Gaming PCs are built to be able to play 3D games as fast as possible and at the highest quality settings. In order to achieve this, you need a good graphics card. Graphics cards vary in model, chip, memory capacity, clock speed, manufacturing process, size and so on. However, these graphics cards, especially the new and better-performing ones, hog the most power from your power supply. And, of course, if you have a powerful graphics card, you’ll want a good processor, motherboard, memory or RAM, and a fast hard drive.
These components need a power supply in order to function. But it doesn’t end there. The power supply has to be efficient in order to protect the computer’s components and save energy. That is why you need to give special consideration when choosing a power supply for your gaming PC. Here are the things that you should look out for:
Power Supply Wattage
Power supplies are usually rated in terms of their wattage and efficiency. Wattage is certainly not that big of a problem. You can go way above what your computer actually needs. It won’t use up the remaining extra wattage. If you have a 1000-watt power supply and your PC needs only 600 watts, the power supply will not use the 400 watts allowance.
Power Supply Efficiency
What about efficiency? It’s the percentage of what the power supply outputs to your components versus the power it takes from the outlet. For example, if your PC needs 450 watts and the power supply draws 500 watts of input from the outlet, the power supply is 90% efficient. That was derived from 450w / 500w = 0.9. The remaining 10% is wasted energy that is dissipated as heat.
Why is efficiency more important to a gaming PC compared to a casually built PC? Again, a gaming PC’s components usually have higher-end components compared to PCs that are used just for browsing, typing documents, watching videos and other simple tasks that doesn’t require much power.
As the power requirement becomes higher, the higher the wasted energy is. Let’s have an example. Let’s say I have a power supply that is 80% efficient. Let’s compare the wasted energy between two computers, one requiring 200 watts and the other requiring 600 watts, the latter being the gaming PC. On the 200-watt PC, the power supply draws 250 watts from the outlet. That’s a waste of 50 watts. However, on the 600-watt PC, the power supply draws 750 watts from the outlet. That’s a whopping 150-watt loss. The lost wattage is then directly proportional to the increase or decrease of the PC’s power requirement.
Now, let’s say I put my money on a top-of-the-line power supply with an efficiency rating of 94%. It will only draw 638.30 watts from the outlet. That was derived from 600w / 0.94 = 638.30 watts. So as you can see, I only lost 38.3 watts compared to the 150 watts I lost from the lower-efficiency power supply. It is always recommended to have an efficient power supply, not only for gaming PCs, but on any other PC as well.
80 Plus Certification
Look for 80Plus logos, which certify that a power supply is at least 80% efficient. There are different levels according to efficiency such as Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Titanium. Titanium has the highest efficiency and the Bronze has the lowest, but still above 80%. You can go to Plug and Load Solutions at http://www.plugloadsolutions.com/80pluspowersupplies.aspx to check if a specific power supply is truly 80Plus certified.
Computer Power Requirement
Let me go back to maximum wattages. Aside from efficiency, you need a power supply that can provide enough power to your PC. If your power supply’s rated peak wattage is lower than what your computer actually requires, it could damage the components. It may turn on, but it would probably just shut down immediately.
If your computer requires 600 watts, buy a power supply that can provide at least 1000 watts of power. This is to make sure that you cover extra power requirements, especially if you plan to overclock your processor or video card, or are using a number of external devices that use the power supply such as USB devices and other peripherals. If you want to know what your PC’s power requirements are, there are some calculators you can use, such as the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator Lite at http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp.
PC Cable Management
Heat is another thing you should be aware of. The more heat you have inside the computer, the lesser the efficiency of your system will be. It is imperative that you have good air flow inside your case. This is where the power supply cables come into play. If you’ve built a computer before, you probably have experienced installing the power supply and see a messy clutter of cables after you’ve set it up. The cables are tangled, the ends of some of the cables are floating around, and cables cross over some other components of the computer. A lot of gaming PCs have huge graphics cards and bulky coolers that could hamper the air flow. Don’t add to it by leaving a messy cable setup.
Modular power supplies allow you to choose which cables you want to use. Therefore, the case will be much cleaner as you’ll be using fewer cables compared to non-modular power supplies. Air will circulate better inside the case, resulting in a much cooler PC operation. This is the reason why modular power supplies are expensive. Couple that with a high-efficiency power supply, and you’ve got something that your wallet could whine about. There are some semi-modular power supplies where the cables that are always needed are connected permanently such as the motherboard and/or CPU power. Only the cables that are for optional components are included individually.
Power Supply Feedback
Personally, I would go for branded ones as they usually have good reputations in the PC market. But even so, a few of them may not perform that well. I wouldn’t recommend one particular brand. It’s your preference as to what brand you’d like as long as the specifications are okay. To help you decide which power supply to buy, search for feedback on the internet or ask people you know about their power supplies.
Consider Your Budget for the Power Supply
You will only be limited to the price that you can afford. You may have already spent a lot on the processor and the gaming video card. Do your research. How much wattage does your gaming PC need? Try to look for something that has a high efficiency as possible, again, something that’s within your budget.
Once you’re budget is cleared for the wattage and the efficiency, if there’s still room, go for a modular power supply. If you have a huge PC case or chassis, you could ditch the modular power supply. You can just put the budget into a power supply that is more efficient.
There you have it. Choosing a power supply for your gaming computer isn’t always that easy, but when you perform your research and buy the right power supply for your PC, it will be worth it in the long run. You should now have an efficient gaming PC, not only in terms of overall processing power, but one that is energy efficient as well.