Less Can Be More
Editor's Note: If you want more background on how power supply testing plays out here at Tom's Hardware, I recommend that you check out Soon At Tom's Hardware: Full-Scale Power Supply Testing before reading this piece.
Special attention gets paid to the power supply unit (PSU) these days, primarily in the high-performance and gaming community. No wonder, as the requirements of top-shelf PCs with multiple processors and modern 3D graphics cards are constantly increasing. Such computers will suck 800 W or more from the power supply under load, and for short periods that number can be substantially higher.
On the other hand, power supplies are often forgotten in offices and for everyday multimedia applications. Truth be told, compact and mid-range PCs don't require a high-performance power supply. However, investing in a high-quality power supply can pay off in several ways.
First, a good PSU guarantees a reliable and consistent supply of power to all components. This can help extend component longevity. Second, a highly energy efficient PSU helps reduce the energy consumption of a home or office. Additionally, other aspects, such as ergonomics, cable modularity, and cable length can simplify or complicate PC assembly. PSUs with good build quality also prevent nicked fingers or a less-than-optimal fit during installation. Trust us. We've seen it all.
We gathered a few mid-range models for this roundup. A top street price of $150 was our only prerequisite, and we settled on four 500 W models from Cooler Master, Enermax, FSP, and SilverStone. The coveted 80 PLUS logo is emblazoned on each box, except for SilverStone's.