Best Power Supply for Gaming: The Ultimate Guide

Best power supply for gaming - the ultimate guide
Power is the most important aspect for building a gaming PC. Why? Every computer needs power running through it; that’s why it’s essential to find the best power supply for gaming that will meet your needs for optimal performance.

Whether you’re searching for the best PSU that you won’t have to replace for a long time or you’re just wondering which of the best power supplies are sufficient for your gaming PC, this guide will assist you in buying the best power supply to make your gaming experience as excellent as possible.

What is a Power Supply?

A power supply unit, or PSU, is the most important part of a computer when it comes to function and usage. Just as the engine of a car gives the vehicle power, the PSU gives your computer power to run at its best.

Every part of the personal computer (PC) needs power, whether it be the graphics card, RAM or CPU. Without having the best computer power supply, none of the components would work.

If you’re searching for PSU for gaming, you’re going to need even more power than the average PC user. The parts of a gaming PC often have higher specifications than those of an average PC, which is why you want the best power supply that you can afford.

Purchasing a cheap and inefficient PSU can be a recipe for disaster if you’re in the process of building a gaming PC.

More often than not, you’ll start experiencing major complications, such as PSU malfunction. This is a gamer’s worst nightmare as it may cause damage to the major components connected to the PSU, not just the PSU itself.

When shopping for the best power supply, you’re going to need to look for the highest quality products with the best wattage and efficiency so you can avoid paying extra money for replacement parts in the long run.

What to consider when choosing a Power Supply?

Power Supply Form Factors

Power supply units can come in several shapes and sizes and they can only be put in certain areas or positions in your computer case. When discussing the physical arrangement of the PSU in a computer, the features discussed are called “form factors”.

All of the larger components of a computer need to have compatible form factors. The three components of a computer that have form factors include the case, power supply and motherboard.

There are a number of form factors configuration specifications in existence; with ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) being the most common for current power supplies. Current ATX variations include micro-ATX, ATX12V v1.x, ATX12V v2.x.

Micro-ATX

Micro-ATX form factor is only used for smaller PC types such as media center PCs. While getting micro-ATX components is a cost-effective way of building a PC, it is not ideal for a gaming PC as it does not have enough size or power to accommodate the larger components such as modern graphics cards and extra RAM module slots.

ATX, ATX12V and Other Versions

The difference between different versions of ATX form factors are the connectors that attach to the power supply.

Namely, the number of pins that is required to connect the power supply to the motherboard. The number of required pins has grown over time (from 20 to 24 in recent years). The increase in pins is due to the requirement of more power to support higher-powered motherboards, so the latest versions of ATX will be able to accommodate higher performance PCs.

Modular or Not?

Cables play a vital role in connecting the PSU with everything that needs power. There are two types of power supply units when it comes to cabling: Fixed and modular.

The Benefits of Modular:

A modular PSU means that you only need to use the cables as you see fit based on what cables you need at a given time. While modular PSUs may cost more, there are a lot of advantages to running this set up, such as:

  1. The PSU isn’t running to the cables that aren’t plugged in, which is a more efficient use of power.
  2. There are less cables to play around with in terms of cable management. This would help people that want to show off their PC with a window case and don’t want to deal with more things that can accumulate dust.

The Benefits of Fixed:

A fixed PSU means that all or some of the cables attached are already linked to the power supply and cannot be taken off. Fixed cabling power supplies do have a few benefits, including:

  1. All the cables are already there and you cannot lose them in the subsequent time after installing your power supply into your computer.
  2. Fixed is generally more cost effective.

Which is Better?

Modular power supplies are generally considered more efficient based on their versatility. With modular, there is a risk of misaligned connections that can cause a slight voltage drop and an increase in the electrical current passing through the wires. However, if you are careful and make sure all the cables are secure, this is unlikely to happen.

Modular may not be needed and will cost more but the advantages of cable management and less cables blocking your cooling might outweigh the cost for more hardcore gamers; the choice is yours!

PSU Efficiency Explained

The power efficiency of the power supply is how much power it is pulling from your main power of the house (the power socket that it is plugged into through the wall or the power board) and how well the PSU converts it into direct current (DC).

A very simple equation to work out the efficiency of a power supply is as follows:

Efficiency = DC Power / AC Power

When examining the PSU efficiency specifications on a given PSU model, you will commonly see the term 80 PLUS or 80+.

This is a mark from a company that certifies all power supply units on how efficient they are. They do not give the certification to any power supplies that do not achieve at least 80% efficiency, hence 80 PLUS.

There are 6 levels of 80 PLUS efficiency. They are all based off how far above 80% efficiency that they can operate at 10%, 20%, 50% and 100% of their maximum wattage.

  1. Base Level: Between 80% and 82%.
  2. Bronze: Between 83% and 85%.
  3. Silver: Between 85% and 88%.
  4. Gold: Between 88% and 92%.
  5. Platinum: Between 92% and 94%.
  6. Titanium: The highest 80 PLUS rating; any power supply that operates at 95% or above efficiency.

Losing PSU Efficiency

There are two main factors that come into play when considering lost efficiency. The first and most obvious effect you may feel, physically, is heat. Because the power supply is drawing more power than it needs, it is producing an excess amount of heat (on a hot summer’s day, this can be very noticeable). You want your computer to run as cool as possible to help prolong its lifespan. For this reason, a higher efficiency rating is the better option when shopping for the best PSU.

The second factor (which may not be very important or noticeable initially) is cost. Specifically, the extra money you are spending on your electricity bill. If you have your computer on a lot of the time, then a lower efficiency PSU might be quite bad for your wallet.

If you are shopping for the best gaming power supply, then you will need to look for at least an 80 PLUS Gold. Many of the higher wattage power supplies already have this, although some cheaper options don’t. For hardcore PC gamers, it’s likely not worth having an efficiency under Gold.

How much power do you really need?

You might be thinking that you’d love to get the highest wattage and efficiency rating that you possibly can. While this comes with the benefit of higher power and performance, you may be spending more money than what you really need.

If you buy the best of the best, then it will likely stay quiet and not produce as much heat as a power supply with a lower wattage. The risk of buying a cheap, low-quality power supply is that the fan might be spinning louder, working harder and producing more heat. This in turn might shorten the life of your PSU. On the other hand, you may be able to spend less money on a PSU that still does its job for what you need.

There are many power supply calculators on the web, such as Outer Vision. This can help you determine the wattage needed for your gaming PC. When using the calculator, stay aware of your system’s specific power requirements.

If you are planning to overclock your CPU and/or RAM or make upgrades in the future, you’ll want to get a higher wattage than what is recommended; most likely in the 1000W+ range. However, if you have no plans to do this, then perhaps getting something much closer to what the calculator says is more acceptable (and cheaper).

If you want to truly futureproof your computer, it’s advised that you purchase a power supply unit that is at least 10% wattage over what the recommendation is. For gamers who require the highest performing PSUs, nothing below 600W is a good idea given the power needs for the high end components associated with PC gaming.

Best 400-600W Power Supplies

 

EVGA SuperNOVA 550 G2

Top of the Range PSU that Saves on Space

evga supernova 550 g2 - Top of the Range PSU that Saves on Space
With a top efficiency rating and wide array of cables included, the EVGA SuperNOVA has a lot of advantages for a low to mid-range gaming machine. Its smaller size is beneficial if you have a case with minimal room.

Specs:

  • Wattage: 550W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Gold
Pros:

  • Lots of cables
  • High efficiency
  • Smaller than other PSUs
Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Loud fan

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Corsair RM550x

An All-Around Great Performing Power Supply

corsair rm550x - An All-Around Great Performing Power Supply
The great voltage regulation makes the Corsair a top contender for this range of power supplies. This fully modular PSU is easy to install with a nice clean finish for those looking to showcase the components of their PC. The latest form factor lends to its great performance.

Specs:

  • Wattage: 550W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Gold
Pros:

  • Fan doesn’t turn on until needed
  • 10 Year Warranty
  • Excellent performance
Cons:

  • No fan test button
  • Spacing of modular connectors is awkward
  • Poor quality connector cables

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Antec VP-450

A Reliable Yet Cheap Power Supply

antec vp-450 - A Reliable Yet Cheap Power Supply
The VP-450 is a great option for those looking to have a power supply that does the job and doesn’t give you anything you do not need. It’s very efficient with the ATX12V 2.32 classification. The quiet fan makes this a good choice for anyone on a budget looking to have a silent machine.

Specs

  • Wattage: 450W
  • Modular: No, Fixed
  • Efficiency: 75%
Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Quiet fan
  • Plenty of connectors
Cons:

  • Only 2 Year Warranty
  • Poor efficiency

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Best 600-800W Power Supplies

 

EVGA SuperNOVA 750 G2

Great PSU for Casual Gamers

evga supernova 750 g2 - Great PSU for Casual Gamers
EVGA SuperNOVA power supplies are some of the most competitive models available based on its excellent efficiency ratings and benchmark tests. This model has an eco-mode that only turns the fan on once it reaches 40% of its maximum load capacity, making it sufficient for general use and casual gaming.

Specs

  • Wattage: 750W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Gold
Pros:

  • 10 year warranty
  • SLI ready
  • Large 140mm double ball bearing fan
Cons:

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Supplied cables too short
  • Fan noise

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Rosewill HIVE-750

Affordable Power Supply for the Avid Gamer

rosewill hive-750 - Affordable Power Supply for the Avid Gamer
The Rosewill HIVE-750 is great for someone looking to save without sacrificing efficiency. This power supply can cope with higher temperatures than what is labelled on their website. It has strong performance in power due to the ATX12V v2.3 form factor. The provided cables are long enough for larger cases.

Specs

  • Wattage: 750W
  • Modular: Semi-Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Bronze
Pros:

  • Competitive price
  • Quiet fan
  • Long connector cables
Cons:

  • Not enough connectors for SLI/Crossfire setups
  • Difficult to buy more cables for modular purposes

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SeaSonic G-650

Cost Effective Power Supply for Mid-Range PCs

seasonic g-650 - Cost Effective Power Supply for Mid-Range PCs
The SeaSonic G-650 power supply is great if you want a durable build without lost performance over time. Its high efficiency rating is ideal for those looking to put it through its paces. The only downside for some is that it has a PCI-e connector that is not modular.

Specs

  • Wattage: 650W
  • Modular: Semi-Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Gold
Pros:

  • Competitive pricing for gold efficiency
  • Fantastic performance
  • Durable
Cons:

  • Odd semi-modular configuration
  • Poor user guide
  • Fan noise at idle is loud

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Best 800-1000W Power Supplies

 

EVGA SuperNOVA 850 T2

A Quality Power Supply Unit Made for Efficiency

evga supernova 850 t2 - A Quality Power Supply Unit Made for Efficiency
The EVGA SuperNova is a big contender with its high durability and build quality. The price point is the biggest drawback for this PSU. If you’re willing to pay extra, it’s a great choice considering its efficiency rating and wattage range.

Specs

  • Wattage: 850W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Titanium
Pros:

  • 10 Year Warranty
  • High efficiency rating
  • SLI Ready
Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

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SeaSonic X-850

A No-Fuss Power Supply Unit for any Gamer

seasonic x-850 - A No-Fuss Power Supply Unit for any Gamer
The SeaSonic X-850 has a clean finish along and excellent quality when it comes to power supply build. The quiet fan is a big advantage for those looking to keep a nice and quiet workspace.

Specs

  • Wattage: 850W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Gold
Pros:

  • Very quiet
  • Excellent build quality of the power supply
  • Clean design
Cons:

  • Cable quality is poor
  • User guide is minimal
  • Not enough PCI-e connectors for SLI setup

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Corsair CS850M

Reliable and Quiet Power Supply

corsair cs850m - Reliable and Quiet Power Supply
With great cabling that the Corsair CS850M provides, it’s ideal for those with a smaller case. The clean finish is an aesthetic plus. It’s very easy to install into a case even without the physical manual to aid you.

Specs

  • Wattage: 850W
  • Modular: Semi-Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Gold
Pros:

  • Low profile cables
  • Great for micro-ATX PCs
  • Very quiet
Cons:

  • No manual
  • Short warranty period
  • Capacitors are not of the highest grade

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Best 1000W+ Power Supplies

 

EVGA SuperNOVA 1600 T2

A Powerhouse of Power Supplies

evga supernova 1600 t2 - A Powerhouse of Power Supplies
With a wattage of 1600, you can overclock and put in as many components as you feel worthy. With a guaranteed 10 years, you can rely on this power supply doing its job for a decade with minimal worry.

Specs

  • Wattage: 1600W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Titanium
Pros:

  • Extremely high wattage
  • 10 Year Warranty
  • Great voltage stability
Cons:

  • Very heavy unit
  • High price point

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Corsair AX1500i

Made to Withstand Highest Possible Temperatures

corsair ax1500i - Made to Withstand Highest Possible Temperatures
The Corsair AX1500i comes with a program that makes this PSU fully customizable. With one of the highest performance and efficiencies of any power supply on the market, this is a worthy consideration for anyone hoping to build an ultra-high end gaming PC.

Specs

  • Wattage: 1500W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Titanium
Pros:

  • Latest ATX12V v2.4 standard
  • 10 Year Warranty
  • Very stylish power supply
Cons:

  • Very long unit
  • Heavy

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Thermaltake ToughPower RGB 1250W

Sleek Design Perfect for a Showcase PC

thermaltake toughpower rgb 1250w - Sleek Design Perfect for a Showcase PC
The Thermaltake ToughPower RGB is flashy and highly customizable. Perfect for a power user that likes a bit of flare. It’s also among the quietest power supply units. While it has a slight dip in performance, it’s not as pricey as other options.

Specs

  • Wattage: 1250W
  • Modular: Fully Modular
  • Efficiency: 80 PLUS Titanium
Pros:

  • Can control everything through application
  • Colored fan
  • Small and lightweight
Cons:

  • Connectors prone to breaking
  • Performance not as high as best performers
  • Some plugs are confusing and easily mistaken

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Our Recommendations for the Best PSU for Gaming

Whether you are looking to protect the environment with an 80 PLUS Titanium power supply or conserve your budget with some of the lower wattage units, there is something for everyone when it comes to purchasing the best power supplies.

  1. For the casual gamer looking for a sub-600W PSU, the EVGA SuperNOVA 550 G2 is an excellent choice. If you want something a little less noisy, the Corsair PSU range have some of the quietest fans and high-quality builds.
  2. For the mid-range gamer, the SeaSonic G-650 is definitely the best performance per dollar value. Along with its good reputation in the power supply industry, the 5 year warranty should make you feel at ease with this purchase.
  3. For the high-end gaming machines, all three units written about in this guide are great choices. If you are looking for a quiet machine, the Corsair is the way to go. If you’d like to spend a bit less but still want a quality power supply, the SeaSonic is a cost effective option. If you’re willing to spend more and don’t want to forgo any performance, the EVGA a suitable choice.
  4. For the ultra-high gaming machines, the AX1500i is a very capable piece of machinery with options for customizations. If you’re not worried about customization, the EVGA is the power supply to choose if you want the best possible performance.

How to Find the Best Power Supply for Gaming: Features to Look For

For those looking to build a gaming PC, there are a number of categories to think about before you rush out and buy the best looking or best performing power supply on the market. Some of the most important features to look for are:

  • Wattage. To find out an estimate of how much wattage is required for your gaming PC, head over to Outer Vision. Keep in mind that a higher wattage can be more costly, but it may also help with heat and noise levels.
  • Optimal Form Factors. If you want a higher powered computer, you’re going to need the most current form factors, such as ATX 12V v2.4.
  • Modular. While modular or fixed is a matter of opinion, choosing modular can mean less clutter in your computer and improved air flow.
  • Efficiency. For all your gaming needs, a Gold rating or more is highly recommended.

No matter what type of gamer you are, you’re always going to need the best SSD, the best RAM for gaming, good gaming motherboards and the best power supplies if you want to have the ultimate gaming experience without shortening the life of your computer. Consider your needs both now and in the future, so you can make the best possible choice for long-term gaming enjoyment.

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