Articles: Mainboards

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Power Consumption

We performed our power consumption measurements using an Extech Power Analyzer 380803. This device is connected before the PSU and measures the power draw of the entire system (without the monitor), including the power loss that occurs in the PSU itself. In the idle mode we start the system up and wait until it stops accessing the hard disk. Then we use LinX to load the Intel Core i7-930 CPU. For a more illustrative picture there are graphs that show how the computer’s power consumption grows up depending on the number of active execution threads in LinX. We performed the test in four modes: idle mode, single-thread load, four-thread and eight-thread load. The mainboards are sorted in alphabetical order on the diagrams.

It is hard to believe the results on the diagram above, but we rechecked every single number several times, so they are indeed what they are. Just like with performance, power consumption of systems with similar configuration is usually similar, too, especially in the nominal mode, when all the settings are identical. However, the testing participants turned out more or less close only during single-threaded load, when Intel Turbo Boost technology increases the processor clock frequency multiplier and Vcore. And even in this case MSI mainboard proved to be considerably more energy-efficient, but as for all other test modes, MSI XPower is usually 20 W ahead of its competitor, and sometimes even more than that! This is a truly phenomenal result! No doubt that not only MSI’s brand name power-saving technologies are responsible for this success. Efficient chipset and voltage regulator cooling has obviously had its positive input as well as high-quality electronic components used to build this product.

Since the launch of LGA1366 platform we have already tested a few dozen mainboards, but we cannot compare their power consumption across the board, because the system configuration has changed over time. There was a time when the overall system power consumption was 150 W in nominal mode. We replaced the graphics card, hard drive and power supply unit and drove the overall system power consumption significantly down, so that it is currently just a little above 100 W. However, MSI XPower mainboard consumes only 83 W in idle mode! I wouldn’t state definitively, but looks like in nominal mode MSI XPower is the most energy-efficient LGA1366 mainboard of all products we tested. Moreover, you have to keep two more things in mind. First, we tested the mainboard with all onboard controllers enabled and with the external OC Dashboard up and running. So, you may lower its power consumption even more if you disable everything you do not need. Second, we have been often complaining that almost all contemporary mainboards do not fully enable Intel power-saving technologies by default. Of course, things are starting to change in this respect, but we had to manually allow Gigabyte mainboard to switch to deeper power-saving modes in order to lower its power consumption during idling, and to fully activate Intel Turbo Boost technology at the same time. However, everything works right from the start on MSI XPower mainboard and the user doesn’t need to worry about anything.

Unfortunately, as soon as we get to power consumption during overclocking, our excitement disappears.

The board proves energy-efficient only when the processor is not fully loaded. If the CPU utilization is 100%, then MSI mainboard consumes even a little more power than Gigabyte, although the difference is not very serious in this case. The comparison in idle mod is the one that matters more. Gigabyte mainboard has all power-saving technologies up and running even during overclocking, which lower the processor clock multiplier as well as core voltage in idle mode, so the overall system power consumption is just a little over 120 W. With MSI mainboard, most power-saving technologies get disabled during overclocking, the CPU core voltage doesn’t drop, and even in idle mode the system power consumption approaches 140 W, which is a very sad result.

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