This guide will tell you about the TOP-6 power supplies that are commercially available. How do they work and why should you consider wattage and amperage when choosing an appropriate unit? Which other features should be taken into account when buying a product? Below, you will find answers to these and other essential questions as well as an illustrative comparative chart of the product effectiveness which will help you make the right choice.

Custom computer building is a fun thing to do, and you can take pride in the computer you’ve designed and be happy with a machine that meets your specific needs. Putting a computer together is a lot easier than it used to be – all of the components can only go together one way, and when shopping online, many websites will help you pair compatible components to ensure that what you have will work properly the first time.

While it may not save money like it used to (thanks, crypto miners), it’s still the only way to get the exact computer you want, and when you create something, there’s part of you in it, making it truly yours.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who aren’t “computer people” underestimate the importance of specific components. Oh, they understand that such components are necessary for the computer to work, but they fail to acknowledge how important it is to choose the right one. An example, which we’re going to talk about today is the PSU, or power supply.

Beyond providing sufficient volume, people assume “a power supply is a power supply”, and that’s just not true. If you skimp on this component, you can have a whole host of problems from the supply burning out suddenly, to even damaging your board and drives. It could even catch fire in some cases if you have a particularly crappy generic supply.

Today, we’re going to talk a lot about power supplies, things to consider with them, the dangers involved in them, and of course, some of the best ones within different power tolerances. There won’t be any knockoff brands on this list, this is something you can’t cut corners on, period.

What You Will Learn from This Guide:

How a Power Supply Works: Explaining The Technologies Behind

A power supply, long story short, is a power relay station and a step-down transformer. Let’s talk a little bit about these two things and what they’re for as well as how they work. First, the step-down transformer.

When power comes out of a wall, it’s very high. Usually 115v in the US, higher in Europe and Asia. Your computer’s components absolutely can’t handle that kind of voltage, the signal in most parts being around 1-5v, and 12v where motors and fans are involved. Needless to say, high voltages would burn these parts out instantly. So, we need to reduce that 115v signal down. This is what a step-down transformer does. Basically, a transformer like this is a spun coil of copper, which receives the incoming voltage, and converts it to a sustained magnetic field. The base is electromagnetic, thus some of that field collapsing and generating a lower-voltage signal. Depending on the design of the power supply, there may be one large transformer generating about 12v, and a series of lesser ones to convert some of that to the 1-5v signals. Some boards and other components also have small transformers for their own specific power needs within that 1-5v range.

Other transformers will have a lengthy series of small ones that gradually reduce the power, or do so in parallel, but the technology of any transformer is the same. Relaying is done through diodes, which only allow current to flow in one direction, thus distributing the outgoing signal through the multitude of cables that extend from the power supply. Liens include interfaces for the motherboard (there may be a few different ones, to account for various board designs), and some link-ups for fans, as well as SATA-style interfaces for optical, SSD and hard drive components.

Power supplies are rated not by voltage but by watts, which are calculated by multiplying the voltage (in volts) times the current (in amps). As for the difference between voltage, amps and other electrical concerns, you needn’t really worry about that when choosing a power supply, as your board, chip, etc. will list wattage and amperage requirements, which you can use to find the appropriate power supply strength.

What Are The Types of Power Supplies And Their Differences?

As we said, the biggest distinguishing variable for power supplies is the amount of power they provide, measured in watts. There are a handful of standard power ranges, which we’ll take a quick look at here, and the general situations that call for a given scope.

  • 400W – There used to be lower power levels, as low as 150W, but the lowest you’re going to see in a modular power supply is 400W. This is generally for a casual computer you won’t be doing heavy computational things on. Office computers tend to work well enough off of a 400W power supply, and even some machines designed to play a lot of videos can manage it, albeit with a weak CPU to make up for the power hog GPU HD video needs.
  • Under 600W – This is a strange quasi-range of power supplies between 400W and 600W, and are rarely called for when building a standard-architecture computer, being more for unusual chipsets (ARM, PPC, MIPS). However, some after-market redesigns of previous-generation CPUs and GPUs call for these weird wattages too.
  • 600W-800W – This is the range where a lot of “pretty good” modern PCs sit. You can run a decent 4-core CPU with four RAM slots, two or three drives, and a decent enough GPU off of one of these. This is the casual machines the everyman builds to enjoy decent casual modern gaming, HD video, a solid internet experience, and the ability to do some effective office work.
  • 800W-1000W – This is the CPU used by graphic designers, 3D artists, video makers, and heavy gamers on a budget. You can power an 8-core CPU, 6 or so slots of RAM and a slightly less-than-ultimate modern GPU with this kind of power, as well as eight SATA devices (if the board has the hookups). Most off-the-shelf gaming machines under $3000 use a power supply in this range. Crypto miners tend to use this power range as well.
  • Over 1000W – Well, it’s not over 9000 at least, right? Yeah, these are the types of power supplies needed by “holy crap!” hardware configurations. These include ultra-high-end gaming rigs and design machines, some Ryzen boards, and of course, 16+ core server chips. You probably won’t use a power supply this strong, unless you’re building an insane machine you want absurdly future-proofed.

What To Look For When Buying A Product?

Now, there is also one other concern to look at, and this varies from supply to supply, rather than the wattage. We mentioned how there are a few different types of cords coming out of a power supply. You want to make sure it has enough for your configuration.

  • Fan Couplings – These will be large plastic sockets with three or four pins, and three or four matching wires leading from them. Be sure your fans match the pin count.
  • Board Couplings – Board couplings are more or less standardized, but the number of pins does vary a bit, so make sure the board has a modular pin layout and more than you need.
  • SATA Device Interfaces – This is the one you can run out of too darn quickly. The power interfaces for SATA devices have a flat appearance with a slightly raised side (to make sure it plugs in a specific way). There tend to be lined with two or four of these interfaces in series. Aim for having two more than you need.

My Personal Experience

I’d like to share two experiences with you, as far as power supplies. The first one was about ten years ago. I’d gotten hold of my first good modern (for the time) GPU, due to building a new computer for someone and them giving me their GPU out of the machine that was dying.

I loved that GPU, but one morning I awoke to find my computer off, unable to boot, the GPU having burned up. Why? Because the sticker on the PSU had fallen off and jammed the fan on the GPU, causing it to overheat and burn out. I was livid. That PSU was brand new, and they’d just not glued the sticker on right. I called the PSU manufacturer and raised hell, demanding I get my GPU replaced. They eventually acquiesced, but it took a lot of persistence on my part to see that happen.

Be careful that labels and other things on your PSU are on there good, if they’re not, remove them preemptively because if it jams the fans, or bridges runs on the board, causing shorts or overheating, it will wreck your machine.

My other story is something to keep in mind about how to tell when your PSU is about to die. Usually, the thing that goes is their fan, and after that, it dies in minutes. You will hear a hum coming from it. Tapping the back of the PSU’s can sometimes shut this up for a minute or two (but isn’t a fix). If you hear this sound, get ready to buy a new PSU right away, because when it dies, you can’t turn your computer on anymore.

Lastly, a bonus – look for a PSU that has an on and off switch, which makes it easier to turn the machine off if it freezes up, instead of unplugging the power cord from it, which can bend the prongs or break the wires in the cord over time. I had this happen to several power supplies back in the day, and some modern cheap PSUs still omit the switch because you can never completely exterminate stupidity.

TOP-6 Best Power Supplies

Take a look at a review of the 6 best products within the price range from $30 to $370 available on the market. They differ considerably in wattage, which is important in terms of their application. The less powerful models are more suitable for offices, casual gaming, and multimedia consumption, while for the higher-end gaming experience, you will need a unit of 800 watts and over. Note that trusted brands such as Thermaltake are more reliable and unlikely to suddenly fail, unlike some.

400W

Non-Modular Power Supply | CORSAIR VS Series

Non-Modular Power Supply CORSAIR VS Series: photo

This is your bog standard 400W power supply, ideal for low-end casual computers used in offices, or for non-gaming home use. It can provide sufficient power to run a four-core 2.5GHz CPU with two to four RAM slots, and a 1GB GPU from about two generations ago. You could do some lower-end casual gaming on a power supply like this, but nothing equivalent to the modern, high-end AAA experience.

1080p video can be had from a GPU that uses a power supply like this, though it may struggle with HD streams or DVDs due to the light-weight buffer handling necessary for such low power.

Features

  • Power Level: 400 watts.
  • Fan: 120mm.
  • Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
  • Fan Interfaces: 2.
  • SATA/PATA Interfaces: 4. 
  • Board Interface: Non-Modular.

Performance

Corsair is a leading name in computer components, being sought after for motherboards, RAM, and much more. That in mind, you can expect this to be a long-lived, reliable PSU with good build quality. It won’t overheat, it won’t crap out on you, it will plug away for many years.

However, Corsair, a great brand that they are, cannot make 400 watts do more than 400 watts can do. You won’t be powering a real gaming, art or high-end media machine with a power supply like this one. But, if you just want a decent office-quality computer, this should be all you need, and it’s going to last you a long time and come at a price you can be happy with.

Pros Cons
  •  Affordable.
  • Durable.
  • Low heat output.
  • Decent count of fan interfaces.
  • Decent count of SATA power interfaces.
  • Corsair reliability.
  • Non-modular.
  • SATA power interfaces are daisy chained.
  • Loud.
  • Over-voltage auto-shutdown is a bit easy to false-positive during times when power fluctuates (hottest days of summer, nasty storms).

Conclusion 

For what it is, this is a solid PSU, and if all you want is a decent home office machine, then you can’t really go wrong with this one. Corsair is a fantastic brand, so while they can’t make the limited power do more than physics allow, you can count on it lasting for a long time, and being a sound purchase.

CORSAIR VS Series: Check the current price

Under 600W

550W Power Supply | EVGA SuperNOVA

EVGA SuperNOVA 550W Power Supply: photo

EVGA isn’t as well-known as Corsair, or Thermaltake, but they’re still very well-respected as a manufacturer of computer components. This is an odd power range, and some re-releases of after-market CPUs and GPUs tend to like these odd power profiles. If you’re building a previous-generation kit, this is probably the type of power you’ll need.

Furthermore, if you’re building something with an odd architecture like ARM, PPC or MIPS (this is still done, believe it or not), you’ll also probably need something like this.

Features

  • Power Level: 550 watts.
  • Fan: 120mm.
  • Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
  • Fan Interfaces: 2.
  • SATA/PATA Interfaces: 4.
  • Board Interface: Modular.

Performance

You can. Believe it or not, power a Ryzen or Skylake (very high-end CPUs from AMD and Intel respectively) with a 550W PSU like this. However, the caveat is that they will be slower and less stable than with a 600-800W alternative.

You can run something like an AMD Athlon or an Intel Core i5, which means that casual gaming and multimedia consumption will work fine off of this. You’re still not going to get modern AAA games, or 4K video out of this kind of power, as the components just need more oomph than 550W to do so.

EVGA is a solid brand, so if you need this range, this will perform well for you.

Pros Cons
  • Affordable.
  • Durable.
  • Low heat output.
  • Decent count of fan interfaces.
  • Decent count of SATA power interfaces.
  • Cords are fiddly.
  • Limited applications for this power range.
  • Will be phased out soon enough.
  • Casing is a little flimsy.
  • Bad capacitors have been reported in these once in a while.

Conclusion

If you need this very unusual power range, EVGA is a solid provider. If you’re careful, you can actually power some modern hardware with this, but at the compromise of stability and speed. I recommend this to people building after-market PCs, or people who like to see what kind of capacity they can squeeze out of a limited amount of power. Be careful, as over-stressing these can end in disaster, though.

EVGA SuperNOVA: Check the current price

550W Power Supply | Seasonic G-Series

Seasonic G-Series 550W Power Supply: photo

This differentiates itself from the EVGA simply in that it’s wired for dual GPUs with a secondary power routing and transform stage that makes it only 550W in the vaguest sense. This makes it useful for building a low-impact budget gaming machine, or a low-power-footprint crypto mining setup.

Not many power supplies below 600W can handle dual GPUs, but of the ones that do, you can expect it to be a strange 550W like this one.

Features

  • Power Level: 550 watts.
  • Fan: 120mm.
  • Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
  • Fan Interfaces: 2.
  • SATA/PATA Interfaces: 4.
  • Board Interface: Modular.

Performance

Seasonic is not a widely-known brand, coming out of eastern Asia and Japan. There, they do have a positive reputation, but I just can’t say I feel like these are quite as reliable and vetted as something like EVGA, Thermaltake or Corsair.

However, the crossfire compatibility is interesting, and I’d like to see how far you can go with squeezing modern requirements out of post-dated equipment through something like this. However, these Japanese designs (no offence to the sovereign nation itself) tend to be a little unpredictable, due to not being made for western computer philosophies. This begs for a bit of caution in pushing them too far with certain things.

Pros Cons
  • Affordable.
  • Durable.
  • Low heat output.
  • Decent count of fan interfaces.
  • Decent count of SATA power interfaces.
  • Cords are fiddly.
  • Limited applications for this power range.
  • Less reputable manufacturer.
  • Has moments of instability.
  • Can overheat.
  • Less-than-excellent warranty.
  • Has a similar random bad capacitor problem.

Conclusion

Once more, if you need this very atypical power range, this PSU will work, though unless you’re doing something odd with new tasks on old tech, this one I am more hesitant to recommend compared to the EVGA. It’s an interesting idea, but there are too many concerns with this concept to say that average PC builders should go with this one. But it’s worth a look for experimentalists.

Seasonic G-Series: Check the current price

From 600W to 800W

Power Supply with 10 RGB LED Fan | Thermaltake Smart BX1

Power Supply with 10 RGB LED Fan: photo

This is where you start getting into solid media and high-end casual territory. As a Haswell-ready system, you may be hard pressed to provide enough juice for maximum settings for a modern gaming experience, but average settings (which are what game trailers show if it’s not a series of “bullshots”) should be possible.

You can operate lower-end 8-core chips, and 4GB single GPU setups with a supply like this, and you can enjoy high-end ultra HD 4K video without a problem. This is the PSU for the budget-conscious person who wants an entertainment PC for the next decade.

Thermaltake is a well-respected brand, too.

Features

  • Power Level: 750 watts.
  • Fan: 120mm.
  • Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
  • Fan Interfaces: 4.
  • SATA/PATA Interfaces: 6.
  • Board Interface: Non-Modular.

Performance

Thermaltake is a long-respected brand in computer components, and this RGB power supply is a nice piece of engineering. Unlike some of the power supplies we’ve looked at, the capacitors in this one are of the most superb quality, meaning this thing is unlikely to suddenly fail, unlike some.

You can get a nice casual experience from a system powered with one of these, just don’t expect maximum settings, as the GPU will stress the power supply a little too much.

Pros Cons
  • Affordable.
  • Durable.
  • Low heat output.
  • Decent count of fan interfaces.
  • Decent count of SATA power interfaces.
  • Can be a pain to calibrate a system with this power parameter. 
  • Warranties with Thermaltake can be a bit dodgy.

Conclusion 

Want to build a decent budget machine that can still game well, or work as a passable design machine? This power supply will meet your specifications pretty well. Just expect to upgrade to a higher-power Thermaltake (see the next item) if you decide to increase the power of other components in the future. Still, I recommend this one, I’ve built machines using supplies like this.

Thermaltake Smart BX1: Check the current price

From 800W to 1000W

Power Supply for Higher End | Thermaltake Smart M 100W

Power Supply for Higher End Thermaltake: photo

If you want a higher end gaming experience, this is the power supply you’re likely to need. Similar to the previous, you can work with more powerful, higher-core-count Haswell or Ryzen chips, and this one also works well with Skylake and other Core line chips as well.

Features

  • Power Level: 800 watts.
  • Fan: 120mm.
  • Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
  • Fan Interfaces: 4.
  • SATA/PATA Interfaces: 6.
  • Board Interface: Modular.

Performance

If you want to build a standard gaming, multimedia, or creative machine, then your design will call for one of these PSUs. You can power a 16 core chip with one of these, as well as dual 4GB GPUs, which means you can do high-end video production, art/design, and standard-quality modern gaming when using a PSU like this.

As I said, Thermaltake is another well-respected brand in components, so you know you’re getting some lasting power and stability with this PSU as well. As for consumer video, you can power the demands of GPUs doing shader-enabled ultra HD even as high as 8K (but 8K is kind of pointless).

However, be careful about providing enough air flow, this kind of SPU doesn’t like being backed too close against a wall, or other airflow being blocked, and can get very hot and inefficient as well.

Pros Cons
  • Affordable.
  • Durable.
  • Low heat output.
  • Decent count of fan interfaces.
  • Decent count of SATA power interfaces.
  • Picky about ability to breathe.
  • Can be a bit loud when demands are high.
  • Power fluctuations can make the over-voltage do a false positive.

Conclusion 

If you want a solid gaming machine, art/design, or production machine, then this is a PSU I am ready to recommend. It can belch a lot of heat, and it can get a bit loud when it’s working hard, though. This isn’t what you’d use in last-word computer design, that’s reserved for our next and final item, but this is what most would consider “high-end” for gaming or other graphics-intense power requirements.

Thermaltake Smart M 100W: Check the current price

Over 1000W

1500 Watt Power Supply | CORSAIR AXi Series

CORSAIR AXi Series 1500 Watt Power Supply: photo

This is the “what the heck are you doing” PSU. Generally, unless you have multiple GPUs (read: more than 2 GPUs at 4GB a piece), and a 32-core CPU setup, you don’t need this kind of power. Even high-end gaming rigs come in at 1000W at the most, generally-speaking.

However, maybe you are building a server or some other project that needs additional power due to ridiculously over-scoped components. If so, this is definitely a good PSU. Corsair, as we said before, is a respected brand.

Features

  • Power Level: 1500 watts.
  • Fan: 120mm. 
  • Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
  • Fan Interfaces: 4.
  • SATA/PATA Interfaces: 8.
  • Board Interface: Modular.

Performance

If you’re trying to build an extremely powerful machine, and you need this kind of power, Corsair is probably the only brand I’d be ok with recommending something this high-powered. I have to wonder what everyday PC designers are building, that they need this level of power.

I myself have a 16-core Skylake with two GPUs, it uses an 800W PSU, and I’ve yet to max it out with any game, application, or ridiculous set of multiple tasks, so what someone could want with 32 or more cores and four or more GPUs, I cannot fathom. If you’re a supervillain or mad scientist, then you’ll enjoy this PSU, though, with this kind of power, it’ll heat a room up. Heck, my 800W machine has me sweating in here.

Pros Cons
  • Extreme power provision.
  • Modular interface.
  • You can build mini-supercomputers with this thing.
  • Corsair reputation.
  • Not necessary for most projects.
  • Very loud.
  • Puts out a lot of heat, and will spike your power bill by about 60 a month.
  • Very, very expensive.
  • May need its own breaker in older homes.

Conclusion 

I’d love to know what you’re building that needs this kind of power, but if you need it, I am more than alright with recommending this SPU. However, it’s very expensive, and drawing this kind of power produces a lot of noise and heat, and it may cause problems with your house’s electrical system if it’s kind of old. Be careful with this kind of equipment. If you must, though, Corsair is the only brand I would trust with this kind of scope, that’s for certain.

CORSAIR AXi Series: Check the current price

Comparative Chart of Power Supply Effectiveness

Product Features

CORSAIR VS Series

• Power Level: 400 watts.
• Fan: 120mm.
• Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
• Fan Interfaces: 2.
• SATA/PATA Interfaces: 4.
• Board Interface: Non-Modular.

Effectiveness: 8

EVGA SuperNOVA

• Power Level: 550 watts.
• Fan: 120mm.
• Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
• Fan Interfaces: 2.
• SATA/PATA Interfaces: 4.
• Board Interface: Modular.

Effectiveness: 9

Seasonic G-Series

• Power Level: 550 watts.
• Fan: 120mm.
• Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
• Fan Interfaces: 2.
• SATA/PATA Interfaces: 4.
• Board Interface: Modular.

Effectiveness: 8

Thermaltake Smart BX1

• Power Level: 750 watts.
• Fan: 120mm.
• Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
• Fan Interfaces: 4.
• SATA/PATA Interfaces: 6.
• Board Interface: Non-Modular.

Effectiveness: 9

Thermaltake Smart M 100W

• Power Level: 800 watts.
• Fan: 120mm.
• Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
• Fan Interfaces: 4.
• SATA/PATA Interfaces: 6.
• Board Interface: Modular.

Effectiveness: 10

CORSAIR AXi Series

• Power Level: 1500 watts.
• Fan: 120mm.
• Over-Voltage Protection: Yes.
• Fan Interfaces: 4.
• SATA/PATA Interfaces: 8.
• Board Interface: Modular.

Effectiveness: 10

FAQ 

What is the best power supply brand?
Corsair, followed closely by Thermaltake.

Can the unit damage a motherboard?
If it malfunctions, it might. Too much power could as well. But usually, fail-safes prevent this.

Can it cause blue screen?
No, if it has a power signal failure, it’ll cause the machine to shut down or hard reboot.

What is a good power supply for gaming PC?
A Thermaltake or Corsair 800-1000W PSU works well for most gaming needs.

Why does it make a high pitched noise?
If it’s a faint noise, it’s just the fan moving at a high speed. If it’s a persistent buzzing, that’s a sign it’s about to die. Replace it immediately if you hear that noise.

Are power supply cables universal?
Most of the time they are, yes. This is a sector where proprietary designs would actually work against a particular brand or unit.

What causes a power supply failure?
The fan dying is usually what happens first. However, capacitors can go bad over time as well. Sometimes the diodes can fry too, over time. Even solid-state electronics can break down, as entropy occurs on a subatomic level.

Pros & Cons of Using These Products

This is an unavoidable component, so weighing the pros and cons is a bit moot. That in mind, let’s just list a few common issues with the technology, which are unfortunate.

  • They are usually shorter-lived than other components.
  • Without guidance, it can be tricky to pick the right power supply.
  • They can be noisy, and produce a lot of heat.
  • Constant replacements become pricy.

Conclusion

These PSUs are the best in their niches, at least in my opinion. There are a plethora of alternatives out there, but search as much as you may, you won’t find better options than these.