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What Is a Modular Power Supply, and Why Should You Use One?

modular power supply

What Is a Modular Power Supply, and Why Should You Use One?

Key Points

  • Modular power supplies utilize detachable cables, allowing for flexible cable arrangement and better cable management.
  • They make cable management easier, improve airflow, and reduce dust accumulation inside the PC case.
  • Modular power supplies are easier to clean and troubleshoot, as faulty cables can be easily replaced.
  • Semi-modular power supplies are a good option for medium-sized cases, while standard power supplies are more suitable for beginners and smaller cases.

The world of computing is littered with choices. A modular power supply is just one of many choices a builder can make when piecing together their rig. Now, the power supply is an absolutely crucial element of any PC build. However, there are certain advantages and disadvantages when it comes to picking a modular power supply.

That said, they do present an inherent advantage over the likes of semi-modular and standard power supplies, which will be explored in depth. Still, should you use one of these PSUs in your next build? Read on and find out if the extra benefits are worth dealing with the drawbacks.

What Is a Modular Power Supply?

Modular power supplies utilize a system of detachable cables. This allows for flexible cable arrangement, as you likely aren’t going to need every cable in a system. Now, power supplies as a whole provide current to the whole computer. It takes the AC voltage from the wall and converts it to actual DC power that a PC can use.

A modular power supply effectively functions in the same manner as any other power supply. You’ll have 80 Plus ratings you’ll need to notice, especially if you’re putting together a high-end build.

Why Should You Use a Modular Power Supply?

There are a few different reasons that you should pick a modular power supply for your next build.

Flexibility

Every PC build is different, and usually designed around the needs and wants of the user. Opting for a modular PSU allows you a certain degree of flexibility when it comes to which components you want to incorporate in your build. Non-modular power supplies typically have all the cables as a bundle directly jutting out from the unit itself.

modular power supply
Modular power supplies typically have all the ports labeled for easy connections.

Now, this has its benefits, but you’re often left with a snarl of cabling that is an eyesore in most cases. Using a modular power supply allows you to connect the cables you need with room for expansion and additional components as needed.

Cable Management

The aforementioned snarl of cables has to go somewhere inside of a PC case. Usually, cases will have a place to tuck them out of the way, as well as different ways to route them for optimal placement. However, cable management is very much a learned skill, and not usually one beginner builders are going to have nailed down.

A modular power supply makes cable management far easier as a whole. Since you’re selecting which cables you need for a given build, there is a lot less clutter and room taken by the wiring. This should ideally allow for better airflow, a tidier internal case, and fewer places for dust to gather inside your PC.

Maintenance

When it comes to cleaning the internal components of your PC, it can be a cinch with a modular power supply. You can remove cables as needed for dusting, meaning there’s no trapped detritus taking up space and making your heat management sub-optimal.

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02/08/2024 05:45 am GMT

It is significantly easier to clean up when you can remove and replace wiring as needed, as opposed to something like a standard PSU where there isn’t an option. Now, not every user is going to be fastidious in their desire to keep the inside of their case clean. However, it does have major benefits and allows your PC to operate optimally as needed.

Troubleshooting

Imagine for just a moment that you have a component that has failed. A hard drive or graphics card has just disappeared from your Device Manager. Now, typically, you’ll have to go through the standard procedure of powering off the PC, reseating and plugging things in, and going from there.

In the event of a faulty cable, you aren’t really left with much recourse when using a standard power supply. You’ll likely have to purchase and install a whole new power supply, which is like rebuilding your entire computer from scratch again.

However, with a modular power supply, you can just unplug the faulty cable, replace it, and resume computing as you would normally. This means that upkeep and troubleshooting are significantly easier when using such a flexible PSU.

Modular vs. Semi-Modular Power Supplies

Modular power supplies typically are larger and more expensive than their other counterparts. This has the added benefit of using cables as needed, while also keeping the internal case aesthetics more pleasing. However, it might not be the best fit for all users, especially beginners or users choosing a smaller case.

modular power supply
Semi-modular power supplies allow for flexible connections while having core cables remain integrated directly into the device.

Semi-modular power supplies are a hybrid approach to the PSU paradigm. You have a few dedicated connections, which helps to keep the overall size of the PSU itself down. However, you do have the option of adding more components with the included connectors and ports.

Now, semi-modular power supplies still require a certain degree of cable management skills, but they can readily fit into medium-sized cases without issue. If you’ve decided to go for a full-sized ATX case, a modular power supply is a great choice. That said, users looking at medium-sized cases are likely better off using a semi-modular power supply.

Modular vs. Non-Modular Power Supplies

A modular power supply requires a certain sort of case to make for an ideal fit. You’ll typically need a full-sized case. There is also the simple fact that there aren’t standard connectors across the board for all modular PSUs. As such, a Corsair and EVGA PSU will likely have different cables when picking a modular example from either manufacturer.

Standard PSUs have been part of computing for a number of years, so there is a certain degree of familiarity more experienced users will have when dealing with one. They also take up a much slimmer profile in the case itself, meaning you could ideally use a standard PSU in the likes of an ITX or mini-ATX.

Using one does require you to have a good amount of knowledge and skill when it comes to cable management, but you’re keeping costs down and you can easily use any case on the market currently.

What Power Supply Should You Use?

So, which power supply should you actually use when planning your next build? Users looking for a full-sized case that is geared towards aesthetics and cleanliness would do well with a modular power supply. However, you need to be aware that you’re going to be spending considerably more for a modular PSU than its counterparts.

Medium-sized cases can do just fine with the likes of a semi-modular power supply. They cost less while still retaining a similar degree of flexibility. They’re slightly more beginner-friendly, as well, as the core connections needed are already an integrated part of the PSU itself.

Beginners and users aiming for smaller cases really should aim at a standard PSU. While modular PSUs have their benefits, size certainly isn’t one of them. If you’re on a budget, a standard PSU is a fine option, as you can get one with a higher 80 Plus rating than a comparable modular or semi-modular example with the same efficiency.

Closing Thoughts

A modular power supply is a great choice, but does have its own drawbacks. The higher cost and proprietary connections are what hold them back from being a universal recommendation. The simple fact that you’ll also be restricted in case choice can also hinder a build. However, if your budget and case allow it, a modular power supply is a great choice for building a clean and tidy PC.

Summary Table

Power Supply TypeAdvantagesDisadvantagesBest For
Modular Power SupplyFlexibility, easy cable management, easy maintenance, easy troubleshootingHigher Cost, proprietary connections, larger sizeUsers looking for a full-sized case that is geared towards aesthetics and cleanliness
Semi-Modular Power SupplyFlexibility, and the fact that it fits into medium-sized casesRequires some degree of cable management skillsUsers looking at medium-sized cases
Non-Modular Power SupplyLower cost, slimmer profile, familiarityRequires a good amount of knowledge and skill in cable managementBeginners and users aiming for smaller cases

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a modular power supply fit in every case?

No, they take up considerably more room than a standard case.

Can I use different cables with my modular power supply?

You’ll have to see if any third-party vendors manufacture cables for it. However, connections are generally proprietary.

Is cable management easier with a modular power supply?

Yes, it is considerably easier since you can pick which cables are connected at any given time.

Are modular power supplies more efficient?

They have the same efficiency ratings as standard power supplies, just with a different means of connectivity.

Are modular power supplies better than a standard PSU?

Not necessarily, they are more flexible but generally cost more while also only really fitting in larger cases with more clearance.

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