80 PLUS: Where It Falls Short
80 PLUS has been around for over a decade now. Thanks to its voluntary (nobody forces manufacturers to certify their PSUs) efficiency certification program, a great number of us now realize how important it is to acquire an efficient power supply. Besides lower electricity bills, an efficient PSU also does less harm to the environment, since a lower amount of energy goes wasted. Although 80 PLUS is hands-down the most popular efficiency certification program right now, we're going to explain why it's far from perfect.
The most significant of its problems come from a weak overall structure that doesn’t allow for drastic changes, which would get the program up to speed with today’s demands. This is the outcome of a poor methodology on which the 80 PLUS program is based. Back in 2004, when 80 PLUS kicked off, the way it tested might have been sufficient. But that's simply not the case in 2017. To be fair, it's difficult to design something able to last so many years. Just think about the way we benchmark graphics cards. The games, power, and acoustic measurements have all evolved.
The major downsides of the 80 PLUS program can be broken down to the following:
- Small number of measurements in order to classify a PSU into one of its categories.
- The methodology allows for manufacturers to submit golden samples.
- Very low ambient temperature at which the measurements are conducted.
- It doesn’t measure the standby power consumption (vampire power), which is essential to the European market, where all PSUs should comply with the ErP Lot 6 and ErP Lot 3 directives.
- It doesn’t take into account the 5VSB rail’s efficiency.
- There is no clear mention of testing equipment.
- 80 PLUS doesn’t effectively deal with fake efficiency badges.
In this article, we're digging into these flaws and presenting our own solutions, which you see implemented in each of our PSU reviews to give you more applicable results than 80 PLUS. We are constantly improving our methodology to bring it up to speed with the latest demands and requirements. Besides efficiency, which is obviously important, we also have to evaluate other important factors like ripple, load regulation, transient response, hold-up time, noise, and reliability under tough conditions. This makes designing a proper methodology tough indeed. But we've had years to improve our methods and learn from our mistakes. This is how we came up with a testing procedure that yields the most accurate efficiency and noise readings available.
MORE: Best Power Supplies
MORE: Power Supplies 101