Recommended Power Supplies

Power | Reference|Recommended
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  • Sept 25, 2013 - Added Seasonic Platinum 520W, bequiet! DPP 550W, Rosewill SilentNight 500. Minor changes to text.
  • Feb 10, 2012 - Added Seasonic X1050, Kingwin STR-500, LZW-550 and LZW-1000; too many models retired from lists to list.
  • Feb 19, 2011 - Demoted Nexus Value 430 to recommended
  • Sept 26, 2010 - Added Corsair AX850, Antec TP750
  • Aug 15, 2010 - Added Seasonic X-400 Fanless
  • May 14, 2010 - Added Enermax Modu/Pro87+ 500W
  • Jan 12, 2010 - Added Nexus NX-5000, Enermax Eco80+ 500W and Winmate 130W DD-24AX DC-DC Module
  • October 18, 2009 - Added Seasonic X-650.
  • September 8, 2009 - Complete overhaul of ranking system
  • Updated March 14, 2009 - Added Nexus Value 430 and Silverstone ST45NF
  • Updated Dec 20, 2008 - A slew of changes - Added Seasonic M12D-850W, Sparkle Power SPI250EP, TX650W. SilverStone Decathlon DA700, Antec Signature 650.
  • Updated March 16, 2008 - Added Corsair TX650W.
  • Updated March 2, 2008 - Added Seasonic MII-430 & SII-380, Enermax Modu82+ 625; retired several now-discontinued models, and shuffled rankings as necessary.
  • Updated Aug 16, 2007 - Added Corsair VX450W
  • Updated July 28, 2007 - Added two models to recommended lists and retired a few older now-discontinued models

Dec 1, 2006

Until today, these recommended PSU lists were part of the Power Supply Fundamentals article. The lists and the fundamentals article have been separated for practical reasons. The single article was just getting too long and cumbersome. Separating them means it's a bit easier to update them more frequently. You're strongly urged to read Power Supply Fundamentals for a fuller understanding of the complexities around power supplies.

PRODUCTS CHANGE, often without notice. The information provided here is accurate at time of posting, but there is no way to guarantee that the samples we review are exactly the same as the ones you buy. There are just too many variables. Manufacturers often change or discontinue products, and change model names without notice. For a bigger sampling, please check the SPCR Forums for comments by owners/users.

GUIDE TO THE LISTS

The recommended PSUs are divided into three power categories:

  • Up to 380W
  • 381W to 650W
  • Higher than 650W

There are two recommended ranks: Editor's Choice and SPCR Recommended. In previous iterations of this reference list, power supplies were ranked numerically on two scales of 1-10 for noise and quality. Now, the fine gradations have been put aside in preference for broader groupings. Products ranked as Editor's Choice are "best in class" for the various parameters we consider most important: Low noise, high efficiency, high build quality, good value, useful features (more or less in that order). As of February 2012, most EC products are 80 Plus Gold or higher efficiency. Those that are Recommended are just that: Recommended for low noise and good performance on the other parameters.

The rationale for the broader groupings is as follows: PSUs that measure within a couple of decibels of each other (especially at below typical ambient levels) at low and mid power loads cannot be authoritatively differentiated in the context of a real PC system. So many other factors come into play: The ambient noise and temperature, the components being powered, typical usage patterns of the operator, etc. A PSU ranked 9 in the old system might have performed identically to one rated 8.5, depending on conditions. In other words, the fine differentiations could only be identified under our lab test conditions, not necessarily in real use by typical users. Hence, those ranking were not always useful.

Now, when a product is an Editor's Choice, you know that it's exceptional in most of the parameters that we consider important. Finding one that's "perfect" or "ideal" should not be critical because you will get similar results with any of them. If it is important to choose a product that's "ideal" for you, we encourage you to read all the relevant reviews carefully and use your own judgement.

  • The Date indicates when the model was added to the list.
  • Order of listing: The products are ordered by increasing power rating, from top to bottom
  • Items in bright yellow cells are new entries in the particular list.

NOTES ON FANLESS PSUs

The ATX case design designates a certain portion of case cooling to the PSU; the ATX design specification assumes a PSU with a fan. Even though most of the fanless models listed here conform physically to ATX PSU standards, this does not mean they are suitable drop-in substitutes for any system. Due to the reduced airflow not only in the PSU but also through the system, thermal management is a serious consideration for successful use of fanless PSUs.

Ironically, the absence of a cooling fan in the PSU may require the addition of another case fan in the system. Fanless PSUs are generally more suitable for systems that run cooler and draw less power. Before opting for a fanless PSU, we urge you to read all the fanless PSU reviews and the associated forum discussions thoroughly. Plan for adequate system cooling and be prepared to experiment and fine-tune the system for thermal safety.

Keep in mind that we strongly weigh the acoustic performance at <200W when assessing the units for noise. This is because systems typically do not draw more than 200W, even at maximum power. Those seeking quiet systems should do everything possible to minimize power draw because low heat makes low noise much easier to achieve. For higher power PSUs, the noise performance >200W is considered as well, but the <200W is still weighted more heavily, because the vast majority of systems run at much less than full load >90% of the time. (Typically, the load is about at idle 90% of the time.)

In actual use, the difference between a fanless PSU and quiet fan cooled PSU is marginal, as the system using a fanless PSU still needs an exhaust fan which may sometimes have to spin slightly higher than the one in a similar system with a fan-cooled PSU. It is only when systems with the quietest fanned PSUs are pushed beyond ramp-up point of their fan controller that they become significantly noisier than systems with fanless PSU. However, the fanless PSU system will be more stressed thermally unless it has airflow from case fans — in which case, their acoustic advantage shrinks again.

REAL TIME PRICING information on the products can be found using the SPCR Shopping Engine (in the left column, or just click the link).

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SPCR EDITOR'S CHOICE POWER SUPPLIES
Up to 380W Comments
PicoPSU (fanless) The picoPSU is tiny — 70 of them fit inside the casing of a normal ATX power supply. Its footprint is that of a 20-pin ATX connector. It provides regulated +5V, +3.3V and +5VSB lines. It passes +12V from an external AC/DC power brick, which can be fanless. There are several models, rated for up to 150W. Perfect for silent mini PC projects. Main weakness is reliance on power brick for 12V line regulation (except for more expensive in-car version.) Reviewed. Does not include AC/DC adapter, $30~$40. Aug 14/06
Winmate 130W DD-24AX DC-DC Module Fanless high efficiency DC-DC converter for use with 18~28V AC-DC adapter, best for advanced PC hobbyists and silencers. An alternative to the picoPSU. Added Jan 12/10. Review
Seasonic SS-300SFD 80 Plus Efficient, powerful small form factor (SFX) PSU with Seasonic's excellent fan controller, slightly marred by a mediocre fan. Reviewed. Jan 3/06
381 to 650W Comments
Seasonic X-400 Fanless (SS-400FL) A most impressive 80 Plus Gold efficient PSU, fanless or fanned. Stellar electrical performance, extremely sturdy and well-executed build, all-detachable cables delightfully user-friendly, and tough under extreme heat over long hours of excessive load. Along with Kingwin STR-500, best fanless PSU, more than just an X-series PSU without a fan. Silence <500W, with a trace of electronic noise at full power. The fanless X-460 is similarly recommended. August 13/10
Enermax Modu/Pro87+ 500W Gold 80 Plus efficiency matches Seasonic X series. The 500W models are the among most efficient ATX12V PSUs with a sensible power rating, with excellent noise/power curve. May 2010.
Kingwin STR-500 Fanless 80 Plus Platinum model with maximum 93% efficiency. Excellent electrical performance. Silent below 500W with trace of electronic noise at full power. Fanless PC enthusiasts can choose between this one and Seasonic X models. Added Feb 2012.
Rosewill Silent Night 500 Platinum 80 Plus Rebadged Kingwin STR-500. Added May 2013.
Kingwin LZW-550 Platinum 80 Plus Platinum model with maximum 93% efficiency. Silent below 500W with no fan movement, super quiet even at full load. The enitre line seems worthy. Added Feb 2012.
bequiet! Dark Power Pro 10 550W Stylish, feature-rich models made by Fortron-Source Power rank high for low noise, excellent multi-fan controller (for case fans), and efficiency.
Seasonic Platinum Fanless 520W PSU The very best electrical performance tested, the highest efficiency. Some questions about electronic noise (buzz, whine) on early samples is the only cause for hesitation. Otherwise, this fanless is tops.
Seasonic X-650 First 80 Plus Gold PSU on market with superb performance, totally modular cabling with patented DC/DC converter + output connector PCB offers fanless operation at lower loads and extremely quiet fan-cooled operation at mid-to-high power levels, with >90% efficiency at mid-power levels. Entire X-series is worthy. Oct 18/09.
Over 650W Comments
Seasonic X1050 Extension of great 80 Plus Gold X-series design into KW model. >90% efficiency. Excellent build quality, completely modular cabling. Silent below 500W, as fan does not spin; very quiet to ~700W. First ever incidence of a PSU with NO electronic noise. 1250W model also available. Added Feb 2012.
Kingwin LZW-1000 Platinum 80 Plus Platinum model with maximum 94% efficiency. Silent below 500W with no fan movement, super quiet at 700W and just 25 dBA even at 1000W! Excellent electrical performance. Like Seasonic X1050, NO electronic noise, though the physical presentation is a step down. Easy to believe that the other models in the LZW series share the same properties as the 550 and the 1000. Added Feb 2012.
Corsair AX850 80 Plus Gold model made by Seasonic based on the X-series. Same great electrical performance. Only difference from X-series seems to be straight voltage control fan instead of PWM. Totally modular cabling with patented DC/DC converter + output connector PCB offers fanless operation at lower loads and extremely quiet fan-cooled operation at mid-to-high power levels. Dramatically increased quiet power range in thermally advanced case. The rest of the AX range seem to share the same basic characteristics, and Seasonic X-series lineage. Sept 26/2010.
Antec CP-850 An innovative PSU with 120mm in-line fan only compatible with four large Antec cases, the CP-850 is just about as quiet as the Nexus Value 430 at lower power, stays extremely quiet and cool in those cases to >600W, with exactingly clean, regulated voltages lines at a price that's a pittance for such quiet, abundant, performance. Relatively modest 85% efficiency (in 2012) for an Editor's Choice. CP-1000 not tested but offers similar performance. Sept 08/09

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Caution: Not Brothers Under Their Skin

When it comes to the noise they make, PSUs of the same brand, even of the same series, are not that closely related sometimes. While some PSU brands are pretty consistently quiet (Seasonic is a good example), individual models still vary. Some brands are less consistent. This is especially true of brands whose power supplies are made for them by OEMs, often more than one at the same time, for the same or similar series. Which brands have their PSUs made by other companies? Why almost all of them — all but three names on our recommended lists: Seasonic and Fortron-Source / Sparkle (closely related), who actually manufacture their own products. Enermax used to, but some of their products are now subcontracted out; we don't know what percentage or to who.

So be warned. Don't assume that since Super Quiet 500 received an Editor's Choice award, the same brand's Ultra Silent 1000 must be very quiet too. If we have not reviewed it, if it's not on these lists, it's best not to assume. At least inquire in the forums. SPCR does not make assessments of products without examining them, and we generally choose not to review products that don't meet our minimum requirements for "quiet". The reviews take a great deal of time and effort, and we prefer to save it for better products. So... sometimes "holes" in our recommendations of products in a series may exist because those models simply did not make the grade.

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SPCR RECOMMENDED POWER SUPPLIES
Up to 380W Comments
Seasonic SS-200SFD Very quiet 200W with sleeve-bearing fan in smaller case (SFX form factor) for Flex-ATX case, smart S2FC fan control for minimum noise. P4 12V connector. Good for custom small form factor systems (used in Breadbox PC) and as replacement for eMachine, HP, and other OEM PCs. 9/02.
Sparkle Power SPI250EP 80 Plus means 80% efficiency even at a low 50W load. Decently quiet in stock form, it's a perfect 250W OEM model for modders to silence even further for a low power, high efficiency eco-box. Reviewed. May be hard to find at any price. Dec19/08.
Seasonic S12II-380
The second generation S12 seems mostly to be a refresh of the first, with only a few significant changes, including incrementally higher efficiency. Seasonic's trademark fan control system reamins just about the best in the business: Very quiet from idle to some 300W or higher, yet with good cooling when needed. Reviewed. March 2008.
381 to 650W Comments
Silentmaxx Fanless 400W MX460-PFL01
A higher power version of the Fortron Zen, sold under a different label. It exhibited similar characteristics and higher output. Like the original, pretty solid and silent, but with a trqace of electronic noise at higher loads. Reviewed. Aug 14/06
Nexus Value 430 Innocuous little ATX12V power supply from silent component pioneer Nexus is a quiet champ, offers unexceptional but yeoman-like performance. Efficiency isn't the best, and we've had a few reports of standby issues. Reviewed. Mar 14/09.
Enermax Modu82+ 625W Modular cabling, high efficiency, excellent electrical performance, and acoustics that are incrementally quieter than most of the best. Pro 82+ offers same performance w/o detachable cables. Reviewed. March 2/08. Caution: Some users report early fan noise problems. Demoted from Editor's Choice due to plethora of higher efficiency competition with similar acoustics in Feb 2012.
Nexus NX-5000 >85% efficiency, excellent electrical performance, compact size, and acoustics that rank with the best. Review Added Jan 12/10.
Seasonic M12II-430
2nd gen of Seasonic modular cable PSUs consists of only two models at the moment, the 430 and 500. They've lost the secondary 60mm fan, which is a plus, but may still have higher than usual turbulence noise at high load (compared to other Seasonics) due to a plastic fan baffle. Still excellent noise and electronic performance. Reviewed. March 2008.
Antec Signature 650 (and 850) Innovative new two-board design for improved cooling with an 80mm in-line fan, superb build and component quality, Antec's first collaboration with Delta Electronics is one of the most interested PSU to come along in years. It's also highly efficient and very quiet. Reviewed. Dec 20/08. Note: The 850 was not reviewed, but we know from hands-on experience that it has the same qualities as the 650. Demoted from Editor's Choice due to plethora of higher efficiency competition with similar acoustics in Feb 2012.
Over 650W Comments
Antec TruePower New TP750
Virtually silent to ~250W load, pretty quiet to near 400W, and better in a thermally advanced case. It's another one made by Seasonic. Modular design with good 86% maximum efficiency, with very good electrical performance and modest pricing. For those with lower power needs, 650W and 550W models have the same heatsinks, so should have the same noise/power curve. Sept 26/2010
SilverStone Decathlon DA700
It's quite quiet to about 300W load, beyond which the fan ramps up to high speed quickly. A modular design with good efficiency, our sample may have had a subtly damaged fan. Dec 20/08.
Coolermaster Silent Pro M700W High efficiency, good build quility, low noise at lower power, marred by too linear a fan controller. Still, it can be easily integrated into a quiet system, getting louder only when pushed to gaming power levels. Sept 09.
Nexus RX-8500 Another one with a 135mm that very quiet at low and mid loads even if a bit fast to ramp up as power load increaes. Still very quiet at full and near full load. Sept 09.

Please go to the next page for the Retired Recommended PSUs.

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Articles of Related Interest
Power Supply Fundamentals
Power Distribution within Six PCs
Desktop CPU Power Survey, April 2006

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