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

80 PLUS Gold Versus Mass-Produced Generics

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:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
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.

  • 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 ...?
  • dominatorix
    ok., compare: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-psu-efficiency,2796-11.html
    with: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/750-watt-psu-80-plus-gold,2927-3.html