Building a PC can be complicated and technical work. Although the power supply unit (PSU) is one component that seems simple, it is still an important element for building a reliable and efficient computer.
You won’t have to worry about compatibility issues between your PSU and your GPU or CPU for example, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook your power unit entirely.
The amount of raw power a PSU can provide is of course important, but so is efficiency and other practical issues like how well it will fit inside your existing PC’s form factor.
We’ll start by discussing the biggest and best PSU brands in the industry and then dig a little deeper into the exact specs you should be paying attention to when shopping for a PC power supply unit.
Note that the list below is in no particular order. All of the brands below are solid and reliable so whichever you choose you will not go wrong.
Recommended PSU Models
- Great Overall Value for Money: Corsair RMX Series
- Best Budget PSU: EVGA 500 W1
- Best for Gaming PC: Seasonic FOCUS GX-850
- Best for Quiet Operation: be quiet! Straight Power 11
EVGA is best known for developing impressive graphics cards (GeForce models) that push the limits of the latest technology, but they’ve also earned a reputation for creating power supplies that can sustain truly beastly gaming rigs.
The efficiency of their PSUs is especially praised – and that’s in part due to the fact that they employ fully modular designs on most of their models.
They also employ a technology known as an Active Clamp Circuit to recycle a majority of leaked energy, and their PSUs depend on consistently reliable Japanese capacitors for even better reliability.
EVGA maintains a robust catalog, allowing you to find a sensible option regardless of your demands of your budget.
Corsair is a leader in the PSU market, but most of their manufacturing is done by another company known as Seasonic (see this brand below).
Fortunately, Seasonic is as meticulous in the manufacturing process of the PSUs they make for Corsair as they are with the ones they make for their own brand.
But that means that you might want to perform a little more due diligence when investing in a Corsair PSU.
They buy their PSUs from other manufacturers, and that means that the quality can vary some depending on the model.
Fortunately, their expansive catalog of power supplies means you’ll have a lot of options to choose from.
Corsair is a big name in the gaming community and sells everything from keyboards to headsets.
Cooler Master is a brand synonymous with crafting the most effective fans, cooling systems and cases available in the PC builder market, but they’ve only recently begun to build their own power supply units.
The verdict is still out on how they stand up next to more established names, and it will of course take some time before they fully bolster their catalog with a range of power options.
But the early results are promising. Their PSU models make use of copper screws instead of soldering in many places to make for a sturdier design — and of course they place an emphasis on offering as much efficiency as possible while minimizing the thermal footprint of the power source.
When other popular brands are selling your exact products under a different name, you know you’re doing well.
That’s the case with Seasonic — a brand that’s become synonymous with power supply units because that’s the bulk of what they do.
And while the quality of models can vary depending on the price and the specs, this is the rare PSU brand that doesn’t have any below average units in its catalog.
The brand is primarily focused on power supply units, but they also offer power solutions scaled to the needs of industrial consumers and a selection of PC cases that can pair very well with their PSU models.
There are only three different PSUs in MSI’s MPG line, but the Taiwanese tech company is confident enough in their quality that they’re willing to back them with a 10-year warranty.
That confidence speaks volumes, but it also reflects a design that exclusively makes use of high-quality Japanese capacitors and offers efficient cooling while still maintaining a compact form factor.
But the small things really set these models apart. That includes the flat cabling designed to simplify the organization of your PC case and port connectors designed to flexibly suit a variety of different GPU configurations.
Thermaltake doesn’t usually top the lists of the most beloved PSU manufacturers, but they’ve been consistently putting out quality power supplies a little more under the radar for a long time.
Whether you’re looking for a simple and modular 500-watt PSU or a pricey 1200 watt PSU with blinking gaming lights, there’s probably something in their catalog that’s tailored specifically to your niche.
Their efficiency rating can also scale based off of what you need. Thermaltake’s extensive product line offers full coverage for the various tiers of 80 PLUS efficiency standards as well.
If what you want is variety, you’ll find no shortage of it in Antec’s catalog. They maintain roughly a dozen different PSU lines that cover the gamut from the low cost and energy efficient Earthwatts line all the way up to the beefy High Current Gamer Extreme series.
The show piece here is the HCG 1000: a powerful thousand-watt gaming PSU with a DC to DC converter design and a max energy efficiency of 92%.
While every product here isn’t a slam dunk, Antec’s quality is overall impressive — and they also make a wide range of cooling fans and PC cases too.
If there’s a component that can help reduce overheating on your PC case, chances are that Enermax produces it.
They produce nine different series of PSUs with efficiency ratings ranging from 80 Plus Bronze to 80 Plus Titanium.
The breadth of options here is staggering, leaving you with precise options for practically any build or setup you could want.
Among the best PSU lines produced by Enermax is the Revolution D.F. — a powerful but lean power supply that’s powerful enough to match the needs of the latest gaming specs but also manages to operate with practically no noise at all.
You’re likely most familiar with ASUS’ line of laptops, but they’ve gone to one of the biggest names in the industry when it comes to designing their PSUs — Seasonic.
The starting point for ASUS’ power supply units are Seasonic’s highly praised Prime series, but they didn’t stop there.
These inclusions are a grab bag of practical and aesthetic effects that range from extended heat sinks to RGB lighting to LED screens for monitoring the internal specs.
These PSUs are built on proven technology and even expand on them, but they tend to be on the pricier end of the market as a result.
The main advantage of Be quiet! PSUs is right in the name. While the power supplies range in quality from the top shelf Dark Power 12 all the way down to the budget-priced TFX Power 3, these are each some of the quietest PSUs in their respective classes.
Be quiet! doesn’t produce their PSUs in house, but they rely on dependable manufacturers like the FSP Group to build the components to their specifications.
Be quiet! also produces coolers, fans, and PC cases that are designed to minimize heat while staying nearly silent even during high workloads.
Important PSU Specs to Evaluate
While the brands listed above are ranked as the best PSU producers, most of the larger brands include a range of products that can vary from mediocre to exceptional.
In other words, you should do a little homework on a specific model if you want to make sure that your PC is equipped with the best power supply.
These are the specs to pay attention to when shopping for one.
The typical power supply can have an output ranging from 450 to 1600 watts, but this isn’t a situation where more is better.
Ideally, you’ll want a wattage that’s as close as possible to the demands of your specific build as possible.
Fortunately, there are numerous online calculators where you can plug in your computer specs and determine your ideal wattage.
These deliver voltage from your power supply to your computer, and there are usually three which are each calibrated to carry a different voltage level (+3.3V, +5V and +12V).
Most PC users can just invest in a typical three-rail PSU without having to worry about more details, but there are alternatives.
Single-rail PSUs are ideal for overclocking gaming rigs, while PSUs with more than three rails can greatly minimize the risk of a shortage.
Convenience is the main advantage of a modular PSU, and it’s increasingly becoming the standard in the industry.
Fully modular power supply units feature fully detachable cables to minimize the clutter and allow them to seat more easily in your PC case.
Most PSUs will have at least some detachable cables — but fully non-modular PSUs have the advantage of being very cheap.
It’s rare to find a PSU that doesn’t come with its own internal cooling system in the form of a self-powered fan.
You typically don’t want to invest in a fan that’s larger than 140 mm or smaller than 120 mm, but larger fans allow for more efficient cooling while making much less noise.
A good internal fan can dramatically improve the lifespan of your PC, but it should be paired with other internal cooling systems like case fans for the best results.
Fortunately, form factor for PSUs is relatively basic. Most will meet the standards of ATX, micro-ATX, or mini-ATX specifications, and it’s simply a matter of finding the one that suits your specific computer case.
PSU Ratings (Efficiency Ratings)
Apart from the specs listed above, there’s a formal system of PSU ratings that help evaluate the efficiency of a particular unit.
Investing in a PSU that bears the 80 Plus certification is generally recommended, as it ensures that you’ll get at least 80% efficiency from the energy your PSU produces.
Fortunately, it’s pretty rare to even find power supplies that don’t meet the 80 Plus standard.
PSUs that meet these standards for certification are further broken down into a number of tiers to more accurately evaluate their efficiency.
- 80 Plus Bronze: Efficiency of 82 to 85%
- 80 Plus Silver: Efficiency of 85 to 88%
- 80 Plus Gold: Efficiency of 87 to 90%
- 80 Plus Platinum: Efficiency of 89 to 92%
- 80 Plus Titanium: Efficiency of 90 to 94%