80 Plus Rating Is Not What You Think

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Buying a new PSU? The last thing you want is to solely rely on the 80 Plus Rating.

Story Highlight
  • 80 PLUS Certification only focuses on efficiency, not overall quality or safety. A higher rating (Gold, Platinum, Titanium) doesn’t necessarily mean a better PSU.
  • Manufacturers can exploit a system to get certification for lower-quality PSUs based on a previously certified platform.
  • Cybenetics uses a more thorough testing methodology that considers factors beyond just efficiency.

Unlike other PC components like CPUs, GPUs, and RAM, when it comes to PSUs, there are no standardized or easy-to-grasp benchmarks that can help an individual decide which exact PSU will be the best pick for his/her gaming PC.

80 Plus Certification program (from CLEAResult organization) was initiated in an effort to get all the PSU manufacturers enrolled in a Green/Energy Efficient Program. As these PSUs convert mains high voltage AC to low voltage DC, during this conversion process, some amount of energy gets wasted.

Though these wasted energy/wattage numbers may seem quite small for a single PSU, multiplying these numbers for hundreds or even thousands of users will give us the total wasted wattage that could have been enough to power an entire US-based house for approximately two days straight.

So now you guys must be like, “Wait a minute, we thought 80 Plus defines how good a PSU really is, like how it is a lot safer to use, how it’s going to protect the rest of the PC components in case something goes wrong. But you’re telling us that it’s only about the efficiency numbers?”

Well (sorry to spoil it for you guys), Yes! 80 Plus certification mainly focuses on PSU’s efficiency numbers and that’s it! Well, that’s not just it as there are too many other factors that make this certification even more confusing and misleading.

Two Major Factors of Misguided Information

be quiet! Dark Power Pro 13 80+ Branding
be quiet! Dark Power Pro 13 80+ Branding (Image By Tech4Gamers)

User Based

As mentioned above, having no standardized benchmarks soon got people into adapting 80 Plus’ White, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum & Titanium certification standards. This led an average user to believe that only having a Gold or Platinum-rated PSU would mean a much better & reliable PSU and lesser-rated PSUs (like White or Bronze) would end up frying their system.

Flaws Within The Certification

TOP PSU (Image By Tech4Gamers)
XPG CYBERCORE II 1000W (Image By Tech4Gamers)

80 Plus Certification’s testing is mainly based on a PSU’s efficiency numbers, on the loads ranging from 20%, 50% & 100%, and even this testing is done at a fixed temperature of 23°C.

These are not only very unrealistic testing conditions for a PSU but also there are many other crucial testing parameters like Voltage Regulation, Transient Response (this has become quite an essential testing for upcoming power-hungry GPUs), Voltage Ripple, Over Power Protection (OPP), Over Current Protection (OCP), Over Temperature Protection (OTP) etc to name a few, are simply neglected.

Without all of these mentioned tests, one can not properly evaluate a specific PSU to be better, reliable and stable for his/her gaming PC.

So the good ol’ argument of “Get an 80 Plus Gold and all your worries will be gone.” simply gets out of the window now, especially in light of the above-mentioned facts because this sentence doesn’t really take account of the most important PSU testing aspects. Don’t believe me? How about I throw out another fact? Heard about Gigabyte’s exploding PSUs?? Well, they were 80 Plus Gold Certified, wink wink!

Loopholes in 80 Plus Certification

SANR Casecom Platform
A Look Inside The ENERMAX REVOLUTION D.F. X 1050W (Image By Tech4Gamers)

One of the most bizarre features of this certification program is the OEM Platform Certification Renewal System, which a lot of PSU manufacturers take advantage of.

So at first, an OEM will get its PSU platform certified with CLEAResult’s 80 Plus Certification and then the same OEM can manufacture and sell a slightly cut-down version of the same platform to other brands. And now, because the platform has already been given 80 Plus Certification, these brands don’t have to certify their PSUs from scratch.

They will pay half the fee and CLEAResult will renew their 80 Plus Certification without performing all their required testing procedures. Hurrah! A win-win for both!

ALL THAT GLITTER (GOLD/PLATINUM/TITANIUM) IS NOT GOLD!

Tech4Gamers PSU Testing Equipment
Tech4Gamers PSU Testing Equipment

A higher efficiency rating of a PSU doesn’t necessarily translate into a well-designed, well-built PSU. As defined above, a PSU brand can just acquire an already 80 Plus certified PSU platform from any OEM and then can simply ask them to use only the cheapest components inside (capacitors, MOSFETs, etc) to cut down the cost.

As it has also already been cleared now that these certifications don’t even take safety/protection tests into account, getting an expensive or a higher efficiency rated PSU just because you think it is going to protect your PC and its components, is simply meaningless.

As long as you guys are rocking a mid-range Gaming PC, e.g, Core i5 12th Gen with RTX 3060ti, you are absolutely fine with any good quality Bronze-rated PSU which is based on a newer DC-DC regulation design instead of Group Regulated one.

Cybenetics, Our Savior, Comes To The Rescue

Thankfully, there is an organization that has created one of the most advanced, thorough, and detailed PSU testing methodologies, called Cybenetics. It is said that when manufacturers send their PSUs for Cybenetics’ certification, they secretly have to perform some magical rituals in their factory so that their PSUs will get appropriate certification and won’t end up exploding during the tough tests of Cybenetics.

Yeah of course it’s just a joke but PSUs literally die during their evaluation (as a matter of fact, it was actually Cybenetics that reported about Gigabyte’s exploding PSUs first) and oftentimes manufacturers have to send them the same PSUs multiple times just so that they can meet Cybenetics’ certification.

Getting their certification and passing all of their tests not only proves that a PSU meets all the safety standards but also specifies the robustness of the PSU if it meets unprecedented conditions that may prove to be disastrous for the PC components (tests like Over-Current/Power Protection).

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