PHANTEKS’ Power Combo has more Ramifications than you’re Realizing!
“Dual sockets, CrossfireX, SLI, Raid 0… Why not PSUs?” That seems to be the the train of thought PHANTEKS was thinking when they announced the new Power Combo releasing this month. At first, it seems really exciting to be able to combine two power sources to work together as one. On further thought, the practicality behind the Power Combo begins to feel a bit contrived. The actual circumstances where a user can put two power supplies to work on one system are pretty limited, however, I believe the Power combo can open a whole new approach to how future systems are built.
In order to see the full potential of the Power Combo, we have to look at several industry changes that are taking place right now. The first and most obvious change is DirectX 12. I’ve long been a proponent of dual GPUs in my systems. Practicality has nothing to do with it. If I have $500 to spend on an upgrade, I’ll always have two $250 cards in CrossfireX or SLI because I love the look of two cards in my system. This comes with some heavy pre-planning though, because I need the rest of my system to be able to handle the extra load. Previous APIs didn’t allow for hardly any variation when it came to matching two graphics cards, so it was best to buy both GPUs as close as possible to each other. DirectX 12 on the other hand, is beginning to shine light on the possibility of upgrading to a stronger GPU, while keeping your old one around for a bit of extra power, since the newer API can mix and match GPUs. If Ashes of the Singularity was allowing NVIDIA and AMD GPUs to work together, then upgrades within the same manufacturer will probably be a very common possibility.
The next change we have coming up is the AM4 socket. There’s a lot riding on Zen for AMD, but the motherboards are introducing a huge change to the way we look at PC upgrades. Team Red is planning on one socket for everything in their CPU and APU lineup. This is great news because investing in a high end motherboard will mean much more for longevity than it ever has before. Let’s say you start with an APU and a solid motherboard. The combo is a great start for the budget, but eventually you upgrade your GPU and realize the APU isn’t as strong as it needs to be. You can easily swap out the chip since you can keep the same motherboard. INTEL has been hurting consumers with their strategy of forcing a chipset upgrade nearly every time they have a CPU upgrade. Sometimes, the socket only changes by one pin! While there can be very technical reasons for this, it’s hard not to look at it as a way to force more money out of consumers. Take Skylake for example. You may have wanted to upgrade, but you didn’t see the need for the new storage or USB options on the board. You didn’t have a choice though because Z97 wasn’t going to work with the new i7-6700k. If AMD succeeds, you can decide to upgrade your motherboard when the on-board features make sense for you, not because you have to during your CPU upgrade.
The final change we’ve seen in recent years is how companies are approaching the computer case. Particularly, Cooler Master and Thermaltake tried something new with modular case designs in the HAF Stacker and Core X Series. Essentially, you could start out with a mid-tower case, then add chambers (or other cases) to the original effectively expanding your building room. This kept the user from having to purchase a whole new case in order to have more space. The idea is solid, but I believe it needs a bit of tweaking before it could take off. First, these initial designs are rather expensive. I think a budget friendly mid-tower would be ideal by keeping the initial design cost-effective and simple so that it makes a great starter case. Afterwards, if companies can find ways to add to the case in ways that make sense financially, this could be a great option for upgrading without needing to switch out an entire case.
Once we look at all these details, the idea of being able to combine PSUs begins to look very intriguing. If someone started out with a budget system, using a low power CPU and GPU, a stacking case, and a 650W PSU, that system could easily be upgraded down the road. The APU would have to be swapped out, but the original GPU could be moved as a secondary one, a chamber could be added to the case that has an extra PSU mount, and a second 650W PSU could be added giving the system 1300W of total power. The CPU and motherboard load is evenly distributed via the Power Combo and the GPU load is easily split by using one 6/8 pin connector from each PSU. This not only makes the upgrade process much more affordable, but power delivery could end up being better for things like overclocking as well.
So there you have it. Just a couple of years ago, the Power Combo could have easily been scoffed as completely useless. Today however, there is certainly a possibility of the unit serving a great avenue for upgrade paths in the future. Could PHANTEKS be jumping the gun a bit on this release? Only time will tell. I feel like the stackable case has to catch on a bit more and Zen has to offer the kind of competition that makes INTEL want to design sockets around longevity as well. Plus, while DirectX 12 shows promise, we’re still a ways off from saying that it’s definitely the new standard. Ultimately, the Power Combo is an intriguing idea and while I hope to see it come down from $45 to be a bit more compelling, it’s certainly not a bad option either.