A Power Supply Unit (PSU) is one of the most vital and overlooked components for any PC build. You’ll often see novice builders spend much less on a PSU in order to use that money on other components. However, without a quality power supply, your PC will be severely lacking, even with a higher quality CPU, GPU, motherboard, etc. Here, we take a closer look at the argument of modular vs non-modular PSUs.
You may be asking what the best PSU option for you and your build is? Well, there are several factors to keep in mind, including the modularity of the unit. Read on for more info about PSUs and how the differences in modularity may affect your decision.
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What to Consider When Choosing a Power Supply Unit
There are three major things to consider when choosing a PSU for your PC:
- Power output
Let’s take a look at how each one affects your build.
The power output or wattage should be the first thing you consider, with most PC’s requiring at least a 300w unit. That said, you need to be careful not just to meet the minimum requirements. As a rule of thumb, choosing a PSU with double the output provides ample room for potential upgrades and offers a nice buffer against margin of error. Moreover, doing so helps minimize heat production and therefore extends the lifespan of the unit and your PC.
An additional feature to look for with power output is power allocation to each rail. These rails apply to different voltages for specific components within your PC, and need to have enough for your particular CPU and GPU to avoid triggering a shutdown. The go-to option is a single rail PSU, which focuses on allocation to the GPU. Still, a multi-rail unit is also viable (but much more complicated to match effectively).
Once you understand your required minimum power output, you’ll want to move on to efficiency. Higher quality efficiency means your unit is designed with better components that produce less heat and minimize noise levels. Like with the power output, you’ll want to use a power supply with a Total Design Power (TDP) rating that’s at least double your system requirement.
Keep in mind that the higher the rating, the more expensive the unit, which can lead to significant price increases over any other feature. Finding a PSU that is on the top end of the middle tier (i.e., 80+ gold) should meet a good balance between quality and price.
Last on our list is modularity, aka the overall versatility of your PSU.
While the first two considerations are purely a numbers game – your PC needs a specific amount of power and efficiency, period – modularity is entirely your choice. Let’s take a closer look at modularity and how it affects your PC build.
Why is Power Supply Modularity an Important Factor?
Modularity refers to the cables in power supply units and how customizable they are. The necessity for higher levels of customization depends on the type of power supply and the needs of your build.
Naturally, there are a handful of modular options on the market, and each come with their own sets of pros and cons to consider.
What are the Differences in Power Supply Modularity?
Power supply modularity can be broken down into three types of units:
The type of modularity reflects the level of customization and ease of use for the unit, with fully-modular having the greatest level of versatility. It may be tempting to jump to the idea that a fully-modular PSU is the best option, but it’s much more nuanced than that. Let’s dive into the key differences between each unit.
What’s the Difference Between Full, Semi, and Non-Modular Power Supplies?
The primary differences between these units is the level of quality, price-point, reliability and customization options. Non-modular units will be the cheapest option, in both price and quality, meaning that you’re fine with it being a one and done option for your PC (potentially with a short lifespan).
On the flip-side, the fully-modular option is the most expensive and versatile unit, and the semi-modular option falls in the middle. These basic differences can help you quickly differentiate which unit type is right for you.
We’ll now look into more specific pros and cons for each type to help you uncover which option makes the most sense for you.
Fully-Modular Power Supply
The key benefits of the fully modular PSU are how easy it makes cable management and how flexible the unit is between builds. The cables themselves are fully replaceable, with none being permanently attached to the PSU. You can eliminate needless cords and switch pieces in and out, depending on what you’re looking to optimize with your power supply.
However, if this is your first build or you’re looking to save a bit of cash on a PSU, the fully-modular unit probably isn’t for you. It provides more cords than necessary for most PC’s and leans into customization over pure functionality with the likes of color-coordinated and length options.
You’ll really only want to go fully modular if you’re willing to put in the installation work, want a longer-lasting unit with replaceable parts, and don’t mind spending extra money purely for customization purposes. The benefits are incredibly valuable, but for a first time or budget build, your money is probably better spent elsewhere.
Semi-Modular Power Supply
The semi-modular PSU options find a great balance between simplicity and customization. With a semi-modular PSU, every cord is replacable, aside from the permanently attached 8-pin and 24-pin connectors.
Surprisingly, the base prices between semi and fully modular units isn’t all that different. The cost savings instead come from the permanent cords on the semi-modular PSU, especially if you find yourself wanting to replace every cable on a fully-modular option. It comes down to how much you want to change and how much you’re willing to spend to get those changes.
The lack of drastic differences and minimal price disparity may make the semi-modular unit less attractive for your build. They may seem like an unnecessary half step in a lot of ways, but can still be a great option if you find the complex nature of the fully-modular version unappealing.
Non-Modular Power Supply
The last and most basic option to consider for a power supply is the non-modular unit. All of the cables are there (and attached), which means that the price point is often much lower than its modular counterparts. One thing to note is that more than likely, you won’t be using every cord available on the PSU, which can be a non-start for cable management professionals.
There are cable management options on some units that help hide the clutter, so be on the lookout for that if you’re set on the non-modular option. However, if you have a reasonably large PC build, this issue may be nonexistent and can even assist with airflow issues that the extra cords can create within a smaller PC.
We’d recommend this unit for those not seeking customization, or who only want a unit that works effectively for a couple of years and don’t mind a bit of clutter. It’s an excellent option for those on a budget and can easily be replaced down the line if it doesn’t last. That said, if you have a smaller build or cannot stand poor cord management, you may want to consider jumping up to the fully-modular model instead.
Putting it Together
Overall, the general differences between the types of modular units aren’t all that drastic, especially between the semi-modular and fully-modular options. What it will really comes down to is how much you’re willing to spend and what level of customization you want from your unit.
If you’re ok with an out of the box solution for a cheaper price, the non-modular PSU is a great option to start with. The upgrade to either a semi or fully-modular PSU will depend on how much more you’re willing to spend, how long you expect the PSU to last, and your desire to mess with cord management. The minimal price difference between the two types of power supplies makes it difficult to recommend the semi-modular option when the fully-modular provides greater long-term value.
No matter which you choose, be sure to remember the core requirements of your PSU and take your time when deciding. A reliable PSU is a vital piece of your PC and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought.