Modular Power Supplies: Plug-in Cabling for the Proper Connections
Staff Writer By: M.D. McCallum (WarLord720)
A good portion of our readers either put together their own PC (whitebox) or at the very least change out components and upgrade their existing manufactured pc when needed. Most of us are competent computer users, particularly longtime Windows users. We've had to be to get to this point. You don't have to go back very many OS versions to find some real fiascos and we had to deal with them all.
Changing out hardware is no big deal but one major pain in today's generation of video cards is the power supply. If you are into animation, graphics or especially Virtual Reality then you've already discovered some of the problems of upgrading video cards for a proper VR experience. These new cards are as powerful as some older computers and suck a lot of juice plus having to cool properly.
Trouble is it's not so much that your current power supply might not have enough wattage as it the proper connectors to power up these monstrous video cards. In my own experience upgrading a workstation to a 970 and putting 980's in two others wasn't as straightforward as was expected. All were HP Elites or HPEs of differing year models going back about three years. All had more than adequate power supplies. Only one had the proper connectors in the needed amount without having to resort to adapters which can quickly fill up an already tight space in most manufactured PCs.
When you are already cramming in a video card that takes up most of the depth of the case you aren't left with much room to cram all those cables into. Particularly if you are splitting power leads which may or may not be a good idea depending on your power supply. If by chance you don't have enough wattage, then splitting them to get two plug-ins isn't going gain any ground. In fact, you'll probably be looking at a black screen or an error code at best.
The 970 wasn't much of a problem. It required two 6 prong connects that come standard with a wide range of power supplies. It was when I started changing out the 980s that things started get a little wonky in terms of connectors. First, there seems to be no standard in this sort of thing. Some cards use dual sixes while others require dual eights. Others have two sixes with a small two prong plug that attaches to make it an eight. All required two of these plugs. While you can get the adapter, there is the aforementioned space problem of a small footprint case unless you have a huge tower. Two cables mean two adapters crammed inside.
So, what does one do when you don't want to hassle with all those adapters? Simple... go the modular route. Modular power supplies have been around for some time. When I first saw one I really didn't see the need for it. Adapters work just fine... till they don't because some are so cheaply manufactured they create their own problems plus the hassles mentioned earlier. The modular power supply comes hardwired with just the motherboard power cables. In this case, it was a standard motherboard power connector with an auxiliary four prong power cable.
The rest are nice, neat, open receptacles waiting for the proper cable to be plugged in. That's right. No hassle, no guessing, less cramming and you pick the proper cables. In this case I need to four prong connector for the video card. The power supply came with plug cables split into two 4 prong plugs each but I used both cables and just plugged in one connector on each instead of splitting a power source. It could have been done either way.
The power supply I used was a Corsair CX850M. An 850-watt behemoth that I just knew wouldn't fit in the case once I laid eyes on it. I couldn't have been more wrong. It fit in with little fanfare and was about one inch longer than the old one so that posed no problem. Being modular as the HPE is... the installation was quick and painless. The usual four screws in the back of the power supply and one release lever on the inside. The Corsair slid right into place.
In retrospect, I'm not sure I will ever purchase a regular power supply again. The modular is just too easy and convenient. Just make sure you pay attention to the cable package that comes with the power supply. Check for the proper cables. It seemed most I looked at had similar packages but I haven't seen enough of them to say that is case for all of them. If you want to take the guess work out of upgrading your power supply, then give the modular system serious consideration. It'll save you some time, aggravation and can be taken out and used in your next system if necessary. Few negatives there.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.