If you’re looking to purchase a gaming computer from one of the online boutique system builders, then you know you’re able to pick and choose many of the components yourself. These system builders include, but not limited to, Maingear, Origin PC, Digital Storm, Xidax, iBuypower and CyberPowerPC. Or if you’re building your own gaming computer for the first time, you need to read this as well.
Knowing what components to choose may be daunting but I wanted to highlight one of the most important components in my opinion if you want your gaming computer to last. This is the power supply unit or PSU for short.
For the most part with many of the system builders listed above, they limit your options to quality brand name selections. However, two of the system builders, iBuypower and CyberPowerPC, have a wider selection, branded and unbranded, and this is where you can go wrong.
It’s not that those companies don’t catch these mistakes as they are not mistakes. The system will work with any of the power supplies listed. However, the question is how long will the system last under load while gaming is the question.
Why does PSU Matter So Much?
When I try to describe how the various components of the gaming computer equate to the parts of your body, I usually tell people that the PSU is like the heart of your body.
If you have a strong heart, you’re able to exert yourself and do physical activity for longer periods of time. For example, if you play basketball, you’re able to go the distance and play all four quarters.
If you have a weak heart, you get easily tired and cannot exercise as long, if at all. Once you start your physical activity, you’ll be huffing and puffing in no time and then sidelined.
For a gaming computer, once you start the game and start playing, you’ve basically started the physical activity that demands extra power and most of this is needed for the graphics card. For example, for the nVidia GeForce 1080 Ti, the specs state it requires 250W and recommends at least 600W for the system as a whole since the graphics card isn’t the only component that needs power.
So, with a graphics card rated at 250W, it doesn’t need all 250W all the time. During normal usage, non-gaming, it may be only using on average 10W. During gaming, basically under load, and depending on your settings, usage would be 150W+ up to 250W.
So, if the graphics card uses 250W under full load and this is the biggest power user, why do I need at least a 600W PSU? Because you want a buffer. If the PSU is rated at 600W, you don’t want to run it at 600W even though it can. It’s the same as your heart. When exercising, they always tell you what your target heart rate should be. If it’s too high, slow down on your exercise, right? If you keep up the activity with your heart rate extremely high, you’re going to hurt yourself.
With a PSU, I recommend that your max load doesn’t exceed 80% of the rated wattage. So, with a 600W PSU, under full load, your gaming computer should not be pulling more than 480W. This is why companies such as nVidia have these high system PSU recommendations. They’ve been in the game, no pun intended, a long time and know what they’re talking about.
nVidia didn’t always give system PSU recommendations. This is a fairly new development, maybe within the last couple of years. But I applaud them for doing so now. It’s about time!
Many of you may believe that by going with a branded item, that you’re paying extra just for the brand. Yes, this can be the case here as well but there’s a better reason.
When a company puts their brand on a product, they are saying that they stand by their product. When the product is unbranded, people won’t know who to complain to and the PSU manufacturer expects the system builder to handle all the complaints, not them so they don’t care.
While working in the computer industry, I’ve personally tested the whole range of power supplies, worked with companies such as eVGA, Thermaltake and Corsair, for example, and also worked with the actual manufacturers overseas.
All of the unbranded power supplies I’ve tested from overseas manufacturers that system builders use are all crap. For example, if they say it’s a 380W power supply, it actually may only be able to handle 200W.
All tests were done with actual gaming computers connected to metering equipment to measure actual power usage. No artificial load testing done. In all test runs, the system would shut down before we even reached 60% of the “rated” wattage printed on the label. It brings new meaning to the phrase that it’s overrated.
The results were much better on the branded PSUs. Because they are putting their brand behind these, they made sure they were better than the unbranded crap.
One thing to note is that the PSUs from branded companies come from the same manufacturers as the unbranded crap. There isn’t that many PSU manufacturers and they are all overseas. With this said however, companies such as eVGA and Corsair make sure that the PSUs they use from those manufacturers are the quality ones.
The low-end unbranded crap goes to system builders where the end-user doesn’t care about the individual components such as Dell, HP and many others. For normal everyday usage, it’s fine, but not for gaming computers.
eVGA and Corsair may have their own engineers, but they’re not designing these products from the ground up. They work with the overseas manufacturers, pick from a standard lineup, evaluate, test and possibly make minor changes to the design to make sure it meets their standards. Then they slap their brand on them.
eVGA and Corsair is my brand of choice. My current system and previous builds all used Corsair. eVGA is a relative new comer to the PSU market as they’re mostly known for their graphics cards. Even though they are new to PSUs, the manufacturer they use is not and eVGA only sells quality components.