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  • Writer's pictureJohn O'Rangers

PC Power Supplies: My Philosophy And Recommendations

Well I got a dose of the stupids and replaced the main office PC’s power supply with this Seasonic unit. But hear me out before yelling at me.

I’ve learned quite a bit in the 8 years I’ve been at CDC and PCs are included in that education. The two computers at the shop are house builds. The one on the workbench is a simple AMD Ryzen 3 2200G based model. I actually like the little thing and it’s specifically for schematics, light internet access, and dealing with all of your screw ups with iTunes and so forth. It does its job really well.

But the one at the front desk is the main system and IS the business. If it were to break down, that would be a bad spot to be in, believe me. It started out as a similar architecture to the workbench machine, with a Ryzen 5 2400G, 16GB of 2400 MHz RAM, SSD, big HDD. It performed well in that role.

But over the last two years I decided to keep that computer a little more up to date and added a graphics card, a GTX 1650 Super. Not a high end card but a decent one. Got it as an open box buy at MicroCenter for about $160. I did find though that the Ryzen CPU I had was a bit light and waited for the right time to switch that out to a newer generation.

That time came recently and I scored a Ryzen 3 3300X, which is an outstanding processor for that specific build, and believe me the performance increase has been substantial. Very impressive CPU at a very good price.

But one thing was nagging me about that PC. The power supply. It was a cheap Thermaltake non-modular job. One of those $40 500 Watt jobs. It worked fine, never had any trouble with it. But I just felt a little spooked by it.

The problem is, PC power supplies can and will die. And when they do, they can take other components to the grave with it. Right now is a terrible time to be purchasing semiconductors, and graphics cards are a small fortune. That 1650 Super would cost easily $400 now. So the PSU I felt was a potential time bomb on this one. Thermaltake sells some outstanding PSUs, but this wasn’t one of them. It really had no protection circuits and wasn’t particularly energy efficient. It worked, but I just had reservations about it.

Some will disagree with me on this one, but it’s how I think. I replaced it with this very fine Seasonic unit. 750 Watts is kind of where it’s at nowadays. Plus it’s a much more robust and higher quality unit, and now that PC is exactly where I want it to be. 10 year warranty included too, it’s a really well made unit.

Why did I do this? That PC needs to be reliable. I’ve learned from working on iPads and phones that our electronics are often misused or not the right product for what you’re doing. iPads I see a lot, and they are used in commercial applications quite a bit. They work, much like that Thermaltake PSU, but aren’t built for it. So they get broken easily and the businessperson often is in a bad spot. Works well for me financially of course, but the customer is suffering from unneeded downtime.

I know this and would prefer to practice what I preach. The old PSU is perfectly fine for a low powered system for home use that might see a few hours use per day, if that. The main PC isn’t like that. It’s used all day, every day, and needs to be well built. So the new PSU serves as cheap insurance, because if the old one went out, you could have easily a $1,500 bill and lost data. That’s called “Penny Wise But Pound Foolish”.

So here’s the takeaway for everyone. You are best served buying the appropriate tools for the job. Yes you can get by cheaper, but the risks have to be weighed. A business-class computer, in my opinion, needs to be built to a more robust commercial standard. A small prebuilt system from a big box store really isn’t the best choice because they’re often built to a price point and can be less reliable in a business setting. And you want to talk about poor PSUs? Take a look at some of these prebuilts, my GOD!

I can attest to this from firsthand experience. A number of years back I worked for a small company. They assigned me a computer in my office, and it was a little prebuilt HP. It worked alright, but one day I turned it on and ZAP! PSU fried. And because it was a prebuilt, it was proprietary, and getting a replacement PSU was impossible. The IT guy got it working, but had to jeri-rig a generic PSU to the board and bolted it to the back of the PC. It worked but wasn’t ideal. Luckily in that situation the rest of the computer survived, but I consider that more luck than anything else.

So don’t be penny wise but pound foolish. Dell, HP, Apple, and Lenovo all have their business class PCs. This is why. I doubt their stuff is as good as this PC, but they too realize that commercial grade PCs require higher quality than consumer grade, and they have those divisions for that reason. I’m not knocking prebuilts, and some of you probably own one for a home office. They’re fine for balancing your checkbook, TurboTax, and maybe some YouTube. But if you use it heavily, eventually it will develop problems, especially if you add a GPU or more demanding components.

To summarize everything, cheaper is often not better, and over the long haul it can actually be more expensive. A poor or underpowered PSU can have drastic effects on your PCs performance and reliability. A quality unit will save on energy, last much longer, and provide greater built-in circuit protection and power filtration. And in this pandemic era, that's vital because the cost of components is very high at the moment. Don't be penny wise but pound foolish.

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