I'm not a hardcore game player, I only use flight simulators games like, FS9 (mostly), FSX and Xplane. I built the following system some years ago:
CPU: Intel CORE 2 DUO 2.4 Mhz
Video card: NVIDIA Gforce 9800 GTX
Memory: 4 Mb
Turn on the system and 164 watts are consumed, play FS9 and it jumps to 220 watts. Too much watts for a game in my system, I know that some persons add a second video card, overclock everything and watts become free for all....
I also have an HP Pavilion dv7- 1264nr laptop that has an ATI Radeon HD3200
video chip on board. I connected and external 18" LCD monitor and the total watts consumed is around 65 watts running FS9, true, it has its limitations but the game is playable at 20 FPS.
What I will like to do is rebuilt my existing homebuilt system with some of the latest low power components, so I can lower the wattage..........
I would suggest looking up benchmarks for the games you play and determine what you think is acceptable performance. Again, most gaming performance depends largely on what resolution your monitor is and what detail level you have it set at (though the Flight Simulator series does rely on CPU to a large extent). 18" is unfortunately not helpful, that could be 1280x1024 or it could be 1366x768, or some other resolution.
Look at benchmarks and determine whether performance, power draw, or budget is the most important consideration. If graphics card A games at 20 fps and draws about 50W, while card B games at 30 fps, but draws 60W, which would you prefer? If you want a low power system, Intel has some S-series i5 and i7 chips that run at lower power, but they are slower than their normal counterparts.
20 fps wouldn't be acceptable for me, so I don't think that I can provide proper advice for you without a lot more information.
Hello Juan. I agree with you 100%; it isn't necessary to use the same amount of power as a hair dryer or even a toaster just to play games. I would suggest, however, that USING power and WASTING power aren't the same thing. I don't mind USING 250W half as much as I mind WASTING 100W.
One of the most significant things you can do to reduce wasteful power consumption is to get an efficient PSU. A low power gamer will run quite nicely on a 380W 80+ Bronze Antec Earthwatts. Do that first, and see what difference there is in your power use.
After that, your requirements don't appear to be that high, if you consider 20FPS playable (many people do not). If that's on your laptop, with its integrated HD3200 graphics, then you might be very happy with the performance of a HD5670. It needs no auxiliary power connector. It is a weaker card than your 9800GTX though; if you'd rather not lose the graphics muscle, look into a HD5750 which is similar, but uses less power.
Keep in mind though, that paying $80-$130 on a new graphics card is a lot more expensive than an extra dollar or two a month for electricity. If you have, or are preparing for a solar power installation, then every watt counts, otherwise it may be what is called "penny wise and pound foolish."
Excellent advice by jtt283. I should have remembered to mention the PSU. If you're not opposed to spending more money for more efficiency, Seasonic has both 400W and 460W fanless 80+ Gold certified PSUs that are both quiet and highly efficient.
It's probably unnecessary to pay the extra for 80+ gold (vs. standard 80+ or 80+ bronze) at low wattages based on how much you're going to save in energy charges, but it's an option.