80 Plus Power Supply Ratings and What They Mean

The 80 Plus system is used to rate computer power supplies (PSUs) based on their reliability and efficiency. If you don’t understand the system, you’ll have to be lucky to avoid spending too much money or getting a too-weak power supply. The 80 Plus power supply rating system is simple and requires only a quick review to internalize.

80 Plus Certification Levels

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  • 80 Plus Standard: At least 80-percent efficiency at all power levels and a power factor of 0.9 at 50-percent output.
  • 80 Plus Bronze: 82% efficiency @ 20% load; 85% efficiency and power factor of 0.90 @ 50% load; 82% efficiency @ 100% load.
  • 80 Plus Silver: 85% efficiency @ 20% load; 88% efficiency and power factor of 0.90 @ 50% load; 87% efficiency @ 100% load.
  • 80 Plus Gold: 87% efficiency @ 20% load; 90% efficiency and power factor of 0.90 @ 50% load; 87% efficiency @ 100% load.
  • 80 Plus Platinum: 90% efficiency @ 20% load; 92% efficiency and power factor of 0.95 @ 50% load; 89% efficiency @ 100% load.
  • 80 Plus Titanium90% efficiency @ 10% load; 92% efficiency and power factor of 0.95 @ 20% load; 94% efficiency @ 50% load; 90% efficiency @ 100% load.

You’ll notice that the distinctions between various levels of 80 Plus seem small. And while they are small, it requires meaningful improvements in design and component quality to move up a rung on the 80 Plus ladder. This means that the categories denote “part groups,” helping consumers understand the quality of the electronic components therein based on their functionality. This is similar to signal-to-noise ratio in audio equipment, indicating the quality of the components rather than describing an attribute of the product that’s noticeable to the consumer.

Note that the standard for other voltage levels are different, but they’re typically calculated from the 115V tests. Redundant power supplies also have slightly different standards, but the non-redundant standards are the most-frequently cited in PC building circles.

What Does 80 Plus Mean?

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The 80 Plus system is set up to rate the efficiency of power supplies. Every power supply certified by the 80 Plus standard is at least 80-percent efficient at 20-, 50-, and 100-percent of load, hence the name. In addition to the minimum 80-percent efficiency, they need to show a power factor of at least 0.9 at 50-percent load.

The power factor is another measure of efficiency that captures the ratio of the power going into the power supply versus the power coming out of the power supply. Additional categories of tests, like a 10-percent load test for Titanium-class power supplies, have been added since the standard’s inception.

The system was originally created in 2004 with only three categories: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Today, thanks to improvements by manufacturers and a desire to differentiate higher-end products, we also have Platinum and Titanium at the top end, as well as a standard baseline (sometimes called “White” or “Clear” by OEMs) to indicate a minimal level of certification.

You can see most, if not all, 80 Plus-certified OEMs on the website for the standard, as well as some background material on testing methodology.

Which One Should I Buy?

For enthusiast PC builders in most situations, an 80 Plus Silver- or 80 Plus Gold-rated power supply is sufficient. Disagree? Let’s hear why in the comments!

A real answer to this question depends on two things: how much do you care about noise, and how much do you care about spending a ton of money? Higher-efficiency power supplies produce less heat, helping them stay quiet and keep their fans off when not needed. You pay for this feature, however, quickly jumping up in price as you ascend the ladder of efficiency.

There’s also the raw efficiency and carbon footprint concerns: the difference in power draw might be noticeable on your electric bill, depending on how your run your computer. But, for most machines, the practical difference is less significant than you might wish.

As the price goes up, you’ll also get access to other features, like modular connectors, improved cable wraps, and better warranties. These are all great reasons to spend more money on a product, and they can help justify the expense of $200 and up power supplies. Just know that the difference in performance might not be as obvious as you hope between the highest-end power supply and one half its price.

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One comment

  1. For at least 15 years I’ve been refurbishing and using discarded computers. This means I play a lot of mix and match with components, including power supplies. So far, I have had very good luck with using and re-using OEM PSUs. None of them are or have been 80 Plus rated. Until such time as the PSUs that I have start failing, I don’t see myself getting 80 Plus rated PSUs.

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