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Don't Be Surprised When Your Cheap PSU Blows Up

1670 Watts For $60?

The PC power supply market is one of the most difficult for enthusiasts and the tech press to address. There are products for every requirement, every performance category, and even for most tastes in design, not to mention the huge price span! In our past power supply roundups, we tested products ranging from a little more than $40 to more than $200. With very few exceptions, most of the units we've evaluated have done what they've claimed; sometimes by a long-shot and other times just barely.

Beyond the solutions from well-known vendors, there is a very large number of cheap, no-name products out there, many of which are really easy to find on auction sites at really attractive prices. To get an idea of what lies behind these purported bargains, we bought three of them using Buy It Now. Obviously, we did not give away our real identities to the seller, ensuring we'd receive the same hardware as everyone else.

We ended up with 500 W and 750 W PSUs from a brand called Sutai and an additional 420 W unit without an identifying sticker on it. Prices ranged from around €13.90 to €25.90, which currently equals $19 to $35, plus shipping. In the end, we paid something around $60 for 1670 W worth of power delivery. On the surface, that sounds like a pretty juicy deal.

Without giving away too much about performance, it's safe to say that the value of what you get when you spend this little on a power is pretty darned minimal. The two Sutai models came without any accessories at all, and were simply wrapped in film. The 420 W PSU at least came in a box with a descriptive label with Power Supply written on it.

None of the test subjects come with anything more than a minimal selection of cables and connectors, lacking any kind of information about the internals, technical specifications, or capabilities. Anything beyond wattage, voltage, and amperage ratings seems to be asking too much.

  • jednx01
    Well, you get what you pay for. I may have spent over $200 on my Corsair HX1000, but this thing has been very reliable. (The first one they sent me was a dud, but they replaced it insanely quickly. My replacement one has run flawlessly for almost three years now, withstanding overclocking and pretty much anything I can throw at it. :)
  • WHComp
    This is my favorite article ever. I laughed the entire time I was reading it.
  • WHComp
    I don't need much power, I have a 520W seasonic unit that I love. Can barely hear it run.
  • rolli59
    In the conclusion, not only buying a PSU twice but other components as well.
    Great article!
  • cmcghee358
    This makes me nervous. All of my components BUT my PSU are top tier. I bought my PSU many MANY moons ago when I was alot less experienced. 1000W for $99.99 HELL YES.

    XION isn't as bad as these obviously, Ive run 4890s crossfired with a mild overclock on my 955. But the XION brand still makes me nervous.
  • fyasko
    modular is the way to go. i got the 550 watt antec modular with 2 12v rails it is amazingly stable. as someone who bought cheapo PSU's for years and blamed everything else but the PSU for problems, Invest in a great/not good PSU and your comuter will love you for years without fail. then you can spend the rest of your time flaming apple for fun...
  • iam2thecrowe
    Thank you Toms for finally doing an article like this. It should be known that most cheap PSU's are just rebranded versions of what you see in this article, so buyer beware. Surely there is some reason why these things are not taken off the market? how can they get away with selling crap like this at all? And labelled way above the actual specs. I've seen some bad PSU's in my time but this is beyond shocking.
  • JohnnyLucky
    Great article. I just posted a message and a link to the report over in the power supply section of the forum.
  • Marthian
    thank goodness I didn't cheap out when I first started building computers. Although I guess I did get a cheap power supply (according to some), it was 550W for $50, and lasted 2 years (first year went through a fan swap), and then shortly after the two year mark it started failing. at least it lasted 1 year longer than the warranty.
  • paperfox
    Hope this reinforces the fact that you should get an 80+ Certified PSU the first time or you'll have to buy 2 new computers.