TLDR; The KORAD KA3005D Variable DC Linear Power Supply is my favorite power supply for its ease of use and multiple features. For projects that require up to 60V/10A (or multiple outputs when you don’t need that much power), the Dr.meter 30V/5A Triple Linear Variable DC Power Supply is also a good choice.
A benchtop power supply is useful for all kinds of prototyping work. You’ll always need to power your circuits and experiments, and a good power supply will allow you to get that power without having to cobble something together before getting started. A good power supply is also precise, so it will allow you to test your projects in a variety of conditions.
As an alternative, there are many people recommending building a small power supply as a beginner project. It’s a good idea since you’ll learn a lot and you never have enough power supplies, but a professional tool is easier to use and can be carried around or have a permanent place on the workbench. For the price, it’s a no brainer to get one if you’re serious about electronics. In my opinion, it’s one of the first big tools you should purchase after getting a good multimeter.
In this article, we’ll review the following hobbyist benchtop power supplies:
- Tekpower TP3005T Variable Linear DC Power Supply
- KORAD KA3005D Variable DC Linear Power Supply
- Dr.meter 30V/5A DC Bench Power Supply Single-Output
- Yescom 30V/10A DC Power Supply
- Dr.meter 30V/5A Triple Linear Variable DC Power Supply
The most important feature to know about when shopping for a power supply is the different between linear vs switching power supplies:
- Switching power supplies use a pulse width modulation to regulate the voltage. They are very efficient and small, but produce some high-frequency noise that can cause problems for electronics projects, especially for ham radio. They are more used for high power applications
- Linear power supplies use a transformer to take the AC voltage and convert it to DC. They are bigger and less efficient than switching power supplies at converting the power, but the quality of the signal makes them ideal for the electronics hobbyist and other low power needs.
The power supplies listed here are linear power supplies since they’re the best for small hobbyist projects, but most manufacturers also offer switching power supplies.
Benchtop Power Supplies Reviews
A standard power supply with one output that can go up to 30V and 5A. The controls are pretty awkward: you must push knobs in various combinations to do things such as locking the current value.
It has no output power button to cut the power while leaving the power supply open, so you need to reconnect the circuit every time you start up if you want to be safe. Also, the power supply does not remember the last settings after rebooting, which can lead to errors since you’ll need to frequently restart and setup everything again.
It’s the model I have on my own bench and I’m satisfied with it, it does the job without a fuss. It’s very easy to use since everything has separate buttons. You can lock it to a value or cut the power to the circuit while you’re doing the setup with a simple button press. It also has memory slots to remember various setups if you need to test under various conditions.
Like the other one output power supplies reviewed here, it that can go up to 30V and 5A.
Another supply with one output that can go up to 30V and 5A with pretty standard controls: you turn the analog knobs to adjust the power finely or coarsely. A power output button allows you to cut the power so you can setup your circuit and turn it back up without fearing the power will spike.
Beside this, there are no other features you can setup: it output constant current and voltage that you set and that’s it.
This power supply is a bit different from the other ones reviewed, since it has with three available outputs. Two of the output can be adjusted up to 30V DC 5A, but the other one is not adjustable, it’s fixed at 5V and 3A. What’s interesting with this one is that you can set it up so one of the output goes up to 60V or 10A, which is more than all the other units reviewed here. It’s not needed for most small electronics projects, if you need to go that high this power supply can do it all.
Unfortunately, it has no switch to cut the output power to the circuits or to lock the current value, and reviewers report that it’s a bit hard to fine tune the power with the knobs. On the other hands, the knobs are analog, so you don’t lose all your setup if you need to reboot it.
Another barebone power supply that can go up to 30V and 5A. The analog knobs allow you to setup the voltage and current with a coarse or fine resolution.
It has no switch to cut the output power, but since the knobs are analog it will start up with the same values. I’m still not sure I’d trust a power supply starting up while being plugged to a sensitive circuit, there are always chances that it will slightly spike up while starting, but it’s annoying having to disconnect and reconnect the circuit each time.
Wrapping up the review
In conclusion, I still believe that the KORAD KA3005D Variable DC Linear Power Supply is the best hobbyist power supply. It has features that are usually available with more advanced power supplies such as the memory slots.
If you need more power (up to 60V/10A) or many power output at once, the Dr.meter 30V/5A Triple Linear Variable DC Power Supply is also a very good choice, but it’s slightly harder to use.