Power supply ratings are pretty easy to understand. You start from 80 Plus and the higher you go, the more efficient that the PSU will be.
But, is that all there is to it? What about build quality, heat output, reliability, safety, and performance?
Does a higher rating mean that we’re getting something that’s also objectively better in every single way? And what do these ratings mean anyway?
Even something that simple can get quite complicated. That’s why we decided to create this article and explain everything there is to know about power supply ratings!
What are Power Supply Ratings?
Power supplies need to convert AC current into stable DC current for our computers. However, during that process, there is always a small amount of energy that gets lost in the form of waste heat.
The amount of energy that gets wasted during the conversion progress will highly differ from PSU to PSU and that’s why we use power supply ratings. To be more precise, 80 Plus ratings.
An 80 Plus power supply will operate with at least 80% efficiency at 20%, 50%, and 100% of its rated maximum load. And with that example, 20% of the total energy that the PSU is drawing gets lost as waste heat.
For a point of reference, an 80 Plus, 500 watt PSU that’s working at a 100% load will actually draw 625 watts – not 500, while at the same time, those extra 125 watts are lost in the form of waste heat.
Now, it goes without saying that a higher 80 Plus rating guarantees that the PSU will run more efficiently. To be more specific, here is the efficiency curve that each 80 Plus certification offers at 20, 50, and 100% loads.
As you can see, everything apart from Platinum will offer the best efficiency at a 50% load. And that’s something very important to keep in mind.
80 Plus Ratings: Is Higher Better?
A power supply is serious business. Getting a high-quality PSU that’s going to support your build with stable power is one of the most important tasks of PC building.
So, can we use 80 Plus ratings as a way to tell which options are worth it and which ones aren’t? Well, yes and no.
There is no doubt that less power consumption is better and there is no doubt that a PSU that’s drawing less power will run cooler.
However, do keep in mind that a PSU can be more efficient than other options without necessarily being better. In fact, there are quite a lot of 80 Plus Gold rated options that are bad while there are also quite a few 80 Plus Bronze PSUs that are decent.
Don’t get us wrong. PSUs with a higher 80 Plus rating are generally more likely to be better. It’s just that efficiency isn’t something that necessarily defines the trustworthiness of a power supply.
In fact, we can hardly use any information that we get from manufacturers to judge if we can trust a power supply. Japanese capacitors and a reputable trustworthy brand are two things to keep in mind. But, that’s about it.
There are numerous things that make for a good PSU that we just can’t see in the box. Load regulation, ripple suppression, high-quality caps, operating temperature levels, and more.
Thankfully, there are quite a lot of professional reviewers with years of experience behind them who can tell you which options are worth it and which ones aren’t. JonnyGuru, Linus Tech Tips, and Tom’s Hardware are some of the most popular names.
What PSU Should I Get?
The very first thing that you want to do is open a reputable PSU tier list, start from the top, then keep on moving until you find something that you can afford. We obviously recommend staying away from the lower-ranked options. Because, again, a power supply is serious business. Don’t take your chances with it.
After that, start filtering out options based on wattage. Ideally, you want something that will operate at 50-75% of its maximum load.
Don’t get us wrong. Any reputable power supply should be able to operate at 100% of its rated load. But, getting something that’s slightly more powerful than needed is good for future upgradeability and also for not pushing the unit too much.
That last bit is especially true for things like mining rigs that work at full load 24/7.
As for power supply ratings, well, as we mentioned above, the 80 Plus tag isn’t something that’s going to tell you if a PSU is good or not. There is no doubt that saving power is a good thing. But, most of us are not going to save more than a couple of bucks on our electricity bill.
Of course, that largely depends on how much power your PC needs and how much you actually need to pay for electricity.
With all of that being said, it’s not like power supply ratings are completely useless as a buying factor. In fact, there are times where you can tell what kind of PSU you’re buying depending on its 80 Plus rating.
Let us be a bit more specific.
80 Plus White
These PSUs are usually some of the cheapest that one can get. In fact, most of them are barely suitable for budget systems.
Instead, most 80 Plus Units are only suitable for pre-built rigs. Even budget builders will want to get at least an 80 Plus Bronze PSU.
But, again, the 80 Plus rating is not something that you can rely on too much. So, always check reviews from both pros and consumers before making a decision.
80 Plus Bronze
This is quite possibly the most popular 80 Plus rating. Most likely because there are a ton of 80 Plus Bronze units that can handle budget to mid-range builds without an issue.
Also, Bronze rated PSUs offer what is quite possibly the best value on the market. After all, for less than 70 bucks, you can get a PSU that will handle most dedicated GPUs without an issue.
80 Plus Silver
Silver units stand between the 80 Plus Bronze and 80 Plus Gold rating, which is most likely the reason that it’s not that popular.
Just like Bronze, most 80 Plus Silver units are most suitable for a budget to mid-range build with some exceptions allowing you to aim a bit higher. But, in such cases, you’ll probably want to get something that’s at least Gold rated for peace of mind.
80 Plus Gold
Gold rated power supplies are also extremely popular as they are suitable for most mid to high-end users without asking for a premium price tag.
That being said, most decent options are staying somewhere on the $100 range. So, they are definitely not cheap either.
Some very popular options like the RMx series from Corsair and the G2 series from EVGA can actually even handle dual-GPU setups. So, most people don’t really need to go beyond that point. For everyone else, there’s always Platinum and Titanium.
80 Plus Platinum and Titanium
Platinum and Titanium units is frankly overkill for the average person – at least that’s how it is most of the time.
After all, most 80 Plus Platinum options start from 750 watts while they can get higher than 1600! To give you a point of reference, the average mid-range gaming build with a 1660 ti and a 6-core processor shouldn’t draw more than 350.
That’s why most Platinum and Titanium power supplies are mainly targeted towards enthusiasts and power users who need this kind of power and are willing to spend the extra money on it.
That’s all we have for now. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all this information, here’s everything that you need to know in a nutshell:
- Power Supply Ratings showcase the efficiency of a PSU at 20, 50, and 100% load
- A higher PSU rating does not mean that you’re necessarily getting a better unit
- That being said, most higher-rated PSUs tend to be well built
And that’s as simple as it gets. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to let us know about them in the comments.