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Power Consumption of HTPC Oriented Graphics Cards

It is important to know how much power your HTPC-oriented graphics card needs because this parameter is directly linked to its temperature and noisiness. We performed our measurements on the following testbed:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 CPU (2.6 GHz)
  • EPoX EP9-NPA+ SLI mainboard (Nvidia nForce4 SLI chipset)
  • PC3200 memory (2x512 MB, 200 MHz)
  • Western Digital Raptor WD360ADFD HDD (36GB, SATA-150, 16MB buffer)
  • Chieftec ATX-410-212 PSU (max. 410W)
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • Futuremark PCMark05 Build 1.2.0
  • Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.1.0

The 3D load was created by means of the first SM3.0/HDR test from 3DMark06 running in a loop at 1600x1200 with 4x FSAA and 16x AF. The Peak 2D mode was emulated by means of the 2D Transparent Windows test from PCMark05. This test is important as it simulates the user’s working with application windows whereas Windows Vista’s Aero interface uses 3D features. We got the following results:

As you can see, the power consumption of graphics cards is directly proportional to their performance in games. Although the Radeon HD 4850 is a very fast solution, it needs as much as 110 watts of power under load. Therefore it may only suit a gaming-oriented HTPC with good ventilation.

We guess the Radeon HD 4670 has the optimal ratio of power consumption to performance in games and during video playback whereas the Radeon HD 4550 is the most economical and smallest card today.

Most of the graphics cards covered in this review are available with different cooling systems, so there is no sense in comparing the noisiness of the reference coolers. The HTPC concept implies that you adjust your computer to your specific goals, so it wouldn’t be right for us to recommend some specific graphics card models to you here.

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