What Are Power Supply Efficiency Ratings?

Wonder what the power supply efficiency ratings such as 80 Plus, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titanium mean? Here's the ultimate guide.

The power supply is not exactly the first component that you’ll think about when you start putting together a new gaming PC but it is nonetheless an extremely important one.

There are several factors to keep in mind when shopping for a PSU, including the overall wattage, the degree of modularity that it offers, and the connectors that it comes with, but one of the more prominent (and more marketable) features that you’d notice in a PSU today would be its efficiency rating.

But what is an efficiency rating, which one should you aim for, and is a high-efficiency power supply even worth getting?

We’ll answer all of that in this article, so read on!

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What Is A PSU Efficiency Rating?

How To Choose A Power Supply

A PSU’s job is a self-explanatory one – it supplies power to all of the PC’s components. And while the wattage describes the overall amount of power that a PSU can provide, its efficiency rating indicates how much of the power that it draws from the outlet is actually delivered to the components.

That is to say, if a cheap power supply that is only 50% efficient had to deliver 100 watts of power to a component, it would need to draw twice as much power—200 watts—and all of the excess power would be lost in the form of heat radiated by the unit.

But of course, PSUs that are only 50% efficient aren’t something you need to worry about, as even the cheapest models that you can buy from reliable manufacturers today are in the 70-80% efficiency range, all the while the most efficient ones can easily go beyond 90% efficiency.

PSU Effiency Ratings
Power supply effiency ratings

And speaking of more efficient PSUs, you’ll find that they come with a neat little “80 Plus” logo on the box, so what’s that about?

The 80 Plus certification program was introduced in 2004, and as you might infer from the name, it indicates that the PSU has been tested and is certified to be at least 80% efficient at different loads, meaning that it uses less power and generates less heat than a non-certified PSU.

In addition to the standard 80 Plus certification, an additional five ratings were introduced over the years, all named after different metals: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titanium. As you might expect, each subsequent “tier” offers greater efficiency than the last, albeit at higher prices.

Do You Need An Efficient PSU And Is It Worth It?

Full Modular Psu

Having a more efficient power supply definitely sounds appealing, especially if you count among the eco-conscious crowd. But are the more efficient PSUs worth the extra cost? And how much money can they actually help you save?

As mentioned above, the higher the efficiency rating, the more expensive the PSUs get. Obviously, it’s difficult to generalize on the exact prices as there are hundreds upon hundreds of 80 Plus-certified PSUs out there, but naturally, the price premium gets more noticeable the higher you go up the ladder.

So, for example, while a regular 80 Plus or 80 Plus Bronze 600W power supply might come with a mostly negligible price increase compared to a non-certified one, a 600W Platinum or Titanium PSU could easily cost more than twice as much as a regular 80 Plus 600W PSU.

Thermaltake SMART RGB 700W

Now, when it comes to whether a more efficient PSU is worth it in regards to how much power it would save, that’s largely dependent on what it is powering.

If we were to compare an 80% efficient and a 90% efficient 600W power supply that are both powering a regular gaming PC, the more efficient PSU would offer negligible power savings that might not even cover the price premium of the PSU itself over the course of the PC’s lifetime.

And while an 80 Plus Platinum or Titanium PSU can indeed save you a good buck if you’re putting together a power-hungry machine that would be working long hours or around the clock, they’re simply not worth investing in when it comes to regular gaming PCs.

That said, if you are concerned with saving power, the best way to do so would simply be to let the PC go to sleep or turn it off when you’re not using it.

Are There Other Benefits To Getting An Efficient PSU?

Corsair CV650

With all that in mind, are there any advantages to going with a slightly pricier 80 Plus-certified PSU instead of a non-certified one if power savings are out of the picture?

Well, as mentioned before, an efficient PSU doesn’t only save power – it also generates less heat. This, in turn, means better longevity as the PSU won’t wear out as fast as a generic non-certified PSU would.

So, with that in mind, unlike the more expensive 80 Plus PSUs, a regular 80 Plus or 80 Plus Bronze PSU would most likely be worth the relatively minor price increase. After all, the last thing you want is a low-quality power supply frying your components one day.

Finally, if you’re shopping for a new power supply right now, you might want to check out our selection of the best PSU for gaming available right now, as you will likely find something that suits your needs well!

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Samuel Stewart

Samuel is GamingScan's editor-in-chief. He describes himself as a dedicated gamer and programmer. He enjoys helping others discover the joys of gaming. Samuel closely follows the latest trends in the gaming industry in order to keep the visitors in the flow.

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