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Modular Power Supplies Less Efficient Say Makers

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 11 comments

It's all about power efficiency these days.

Up until the last few years, few paid any attention to the little box that actually powers a PC--the power supply. Now with certifications like the 80-Plus, we're able to at least distinguish efficient power supplies from the rest of the pack. But even with 80-Plus, more and more power supplies are jumping on the bandwagon, so while product quality goes up overall, things are still not where manufacturers want them to be.

There's more detail to power supplies than can fit in the scope of this article, but we spoke to several power supply manufacturers at Computex and the focus customers put on their units.

Despite modular power supplies being a hot product, don't be quick to grab the up-take. The companies we spoke to told us that modular power supplies are less efficient than those that have their cables hard-wired. The reason being that the extra connection you make, adds resistance, and hence, increases heat and reduces efficiency.

Enermax, Seasonic, and Corsair all told us that if you're looking to maximize efficiency, go for a non-modular PSU.

Are the differences great? No one gave us any hard numbers, but they did indicate that the numbers are measurable. PC Power & Cooling, now part of OCZ, says the same thing:

Due to their look, convenience, and cost savings for manufacturers, modular plugs have become a popular power supply feature. Unfortunately, there has been little or no discussion of the impact of this feature on overall performance and reliability. The fact is, modular plugs limit power by adding to electrical resistance. The voltage drop can be as much as would occur in 2 feet of standard wire. Worse yet, modular plugs utilize delicate pins that can easily loosen, corrode, and burn, creating the potential for a major system failure. That's why professional system builders specify uninterrupted wire!

So in the end, you have to choose: do you go with a modular PSU for cable management and appearance, or do you spring for a hard-wired PSU?

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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 7 June 2009 19:11
    I will go for modular 80 PLUS PSU, modular is very important for me because I uses only 2 SATA power cable, if i have non-modular then i will have a big bunch of cable without using it. you might wonder why i need so little cable, that is because i use 1 sata hdd, and 1 sata odd. all case fan and system fan connect to my mobo fan connector.
  • 0 Hide
    timbozero , 7 June 2009 19:43
    Surely all PSUs have this problem at some level. After all , even the non-modular ones connect all power at 1 end via a plug ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    Clintonio , 7 June 2009 20:35
    Ugly and efficient if the client wants a decent PC without worried of appearance or manual upgrades.

    If the client wants a better looking PCs, I go modular for them.

    Also, @timbozero: The point is that modular ones add MORE resistance. Every single electronic component in the home has this problem as a common factor, so we can ignore it when discussing these sorts of things.
  • Display all 11 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    lumpy , 7 June 2009 23:16
    how about instead of just complaining about it,psu makers work on making a better modular plug design?
    Ever seen the plugs on aircraft electronics,almost all modular.(plugs)
    What co./co.s told You this crap?I will avoid there stuff.
    Pure cop-out b/s.
  • -1 Hide
    lumpy , 7 June 2009 23:46
    Oh sorry...Enermax,corsair and seasonic are named.
    I will avoid these co.s
    They seem to have given-up on making power efficient modular design.

    I bet these guys just love crapy molex connectors.

    Everything is pluged in at the other end any way.
  • 0 Hide
    skalagon , 8 June 2009 02:36
    My PC looks mad inside since its not modular, connections lying idle on top of the graphics card, other snakin bout the place and poking out where least expected. Il definately get a modular next time regardless of the inefficiencies, otherwise it just looks stupid and its a pain in the ass to put anything new in.
  • 0 Hide
    djcoolmasterx , 8 June 2009 08:25
    Its cheaper to make non-modular PSU's.
  • 0 Hide
    Nick_C , 8 June 2009 14:36
    @timbozero: If only connected at one end, no power consumption therefore no added power consumption due to increased resistance.

    Am I the only one to bundle the unused (non-modular) cables and secure in an unused 5.25" by?
  • 0 Hide
    LePhuronn , 8 June 2009 22:00
    Why bother with modular cables when you can just tuck everything unused into a 5.25" bay (as Nick_C says) or work it all down the underside of the motherboard with caps on all the unused plugs?
  • 0 Hide
    jeanluclariviere , 9 June 2009 02:43
    I'm using a corsair 750 non-modular PSU and routed all of the mess on the side of the case, or neatly hidden under the HDD bay...looks good to me...
  • 0 Hide
    avatar_raq , 9 June 2009 21:23
    I would definitely go for a semi-modular PSU. I think the power efficiency difference is so small that the advantage of modularity 'prevails' !