The PSU is the lifeblood of any PC build. It supplies and regulates power from the grid to all of your hardware parts. Having the proper PSU will give you peace of mind knowing that your system will always have sufficient ability to run safely and stably.
When it comes to buying a PSU, the most common question comes up as to which one is better? PSUs are not made equal, and all feature different power and efficiency ratings. This guide will help you make the best-informed choice for what PSU is the best for you, as the answer is not as simple as getting the most expensive model available.
Gold PSUs are widely agreed to offer the best price to performance value proposition, but this might not be the case for you.
What Do PSU Ratings Mean?
A PSU can be rated for one of two things: Power efficiency and maximum power output. Both of these ratings determine how well a given PSU model will perform in efficiently powering your other PC parts.
- Power Efficiency: This means what percentage of the energy or voltage from the wall is usable by the PSU and your PC system. PSU power efficiency comes in ratings from Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titanium.
- Wattage: Wattage is a simple measurement that gives you the maximum amount of power output that a given PSU can transfer to your components.
In other words, a PSU that is 80% efficient will have less total output than a PSU rated at 90% efficiency, granted they both have the same wattage parameters. Thus, if both PSUs are rated at 500 Watts max, the 90% one could effectively draw less power than the 80% to give the same wattage.
PSU ratings also have to do with the quality of their internal parts. Higher-rated PSUs generally have more quality capacitors, materials, and components that increase their efficiency and longevity. It’s not a topic that is widely discussed but to achieve the highest efficacy ratings (Platinum or titanium), the manufacturers can only use the best-in-class available components.
The build quality also tends to be better. Still, in the end, it’s all about how the specific manufacturer runs their quality control before shipping their product to the global markets.
What Is a Gold Rated and Platinum PSU?
A gold-rated PSU is any PSU rated to run at least 87% efficiency under 100% power load. Gold PSUs come with a yellow-colored certification on their sides as well as on the packaging.
A platinum-rated PSU is any PSU rated to run at least 89% efficiency under 100% power load. Platinum PSUs come with a light gray colored certification on their sides as well as on the packaging.
Gold and a Platinum-rated PSU are incredibly high-quality PC parts that will give you years of reliability and stable power delivery, enhancing the longevity of your other hardware parts and preventing power overloads and surges. Compared to PSUs without a rating or white rating, Gold and Platinum PSUs are worlds ahead in terms of quality and performance.
The only consistent difference is that the Platinum PSU is slightly more efficient than a gold PSU. Please note that while Platinum PSUs are objectively superior in terms of performance, the quality and reliability depend on the manufacturer.
You can never know what parts the manufacturer uses; you can only look at the user reviews for a given PSU and judge its overall real-life performance and quality.
Pros of a Gold-rated PSU
Here’re some of the pros of a gold-rated PSU:
- Better Price to Performance: This is the biggest reason gold PSUs get recommended the most. For the average user investing in a PSU with a rating of Gold means that they can make future proof of their system, especially with the extra wattage headroom that a Gold PSU offers compared to lower ratings.
- Increased Availability: Gold PSUs have a higher market share, and thus manufacturers prioritize their production. Gold-rated PSUs are much more likely to be in stock in stores and online shops.
- More than Enough for Most Mid-Range to High-End PC Builds: Even if you have the best in class GPU, CPU, RAM, Motherboard, and other parts, a gold-rated PSU is more than enough (granted its wattage covers the extra power draw) to power your system in a reliable manner.
- Entry Point For Fully Modular PSUs: at the gold rating, you can expect manufacturers to offer fully modular and customizable power cables and options. Most lower-end PSUs don’t allow you to swap different wires and come with just a bundle of non-detachable cables.
Pros of a Platinum-rated PSU
Here’re some of the pros of a platinum-rated PSU:
- Better Warranty Options: Platinum-rated PSUs usually generally feature more extended warranty options, as they also charge a premium for their extra performance.
- Higher Efficiency: This is the most obvious benefit of a Platinum PSU. Suppose your system uses more than 500 Watts at load. In that case, even a few percent difference will result in noticeably higher efficiency.
- Generally, More Reliable: Platinum PSUs will offer more consistent power draw at varying levels, regardless of whether your CPU/GPU is idling or near full load. This will also lower your hardware components’ wear and extend their life cycles.
- Cuts Annual Electricity Bills: Efficiency means less power draw for the same amount of power. This is especially crucial if you run things such as GPU mining rigs where electricity bills directly impact your profit margins. Suppose your PC runs for a large part of your day, or you have a business with multiple PCs. In that case, power efficiency and energy savings are a thing to consider heavily.
- May Run at Cooler Temperatures: Cooler temperatures mean less energy is lost in the form of heat and that internal components wear out slower than usual. This is also very dependent on your overall PC case airflow and the temperature of your environment.
- Better Cable Management: Usually, they come with more cable modularity and features. When you pay a premium for a product, you can expect that other areas are upgraded compared to the other lower-rated products on the market. Platinum PSUs usually come with more cable configuration options giving you better cable management capabilities.
- Can Offer Additional Features: These added extras are things such as built-in temperature displays, UI displays for wattage and current power draw, proprietary tweaking software, and even RGB lighting.
How to Calculate Your PSU Wattage?
Before you even start to consider Gold vs Platinum, first figure out your system’s maximum power draw under full load. There are numerous online wattage calculators where you can input your exact PC components and see how many total watts they require.
Then get a PSU that is at least 80% efficiency certified and give it at least 20% Wattage overhead. So, if your total power draw is 350, don’t go for a PSU with 400 Watts; instead, pick at least one that is 450-500.
What’s the Right PSU Rating for You?
Platinum PSUs are for PC enthusiasts or energy-efficient conscious users that will take only top-of-the-line hardware parts that require additional modularity, features, customization, and performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Know When My PSU Is Up for Replacement?
Having a faulty PSU can mask many common PC errors and symptoms. We have a dedicated article here on troubleshooting and spotting a defective PSU.
Should I Avoid Any Particular PSUs?
Some PSU batches are known for exploding, dying, or malfunctioning. Always research and check for user ratings from mass sellers for reported stability and performance.
Suppose a product has a poor average user rating. In that case, it’s generally best to stay away from it unless you wish to waste time returning and shipping a replacement or waiting for the bank to process a refund dispute.