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Assembling a PC is now simpler than ever. Manufacturers are now working with established, universal formats, there is a multitude of guides available for the user to consult, and the ability to purchase capable hardware at every price point is easy to do. All this works towards diverse builds, flexible budgets, and an overall happy consumer. With the multitude of opportunities on the market, it’s only natural that consumers sometimes tend to get confused, especially when it comes to terms like CUDA cores for your GPU, the cache for your CPU, and ratings and certifications for your PSU. Throughout this piece, we’ll be focusing on the latter aspect, giving you everything you need to know about power supply ratings.
Power Supply Ratings in a Nutshell
A common misconception about power supply ratings is that they reflect the overall quality of your future power supply. That isn’t always true. You’ll notice that most power supplies have two sorts of ratings: 80+ certification followed by a tier of precious metal. They range from the lowest, which is bronze and climb up gradually to the titanium rating. But what does everything mean? How do these ratings impact you, the consumer? The need for these ratings will become obvious in a second.
80+ Certified and What It Actually Means
So, your power supply is tasked with converting alternating current from your outlet into direct current to power your components. But it will never convert 100% of the AC to DC. Here’s where the 80+ certification comes in. The 80+ certification guarantees that under 20%, 50%, and 100% load, your power supply will convert at least 80% of the AC to DC. To give an example, a power supply that’s rated 80 PLUS will draw 125 watts at most to provide you with 100 watts of DC, the remaining 25 watts being transformed into heat.
This is important both for power efficiency and power consumption. In the early 2000s, this was a milestone, as power supplies clearly became much more capable of converting, providing you with a smaller bill at the end of each month. Most manufacturers out there will present their buyers with a graph, revealing the peak of the PSU’s conversion capabilities. For instance, you could spec a build that will draw 500 watts of power at maximum load. You would want to pair it with a power supply that will be most efficient around the 500-watt mark.
Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titanium
In the late 2000s, around 2008-2009, manufacturers started producing bronze, silver, gold, and platinum-rated power supplies. These tiers come in addition to the 80+ certification, adding to the overall efficiency of your power supply. Where 80+ certification might guarantee a little more than 80% efficiency in the conversion process, bronze might mean 85%, while gold and platinum can climb as high as 92-93% at certain loads.
The need for these additional ratings is clear, as they’re meant for enthusiasts who want to guarantee that their systems are running as efficiently as possible at all times. Additionally, the higher tiers will also translate into better build quality and more reliability in terms of long-term performance.
This leaves us with the Platinum rating and what you need to know about it. While the first four of these precious metals indicate a PSU’s performance at the 20%, 50%, and 100% loads, the Platinum rating also provides high-efficiency at a 10% load. This is great if you’re looking to add a stable PSU to a system that runs idle a lot of the time, as the 80 PLUS certification doesn’t cover efficiency for very low loads.
Heating and Cooling Are Also a Big Factor
As you’d imagine, these ratings will also impact the heat of your system. More efficiency means less loss, thus less heat. This translates into longevity, ensuring that your power supply will last longer and run safer without compromising your other components. You’ll also avoid random shutdowns, keeping your data safe and your experience enjoyable.
What Do You need to Take Away From This? Keep a Power Buffer
From the perspective of a first-time buyer, this might all seem a bit overwhelming. What you need to take away from this is that you should always invest in a buffer for your system. This means that you should pick a power supply that runs at around 70-80% of its rating when trying to keep your other components running at 100% of their loads. You can do this easily by adding each component’s individual power draw, then buying something with greater wattage.
Please note that PSUs really struggle with efficiency at the lower and higher ends of the spectrum. This is why it’s important to keep a buffer for the safety of your system and to ensure that your power supply won’t strike out when trying to draw enough power to your components.
What Type of Power Supply do I Need?
The power supply you pick for your system depends on what type of system you’re planning on building. If you’re planning on building a simple home PC, then most 80+ certified power supplies will make sense for you. That being said, if you’re planning on investing in a high-power behemoth that runs two RTX 2080 Tis in SLI and a Ryzen 3700X, then you might want to invest in a gold-rated, high-wattage PSU to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
With that in mind, it’s also important to take note of the fact that the price of the PSU rises with its rating and with its wattage, so make sure you really need the extra watts and ratings, otherwise invest the extra chunk of money towards a higher-capacity SSD, extra LED strips for a bangin’ build or some new peripherals.
I would recommend that you purchase at least an 80+ Bronze certified PSU, no matter the build while keeping a 20% buffer. So if your build needs around 350 watts, go for a PSU that’s around 500 watts, and so on. If you’re looking to save some money, then maybe try buying a cheaper case or compromising on aesthetics. You can’t really skimp on a power supply for the integrity of your build.