Generally speaking, desktop computer power supply units (PSU) aren't very exciting. You plug them into the wall, flip the switch, and your computer turns on. There just isn't much more to them. Or is there? It may come as a surprise to some that since a computer runs on electricity, the unit that provides that electricity is one of the most important components in the computer system. Poorly designed and/or cheaply manufactured PSUs are the cause of many issues with modern computers, including sudden system crashes, data corruption, and display glitches. Naturally, a more demanding and higher performing computer is more susceptible to the imperfections of a less-than-adequate PSU. In addition, power efficiency has in recent years become more and more important and PSU manufacturers now proudly display the efficiency rating of their products.
The fact of the matter is that if your computer is experiencing any sort of random malfunction, the PSU becomes a prime suspect. And so it was with the last PSU I had purchased, a Corsair HX620w. While highly rated and with many satisfied customers, my particular unit suffered from an affliction that resulted in my hard drive periodically refusing to operate properly. Instead it would just sit there, clicking away whenever data was requested. I returned several hard drives believing that I had been astonishingly unlucky by receiving several bad units. I finally moved the drive to a different power connector on my Corsair and it worked fine ever since. But my trust in that PSU was shattered and when it came time to look for a new one I turned my eyes to the legendary Seasonic.
Most PSU "manufacturers" actually outsource the actual production of their units. Seasonic builds its own and their PSUs are regularly very well reviewed by those with fancy load-testing equipment that can observe even the smallest voltage fluctuation and the most minor of current ripples. So, after several months of intermittent research, I decided my next PSU would be a Seasonic. I eventually settled on the Platinum 860 for two reasons: it is utterly silent at up to 40% load, and it is the most efficient PSU money can buy (at the time of this writing, anyway).
Of course, I also wanted my new PSU to be modular, meaning that there are no cables "hard-wired" into the unit. This results in less clutter inside in the computer case since you only include those power cables that you absolutely require. The actually wattage of the PSU was the least important factor in my decision. While many PSUs are approaching and even surpassing the 1000w mark, many tests have shown that even a demanding CrossFire or SLI system with two power-hungry video cards rarely needs more than 600 watts of power. But the lowest available wattage for Seasonic's "Platinum" efficiency series is 860 watts, so that's what I bought.
Now, let's be clear. This is way more PSU than I, or just about anyone else, needs. But there's something to be said for buying and working with a finely engineered piece of equipment. I believe this is one reason that Apple is so successful with its products. In fact, I was so pumped when it was delivered to my house, I performed the much revered "Japanese Unboxing Ceremony" (well, that's what I call it, anyway) on it. And, indeed, much thought and care has been taken in the packaging of this unit (see the picture gallery below). I especially liked the velvet pouch that the actual PSU was enclosed in, and the two-pocket vinyl bag for storing unused power cables. Also included were several zip-ties and velcro cable organizers.
Installation was simple and straightforward, and I had no problems with the length of the supplied power cables in my Antec P280XL, though one or two of them didn't have much slack left when I was done. Turning the unit on for the first time was somewhat interesting because, as I mentioned earlier, it is completely silent. In its "Hybrid" mode, the cooling fan doesn't even come on until the PSU reaches 40% load. And since I rarely play demanding games on my rig which would cause the graphics card to demand much more power, it's likely that I'll never hear the fan at all! It's also worth mentioning that other reviewers have stated that the Platinum series from Seasonic also has little to no "electronic" humming. Even with the fan off, the circuitry inside a PSU can still buzz annoyingly, but I haven't heard any noise whatsoever from this unit.
Performance-wise, well, what can I say? As one would expect, it powers my modest system just fine. I haven't experienced any random glitchiness or hard drive power hiccups like I did with the HX620. So I'm satisfied with it, but I recommend you seek out the super-geek sites that really put these PSUs through their paces, and measure every flutter and waver in the 12v and 5v power rails. The Seasonic Platinum 860w commands a premium price for performance that few truly need, but its build quality and attention to detail make it a solid foundation upon which to build any system. And you'll feel good knowing that you've bought some very solid kit.