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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Understanding gaming PC power supply or PSU

Now is time to choose a power supply or PSU for our gaming PC. Most users don’t give this piece of hardware the importance that it deserves because the PSU don’t provide additional functionality to our gaming PC. Despite that, this piece of hardware is important because is the only  piece of hardware capable of damaging all the other PC components when it fails. This component’s function is to supply power to all the other hardware on our gaming PC. It also converts the power from the wall socket which is AC (alternate current) to DC (direct current) so all the other PC hardware are able to use it. An underpowered PSU can also damage and reduce the lifespan of the other hardware. The PC will also hang, reset and crash often. We can avoid that by choosing a
quality PSU capable of delivering all the power we need. We should think about the future so some additional wattage will come very handy. Some of the most popular brands are: Antec, Corsair, OCZ, and Enermax. Keep reading so you can learn which features you should keep in mind when choosing a PSU for your gaming PC.

Features to look for when choosing a power supply or PSU for your a gaming PC

1) maximum power – this will determine if the power supply is capable of feeding your system. This is usually measured in amps. One of the most important things is the amperage delivered by the 12V+ rail or rails which is the one that feed the video card and hardware like the hard disk and optical drives. Manufacturers often put the power in multiple rails to reduce manufacturing costs. In the case of power supplies with multiple rails, combined amperage is not always equal to the sum of the amperage from all rails. For example: two rails rated 18 amps each doesn’t equal 36 amps, maybe a little less like 32 amps. The average gaming PC needs about 35 amps from the 12V+ rail if you have a single video card and about 45 if you are using SLI or Crossfire. Another important feature is the continuous power capacity which is different from the peak power. Continuous power is the amount of power delivered at all times while peak power is the amount delivered for a short period of time like 15 seconds. We don’t want troubles associated with lack of power so we will choose a power supply with at least 45 continuous amps for our gaming PC (you can calculate the amount of power a rail can provide by multiplying the amperage for voltage, example: 34 amps V 12 Volts  = 408  Watts).
2) connectors – just make sure that you have all the connectors required for all the hardware you plan to install in your gaming PC. The most common type of connectors available are: four pin and eight pin processor connectors (eight pin connectors are used by the latest processors), 6 pins PCIe connectors (used to supply extra power to video cards), 24 or 20 + 4 pins connectors (used to supply power to the motherboard), 4 Pin Molex connectors (used to supply power to hard disks, optical drives, etc…) and SATA connectors (also used to supply power to hard disks, optical drives, etc…).
3) efficiency – the relation between the AC input and DC output. The loss percentage is presented in the form of heat. The higher the number the better.
4) overvoltage – the PSU will shut down if the output voltage is exceeded.
5) overload protection – the PSU will shutdown if the wattage is exceeded.
6) fans – this is to keep the PSU cool. The larger the better.
7) SLI or Crossfire support – we should choose a PSU capable of delivering enough power in the 12V+ rails if we plan to use this feature. We should also check the continuous power. Remember that this feature uses two video cards so we need enough power for them.
8) modular cabling – this feature allows the user to choose the cables he wants.
We should choose a power supply or PSU with at least 45 amps in the 12V+ rails just in case that we decide to add another video card in SLI or Crossfire mode and to make sure that our gaming PC never suffer from under power consequences.Those are the most important features to look at in a gaming PC power supply or PSU. Now is time to choose our next piece of hardware which is the hard drive.

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