’re looking for lots of juice and super quiet performance, the Corsair RM850x is definitely an interesting choice.
- 7-year warranty
- 850W continuous output @50 °C
- easy installation, fully modular
- built using high-end industrial grade Japanese electrolytic capacitors
- 0 RPM fan mode up to 40 percent load
- lots of safety protections: OVP, UVP, SCP, OCP, OPP and OTP
- high efficiency meets quiet operation and great performance
- 6x PCIe and 2x EPS connectors
- compact and solidly built
- competitive price
- retail package lacks SFX to ATX adapter
- cables could be better
7. Thermaltake Smart RGB 700W 80+
The Thermaltake Smart RGB is a very affordable 700 watt 80+ certified PSU, and the cherry on top is the patented 256 color RGB fan, which makes it look pretty cool for modding aficionados on a tight budget. How does this work, you asked? Well, there are 15 lighting modes to choose from at a click of a button, and this feature makes it look particularly nice on window PC cases.
To quote from the manual, there are Pulse Red/Green/Blue/Yellow/Purple/Light Blue/White, 256 Color RGB Cycle, Solid Red/Green/Blue/Yellow/Purple/Light Blue/ White, and LED Off modes, i.e. more than enough options to suit anyone’s illumination needs. That aside, besides bright shiny lights, the Thermaltake Smart is all about business, boasting a 120mm cooling fan featuring intelligent (as in Smart) RPM control, which delivers silent operation along with no-nonsense cooling performance.
- very quiet, easy to install
- 80+ 230V certified
- ten LED lights for cool lighting effects
- single high-amperage 12V rail design
- good value for money, 5-year warranty
- excellent efficiency
- non-modular design
8. Seasonic PRIME 650 Gold
The Seasonic PRIME makes for a high quality full modular Gold+ rated 650W capable PSU in an ATX form-factor, backed by an amazing 12-year manufacturers’ warranty. If you’re looking for premium built quality, the PRIME really excels in this department. Also, if you take into account the 12-year warranty offered by Corsair, along with the fantastic tech specs, you’ll see that the PRIME PSU would make for the perfect addition to any modern gaming rig.
One of the most important features of the PRIME 650 is Corsair’s patented hybrid silent fan control, which allows you to put the power supply in three distinct modes: fanless, silent and cooling mode, thus allowing you to lower the noise at a flick of the switch, but without reducing power output. It’s worth mentioning that this PSU will provide 90 percent efficiency at 50 percent load, so the fan will rarely kick in, if ever.
- fantastic value for money
- 12-year warranty, awesome design
- excellent performance and efficiency with low noise
- fully modular
- compatible with 24 pin motherboards, 4/8-pin CPU, 6/8-pin PCIe, SATA, MOLEX
- small footprint, feels premium
- perfect for silent builds
- subpar cables
9. CORSAIR RM750x Fully Modular
We’re now entering “big boys’ territory” with the CORSAIR RM750x PSU, a fully modular 80+ Gold certified 750-watt beast. The RM750x is built for low noise operation and low power consumption in “eco-mode”, i.e. the fan-noise is being kept at a minimum via a zero RPM fan-mode, which is available at low/medium loads. It’s worth mentioning that the RM750x is currently at its second generation, which means it’s a better/improved version compared to the previous model in terms of a quieter fan profile and a more compact chassis.
Moreover, the new RM750x includes 2 EPS connectors, a nice touch from Corsair, which makes it fully compatible with high-performance/high-end CPUs (basically power hungry platforms). If you’re looking for an efficient and amazingly quiet power supply for your gaming rig, with plenty of output capacity and a compact form-factor (160 mm deep), the RM750x should be on your short list.
- ten-year warranty
- 80 PLUS Gold, ETA-A efficiency
- LAMBDA-A+ noise certification at 15 dB(A) overall noise output, which makes it one of the quietest in its category
- comes with 2 EPS, 4 PCIe and 4-pin Molex connectors
- quiet operation across the range
- fully modular, well built
- great ripple suppression
- package does not include SFX to ATX bracket
- some users complain about cable quality
10. Seasonic FOCUS Plus 550 Gold
The Seasonic FOCUS Plus is a fully modular 80+ Gold certified PSU available in an ATX form-factor, backed by an amazing 10-year manufacturers’ warranty, and featuring a 120 mm FDB fan for whisper quiet operation even under full load.
The Hybrid Silent Technology patented by Seasonic is aimed at providing the optimal mélange of silent operation and cooling prowess when so required, as the industry-leading 3 phase thermal control allows the Focus Plus 550 Gold to operate in three distinct stages: fanless mode (completely quiet), silent mode and cooling mode.
The Seasonic FOCUS Plus is also very compact, being just 140 mm deep, which means it will be compatible with most computer cases and fits all ATX systems. If you’re looking for an efficient and quiet PSU from a reputable brand, keep in mind that Seasonic is one of the oldest PC power supply manufacturers, as they’ve entered the market back in 1980. Another interesting factoid is that Seasonic is an OEM provider for companies like Antec, Corsair and XFX.
- high quality 120 mm FDB (fluid dynamic bearing) fan for quiet operation even on full loads
- very compact
- stable and efficient power delivery, awesome ripple control and legendary voltage stability
- fully modular cables
- impeccable build quality
- great value for money
- 10-year warranty
- semi-fanless mode
- some users complain about cable quality
11. EVGA Supernova 550 GM
The EVGA Supernova 550 GM is a fully modular PSU in an SFX form-factor, boasting an 80 Plus Gold 550W rating certification, i.e. 90% (115VAC) / 92% (220VAC~240VAC) efficiency, and featuring a 23-GM-0550-Y1 power-supply, Japanese capacitors and an ECO mode, along with an EDB fan. This top-notch power supply comes with 7 years manufacturer’s warranty, heavy-duty protection for UVP, OVP, OPP, OCP and SCP. The EDB fan is a 92mm double ball bearing variety, which means it’s relatively quiet and extremely reliable.
The ECO mode allows the EVGA Supernova 550 GM to operate with the EDB fan in zero RPM mode. The fan will kick in when the power draw gets over 50 percent rated value, at approximately 350 watts respectively.
- 80 Plus Gold certification
- 7-year warranty
- excellent customer service
- can regulate all the fans in the computer (turn them on/off as required)
- great value for money
- you get 10 years warranty if you register the product within thirty days
- comes with SFX to ATX bracket included in the retail package
- be advised: the fan is rather noisy under heavy loads/high RPM
- low-quality screws for casing