Boutique Gaming PC Manufacturers Express Worries over Power Consumption

Makers of High-End Gaming Systems Concerned about High Power Consumption

by Anton Shilov
09/04/2008 | 02:22 PM

Manufacturers of premium-class desktop machines for enthusiasts expressed their concerns about increasing power consumption of advanced personal computers in an interview. There is a problem with cooling down of high-end components for gaming PCs as well as tremendous amount of power they require. To make the situation even worse, computer makers cannot resolve such issues.


Back in the days personal computers for gaming consumed roughly the same amount of power as typical PCs used for usual workloads. However, in the recent years the fierce competition between companies like ATI (now graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices) and Nvidia Corp. as well as AMD and Intel have caused a tremendous increase in both performance and power consumption of PC components. According to boutique system makers, this is a serious thing to worry about.

“I swore that I’d never break 1000W [limit of power supply unit]. Unfortunately, that has been the solution for the past several years. Bigger, bigger, bigger power supplies,” said Kelt Reeves, president of game PC maker Falcon Northwest, in an interview with web-site.

There are reasons for concerns, just three years ago a top-of-the-range graphics card consumed about 80W, whereas today’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 consumes about 180W, while ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 devours about 265W, according to measures by X-bit labs. At the same time, premium-class microprocessors consume about 130W.

It should be noted that a graphics sub-system with three GeForce GTX 280 graphics cards should consume about 540W, whereas a tandem of two ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 boards should eat about 530W, which makes graphics sub-system the absolute leader in terms of power consumption within a personal computer. Nevertheless, even a 550W graphics sub-system, a 130W processor as well as components like core-logic, memory, hard disk drives and optical drives would hardly need more than 800W – 900W. Still, makers of high-end PCs install 1kW or higher performance power supply units into their systems (PSUs) to guarantee reliable operation. The problem for computer builders is that demand for power grows faster than they would have ever expected.

“If this trend does continue, then, yes, it will give us problems. A regular home user would have to have an electrician come in, get the outlet out, and plug in a higher breaker. Today, some of the higher-end systems with big power supplies require a special wall power socket,” said George Yang, an engineer at IBuyPower.

Increased complexity of high-end gaming PCs does not make lives of boutique computer builders easier. Besides the increased power consumption, they have to deal with necessity to cool-down the components.

Back in the days Apple had to switch from PowerPC processors to x86 chips due to overwhelming power consumption of PowerPC central processing units and consequent obligation to use many noisy fans to keep everything work stably.