80 PLUS Gold: Four Efficient 700-850 W Power Supplies

Gamers and enthusiasts are always on the lookout for crème de la crème hardware. It's easy to pick winning CPUs and graphics cards; less so for PSUs. We put four 80 PLUS Gold devices from Antec, FSP, Seasonic, and SilverStone under the magnifying glass.

Computer stores are fond of advertising high-end PCs for power users. Although those systems can't hide behind weak processors or sub-standard graphics cards, unscrupulous builders do manage to save costs by using poorly-built or insufficiently-capable power supplies. Unfortunately, while they might work for a time, we've heard too many horror stories about performance-oriented configurations going up in smoke after a cheap PSU cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

In many expensive computers, cheap PSUs are a silent threat not only to general stability, but also long-term component health. The real high-end power supplies that you can appreciate years from now (but might not consider worth the extra premium today) often don't make the cut because of the fact that they cost more. All the devices included in this roundup are suitable for almost any enthusiast PC with a discrete graphics card or two.

We requested power supplies from a number of vendors able to provide a total output between 700 and 900 W, and achieve efficiency able to meet the 80 PLUS Gold standard. With Antec, FSP, Seasonic, and SilverStone in the mix, only brand name devices are represented.

The 80 PLUS standard emerged from the Generalized Internal Power Supply Efficiency Test Protocol, which was created by Ecos & EPRI almost 10 years ago. In 2004, 80 PLUS was specified as an initiative, and Seasonic was the first PSU maker to provide a compliant product by 2005. Only a year later, the Energy Star 4.0 specifications added 80 PLUS requirements. This spec went into effect in 2007 and it only took a few months for the industry to create hundreds of 80 PLUS-compliant products.

However, 80% efficiency clearly wasn’t enough. It quickly became obvious that higher efficiency is possible, and 80 PLUS revised the standard and added Bronze, Silver, and Gold certifications for even higher-efficiency power supplies. By October 2009, a Platinum standard was added for efficiency above 90%. Here is a quick overview on 80 PLUS efficiency level certifications:

80 PLUS Test Type115 V Internal Non-Redundant230 V Internal Redundant
Fraction of Rated Load20%50%100%20%50%100%
80 PLUS80%80%80%Not defined
80 PLUS Bronze82%85%82%81%85%81%
80 PLUS Silver85%88%85%85%89%85%
80 PLUS Gold87%90%87%88%92%88%
80 PLUS Platinum90%92%89%90%94%91%

While the step from 80 PLUS to 80 PLUS Platinum is significant and may translate into significant differences in power consumption, the steps between the three mainstream certifications (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) are less spectacular. Typically it makes very little sense to spend a lot of extra money upfront for an 80 PLUS device in an effort to save money on the power bill over time.

Effectively, reasonable devices with 80 PLUS Bronze or Silver certifications should do the trick. However, prices for Gold-certified 80 PLUS PSUs have come down quite a bit, and considering such a device is smart not only for its improved efficiency, but also because you can be even more confident in typically-great build quality. If you’re already on your way to spending big money on enthusiast hardware, it might make sense to spend a few more dollars on a superior power supply.

Without spilling the results right out of the gate, we can say that all of the 80 PLUS Gold PSUs we tested performed their tasks very well. And, aside from a few small lapses, they are highly suitable for use in real high-end PCs.

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  • compton
    Every now and again you can catch the Seasonic X series on sale. I picked up a X-650 for about $110 with shipping. For that price, there isn't really anything better. With out a sale, I still say full modular and 80+ Gold is worth the premium over less auspicious contenders.

    Thanks for an excellent review.
  • jjb8675309
    no need for a 200 dollar psu for me
  • on the seasonic X-760 introduction, the first paragraph states that it comes with hard-wiring. But if you look at the pictures, and further down the review, you'll notice that it is fully-modular.

    no pun intended here ;-)
  • The Greater Good
    comptonEvery now and again you can catch the Seasonic X series on sale. I picked up a X-650 for about $110 with shipping. For that price, there isn't really anything better. With out a sale, I still say full modular and 80+ Gold is worth the premium over less auspicious contenders.Thanks for an excellent review.

    I've used the X 650 in builds for two of my friends. I can't wait to get mine. The cabling is perfect for the Antec 1200 case.
  • What about noise? Only had a quick glance at the article but that didn't seem to have been measured.
  • flong
    Great review, but where is Corsair???? Certainly Corsair is one of the industry leaders and most recommended PSUs on the market.

    This review would have benefited greatly by including both silver and gold rated PSUs from 750W - 1000W. Some Silver rated PSUs actually perform at nearly at gold levels (Corsair) and so they are a great value.

    It would have been nice to have some expert comment on Au's claim that a non-modular cable setup improves efficiency. This appears to be a myth because we see many modular units outperform non-modular units in their class.

    Still I really enjoyed this review.
  • jah_33
    Not to forget is that a 80+ PSU generates about twice the heat of a 80+ Gold PSU, 20% compared to 10% of the power output. So a gold certified PSU should be significantly more quiet then a 80+ given equal cooling.

    flongGreat review, but where is Corsair???? /citation]
    Corsair don't build there own PSU:s the are mostly Seasonic built, some CWT. For example the Corsair AX series are nearly identical to the Seasonic X series, the only difference is the fan.
  • darreng101
    I have a SeaSonic X-760 fitted to an O/C'ed i7.

    The 'fan-on' at 20% (i think without looking back) is worst case, mine kicks on at about 30-35% depending on ambient temp, so its awesome quiet. Even when on its quiet.

    It works very well in a dual gaming/home cinema box...

    I'd definiately recommend one
  • lol. 200 dollar psu's!

    are you guys complete noobs! do you think we need this ...?
  • cmartin011
    nice review happy see the other small companies making good equipment. need more brands for the gold spec to be tested 500-700
  • dalta centauri
    bent540lol, why get a 200$ PSU when there's cheaper models that work just as good?

    Efficency, being modular, Cable quality, and Amperage. Larger priced models have more features, and that's why companies like Corsair usually have a large array in a series such as their "Enthusiast Series."
  • jdamon113
    Stand back. These psu are for people who Do things your pc will not.
    I have the seasonic. Let me tell you my system dosen't crash. It never fails. Its runs every thing. I can run Crysis and watch HD on two different screens. Do that with your oem PSU>
  • jdamon113
    Toms you should have put the enermax in this test. The silverstone is total crap.
  • JohnnyLucky
    great article.
  • flong
    "Corsair don't build there own PSU:s the are mostly Seasonic built, some CWT. For example the Corsair AX series are nearly identical to the Seasonic X series, the only difference is the fan."

    Actually, this isn't true anymore. Corsair does have other manufacturers build its PSUs but it has its own specs and it tweaks them. But even if the Corsair PSUs are similar to the Seasonic, they deserve to be in this lineup.
  • scook9
    I know my Corsair AX1200 has been awesome for me :D

    Sure I spent $280 on a PSU....because for at least the next 7 years I will never have to even think about getting a new PSU again.....so for a dime a day I have one of the best PSUs ever made.....Good luck making me feel bad about that ;)
  • Ubrales
    Good review. I am disappointed not to see Corsair listed. Corsair has excellent products and superior customer service!
  • Onus
    I picked up the X-560 that HardwareSecrets reviewed when they were done with it [for $71 iirc]. I expect that it, and my Antec SG-650, will both last for decades. I fully agree with scook9. Buying excellent PSUs means there are entire classes of problems I'll simply never have.
  • hunter315
    Much better article this time! For those who are concerned about not seeing corsair listed, they only have 3 80+ gold units which could have been in this review and all three have been thoroughly tested and reviewed at jonnyguru.

    Two things that got me this time(much less than last time), you ding the HCP 850 for only getting 60% efficiency at 3% of its max load, no system that it should be running should be at only 25W at idle, and you also dont say your load distribution for your custom load profiles, heavy 12V will yield better efficiency while heavy 3.3V and 5V will hurt the efficiency.

    And i still want to see shots of the innards, because most PSUs can pass for the short term, but one with 80C rated chinese caps wont make it too long past the initial test, and its the quality of the innards that tells you if the initial quality will stay around for 5 years.
  • Noworldorder
    Once again, I am disappointed that an Enermax or Lepa unit was not included, as they are among the best.
    Now, men buy PSUs like they trade fish stories; "mine's bigger", thus badly overbuying and reducing efficiency.
    What we need from Toms is an article teaching us how to properly size a GOLD PSU to our system. We will learn that the units here are all too large for the average user.
  • Corsair is seasonic with a few in house modifications for their upper end power supplies. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/power-supply-oem-manufacturer,2913.html
  • For some time I've wanted to get quality PSUs, and got a couple (Seasonic M12 and Corsair HX) but kept getting suckered by the low prices of OCZ etc. After one burn out and another with a buzzing fan, no more. I've decided Seasonic X series from now on, keeping an eye out for sales. I have a couple X-750s, and while they're expensive, I now think they're worth it.
  • Ans for you noobs that buy the cheapest psu that you can 'afford', I will b c'n you back at more store within 6 months complaining about how your 'brand new' psu just died and I won't replace it for you, spend the money ONCE, that's the reason for these 'expensive' power supplies.
    Flippin noobs!!!!!