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Buy Your Power Supply Now, While Prices Are Still Acceptable

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're planning a new PC build, it might be a good idea to put the power supply at the top of your hardware purchase list. Current pricing trends show that power supplies are getting much more expensive, and there doesn't seem to be any sign that pricing will stabilize anytime soon. We dug into the matter and pressed our contacts within the PSU industry to find the root issues behind the skyrocketing power supply pricing. 

First, let's outline some examples: In January, the Corsair CX450, which we consider to be the best budget power supply, retailed for as low as $49.99 at Corsair's online store. It's was unavailable for a period of time, but that same unit currently retails for up to $64.94. That's a whopping 30% price increase in a matter of seven months. The Corsair RM550x's selling price has also increased by 15%.

The price hikes don't just affect the low-capacity units, either. We also found price increases with the more premium units, like the Corsair AX1000 or AX1600i. However, it would appear that the higher-end models don't suffer as drastically as the budget units. For example, the Corsair AX1000 and AX1600i's price tags are 9.6% and 7.7% higher, respectively, than they were in January. It's likely that the margins are higher on the higher-end models, which makes it easier for the companies involved to absorb some of the increased costs.

Wholesale power supply pricing in China has risen slightly, but it varies. Component prices and labor became more expensive, but the impact on the higher pricing is negligible. Our sources tell us that the price increases range anywhere from 0 to 5%, depending on the vendor and the model of the unit, which doesn't fully explain the big price hikes we see at retail. 

According to our sources inside the power supply industry, the problem largely boils down to logistics. Air cargo costs have skyrocketed over the past few months, as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hit the shipping industry hard. In the past, it cost $2 to $3 to ship a kilogram, but these days, companies pay up to $10 to ship the same amount of weight. That obviously has an impact on pricing, and limited affordable air cargo pricing can cause a ripple effect of delayed shipments, too. 

To put things into perspective, if a power supply vendor was to put in an order with CWT (Channel Well Technology, a popular PSU component design company) today, the shipment will likely not arrive in the U.S. until late January.

ModelRetailerJanuary Pricing*August Pricing*Price Difference
Corsair CX450Corsair$49.99$64.9930%
Corsair RM550xNewegg$99.98$114.9815%
Seasonic SSR-750PXNewegg$146.98$152.984.8%
Corsair AX850Corsair$249.99$254.992%
Corsair AX1000Newegg$269.98$295.989.6%
Corsair AX1600iNewegg$519.99$559.997.7%

*Pricing according to PCPartPicker.

Earlier this year, the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed China's production industry for a few months. The halt in production caused a power supply shortage, but demand didn't let up. In fact, the industry has seen unanticipated growth in the desktop PC market as the new paradigm of widespread remote working took hold, which means demand has increased. 

We all know what happens when there's a significant gap between demand and supply: price gouging sets in. Or, as some in the industry call it, 'shortage premiums.'

In effect, the power supply situation is comparable to the mining boom from a few years ago. The supply chain becomes stressed and lead time increases as cheap units sell out, which then has the knock-on effect of driving up pricing on the more costly models, too. Basically, this is the landscape that PC builders will have to navigate for the foreseeable future. There really isn't a precedent for the disruptive impact of the pandemic, so it's anyone's guess when logistics will stabilize. 

The implications of more expensive logistics aren't just limited to the power supply market, either. Retail businesses are also feeling its effects. As an example, Banggood, a popular Chinese e-commerce website, used to offer free shipping on many products. The same products now carry a $2 to $3 shipping fee at a minimum.

Unfortunately, the negative impacts of disrupted supply chains can take months to manifest at retail, so we still aren't sure when we'll see the full impact. In other words, if you know you're going to need a power supply in the next several months, it might be a good idea to do that shopping now. 

  • tennis2
    This article is about 5 months too late.

    I wouldn't suggest buying a PSU right now.
    Reply
  • logainofhades
    tennis2 said:
    This article is about 5 months too late.

    I wouldn't suggest buying a PSU right now.

    Agreed, a little late to the party, on this one. Unless you absolutely need a PSU, I definitely wouldn't buy one. I recently did, as I needed a PSU, for testing purposes. Bought a Fraction SFX 650g, for my personal ITX rig, and will use my old EVGA 750w G2, for testing purposes. Thankfully, I caught one, for sale, at a decent price.
    Reply
  • Endymio
    > "when there's a significant gap between demand and supply: price gouging sets in...."
    Oh gawd, not the old "price gouging" trope. I really wish they'd teach economics to people. Price is the means by which supply and demand equalizes. If supply declines and demand remains unchanged, the store shelves run empty. Then when you press the "buy" button in your browser, nothing shows up on your doorstep. And then what do you poor snowflakes do?
    Reply
  • tennis2
    ^ This

    "those mean retailers always following the laws of the free market"
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    Endymio said:
    > "when there's a significant gap between demand and supply: price gouging sets in...."
    Oh gawd, not the old "price gouging" trope. I really wish they'd teach economics to people. Price is the means by which supply and demand equalizes. If supply declines and demand remains unchanged, the store shelves run empty. Then when you press the "buy" button in your browser, nothing shows up on your doorstep. And then what do you poor snowflakes do?
    Oh ok. So the vendors are raising prices as a favor to the customers, not because they pocket all the extra money from the price increase. I feel so much better now that I know the vendors are look out for my well being. Thanks for clearing that up Mr Bezos.
    Reply
  • NightHawkRMX
    Honestly, now is a horrible time to buy PSUs. I don't think the prices will get much worse before they get better.
    Reply
  • Endymio
    spongiemaster said:
    Oh ok. So the vendors are raising prices as a favor to the customers, not because they pocket all the extra money from the price increase. I feel so much better now that I know the vendors are look out for my well being.
    Sigh. It would be nice if you'd at least heard of Adam Smith ... I realize that actually reading him would be out of the question. No, the vendors are not trying to "be nice" to you, and no they're not "pocketing all that extra cash" either. The great thing about capitalism is that those vendors, by simply looking out after their own interests, help you as well. Or, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, capitalism is the worst system-- except for everything else we've tried.

    Those higher prices accomplish two things simultaneously. On the demand side, it convinces a few buyers who don't really need the product to defer their purchase (as you can see from reading this thread itself). Those with the greater need thus don't find the out-of-stock icon flashing when they surf over to NewEgg. Resources are thus allocated more efficiently.

    On the supply side, the higher price increases supply. Manufacturers and downstream suppliers can afford to pay overtime to run their supply lines at higher utilization, can pay higher freight costs to keep parts in stock, etc, etc. Thus, the amount of product produced rises (or, in this case, falls less than it otherwise would, given Covid-related supply-chain disruptions).

    If you don't like the system, you might want to visit the consumer paradise of North Korea ... where prices are extremely low by government decree. Unfortunately, the've been out of stock on most products since the middle of 1953.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    Endymio said:
    Those higher prices accomplish two things simultaneously. On the demand side, it convinces a few buyers who don't really need the product to defer their purchase (as you can see from reading this thread itself). Those with the greater need thus don't find the out-of-stock icon flashing when they surf over to NewEgg. Resources are thus allocated more efficiently.
    Ok, so now you're saying poor people don't really need anything because they can't afford anything. There is no direct relationship between how badly you need something and whether or not you can afford it.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    Endymio said:
    Sigh. It would be nice if you'd at least heard of Adam Smith ... I realize that actually reading him would be out of the question. No, the vendors are not trying to "be nice" to you, and no they're not "pocketing all that extra cash" either. The great thing about capitalism is that those vendors, by simply looking out after their own interests, help you as well. Or, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, capitalism is the worst system-- except for everything else we've tried.
    Sorry, for the Bezos dig. This makes it clear you're Clark from Good Will Hunting.
    Reply
  • Endymio
    spongiemaster said:
    Ok, so now you're saying poor people don't really need anything because they can't afford anything.
    If you'll raise your begging bowl a little higher, I'll toss in a few quarters so you won't go hungry tonight. In the meantime, allow me to point out that if you "need" a psu -- rather than simply want it to keep playing Candy Crush -- then you're using it for a work-related purpose. In which case, you can certainly afford an extra $20 for it.

    In any case, would you prefer the alternative? The PSU remains technically on sale for the original price. But neither you nor no one else can buy it, because the manufacturer can no longer afford to produce it at that price. If you understand economics, its clear why the low-end PSUs are being impacted by this more than the expensive ones. The cost of producing a cheap PSU contains a much higher ratio of shipping costs (it costs just as much to ship a cheap part as an expensive one). The market is equalizing itself in the most efficient manner possible. Given the level of market disruptions during a century-level global pandemic, I'm a little surprised prices haven't risen a bit more than they have.
    Reply