HTPC GuideZertz , technodanvan , tacohunter52 - March 15, 2009
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The Power Supply:
PSU's come in all shapes and sizes with varying qualities and wattages. So what type of PSU is most suited for an HTPC? Most mid-ranged 400-600W PSU's should prove to be sufficient. You may however have to deal with noise. Because of this, it's recommended you purchase a PSU with a fan that is temperature controlled. This way your fans won't blast unless they actually need to. It is also recommended that you purchase a PSU at least twice the size you think you'll need. This means if you think you'll be needing a 200W PSU, you should purchase a 400W one instead. One reason is expandability, and another is that it won't get to full load so the fan will stay quiet.
So how do you decide how big of a PSU to get? Well there are a few guidelines:
- Look at the motherboard manufacturer's power recommendations in the manual (or online). This should be used a basis for selecting your power supply. Just remember it's a basis. There are other things you'll need to take into account, not the least of which is your GPU.
- Be sure to check the power requirements for your graphics card to ensure that your PSU has enough amperage to effectively power them.
- Ensure that the PSU you decide on has all the connectors you will require. Two 4-pin 12v plugs do not make a suitable substitute for an 8-pin 12v plug
- Seriously consider going with a 'modular' power supply, especially if you're using a smaller case. Removing unnecessary cables will greatly improve the amount of room you have to work with.
- Be cautious of who you buy your PSU's from. While it is a nice thought to have the ability to purchase a $20 500W PSU, it just isn't the best choice you could make.
Below are a few of my choices. Keep in mind I kept them 600W and below. This is all you will need for any HTPC. If you're one of those people who must have a 1200W beast, then be my guest. I'm also going to list some passive cooling PSU's. While some may not like the idea of a PSU without a fan, others may find it to be the best choice because they should make almost no noise.
- Thermaltake Purepower W0100RU 500W: A good low priced 500W PSU. As long as you're not using a huge GPU, the W0100RU should have all the connectors you need. On top of that, it uses a low-noise 12cm fan.
- Thermaltake TR2 RX W0134RU 550W: The Thermaltake TR2 RX W0134RU 550W is a modular PSU. This will give you the ability to remove any uneeded wires, which could allow for way more room in your case depending on your components. It comes with 8 molex connectors, 4 SATA connectors, and 2 6-Pin PCIe connectors. It uses a 140mm ball bearing fan that is extremely quiet. After my old PSU died, I temporarily used this baby. It did a great job and I was able to stil use my GTX 260. I would deffinetely recommend taking a look at it.
- Antec earthwatts EA380 380W: A very cheap PSU that will work just fine for basic HTPC's. You'll only have 2 SATA connectors to work with, but for a basic HTPC you shouldn't be using more than one HDD and optical drive anyway. Once again this PSU utilizes a low noise fan.
- Antec BP550 Plus 550W: The BP550 Plus is Antec's modular offering. It should be able to power an HTPC, and has the connectors to do it. With this PSU you'll be able to utilize 6 SATA connectors, 2 PCIe connectors, and 6 molex connectors. In the case of HTPC's, modular is always a plus, so I'd say looking into this might be a good idea.
- CORSAIR CMPSU-520HX 520W: Corsair is known for making quality products, and this PSU is no different. It is both quite and powerful. It utilizes a 120mm ball bearing fan, and has enough connectors for just about any build. It is modular, and what that should mean to you is "extra room." If you don't mind shelling out $100 this PSU is well worth it.
- CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W: The Corsair CMPSU-400CX is a high end 400W PSU. While I wouldn't use it on one of the bigger HTPC's, you definetely could. I'm recommending this for basic HTPC's, but I'm sure it can handle more.
- FSP Group ZEN 400 400W: I mentioned the possibility of purchasing a completely silent, passively-cooled PSU. FSP Group has done just that with their ZEN 400. It has 4 SATA connectors, 4 molex connectors, and is SLI certified. While it may not be perfect for everyone, I'm going to go as far as reccomending it to any one building a basic HTPC.
- FSP Group FX600-GLN 600W: What we have here is a powerful PSU that would be more than enough for any HTPC. Once again it has a quiet 120mm ball bearing fan, and enough cables to power whatever you throw at it. You'll be provided with 6 SATA connectors, 6 molex connectors, and 2 PCIe connectors. This should be enough to keep anyone happy, and if you're building a mid range HTPC I'd look into this PSU.
- PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS500 500W: While I've never used a PC&P cooling PSU I've heard great things about their products. I looked this product up and within two hours it was sold out. This is the first time I've ever seen this happen on Newegg, and while they might have only had one in stock while I was looking at it, it's definetely something to mention. This PSU has 6 SATA, 6 molex, and 2 PCIe connectors. On top of that it has automatic fan speed control. This guarantees it won't get loud unless it has to. It should power just about anything you can throw at it, and I'd definitely give it a try.
- PC Power & Cooling Silencer PPCS370X 370W: Here we've got a slightly less powerful PSU, with an automatic fan speed control. This PSU will be perfect for a basic HTPC.
It is important to remember that some PSU's may not give you accurate power ratings. The label on a PSU might claim 80% efficiency, but what it's not telling you is that this rating only applies when operating at 25C (77F). This is completely ridiculous because an average PSU will run temps of at least 40C. The airflow in an HTPC case will not help this situation, as there usually isn't any. The fan on the PSU will help a little, but remember the air in your system has already been heated by your other components. For this reason I wouldn't buy a PSU from a brand you've never heard of before. Stick with a trusted brand, as this can save you a lot of trouble.
I'd also shy away from PSU's that come bundled with cases. While the company you purchased the case from may be great, the PSU they include probably isn't. Some off-brand PSU's might claim a 700W rating, but a quick read of the label will show this is only the peak rating. If you want to save some money by using an included PSU, you'll probably be fine. Just don't expect it to work as well as it says it does.