Why Power Supply Unit Efficiency Matters in PC Gaming


While your gaming rig’s PSU may not boost frame rate or influence visual fidelity, it is still super important. This is because, without it, your computer won’t give you so much as a peep.

A low-quality power supply will not be able to meet the demands of fast processing processors and video cards installed in a typical gaming rig, and the standard for other components is also on the rise.

A no-name, generic PSU with sub-par build quality simply won’t do. This is why major vendors of power supplies aim to earn the coveted “80+” logo.

In this article, we explain what you need to know about the 80+ logo and why PSU efficiency is so important when it comes to gaming rigs.

Back in the late 2000s, vendors introduced the 80+ logo. It was really simple and certified that the power supply was at least 80% efficient at 20%, 50%, and 100% loads.

Rapid advancements in technology allowed manufacturers to build power supplies that were beyond 80% efficient, which naturally led to the rise of super-efficient power supplies and the need to differentiate them.

Today’s power supplies are characterized as 80+ Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Most power supplies are extremely efficient but often have large voltage drops or exhibit ripple that can cause long-term damage to your rig even if they are efficient in terms of converting AC to DC (as we’ll discuss below). With that said, most 80+ gold and platinum power supply units often always feature reliable build quality.

Is It Worth Investing in a High-Efficiency Power Supply?

Heat sink on CPU

Most gaming rigs will typically draw around 400 Watts to 600 Watts of power. A 600W 80+ Bronze PSU is relatively affordable, even if you choose top vendors like Corsair and XFX. However, prices start getting insanely high once you go over the 800W range, with 1200W units fetching over $1200.

If you’re opting for higher efficiency PSUs to save your energy bills, then it may be worth noting that you won’t see much benefit from upgrading an 80+ to an 80+ Platinum PSU, if you’re not using at least 20% of the load.

However, there is a clear financial incentive to invest in high-efficiency power supplies if your rig uses at least 20% of the load. So if we were to compare a 750W 80+ Platinum with a 750W 80+, all things equal, you’ll save around $80 to $12 in power costs per year.

For the most part, platinum units make for good investments and will recoup their costs in about a year or two.

Go for a Gold or Platinum unit if your gaming rig is a power hog and consumes in excess of 1000W, which is relatively hard to pull off. Even the mighty RTX 3090 consumes a maximum of 350 Watts at peak load and an Intel i9 9900k consumes about 170 Watts at full load.

But of course, those aren’t the only components that will need power, you also have to consider RAM, hard drives, SSDs, and a myriad of other things.

Cooler Master offers a free calculator to help you figure out your PC’s power needs. Use it to calculate your power needs before buying a PSU.

TL;DR: Our recommendation is to opt for gold and platinum only if you are absolutely sure that your PC will be under a constant load of up to 1000W and beyond. If not, you’re better off with an 80+ Bronze. The extra investment is not worth the yearly savings in energy bills.

Looking Beyond Just Power Savings

Person writes on keyboard

The main purpose of the power supply unit is to convert AC to usable power, which is DC. Older PSUs convert AC to +12V, +5V, and +3.3V DC voltages. More advanced PSUs convert alternating current to +12V DC. At the higher end, you’ll find DC to DC PSUs that convert +12V to +5V and +3.3V.

Once the voltage has been converted, it is filtered with capacitors and inductors, and this is where you’ll need quality components.

When searching for reliable power supply units, there are two terms you should be cognizant of: voltage regulation and ripple.

1. Voltage Regulation

Modern power supplies use switching techniques to convert AC to DC. The rectifier produces DC that pulses in sync with the input frequency of the AC input (In North America, this would be 60 Hz), regardless of the frequency at which the rectifier is switching.

This is known as noise. The voltage has to first go through an inductor, tasked with smoothing out the waveform and lowering the frequency of the noise. Then you have the all-important capacitors. They store electrical charge and can output electrical charge, but without any noise.

When the voltage input to the capacitor increases or decreases with the switching frequency, the charge of the capacitor also increases or decreases in response. The change in the capacitor’s charge is very slow compared to the frequency of the switched power.

This effectively filters out noise but also creates ripples (small crests and troughs in the DC output voltage). One solution is to utilize bigger capacitors and arrange them in series, because a slower change between the highest and lowest voltage further stabilizes your voltage and reduces the ripple.

Too many capacitors, however (or too large a capacitor), and you end up reducing the power supply’s efficiency. Capacitors dissipate power loss as heat, and the more heat you accumulate, the worse it gets for surrounding components.

2. Regulation

Heat sink on CPU

Regulation is a measure of how well a PSU responds to load changes to keep the voltage level constant. Suppose the power supply is delivering +12V DC at 2A load. If you then ramp up the load to 5A to 10A, you end up increasing resistance. And, by Ohm’s law, that results in a voltage drop.

This is where the quality of the power supply starts to matter because it should be able to compensate for this drop.

Advanced power supply unis often use a DSP (digital signal processor) to regulate voltages and instruct the rectifier to switch at various frequencies. This is more accurate and quicker since everything is digital.

If the power supply doesn’t properly regulate the voltage and filters out the ripple, it is left up to the motherboard and your components to do the needful. This means they have to work harder to do this, and get hotter while doing so. This heat is wasted as energy and also shortens the life of your components.

Excessive heat, in general, is never good for your computer’s components, which is why proper voltage regulation and filtering is an absolute must.

An 80+ Bronze Should Suffice for Most Gaming PCs

To summarize, a better power supply gives you a longer-lasting motherboard and increases the longevity of your components, including your graphics card and processor. It also gives you more wiggle room to overclock your CPU and GPU. Which makes it a win-win situation for PC gaming.

As mentioned earlier, an 80+ PSU from a trusted vendor like Corsair or XFX should help you minimize the effects of ripple and get to near-perfect voltage regulation.


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