Fanless Power Supply PC Build Guide

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Fanless Power Supply PC Build Guide

October 8, 2011 by Lawrence Lee and Mike Chin

Fanless ATX PSU options have never been plentiful. Many of the models that came and went in the past decade couldn't deliver their rated output, made nasty electronic noises, and/or overheated and shut down when asked to deliver substantial loads. Suitable only for low power systems, yet priced prohibitively high, it's easy to see why they never succeeded in growing much beyond a little niche. Our Fanless PSU Torture Test Roundup a year ago showed that there are still very few fanless PSUs worth considering.

On the positive side, three modern fanless PSU models have emerged that we can recommend without hesitation: The Seasonic X-400 and X-460, and the recently reviewed Kingwin Stryker STR-500. All are extremely efficient, with 80 Plus Gold or Platinum ratings, hold up well thermally and electrically under high load, and are as silent as can be. Current pricing for these units is also excellent with Newegg offering the X-400 and X-460 for US$90 and US$110 respectively (after mail-in rebate). The STR-500 is a bit pricier at US$160, but it's a small price to pay for the most efficient, silent, passively cooled PSU on the market.

The Seasonic X-400, X-460 and the Kingwin STR-500 are the best fanless ATX PSUs in the market.

Without a fan to blow over its internal components, a fanless power supply needs to generate as little heat as possible, employ large heatsinks to dissipate the heat it does generate, and be well-ventilated. Even the most efficient power supply will falter if you stuff it into a closed system. The passively cooled PSUs we mentioned above all have a very open physical design, with mesh-like panels to maximize of air flow and ventilation. Most cases are designed for power supplies with internal fans, however, and many DIY builders wonder how a fanless PSU fits in thermally in a PC system.

Given the availability of these high tech, super-efficient, fanless power supply marvels, we've put together an article to address the question of how to get the best use out of them. We have been working with fanless PSUs for years, and we have some useful tricks and observations to share with you. We consider typical case layouts, the airflow that is normal in such cases, and discuss how a fanless PSU affects the cooling and airflow. We will also do a step-by-step build of a fanless PSU system as a guide for the uninitiated builder, ending with a complete thermal/acoustic analysis of the system.

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