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The Layman's Guide to Power Supply Ratings

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POV: You're shopping for power supplies and don't know what the 80 Plus Means.

Source: Giphy

And I don't blame you - I remember a billion years ago when I built my first gaming computer. I spent days researching the graphics card, processor, and even SSDs. After all, these were the components everyone told me to prioritize.

So when it was finally time to pick a power supply, I was just like:

80 Plus. The numbers, what do they mean?

Why did they all say 80 PLUS? Why did some say gold and some say Bronze? Out of curiosity, I dove into a bunch of technical nonsense and know-how to understand the nuances of the computer power supply.

And yes - I know how dorky that last sentence sounded.

Source: Giphy

So now, I want to boil it down and make it easier for you to understand. Because, while the power supply isn't the component you'll likely prioritize, it definitely deserves some more thought than it currently gets.

What does 80 PLUS mean in a Power Supply?

To understand what 80 PLUS means, we'll first need to introduce you to the concept of Power Supply efficiency ratings. Simply put, physics explains that energy transfer will always have some form of energy wasted in the process. Otherwise, we would probably have unlimited power or something.


Simply put, the efficiency rating of your power supply determines the percentage of power wasted when the energy is converted into your power supply output. If your computer needs 100W of power, and your power supply has a 50% efficiency rating, it'll need to draw 200W from your home.

Wasting electricity is horrible, so that's why a standard was eventually created. The 80 Plus Rating was created in 2004 as a certification program for power supplies with over 80% power efficiency.

Think of why you see the Energy Star™ logo on a household appliance. It's a recognized mark that lets you know the appliance will be energy efficient. Most people suck at physics, and you don't want to bust out your notebook doing formulas at Best Buy. So, if you want to know if your new household appliance will be energy efficient - you just look for the energy star logo.

Well, what about the Bronze, Gold, & Platinum Power Supplies?

Going back to the Energy Star™ example - if you saw two appliances with an Energy Star logo, how would you know which was more efficient? Well, they'll usually include an energy guide with some stats, including annual electricity cost.

When you build your own PC, the electricity usage and cost of operating is more unpredictable than a household appliance because:

  • Unlike some household appliances, such as a fridge, the computer might not always be turned on (unless you're toxic and never shut it down.)
  • The maximum draw of all your components might be substantially less than the power supply you choose.
  • The amount of current power you draw will always vary depending on task usage.

So because it's not easy to estimate how much electricity someone's computer might be using, Power Supply companies choose to differentiate with six different labels:

  • 80 PLUS
  • 80 PLUS Bronze
  • 80 PLUS Silver
  • 80 PLUS Gold
  • 80 PLUS Platinum
  • 80 PLUS Titanium

As a consumer, you'll most commonly see 80 PLUS Bronze and 80 PLUS Gold. Power supplies with these labels will still have the 80+ certification, to indicate they're at least 80% efficient under various loads. However, these labels will differentiate how much more efficient they can be. For example, an 80+ Gold can be up to 90% efficient in power efficiency, depending on load.

A lot of other guides will include a table with more detailed performance metrics. We want to keep this guide simple, but if you'd like to explore a more in-depth analysis, we highly recommend this guide from Tom's Hardware.

How does the 80 PLUS rating affect my build?

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TLDR: It should be a consideration, but not your top priority.

The main benefits of having an energy-efficient PSU are:

  • Electricity savings - Drawing less power saves money on an electricity bill.
  • Less noise & heat generation - Your overall PC will be less noisy, and temps will be down.
  • Environmental friendliness - Overall, efficient power consumption is better for the environment.

Efficiency really makes the most difference when it comes down to heavy power users. The reason why you often don't see Platinum or Titanium PSUs being marketed to consumers is that they're more centered toward businesses that will have computers constantly running (servers, game designers, etc). When you have dozens of computers running at high usage, the savings on electricity will compound.

But, if you're a PC gamer on a budget, it probably doesn't make the most sense to have a PSU rated higher than Bronze. While you'll eventually see a return on your investment from electricity savings, it can take awhile to realize those gains.

Now, if you do expect heavy usage and have the extra budget, we do recommend going for an 80 PLUS Gold Power Supply. It'll be better for your overall build temperatures, save you money on electricity, and keep things less noisy when you're gaming. Gold Rated Power Supplies also tend to have extra features like being fully modular. For our guide on Power Supply modularity, read more here.

What Power Supplies Do You Recommend?

While we do sell our own power supplies, we also want to be honest in what we recommend. If you're extremely budget conscious, you can find cheaper power supplies on marketplaces like Newegg.

However, we don't recommend going for a cheap power supply because it can quickly lead to problems in the future. Here's a Reddit Post from u/Squidwaan on how he lost his entire $1000 rig due to buying a sketchy Power Supply.

shameless plug warning

To avoid that nightmare, buy your power supply from us. At NZXT, we have an amazing series of ATX Power Supplies called the C Series. They're ultra-quiet, come with semi or full modularity, and are extremely energy efficient. You can feel safe knowing all of our PSUs come with a 5-year warranty.

One of our most popular options, the C550 Bronze, is one of the few 500W power supplies on the market that is both semi-modular and under $100.

C550 Bronze Vents Down Right 45

With NZXT, you can trust that your power supply won't fault out on you, and you'll have a 5-year warranty to support it.