Building a computer is all about making trade-offs. Most often you trade off money to get better parts. Sadly, most of us do not have infinite supplies of cash laying around so we make a budget and then decide to build a computer. Then you have to decide which parts to buy with that hard earned cash, what parts are most important to you. So in this series, we are going to be going through each part of a computer build and discuss what each one does and how important it should be to you.
The PSU (Power Supply Unit) is one of the most underrated parts in a PC. It is in fact arguably the most important. You do not want to skimp on a power supply. This is a black (usually) box that sits at the back of the case with a bunch of wires coming out of it. Beyond that, your average user doesn’t know much about it. We may occasionally blow some dust off of it but beyond that we don’t do much with our PSU. Which is as it should be. Your average gamer does need to understand the inner workings of a power supply unit. But what does a power supply unit do? Why can’t we plug our fantastic rig directly into the wall?
For several reasons
First and foremost is that the electricity coming out of the wall is AC, but our electronic devices are designed to be used with DC. So the power supply takes the current from the wall and converts to workable electricity. That’s why the box is so big. The components need to switch electrical current are difficult to shrink even more. At least right now.
The second reason that we need the box is to protect the valuable fragile innards of our PC. The motherboard, in particular, is a sensitive piece of equipment. The components cannot handle too much electricity without blowing out. The power supply acts as a line of defense against power surges. (You should still get a surge protector though).
So why are there different wattages of power supplies if they don’t actually supply the electricity?
This is because the power supply can only convert so much electricity at a time. To understand why we have to have a look at how a power supply works.
This is the basics of how a power supply works. But keep in mind that each different power supply could use a different method. The vast majority use this method or something akin to it.
Each step of the process can only be done so fast and for so much electricity. That is why some power supplies are better than others, because they are more efficient, quieter, and can process larger amounts of electricity. That efficiency is a large reason not to skimp out on a power supply. Just don’t. If you get a power supply that doesn’t properly power all your parts then you can actually damage your computer.
How much power do I need?
Luckily there are websites that will do the approximate power calculations for you so you that you don’t have to do any math. Places like this take the parts that you are putting into your computer and then spit out the minimum wattage that you need. BUT keep in mind that there are other aspects to a power supply that we will go over.
There are several tips to selecting a good power supply. Don’t just assume that more wattage is always better. There are other factors to look into such as who built it, the reviews, modular, and the connectors. Quite a bit to think about actually. Let’s go step by step and figure out the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
There are no pros and cons here beyond price. The efficiency rating tells you how much of the electricity that enters the power supply actually goes into your computer.
Those are the 5 ratings, from left to right they go up in efficiency but they also go up in price. Average gamers should be fine with an 80 plus or 80 plus Bronze rating. However, you should not get any PSU that does not have even one of the ratings. If you can afford it then you should get a Silver or Gold efficiency rating, it does not have any disadvantages beyond price. A higher efficiency rating is only a good thing.
There are 3 different types of modules. Fully, partly and hard-wired. Fully modular means that all the cables can be removed to help with cable management. Partly modular means that some of the cables can be removed and others are permanently attached to the power supply whereas hard-wired means that none of the cables can be removed.
There are some advantages to having your cables soldered to the supply unit. You can get a faster and more stable connection which is always a plus. But the difference between a soldered connection and a connection that can be removed is so small that for the most part, it doesn’t matter. You are better off getting a modular unit to help with your cable management.
When buying a power supply perhaps the most important factor is the reviews. You can use the knowledge of people who have actually bought the power supply unit. There is nothing better than the experience of others to tell you what a piece of equipment is actually like.
The last thing that you need to look at is what the connectors of the power supply are and whether they are compatible with the rest of the computer. Most of the computers use the same connectors so just look at your motherboard and see whether it has the appropriate connectors. Most of them will.
At the end of the day, the power supply needs to be solidly built, reliable and actually power the computer.