What do Power Supply Ratings Mean?

written by jacob tuwiner Jacob Tuwiner

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Power supplies are often misunderstood and overlooked.

Noob builders choose their power supply based upon wattage only, simply assuming that higher numbers are inherently better.

Some prebuilts give no attention to their PSU choice at all and live with whatever came with their device.

Although it’s easy to focus on the sexy components like your CPU and GPU, it’s also important to consider how crucial the quality of a power supply is to your system’s long-term stability.

If you’re new to the DIY computer-space trying to figure out what power supply to use in your next build, you may not think to look for the Power Supply Efficiency Rating when choosing a PSU.

How Does a Power Supply Work?

When your system is powered on and actively using electricity, the PSU is converting the DC (Direct Current) power that your house uses to deliver power all over the building to AC (Alternating Current) power that your components can then make use of.

The catch, though, is that your PSU will typically be taking more than it really needs. This is where efficiency rating comes in. The amount of energy drawn is still based on what your components need to run. However, this doesn’t mean your 650W power supply with be drawing 650W from the wall constantly.

For example, your components could tell the PSU they need, say, 150W of power, and you have a power supply with an 80% efficiency rating, your PSU might draw around 190-200W from the wall. You can just scale it with the efficiency percentages to find out how much yours really would draw.

In short, a power supply with a lower rating might be cheaper but will waste a lot more power. So you’ve really just got to way out the benefits of going up or down in efficiency based on how you plan to use your computer.

Looking at the efficiency rating can also give you a pretty good idea of how your PSU will perform since higher-efficiency units tend to have higher quality components, consume less power, and produce less heat, which can, in turn, contribute to lower noise levels and lead to a much higher lifespan for your power supply.

What are Power Supply Ratings?

All power supplies are ranked through the 80 PLUS voluntary certificate program. PSUs are rated on their percentage efficiency past 80% power efficiency in relation to 3 workload percentages (or 4, in the case of Titanium rated PSUs).

Here are all of the power supply ratings:

  • 80 Plus
  • 80 Plus Bronze
  • 80 Plus Silver
  • 80 Plus Gold
  • 80 Plus Platinum
  • 80 Plus Titanium
  • 80 Plus

Starting at the bottom fo the barrel, the generic 80 Plus rating is given to power supplies that’re rated at 80% efficiency at all 3 workloads. These power supplies can usually be found very cheap but won’t be providing the greatest longevity promises.

80 Plus Bronze

80+ bronze power supply rating

Bronze-rated power supplies, however, despite being the second-lowest rating are some of (if not the) most popular power supplies for consumers. Well, 80 Plus Bronze power supplies are rated for at least 82% efficiency at 20% load, 85% efficiency at 50% load, and 82% efficiency at 100% load.

The secret the Bronze-rated’s success is the general reliability of them, paired alongside with their low cost when compared to Gold-rated power supplies. Though, how does the Silver-rated fare?

80 Plus Silver

80+ silver power supply rating

Oddly enough, Silver-rated power supplies aren’t really popular, nor really on the radar at all.

There’s no simple answer we can give, but the gist of it is that Silver-rated power supplies cost a similar amount to manufacture as Gold-rated ones with a lower profit yield. Hence, the lack of them on the market.

PSUs with the Silver rating are rated for 85% efficiency at 20% load, 88% efficiency at 50% load, and 85% efficiency at 100% load.

80 Plus Gold

80+ gold power supply rating

Most mid-range to high-range systems today will be sporting an 80 Plus Gold rated power supply due to their amazing reliability and relatively low cost. These PSUs might even be more popular than Bronze-rated ones!

Gold-rated is also the level at which manufacturers start using the Fully-Modular classification for PSUs, allowing for a higher level of customizability and utility in the ways you use your power supply. Fully-Modular PSUs also make cable management way easier. However, you don’t need a modular power supply.

80 Plus Gold power supplies are rated for 87% efficiency at both 20% and 100% load, similar to the Bronze and Silver, and 90% efficiency at 50% load.

80 Plus Platinum

80+ platinum power supply rating

Now we’re getting up to the high-end ratings, starting with the amazing feat of engineering that is 80 Plus Platinum.

When looking for your next power supply, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be needing a Platinum-rated PSU anytime soon. Unless you really think those power savings will be worth it.

Platinum and Titanium-rated power supplies are usually reserved for the server space since their efficiency and redundancy are basically unmatched but at a great cost, with Platinum-rated power supplies regularly reaching over $200USD.

Platinum-rated power supplies are rated for 90% efficiency at 20% load, 92% efficiency at 50% load, and oddly enough 89% at 100% load for whatever reason.

80 Plus Titanium

80+ titanium power supply rating

Sitting atop the very peak of this powerful mountain is the king of all power supplies; the 80 Plus Titanium.

Now in most cases, a Titanium-rated power supply is completely unnecessary and utterly overkill, but hey it’s got unparalleled efficiency if that tickles your fancy.

Titanium-rated PSUs are built with the highest-end components, and hell are they built to last, with some Titanium-rated power supplies coming with 8-10 year warranties; you can tell the manufacturers are confident in their product. Though, expect to pay well over $500USD for one.

Titanium-rated power supplies are rated for 90% efficiency at as low as 10% load, 92% efficiency at 20% load, 94% efficiency at 50% load, and 90% efficiency at 100% load.

I wonder if we’ll ever go higher than that?

Well, now you know what those little 80+ stickers on your power supply really mean, and if you’d like to check out a couple of our picks for great power supplies we urge you to check out this article.