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Power Consumption--Graphics Cards And Electricity Costs

How Much Power Does Your Graphics Card Need?
By

In the following tables, the consumption of the test system was subtracted from the overall total to yield the approximate power consumption of the graphics card. The actual values fluctuate depending on the performance class of 3D graphics chips, which is why we made our calculations with average values. Note that for SLI with Nvidia graphics cards, the nForce 780i chipset from Nvidia is used; this component requires about 50 watts more than the X38 chipset from Intel.

Test System
2D Without Load
3D Full Load
2D Average
3D Average
X38 Chipset
52-68 Watts
80-120 Watts
64 Watts
104 Watts
780i Chipset
114-125 Watts
142-158 Watts
119 Watts
150 Watts


Again, this measurement was made at the outlet, and serves only as a basis for the calculation of the electricity cost. As examples, the 2D operation was estimated with both 8 and 24 hours a day and the 3D operation with 8 hours daily use. The power cost was estimated at 20 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

With the GeForce GTX 260 and 280, you can easily see how the new graphics chips slow down in 2D mode—the older GeForce 8800 Ultra running 8 hours a day uses up almost double the electricity. The cost of a double-chip card (Radeon HD 4870 X2) is pretty intense; if you let the PC run on the desktop for two years continuously, the electricity cost adds up to the purchase price of the card.

If you compare the Radeon HD 4870 X2 and HD 4870 Crossfire, you can easily see that you could save up to 20 watts per HD 4870 card in 2D mode, if only AMD clocked down the single chip card as well. Generally, you should not use a double-chip card, SLI or CrossFire for a computer to remain in use 24 hours a day—a more modest graphics solution can reduce the electricity cost by at least 50%.

Power Consumption Nvidia Graphic Cards
2D Desktop Watts (socket)
3D Full Load Watts (Socket)
2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours
3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)
53
248
31
93
145
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)
47
232
27
82
135
GeForce 9800 GX2 (2x512 MB)
109
264
64
191
154
GeForce 9800 GTX (512 MB)
55
153
32
96
89
GeForce 9800 GTX (512 MB)
62
160
36
109
93
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB)
38
83
22
67
48
GeForce 9600 GT (512 MB)
42
104
25
74
61
GeForce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB)
63
173
37
110
101
GeForce 8800 GTS (512 MB)
62
165
36
109
96
GeForce 8800 GT (1024 MB)
39
94
23
68
55
GeForce 8800 GT (512 MB)
51
135
30
89
119
GeForce 8800 Ultra  (768 MB)
90
209
53
158
122
GeForce 8800 GTX (768 MB)
82
192
48
144
112
GeForce 8800 GTS (640 MB)
74
152
43
130
89
GeForce 8800 GTS (320 MB)
63
136
37
110
79
GeForce 8600 GTS (512 MB)
34
74
20
60
43
GeForce 8600 GTS (256 MB)
29
68
17
51
40
GeForce 8600 GT (256 MB)
25
56
15
44
33
GeForce 8500 GT (256 MB)
21
36
12
37
21
GeForce 8400GS (256 MB)
19
32
11
33
19
GeForce 7950 GX2 (2x512 MB)
56
134
33
98
78
GeForce 7950 GT (512 MB)
35
79
20
61
46
GeForce 7900 GTX (512 MB)
41
102
24
72
60
GeForce 7900 GTO (512 MB)
40
98
23
70
57
GeForce 7900 GT (256 MB)
29
59
17
51
34
GeForce 7900 GS (256 MB)
31
60
18
54
35
GeForce 7800 GTX (512 MB)
41
131
24
72
77
GeForce 7800 GTX (256 MB)
41
104
24
72
61
GeForce 7800 GT (256 MB)
31
79
18
54
46
GeForce 7600 GT (256 MB)
24
48
14
42
28
GeForce 7600 GS (256 MB)
20
33
12
35
19
GeForce 7300 GT (256 MB)
20
29
12
35
17
GeForce 7300 GS (128 MB)
18
28
11
32
16
GeForce 6800 Ultra  (256 MB)
58
98
34
102
57
GeForce 6800 GT (256 MB)
52
81
30
91
47
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB)
26
57
15
46
33
Power Consumption Nvidia Graphic Card (SLI)
2D Desktop Watts (Socket)
3D Full Load Watts (Socket)
2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours
3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)
84
390
49
147
228
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)
92
460
54
161
269
GeForce 9800 SLI (512 MB)
116
312
68
203
182
GeForce 9600 SLI (1024 MB)
63
152
37
110
89
GeForce 8800 GTS SLI (512 MB)
111
295
65
194
172
GeForce 8800 GT SLI (1024 MB)
65
176
38
114
103
GeForce 8800 GT SLI (512 MB)
84
242
49
147
141
GeForce 8800 Ultra 3SLI (768 MB)
269
565
157
471330
GeForce 8800 Ultra SLI (768 MB)
175
430
102
307
251
GeForce 8800 GTS SLI (320 MB)
115
270
67
201
158
GeForce 8600 GTS SLI (256 MB)
45
127
26
79
74
GeForce 8600 GT SLI (256 MB)
36
103
21
63
60
GeForce 7950 GX2 SLI (4x512 MB)
106
106
62
186
128
GeForce 7950 GT SLI (512 MB)
51
134
30
89
78
GeForce 7900 GT SLI (256 MB)
42
106
25
74
62
GeForce 7900 GS SLI (256 MB)
36
102
21
63
60
GeForce 7800 GTX SLI (256 MB)
68
190
40
119
111
GeForce 7800 GT SLI (256 MB)
43
139
25
75
81
GeForce 7600 GT SLI (256 MB)
26
82
15
46
48
GeForce 7600 GS SLI (256 MB)
18
85
11
32
32
Power Consumption AMD Graphic Cards
2D Desktop Watts (Socket)
3D Full Load Watts (Sockets)
2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours
3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 hours
Radeon HD 4870 X2 (2x1024 MB)
138
326
81
242
190
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)
83
184
48
145
107
Radeon HD 4850 (512 MB)
58
133
34
102
78
Radeon HD 4670 (512 MB)
17
69
10
30
40
Radeon HD 4550 (512 MB)
17
31
10
30
18
Radeon HD 3870 X2 (2x512 MB)
68
246
40
119
144
Radeon HD 3870 (512 MB)
31
112
18
54
65
Radeon HD 3850 (256 MB)
24
88
14
42
51
Radeon HD 3650 (512 MB)
25
63
15
44
37
Radeon HD 3470 (256 MB)
26
36
15
46
21
Radeon HD 3450 (256 MB)
21
28
12
37
16
Radeon HD 2900 XT (512 MB)
78
206
46
137
120
Radeon HD 2600 XT (512 MB)
22
66
13
39
39
Radeon HD 2600 XT (256 MB)
32
68
19
56
40
Radeon HD 2600 Pro (256 MB)
18
47
11
32
27
Radeon HD 2400 XT (256 MB)
18
34
11
32
20
Radeon HD 2400 Pro  (256 MB)
17
26
10
30
15
Radeon X1950 XTX  (512 MB)
38
134
22
67
78
Radeon X1950 XT (256 MB)
41
150
24
72
88
Radeon X1950 Pro (256 MB)
38
94
22
67
55
Radeon X1950 GT (256 MB)
36
84
21
63
49
Radeon X1900 XT (512 MB)
43
158
25
75
92
Radeon X1900 XT (256 MB)
37
129
22
65
75
Radeon X1900 GT (256 MB)
42
101
25
74
59
Radeon X1800 XT (512 MB)
48
107
28
84
62
Radeon X1800 XT (256 MB)
45
111
26
79
65
Radeon X1800 XL (256 MB)
41
70
24
72
41
Radeon X1800 GTO (256 MB)
36
59
21
63
34
Radeon X1650 XT (256 MB)
36
71
21
63
41
Radeon X1650 Pro (256 MB)
28
54
16
49
32
Radeon X1600 XT (256 MB)
28
52
16
49
30
Radeon X1600 Pro (256 MB)
29
47
17
51
27
Radeon X1300 XT (256 MB)
30
54
18
53
32
Radeon X1300 Pro (128 MB)
34
36
14
42
21
Radeon X1300 XT (256 MB)
22
32
13
39
19
Radeon X800 XT (256 MB)
29
78
17
51
46
Power Consumption AMD Graphic Cards (CrossFire)
2D Desktop Watts (Socket)
3D Full Load Watts (Socket)
2D Operation  Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours
3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)
178
356
104
312
208
Radeon HD 4850 CF (512 MB)
113
263
66
198
154
Radeon HD 3870 X2 CF (4x512 MB)
135
506
79237
296
Radeon HD 3870 3CF (3x256 MB)
98
360
57
172
210
Radeon HD 3870 CF (512 MB)
60
219
35
105
128
Radeon HD 3850 CF (256 MB)
47
175
27
82
102
Radeon HD 3650 CF (512 MB)
48
131
28
84
77
Radeon HD 2900 CF (512 MB)
158
436
92
277
255
Radeon HD 2600 XT CF (512 MB)
41
142
24
72
83
Radeon HD 2600 Pro (256 MB)
34
94
20
55
55
Radeon X1950 XTX CF (512 MB)
82
274
48
144
160
Radeon X1900 XT CF (512 MB)
85
300
50
149
175
Radeon X1600 XT CF (256 MB)
58
105
34
102
61
Radeon X1600 Pro CF (256 MB)
54
89
32
95
52
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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    nukemaster , January 21, 2009 10:59 AM
    This article was due. No more you need an 800 watt psu for the 4870 , core2 quad ad 1 hard drive anymore :p 

    Guest11since Core i7 920 has TDP = 130W, how can it consume 85W only?

    The TDP is more of a design thing. Almost all of Intels initial Core2 line had a TDP of 65 watts yet many took much less power. Intel gives a worst case of that type number and does not measure every cpu.

    AMD does the same thing. They listed almost all the initial Athlon 64's at 89 watts yet many did not take that or give off that amount.

    zxv9511.21 Jigawatts !!!

    You act like you would need a small fusion reactor or maybe a bolt of lightning to get that?
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    Inktfish , January 21, 2009 8:52 AM
    Could you please add the Radeon 4830? :) 
  • 3 Hide
    sepuko , January 21, 2009 9:13 AM
    Took the words right out of my mouth.
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , January 21, 2009 10:06 AM
    since Core i7 920 has TDP = 130W, how can it consume 85W only?
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 21, 2009 10:46 AM
    1.21 Jigawatts !!!
  • 10 Hide
    nukemaster , January 21, 2009 10:59 AM
    This article was due. No more you need an 800 watt psu for the 4870 , core2 quad ad 1 hard drive anymore :p 

    Guest11since Core i7 920 has TDP = 130W, how can it consume 85W only?

    The TDP is more of a design thing. Almost all of Intels initial Core2 line had a TDP of 65 watts yet many took much less power. Intel gives a worst case of that type number and does not measure every cpu.

    AMD does the same thing. They listed almost all the initial Athlon 64's at 89 watts yet many did not take that or give off that amount.

    zxv9511.21 Jigawatts !!!

    You act like you would need a small fusion reactor or maybe a bolt of lightning to get that?
  • -1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 21, 2009 11:39 AM
    So my system actually has a too big power supply to be effective?
    I'm running a 3,4ghz c2d with 5x500gb sata drives, a dvdrw and a 4870 on a p35 board.
    According to the article that's not going to draw the ~400W needed to get within effective range of my corsair 620 ....
  • 2 Hide
    cynewulf , January 21, 2009 11:46 AM
    There's a mistake in the power under load for the 3870X2. It shows the same as the idle consumption. If only that were true! :D 
  • 3 Hide
    Inneandar , January 21, 2009 11:48 AM
    The TDP (thermal design power) is meant to be a guideline for the cooling solution, not the power consumption. To qualify for a cpu with a TDP of 120W, a cooler must be able to dissipate 120W. Practically, of course, this means it is an upper bound to (sensible) power consumption.

    also small note: Is it just me or is it strange to see the 260 SLI consume more than the 280 SLI. maybe in need of a beefier test scene...
  • 2 Hide
    zodiacfml , January 21, 2009 11:53 AM
    nice collection of data. i hope many learn from this and avoid recommending too powerful supplies.
  • 0 Hide
    roofus , January 21, 2009 12:12 PM
    better off with too much power supply than not enough. at least if you over-spec the power supply you leave some breathing room for any additional components.
  • 0 Hide
    kschoche , January 21, 2009 12:34 PM
    neiroatopelccSo my system actually has a too big power supply to be effective? I'm running a 3,4ghz c2d with 5x500gb sata drives, a dvdrw and a 4870 on a p35 board. According to the article that's not going to draw the ~400W needed to get within effective range of my corsair 620 ....


    Absolutely Correct!
    If you add all of those components together, and get 400W, and your PSU is only 75% efficient at that level, you're actually consuming ~500W and your PSU is eating that extra 100W. Though if you have a modern PSU, its usually not that bad, but goes to show that idiots who buy 1200W PSU's because it has a big number really are just that, idiots.
  • -1 Hide
    zodiacfml , January 21, 2009 12:51 PM
    yes if you're planning to add a video card but adding a couple of hard drives, dvd drive, or upgrading the processor won't require more than 100W allowance.

    roofusbetter off with too much power supply than not enough. at least if you over-spec the power supply you leave some breathing room for any additional components.

  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , January 21, 2009 2:01 PM
    kschocheAbsolutely Correct!If you add all of those components together, and get 400W, and your PSU is only 75% efficient at that level, you're actually consuming ~500W and your PSU is eating that extra 100W. Though if you have a modern PSU, its usually not that bad, but goes to show that idiots who buy 1200W PSU's because it has a big number really are just that, idiots.


    Let's take a step back. If his PSU is 400W and it is 75% efficient, then it draws 533.3W at maximum power draw. You are somewhat close, but you generalized. Different PSU's are more efficient at different load percentages, but 75% sounds alright for an older PSU. His Computer draws 400W and his PSU draws 533W from the receptacle on the wall.
  • 3 Hide
    billiardicus , January 21, 2009 2:09 PM
    Toms,

    Great article. This is exactly why I visit your page everyday. How about adding the GTX 295 and 285 in single and SLI configurations to the list? Hey, somebody has to ask right? :) 
  • -4 Hide
    hyteck9 , January 21, 2009 2:29 PM
    Where is the Nvidia 295?
    I think the 295 with an i7 OC'd to 4Ghz is going to be a pretty standard choice in the coming months... add a hard drive and a DVD-burner and your looking at 600WATTs at full load... so 800WATT PSU would be the right choice, yes?
  • 3 Hide
    Niva , January 21, 2009 2:33 PM
    Well I learned something, I always thought that PSU ratings are based on what they can suck out, not what they put out to the computer components which they power... now that I'm looking at this article I feel pretty stupid for thinking this all these years.
  • 4 Hide
    Pei-chen , January 21, 2009 2:49 PM
    One of the best articles ever. I hate proving myself when I tell people that using an inefficient video card will increase their electric bill by $50 vs. an efficient card. An idiot actually told me that the difference between a GTX 260 and 4870 running 24/7 at idle for a year is less than $10.

    My system:
    ASUS P5B Deluxe WiFi-AP
    E6400 @ 2.56Ghz @ 1.135v with Speedstop enabled
    8GB OCZ PC2-6400 RAM @ 1.8v
    Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro with PWM enabled
    Antec NeoPower 550 PSU
    2x Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB drive
    1x Toshiba SATA DVD+/-RW drive
    GIGABYTE GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon 4850 @350 core/500 ram

    The idle power consumption at plug is 1.06A. Gaming load is about 1.71A with the Radeon overclocked to 730 core and 1130 ram. The 4850 consumption should be lower than typical 4850s because it uses GIGABYTE's custom PCB. Clearly my PSU is overkill as I only load it between 20~40% but it is not that easy to find good quality small PSU two years ago. Good thing it’s efficient.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 21, 2009 3:12 PM
    This is an exellent article!

    There has been way too much bull about needing a 500 watter or more for a regular board, cpu and single graphics card. Its also great to have figures to compute total cost of ownership per GPU. The PC i game on is more on then off, so this info is significant. Thank you.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 21, 2009 3:16 PM
    Interesting article.. it should be noted that those of us with Geforce 2** cards and two monitors active will always be drawing the full 3D load of powe.

    There is a bug in the latest two WHQL drivers which causes throttling to not occur even if there are no 3D applications active.
  • 7 Hide
    hyteck9 , January 21, 2009 3:30 PM
    Dont forget to spend $500 on a UPS that can handle your 800-1000 watt power supply!
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