Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Upgrade: PSU - how to choose one.

The other day my PC went 'BZZZzzzzzzzzzzz' and then it went 'Plink!' and it was off. I did what every good technically minded person would do in my case, I flicked the desk lamp on and off to see if there was a power cut. Sure enough, my Geek dungeon had the lifeblood of electrical joy that it needed to operate. So, with no delay I jammed my finger onto the power button of my precious rig and it came back to life for an hour. After the third redo of this story I decided that there maybe something a miss. Upon opening my case I could smell a less than satisfactory smell, I remember describing it at the time to myself as an 'icky stinky nasty smoky smell'

I investigated the issue further to find that my power supply had developed a 'loose connection' inside the main cluster and although for the most part was still working every time it powered down it released its unpleasant smell. I could either burn incense inside my case and tape down the power button or just buy a new power supply. My adventure began....

Let me begin the master class for power supply selection:


How much juice do you need? 
If you want a power supply to operate efficiently then buying the most powerful that you can afford is not the way to do it.  If you only have one CPU (and don't overclock) and one graphics card then unless you have a crazy amount of hard drive's you wont use very much power at all. In fact most systems could run on a 400W power supply with ease. Chances are though, if your a gamer you have high end everything and your system probably needs about 550W to be safe, there are a few websites that help you calculate this.

If you need a 500W PSU and you fit a 950W one then that PSU will be not only a waste of money but it will not be performing within its most power efficient output ranges. Meaning it will be burning lots more electric than its using for no reason, costing you way more money than you realise.

Do you need a modular PSU? 
A modular PSU is a PSU that has no cable attached to it. You select and plug in anything you want this means you only ever have the minimum amount of cables in the machine that you need. It also means you can take much more care in tidying your case because you can detach a cable and route it around the back of your motherboard easier. You can also get replacement cables if you ever need them. Modular PSU's are also usually more expensive.



Is silence important? 
Power supplies tend to rate themselves as silent or 'performance' (they never say personal tornado) then some say things like 'load activated fan' or 'temperature controlled fan.'

Try to consider also that some have 140mm fans and some have 120mm ones. Some, not many but some are passively cooled. These are truly silent but under load can leak a little of that un-dispersed heat right back into your system (yeah, I'm not a fan of them)

Branding?
The choice of brand as with all computer equipment is really a personal one but with the PSU handling more power than any other single item in your case as well as it connecting to those beloved components very directly its worth giving more consideration than 'oooo a black one'

For instance the one that died on me recently was a Thermaltake one and even though it did die it hasn't damaged a single item inside my case (even though I repeatedly rebooted like a moron) it was also about six years old.

for a very recent story about what can happen with a cheap crappy power supply you could click this link

80 Plus?
Being a very lazy blogger I really can not be bothered to explain 80Plus with an skill. It's a certification program. Here is the wikipedia page. It's a good thing and you want it on your PSU. Even the lowest 80 Plus certification means that the manufacturer holds themselves to a certain standard that should be commended and most importantly for me at least, if they don't use this standard then I won't buy the PSU. simple as that really.

Click for larger


If you however don't care about 80 Plus then its your choice but at least take the time to read that wikipedia link above because it's really very important for most people who are able to think.

Price?
Right, now you have armed yourself with shopping knowledge it's time to hit Amazon and get an idea of what's out there. I'm not saying you should buy from Amazon because we all have our favoured component retailers but you should always check items out on Amazon for one important reason - comments! It's a great way to get a feel for a product. Remember through, no matter what you are looking at buying there is always one or two very long and well written articles about why this product is so bad that it should be burned and everyone who has helped design it should kill themselves. Just ignore people who put this much effort into negativity - take a general reading get the general 'tone' for the feedback of a product.

Found a few good ones? good. now lets go and see what your favoured retailer has and how the prices stack up....

Back to my story.
I knew that I wanted a FULLY Modular (partially modular is stupid) power supply unit. I needed at least 600W and from what I understood a Load controlled fan would be better for me as my machine is never off.

Eventually I found the OCZ ZT Series 650W PSU for £68 at my favoured retailer. My only concern with this PSU was that a few people on the Amazon comments had said that it was loud. after more digging on some forums I found that it can be loud but when its not under load it's next to silent. The actual load noise its self is well within what most people would consider reasonable, seamed fair. A few more Google checks later and I was happy that I had found my perfect PSU. drove to the shop and snagged the last one.



It's been in my case about a week now and I've only encountered the full force of the cooling fan once. It is loud to be sure but it does a fantastic job of cooling the PSU and even throws a blast of cold air around my case that's nice.

Overall I am happy with my purchase.

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