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

I never think about the power supply in my gaming PC. It’s an 850W bequiet! Straight Power which I have owned for years and transferred between several buildings.

Like most PC builders, I had planned to replace it when it reached the end of its life, which would mean I have a few more years before it becomes a problem. So with the hardware I have now.

We are on the edge of the next generation of GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, and all indications are that they are drawing more power than ever before. As harmless as the best PC power supplies are, PSUs are ready to see lower supply and higher prices when the next generation of GPUs arrive, especially if many builders need to upgrade. It has been easy to ignore the power supply for more than 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 has been more than enough for even the best gaming PCs. Nvidia’s GTX 690, which was launched about 10 years ago, peaked at 300W, and Intel’s highest Sandy Bridge-E chip went up to 130W. Since then, the need for power has remained relatively stable, and has in many cases declined.

So if you bought a 750W power supply with a 10-year warranty (including Seasonic, Corsair and EVGA offer a 10-year warranty on many PSUs) a decade ago, there has been no reason to upgrade. That’s changing. Nvidia, AMD and Intel are pushing power areas to heights we have never seen before.

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

The current generation shows many signs of that. The RTX 3080, for example, is the first GPU in its class to push past the 250W mark, and the RTX 3090 Ti is the first consumer GPU to ever surpass the 400W mark. Similarly, the Intel Core i9-12900K can draw around 240W as it increases, which almost doubles the power output of previous generations. I do not know what’s waiting for the Ryzen 7000 yet, but the Ryzen 7 5800X3D already showed that AMD’s design may have higher heat and power requirements in the future.

750W is no longer enough for an advanced gaming PC, although companies like Nvidia suggest it is (it is after all the official PSU recommendation for RTX 3090). While it’s a good idea to replace the power supply for higher efficiency or to cycle out a device that has reached the end of its life, this is the first time in a long time that components force an upgrade. And it looks increasingly true for the next generation.

The problem is not that you may have to replace your PSU with next generation upgrades – it is that we could see power shortages and increased prices. If you want to upgrade when the next generation of CPUs and GPUs roll around, it’s time to upgrade your power supply.

Do not wait until prices go up

Install a power supply in a PC cover.

We stare down the barrel of the RTX 40 series and RX 7000, both of which are rumored to have extremely high power requirements. Some nice ones say that the RTX 4090 can draw as much as 600W, and although we have not heard of AMD’s RX 7000 card yet, the current generation RX 6000 card already pushes the power to heights AMD has never gone before.

However, it may be too late to wait for the next generation of parts to emerge. The beginning of 2020 led to a lack of power supply due to the pandemic, which continued throughout the year due to increased demand from miners in cryptocurrency. This is not to mention developers who are upgrading their PSUs to accommodate a new graphics card that draws more power.

We do not have a pandemic to deal with in 2022 – at least not in full force – but that does not mean that the demand for power supplies will not increase. If the rumors are true about the power requirements of the next generation of components, I would bet that many who rest on the saying that 750W is enough will look for an upgrade.

Power supplies will almost certainly have increased prices.

Do not give a discount on cryptocurrency mining either. Although Ethereum has fallen off, it may rise again. Proof of Stake has been forever delayed, and we have two generations of history that shows what happens when new GPUs are launched. I absolutely hope that miners do not buy the next generation of cards and power supplies with them. But based on the last two generations, it is a safer assumption than assuming that GPUs and power supplies will not sell out.

Prices are another big factor. Although there is a solid chance that we will not see a PSU shortage like the one at the beginning of 2020, we will almost certainly see increased prices. Right now, during the break before the next generation of 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 – Especially Seasonic PSUs are consistently more expensive than they were six months ago – but many of the most popular options are as much as 30% cheaper than they were late last year. New power supplies also get discounts. For example, the recently launched Gigabyte Aorus P1200W is down to $ 310 after launching less than a month ago close to $ 380.

Prices six months ago were not the peaks for these power supplies either. The Corsairs RM750 has sold for as much as $ 130, for example, and the EVGA SuperNOVA GA 850W has sold for between $ 140 and $ 160 for most of 2021. When demand has increased with new GPUs, prices can return to these peaks.

What I recommend

Someone who is releasing PSU cables.

You should buy a new power supply if you are planning to upgrade to a next generation GPU for they arrive. It could be now, especially if you’re sitting on a power supply that’s getting older, or it could be after Nvidia and AMD finally pull back the curtain on our next generation options. Just do not wait until you get a new GPU, where you will probably pay a premium for a part 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 published, Computex will start tomorrow. Given that the well of updates has run dry for AMD and Nvidia, I expect that we will see a glimpse of the next generation. And that means a PSU upgrade is in order.

This article is part of ReSpec – an ongoing weekly column that includes discussions, advice and in-depth reporting on the technology behind PC gaming.

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