Articles: Cases/PSU
 

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Traditionally, the reaching of a next round number in the specification of any PC device is considered a great achievement. The first 1GHz processor, the first 1GB memory module, the first 1TB hard disk. Alas, this is not the same with power supplies. While the memory amount and the CPU frequency have their own practical worth because they allow a faster and better execution of ever more sophisticated computing tasks, the PSU is only needed to service the other system components. It cannot do anything on its own. Thus, the release of 1000W power supplies does not mean your games will be running faster or anything, but only that the air exhausted from your system case will be warmer now.

There is one rule that describes the difference between the goal and the means in a succinct and clear way: you don’t want a hammer, but you want the nail in the wall. The hammer is just a means to get the nail into the wall, acceptable as far as there is no other, better, means. Yet the goal is the nail rather than the process of hammering it in. A 10kg hammer wouldn’t be an achievement of the hammer maker. It would only be a trouble if you tried to bang nails in with it.

The same goes for power supplies. A high-wattage PSU is only a means rather than a goal. It is the means to power the PC up. So, a 1000W PSU should not be considered an achievement. It is rather an inevitable evil – nails have become so big these days that you do need a 10kg hammer to hang a picture on the wall.

A natural question, are such high-wattage PSUs really necessary? If yes, in what particular conditions? To answer that question we measured power consumption of two very advanced PC configurations.

AMD-based system was configured like follows:

  • Two Athlon 64 FX-74 3.0GHz CPUs
  • Two Foxconn GeForce 8800GTX graphics cards in SLI mode
  • ASUS L1N64-SLI WS mainboard (Dual Socket 1207, NVIDIA nForce 680a SLI)
  • 2GB DDR2-800 SDRAM (Mushkin XP2-6400PRO, 4 x 512MB)
  • Two Western Digital WD1500AHFD hard disk drives in a RAID0
  • Various trifles like a DVD-ROM, fans, etc

Intel-based system:

  • Quad-core Core 2 Extreme QX6700 CPU (Kentsfield) overclocked to 3.5GHz
  • Two Foxconn GeForce 8800GTX graphics cards in SLI mode
  • ASUS Striker Extreme mainboard (LGA775, NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI)
  • 2GB DDR2-800 SDRAM (Mushkin XP2-6400PRO, 4 x 512MB)
  • Two Western Digital WD1500AHFD hard disk drives in a RAID0
  • Various trifles like a DVD-ROM, fans, etc

We installed Windows XP SP2 on these systems and ran Stress Prime 2004 / Orthos for the CPU and 3DMark 2006 for the graphics card; these two programs were running simultaneously in the third test mode. Here are the PSU power consumption numbers (using a Tagan TurboJet TG1100-U96; we measured its power draw from the wall outlet and multiplied the result by this PSU’s efficiency factor, about 0.83):

What do we see? A powerful gaming system with an overclocked CPU and running two applications that put a heavy load on the CPU and both graphics cards simultaneously consumes less than 450W from the power supply! Even the dual-core 4x4 platform from AMD, which is not even a viable solution for home use but rather a concept so as to respond somehow to Intel’s quad-core CPUs, has a peak power draw of just over 600W!

So, it is all clear here: a power supply with wattage higher than 600-700W is not necessary for a powerful gaming system unless you are into such things as Peltier coolers, etc.

 
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