For the longest time, the PC industry experienced a steady climb in the power requirements for anything beyond a generic office PC. Most of this was due to the requirements of the GPU. As GPUs evolved, they steadily became more powerful. When NVIDIA resurrected multi-GPU computing, there was an even larger spike in power needs, as multiple modern video cards hadn't been seen before. Thus came the surge of the Kilowatt unit.
As time went on, more powerful cards became available, alongside motherboards and processors that required more and more energy. Triple and quad GPU systems pulled power well beyond 1000W, and power requirements were out of control. Eventually, something had to be done, and of course it was. Manufacturers all around began to reduce power requirements slowly, but surely.
Fast forward to now, and you find that there are a number of manufacturers that have done a fantastic job of reeling in the power requirements of their products, while increasing performance. Haswell, Tahiti, Hawaii, and more, are all doing more for less. As a result of all this, you now find that the Kilowatt unit is not needed nearly as much as it used to be. Power supplies in the 500W-700W range are more than enough for most, and if you're looking at entry-level systems, you can get away with much less power.
This is why we've got the SilverStone ST30SF on our bench today. It is a 300W unit that is packed with the quality the SilverStone name implies, along with just enough power to get the job done for an entry-level system. It may not sound like much, but when you consider that some lower-end processors only require 35W, there is still a lot of room left over for other pieces. I'm sure it still sounds somewhat skeptical that a 300W unit can power a somewhat decent gaming PC, so let's just start by looking at the specifications.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
SilverStone's ST30SF features a single 12V rail rated for 22A, or 264W of power. The 3.3V rail is rated for 21A, while the 5V rail is rated for 20A. The minor rails are rated for a maximum combined output of 103W. The 5VSB is rated for 2.5A, or 12.5W. Maximum combined output for the ST30SF is 300W.
On something that would be considered as low-end as the SilverStone ST30SF, you would expect quite a bit more missing from the summary table. SilverStone doesn't see it that way, as they have made sure that the ST30SF is as full of features as they can make it. They have included a full suite of protections, including SCP, OVP, OCP, OPP, and OTP. The one area that this unit doesn't deliver is modular cabling. All of the wires are native to the unit, and cannot be swapped out, or removed. All of the cables are sleeved; however, they are only sleeved about three quarters of the way. Surprisingly enough, the ST30SF is rated for 100% continuous output at 50C. The ST30SF has an 80 PLUS Bronze efficiency rating.
SilverStone's ST30SF has an MSRP of $49.99. The cheapest we can find it for at the time of writing this article is $60.93 after shipping, at Newegg. Even though that's above MSRP, it is still a great price for a quality unit. SilverStone backs the ST30SF with a three-year warranty.