The decade of ignoring your gaming PC’s power supply is over

I never think about the power supply of my gaming PC. It’s a legacy of 850 W! Direct power I have for years and transferred between various versions.

Like most PC creators, I intended to replace it once it reached the end of its useful life, which would mean I have a few more years before that becomes a problem. That is, with the hardware I have now.

We’re on the verge of the next generation of GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, and all the signs point to them getting more power than ever. As innocuous as the best PC power supplies are, PSUs are poised to see lower supply and higher prices when next-generation GPUs arrive, especially if many manufacturers need to upgrade. It’s been easy to ignore your power supply for most of a decade, but that time is coming to an end.

A decade of loneliness

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

For about a decade, a 750 W power supply was more than enough even for higher-end gaming PCs. Nvidia’s GTX 690, launched about 10 years ago, has surpassed 300 W, and Intel’s highest-end Sandy Bridge-E chip has reached 130 W. Since then, power demands have remained relatively stable, and in many cases, descended.

So if you bought a 750 W power supply with a 10-year warranty (Seasonic, Corsair, and EVGA, among others, offer 10-year warranties on many power supplies) a decade ago, there was no reason to upgrade. That is changing. Nvidia, AMD and Intel are raising the power ranges to maximums we have never seen before.

This is the first time in a long time that components require an upgrade.

The current generation shows many signs of this. The RTX 3080, for example, is the first GPU in its class to exceed 250 W and the RTX 3090 Ti is the first consumer GPU to exceed 400 W. Similarly, Intel’s Core i9-12900K can consume about 240 W when it is increasing, almost doubling the energy consumption of previous generations. I still don’t know what to expect from the Ryzen 7000, but the Ryzen 7 5800X3D has already shown that AMD’s designs could have higher thermal and power demands in the future.

750W is no longer enough for a high-end gaming PC, although companies like Nvidia suggest that yes (that’s the official PSU recommendation for the RTX 3090, after all). While replacing the power supply with increased efficiency or shutting down a drive that has reached the end of its service life is a good idea, this is the first time in a long time that components have been upgraded. And that is increasingly true for the next generation.

The problem is not that you have to replace your PSU with next-generation upgrades, but we have seen a shortage of power supply and rising prices. If you want to upgrade when next-generation CPUs and GPUs occur, now is the time to upgrade your power supply.

Don’t wait for prices to go up

Installing a power supply in a PC case.

We are looking at the barrel of the RTX 40 and RX 7000 series, which are rumored to have an extremely high energy demand. Some filters say the RTX 4090 could consume up to 600 W, and while we haven’t heard of AMD’s RX 7000 cards yet, the current generation RX 6000 cards are already bringing power to heights that AMD has never reached before.

However, it may be too late to wait for new generation pieces to appear. The beginning of 2020 led to a shortage of energy supply due to the pandemic, which continued throughout the year due to increased demand from cryptocurrency miners. Not to mention the builders who upgrade their PSUs to accommodate a new graphics card that contains more power.

We do not have a pandemic to face in 2022, at least not in full force, but that does not mean that the demand for energy sources will not increase. If the rumors are true about the power demands of the new generation components, I would bet that many people who rely on the adage that 750 W are enough will look for an upgrade.

Energy sources will almost certainly see a rise in prices.

Nor do you discount cryptocurrency mining. Even if Ethereum fell, it could rise again. Proof of Stake has been perpetually lagging behind and we have two generations of history showing what happens when new GPUs are released. I certainly hope miners don’t buy next-generation cards and power supplies with them. But based on the last two generations, it’s a safer assumption than assuming that GPUs and power supplies won’t run out.

Prices are another important factor. While there is a strong possibility that we will not see a shortage of PSU as early as 2020, we will almost certainly see an increase in prices. Right now, during the calm before next-generation GPUs appear, power supplies are cheaper than they were six months ago.

November 18, 2021 May 18, 2022 Percentage change
EVGA SuperNOVA GA 850W $ 130 $ 90 -30.8%
Corsair RM850x $ 135 $ 125 -7.4%
Seasonic Focus GX 1000W $ 120 $ 200 66.7%
Corsair RM750 $ 110 $ 105 -4.5%
EVGA SuperNOVA G6 1000W $ 230 $ 175 -23.9%

Source: PC Part Picker

There are some power supplies that are more expensive (Seasonic PSUs in particular are always more expensive than six months ago), but many of the more popular options are up to 30% cheaper than late last year. New energy sources are also seeing discounts. The recently released Gigabyte Aorus P1200W, for example, dropped to $ 310 after launching less than a month ago at about $ 380.

Prices from six months ago were also not the peaks of these power supplies. The Corsair RM750 sold for up to $ 130, for example, and the EVGA SuperNOVA GA 850W sold for $ 140 to $ 160 for most of 2021. Once demand increases with the new GPUs, prices could return to these peaks.

What I recommend

Someone untangles the PSU cables.

You should buy a new power supply if you plan to upgrade to a new generation GPU before they arrive. This could be now, especially if you’re sitting in an aging power supply, or it could be after Nvidia and AMD finally pull the curtain on our next generation of options. Don’t wait until you buy a new GPU, where you probably pay a premium for a piece you can get cheaper now.

This is the perfect time to start thinking about what you want too. If you are reading this on the day it is released, Computex starts tomorrow. Since the upgrade well has dried up for AMD and Nvidia, I hope we see a look at the next generation. And that means the PSU needs to be upgraded.

This article is part of ReSpec, an ongoing fortnightly column that includes in-depth discussions, tips, and reports on the technology behind PC gaming.

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