Power is the talk of the town in the PC industry, and for good reason.
Nobody wants their desktop computer to double their electricity bill. But as much as we throw various power tweaks, myths, and all other kinds of electronic hocus-pocus back-and-forth, it's important to sit back for a moment and think about the core of your system: the power supply.
It's the most critical part of your system, and the certainly don't last forever. But this is not a place where you're going to want to scrimp when it comes time to build a new machine or replace the ageing power supply in your current rig.
Tech Report ran a pretty comprehensive batch of reviews for seven power supplies recently. While that normally doesn't sound like the kind of article that would draw many eyeballs, given the specificity of the topic, it's worth your while to check out. We've also been doing some in-depth PSU testing, and gratifyingly enough came to similar conclusion.
Spoiler alert: be careful what you purchase with PSUs. As tempting as it might be to save your pennies on your power supply so you can afford that next tier of processor in your low-budget CPU, you're only going to hurt yourself in the long run.
Unlike supermarket food, Tech Report found that generic power supplies tend to lack proper cabling for all the accessory devices you'll want to plug into the PSU. Worse, their warranties can be shorter than name-brand PSUs - just like their cabling. Tech Report puts it best:
"Generic PSUs may not always be time bombs waiting to take your system down with them, but based on what we've seen, they're not worth the trouble and are poor values, anyway."
Our own recent group test of power supply units drew the same conclusion.
So what's a name-brand power supply? Well, if you go by the article, companies such as Antec, Corsair, Enermax, and OCZ offer reliable, fault-proof PSUs - at least, more so than generic brands such as Coolmax or SolyTech. But this isn't the kind of decision you should be making based on your brand familiarity at the store.
If you must, consider the "too good to be true" adage - the cheaper and jankier the power supply away from the competitive average, the greater the likelihood that you're being hoodwinked. That's not to say that the best power supplies are super-expensive, but these generic PSUs can appear the most tempting because of their absurdly low costs.
Your best bet is to treat your power supply purchase like you would any other computer part. Do your research! While power supply reviews can be harder to come by than, say, a new processor or video card, they exist. Find sites such as PC Advisor that run PSUs through a rigorous testing environment - trust us, we know, it's a time-consuming and expensive business.
And if all else fails, at least pick up something that has the longest warranty you can find. Then, when your New Power Supply Of Choice blows up, at least you'll have a wide blanket of coverage.