I’ve been toying around with updating my computer lately, and one of the topics I wanted to look at was the choice of power supply. For the most part, we’ve long since moved beyond the days where power supplies that cost under $60 are garbage. There are plenty of decent power supplies available, particularly if you don’t mind taking a step down from the latest and greatest in terms of efficiency. Anyway, I was helping a friend put together a new PC the other day and it got me curious.

First, let’s start with the system build he put together, with some input from me. Note that many of the parts were selected based on price and availability on Amazon.com, as that’s where he wanted to purchase the parts (with his Amazon Prime account). In some cases, prices have changed since the purchase a week ago, so shop around as needed. Also note that he used a GTX 780, but I’ve also run some power use tests with just the iGPU as well as with a low-end Radeon HD 7750.

Custom-Built Intel Haswell PC
Component Description Price
Processor Intel Core i5-4670K
(Quad-core 3.4-3.8GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 84W)
$220
Motherboard ASRock Z87M PRO4 (mATX) $135
Memory Corsair Vengeance 2x8GB DDR3-1866
(9-10-9-27, CMY16GX3M2A1866C9)
$190
NVIDIA Graphics EVGA GeForce GTX 780 3GB
(2304 CUDA Cores at 967-1020MHz, 6GHz GDDR5)
$520
AMD Graphics Sapphire Radeon HD 7750 1GB (Alternative GPU)
(512 Cores at 800MHz, 4.5GHz GDDR5)
$85
Integrated Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
(20 EUs at 350-1200MHz)
N/A
SSD Corsair Neutron 256GB $187
HDD Western Digital 2TB Mainstream (WDBH2D0020HNC) $80
Optical Drive ASUS 24X DVDRW SATA (DRW-24B1ST) $22
Case Silverstone PS07B (mATX) $79
Power Supply Antec EA-450 Platinum (450W) $70
Power Supply Cooler Master GX-450 (450W Bronze) (Alternative) $49
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM) $89
Total Price (not including tax or shipping, with GTX 780 and Platinum PSU) $1592

Now I’m not equipped to tell you about the quality of voltage regulation, ripple, or anything like that, but I happened to have a 450W 80 Plus Bronze PSU that I could use as a comparison point, so I asked if I could take some quick measurements once the system was put together. He agreed, and I ran through a few typical scenarios, summarized in the table below. (Note that I had to use a Molex to 8-pin PEG power adapter in order to run the GTX 780 on the old Thermaltake PSU; everything worked, but that wouldn’t be a solution I’d be comfortable with long-term.)

Bronze vs. Platinum System Power Draw (Kill-A-Watt)
Test Load Thermaltake
Litepower 450W
Antec EA-450
EarthWatts Platinum
24/7 Yearly Savings
iGPU – Idle 34 27 61.4 kWh (~$7.68)
iGPU – Cinebench Single-Core 63 55 70.1 kWh (~$8.76)
iGPU – Cinebench Multi-Core 96 86 87.7 kWh (~$10.96)
iGPU – Cinebench OpenGL 103 92 96.4 kWh (~$12.05)
AMD 7750 – Idle 45 38 61.4 kWh (~$7.68)
AMD 7750 – 3DMark 131 121 87.7 kWh (~$10.96)
NVIDIA 780 – Idle 48 41 61.4 kWh (~$7.68)
NVIDIA 780 – 3DMark 348 325 201.6 kWh (~$25.20)

For power costs, we’re looking at the worst-case scenario of leaving a system on 24/7, which really isn’t realistic unless you’re talking about a server. For a typical PC that’s on eight hours a day, using the US national average price for electricity ($0.125 per kWh), we’re looking at electrical savings of anywhere from $2.56 to $8.40 per year. That may not seem like much, but considering any decent power supply should last five years and you’re looking at $12.80 to $42 in savings. That’s for a $21 difference in upfront costs, which is much smaller than what we’ve seen in the past for the most efficient power supplies – and note that the price difference tends to grow substantially when you’re shopping for 800-1200W PSUs, though that’s perhaps a topic for another day.

For a system that mostly sits idle, you won’t quite break even by going with an 80 Plus Platinum power supply. However, if there’s a graphics card installed and you do a moderate amount of gaming you should eventually come out ahead. More extreme use cases (e.g. 24/7 Folding@Home) start to rapidly recover the initial investment in a quality power supply, and when you consider the reduced heat and noise that comes with having a more efficient PSU, it’s definitely a worthwhile upgrade. Not all 80 Plus Platinum power supplies are created equal, of course, but generally speaking the electronics and engineering required to get that certification also come with a higher level of quality than what you’ll find in lower efficiency PSUs.

As far as the above system build is concerned, I like most of the component selections, but I’m not totally sold on the case. The Silverstone PS07B looks nice enough, but getting all of the wires connected can be a bit difficult at times. The SSD location on the bottom in particular is a bit of a pain, and the power supply location at the top has some silliness to go with it. The PSU location appears designed to work with the PSU upside down (i.e. fan facing upwards and drawing in fresh air), but the manual for the case notes that if you have a PSU with a 120mm or larger fan, they recommend installing it with the fan facing down. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a PSU with a fan smaller than 120mm where you have ventilation through the bottom, but whatever. If you follow the manual’s instructions, that means the ventilation holes in the top of the case along with the magnetic dust filter are completely pointless. I ignored the instructions and installed the power supply in the most sensible manner for the case, but my advice is to look at some of the other good mATX cases.

The Silverstone PS07B isn’t a bad case, but it’s not perfect either, and for the price I think you can do better. (Apologies to my friend for his taste in cases….) For mATX, I’d at least give the BitFenix Prodigy M or Corsair’s Obsidian 350D a look. If you want a larger case, there are tons of options to sort through, depending on what you're after. Other changes you might consider include sticking with 8GB RAM (2x4GB) initially, going with a midrange GPU like a GeForce GTX 770 or Radeon R9 280X, and there are quite a few motherboard options to consider as well. The i5-4670K still strikes a nice balance between price and performance, and with a bit of overclocking you can stretch its legs a bit further.

Anyway, that’s my little two-for-one special for the day: a quick look at the difference in power use you can expect from 80 Plus Bronze vs. Platinum (obviously 80 Plus Silver and Gold will be closer in power use, but they’re also closer in price), along with a list of parts that I’ve recently used in a friend’s PC. If you have any recommendations or complaints with the build, sound off in the comments.

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  • nafhan - Monday, November 4, 2013 - link

    If you need those things. For me, this guy, and most other PC users the integrated sound and NIC on this board are just fine. Reply
  • fokka - Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - link

    i don't have any experience with this particular board, but you can also look at it the other way round: why invest in an expensive mainboard, if you don't need any more features?

    it's clear that users who buy more potent CPUs/GPUs/etc tend to also want a more feature packed mainboard, but that need not always be the case, if the chosen board works (more than) good enough.

    just a thought :)
    Reply
  • 1Angelreloaded - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Longevity, features, warranty, OC abilities as he said ocing would occur on the cpu to extend the life so stability. Reply
  • whyso - Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - link

    Haswell is so much silicon lottery that buying an expensive board (even for OC purposes) is money thats not terribly well spent. Reply
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - link

    Well I don't know about spending a LOT of money, but iirc the Asrock PRO models weren't just budget overclocking or anything, they simply had actual problems reporting voltage or had some strange ways of controlling them.

    Also, the Extreme4, which is a bit better in multiple ways (and better audio afaik?) is only $120 on newegg... Amazon has a $30 price premium on that pro4 over newegg. Even with 2day shipping, it'd probably be cheaper on newegg :(
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - link

    Yet paying more to not have to deal with the Newegg Hassle is probably worth the money spent (or the time waiting for Amazon to to match its prices).

    Once upon a time, those who knew Newegg'ed. Today, those who know stay the hell away from Newegg. If everything goes swimmingly, you PROBABLY won't notice anything. If something goes wrong, there's a world of difference between Newegg and Amazon in helping you out.
    Reply
  • Bob Todd - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Out of curiosity, what kinds of problems have you had with the egg? I still haven't run into any issues with refunds or exchanges, including on stuff that wasn't supposed to be refundable to start with. Reply
  • Morawka - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    They changed their return policies. NewEgg used to have a straightup, 30 day return window where you could return for a exchange for any reason, and refunds under certain circumstances.

    Now NewEgg has tons of return policies depending on the product. Some products come with None, not even a DOA policy, and some come with hefty restocking fee's. Some have 7 day return, some have 14 days. It all depends on what you buy, so make sure you read the product page carefully.

    Amazon's policy (products shipped and sold by amazon) is 30 day no matter what for a refund. If your returning defective DOA stuff your eligible for a full refund. If your returning stuff because you did not like it, or it does not fit etc... there is a 15% restocking fee.

    Amazon cross ships replacements without asking for credit card numbers for collateral and they pay for return shipping, or they will refund you some money if you pay for the shipping.
    Reply
  • Bob Todd - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Yeah, Amazon is definitely awesome about returns. But like I said, I've never really had issues with Newegg returns either. From my experience, you just might need to call customer support. I've been bit by buying something without a 30 day refund available that I didn't notice at the time. I spoke with support, and they let me return it anyway and paid for return shipping. They've always been good about printing return labels for me, but sometimes I do actually have to spend some time on the phone with them (not begging or anything, just explaining and then they take care of me). And as much as I love Amazon's return policy, I'm not really sure anyone should expect that to be the norm. Most companies can't afford to lose millions of dollars every quarter and stay in business. Reply
  • trivor - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    NewEgg has been excellent for me. It is even better if your credit card company pays for the Premier Shipping option which gives you 3 day delivery both ways. While there are some things that don't have the 30 day return policy that is no different from Amazon in that you have to make sure it is not an independent seller so it is just a matter of reading the return policies and making sure you know what it is. As for Amazon, it only makes sense if you get the Prime membership which is currently $99 - you have to buy a lot of stuff to make that pay off paticularly because they have tightened up their Prime shipping policies. I still prefer NewEgg for electronics. Reply

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