Do you know what that 80 PLUS sticker means on your PSU? Is getting gold better than getting silver, or is that just marketing? Well, if you’re in the market for a new PC and trying to calculate how much should you spend on a PSU, then we’re here to help guide you along the way!
How Much Should You Spend on a PSU?
Does PSU Cost Equal PSU Quality?
Simply put, this is one of the few instances where the more you pay, the more features you get from your power supply. The immediate benefit is a higher bank of power delivered to your machine. However, each price point comes with its own set of benefits that you should consider before diving in.
$50 and less – 80 PLUS White and Bronze Power Supplies
This level of power supply is the lowest of the low but also perfect for low-spec builds. Usually, they come in at 500W, meaning if you have a higher-end CPU or GPU, this more than likely won’t cut it. We’ll discuss the 80 PLUS certification and what it means later, but just know that this price point provides the lowest energy efficiency available.
Another typical design choice for power supplies at this price is they are usually non-modular by default, with modular offerings being very rare. To explain, this distinction decides whether the power cables are fixed in location, or you can swap them in and out respectively. This could cause some issues for certain builds and wire clutter.
However, if you’re aiming to make a budget build, this should support an RTX 2060 or 3050 with ease alongside a moderate to high-performing CPU. Lose the fancy LEDs, and you’ll be more than capable of playing some games on it without the PSU being an issue.
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$60 to $150 – 80 PLUS Gold Power Supplies
If you’re building a mid to high-performance gaming PC, then the amount you should spend on a PSU is probably about this $60 -$150 mark. The 80 PLUS gold-certified PSUs primarily inhabit this range, and for good reason. It’s the gold standard for PSUs with great power efficiency and other features.
Wait. What about 80 PLUS silver, we hear you say? Well, we tried finding any on Amazon and wound up with no results, which is pretty hard to do. Silver is the middle child of the PSU world, where bronze is made for budget builders, and gold is for premium; silver has no spot to claim.
Continuing on, 80 PLUS gold power supplies will usually range from 500W up to 1250W (with some reaching higher). This allows for easy power management as even the highest specced machines can use one of these and be fully powered with wattage to spare.
Another of its great features at this tier is you begin having more reliable surge protection built in as well as fully modular cables. For years this was pretty much all there was, but ”there’s always someone better.”
$150 and Up – 80 PLUS Platinum and Titanium Power Supplies
Now we’re at what we consider a currently unnecessary level. Just like the gold supplies before it, these start at a higher power level of 750W and go up to 1600W, which is more than enough for the vast majority of users.
These have all the benefits of their gold brethren but boast an even higher power efficiency. Manufacturers are so confident in these PSUs that they provide 10+ year warranties. When companies provide decade-long warranties, they have decided there is very little risk of these being returned en masse.
In other words, they have full faith that they won’t fail to provide the performance you expect from the most premium PSU.
So, those are the basic tiers of PSUs, and you’re probably wondering what all that 80 PLUS stuff means, right? Let’s get that out of the way.
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How to Pick the Right 80 PLUS Certified Level
Ah, our favorite part – overly technical jargon! Okay, we’ll try to keep it simple. The 80 PLUS certification is a measure implemented to police the quality of power supplies in the PC building market. They currently range from the base 80 PLUS to 80 PLUS Titanium.
Depending on how high in this scale you go, the energy efficiency increases, which means you’re getting more energy converted for less power consumption. When it comes to picking a budget for your power supply unit, considering how much it will cost you in the long run is good to know.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the 80 PLUS levels and their expected energy efficiency percentage at 100% of their rated load – don’t worry, we’ll cover that as well:
- 80 PLUS – 80%
- 80 PLUS Bronze – 82%
- 80 PLUS Silver – 85%
- 80 PLUS Gold – 87%
- 80 PLUS Platinum – 89%
- 80 PLUS Titanium – 90%
What the numbers above show is how efficient each level of power supply is at their maximum rated load, aka if the PSU was pulling as much power as it is capable from the wall. For example, if your PSU is a 500W model, then its max load would be 500W.
The efficiency comes in when you weigh how much power is being used versus what is being drawn in. If 500W is being drawn from the wall into a base 80 PLUS power supply, it will only use 400W of that as energy. The rest is lost as heat within the PSU itself. Therefore it needs to work harder to distribute enough power for your machine to run if 400W isn’t enough.
However, if using an 80 PLUS Titanium PSU at 500W, you’d instead receive 450W with the rest burnt off as heat. In other words, a titanium-certified PSU (while more expensive) will not need to work as hard to generate the extra 50W left over.
As power supplies increase in wattage (up to 1600W), this 80 PLUS rating becomes more important as the loss of energy will become a hindrance both to your pocket and your system. As such, most of the units you find with the higher wattage will generally be Gold or higher.
So, how do you pick one? Well, we follow the rule of thumb of if you’re less worried about your electric bill and the fan from your PSU spinning up as it works harder, then go with silver or below as long as it meets your wattage needs. However, if you’re hoping for quieter operation and better energy efficiency (saving you a bit of money), then gold is a great investment.
Platinum and titanium are also good choices, but we don’t find that the price really adds up to a whole lot of savings in the long run. The only major benefit of going beyond gold at this time has to be the extended warranties offered by manufacturers.
Oh, one more thing that you should know!
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Is Modular Better than Non-Modular?
PSUs typically come in lots of power rating flavors but not so much when it comes to their connections. You either get a modular or non-modular build. These terms refer to whether or not you can swap in and out your power cables based on your needs.
For a while, one of our team members SWORE by modular PSUs. We couldn’t get them to even look at a non-modular one without snickering. However, after being forced to buy a non-modular 750W from a local retailer to save their partner’s gaming machine from the brink of death, they’ve seen the light.
Modular PSUs tend to be a lot pricier due to their more open-ended design. These will come with plenty of cables and ties included but also require you to know how to set them up correctly. Non-modular PSUs, on the other hand, are fixed in design and as such, typically cost less as manufacturers can pump them out a lot quicker.
As for our recommendation, if you have a gaming PC that you’re not planning to tweak over time, get a non-modular PSU that meets your needs. However, if you expect to upgrade frequently, are interested in overclocking, or just like to have the possibility for change, invest in a modular PSU.
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Well, our little lambs, we’ve shepherded you through every consideration we could think of for how much you should spend on a PSU.
Remember, if you’re looking to save money and your PC doesn’t need that much power, going with a $40 500W PSU is just fine. If you’re hoping to run a beefier machine, though, we recommend spending $60 to $150 for an 80 PLUS gold PSU, which has options to power just about anything.
Of course, you have the option to go even higher and grab an 80+ Platinum or Titanium power supply. We’d only recommend these to those who have a lot of room in their budget and simply want the best for their PC–these power supplies are known to last upwards of 10-15 years.
We really hope this was helpful to you! If you learned a thing or two, make sure to share this article with your friends on your favorite social media. Also, if you have any additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section below, and we’ll be more than happy to help you out. We love hearing from you!