Apart from 80 Plus ratings, one more thing that manufacturers often advertise with their power supplies is modularity. There are non-modular, semi-modular, and fully modular options to choose from.
But, what does that even mean? Why should we care about modularity? Are there any benefits to it? In the end, aren’t all PSUs just doing the same job?
By using this article, we’re planning on answering these questions and even more than that. So, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, then keep on reading!
What is PSU Modularity?
Unlike with laptops where you only need to plug in one PSU cable to power up the whole thing, desktop power supplies deliver power to each component by using separate cables.
There is a different cable for the CPU, another one for the motherboard, GPU, drives, fans, etc.
Some units come with all the cables pre-attached. Others offer the basics – like the CPU and motherboard while giving you the option to attach anything extra, and most premium options offer full flexibility.
That’s what we basically call PSU modularity. The more options that we get in terms of cable management, the more modular that a PSU is.
As we mentioned above, there are non-modular power supplies, semi-modular, and fully modular. Each option has both pros and cons.
And with all that being said, let’s take a closer look at them.
Non-Modular power supplies come with all the cables pre-attached to them. There are both good and bad things with that.
First of all, non-modular PSUs are generally cheaper without necessarily sacrificing performance. So, if you’re on the lookout for a cheap PSU, definitely consider restricting your options down to non-modular units only.
Now, a non-modular unit isn’t necessarily a bad performer. In fact, there are quite a few decent units out there.
However, since these kinds of PSUs are generally targeted towards budget to mid-range users, their performance tends to sit somewhere on that level as well.
Other than that, it goes without saying that cable management is almost always a nightmare. After all, it doesn’t matter if you only need basic cables or all of them. Like it or not, all the extra connectors are going to be there.
The good thing about non-modular PSUs is that they tend to be smaller – which is a good thing for compact cases.
Semi-Modular units come with the basic connectors pre-attached while allowing you to freely insert and remove anything else.
That being said, do keep in mind that the term “basic connector” differs from PSU to PSU. Some units will offer only the motherboard and the CPU connector while others may come with a PCI-E and even a peripheral SATA connector as well.
Though, in most cases, you won’t find anything more than the motherboard and the CPU connectors.
In terms of pricing, as you’d probably expect, semi-modular units tend to sit somewhere in between non-modular and fully modular power supplies. That makes them quite possibly the best value since they offer the basic connectors that everyone needs while still giving us control over the other connectors. After all, who is going to use a computer without the 24 and the 8 pin cables?
The only issue with semi-modular PSUs is that almost all of them are targeted towards mid-range builders. So, if you’re intending on building a high-end PC, then a fully modular power supply is quite possibly the only way to go.
A fully modular power supply allows you to freely connect and disconnect every single cable at will. That also includes the motherboard’s 24-pin cable and the CPU as well.
Since there is the option of disconnecting anything that’s not necessary, these power supplies are the absolute best for cable management.
Also, most popular units can be used with custom cables as well for a fancier and more customizable look. They do tend to cost as much as a whole brand new PSU on its own, though.
Speaking of pricing, it goes without saying that fully modular power supplies are by far the most expensive of the bunch. Thankfully, their high-end price tag isn’t just for show since most of them are very well made as well.
The only downside that they have, apart from their high price tag, is that you need to be very careful not to lose a cable that may end up being necessary after an upgrade.
Finding replacement cables can be a rather painful task. Not to mention that cables from other PSUs aren’t going to cut it. Sometimes, not even from the same manufacturer – even if the connector is the same.
Last, but not least, there is also the argument that better cable management results in better airflow – and it makes sense. But, truth be told, most real-life tests that we’ve seen have proven time and time again that cable management makes little to no difference in airflow.
Still, nobody likes having an ugly looking PC. Especially if you’re rocking a transparent glass case. Not to mention that good cable management makes it easier to manage the various components inside the case.
Does Modularity Matter for Performance and Reliability?
Short answer, no. Long answer – it kind off does.
As we mentioned above, non-modular units are generally targeted towards budget to mid-range builders, semi-modular units are targeted towards mid-range users, and fully modular PSUs can generally be found at the high-end spectrum.
However, that’s not because of their modularity. The reason that high-end options tend to be fully modular is because making a high-end PSU is already rather expensive.
So, from the perspective of a manufacturer, if you’re going to make something that’s a premium option in the first place, why not spend just a bit more in order to make the PSU all that better?
At the same time, making non-modular PSUs is cheaper – and that’s why it makes more sense to use this design on a budget oriented unit.
That’s all we have for now. We tried to be as detailed as possible. So, hopefully, this article managed to answer your questions. If not, feel free to ask anything by using the comments section.
To summarize everything as quickly as possible:
- Non-Modular: Comes with all cables pre-attached/soldered. This is the cheapest option but also the worst for cable management
- Semi-Modular: Only the basic cables are pre-attached/soldered while everything else is modular. This offers good cable management at an affordable price point
- Fully modular: Every cable can be freely removed and reattached. This is the best option for cable management – but it’s also the most expensive of the bunch