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Power Consumption And Temperatures

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $600 Gaming PC

As a general rule, we enable power-saving features on our System Builder Marathon rigs. We also tend not to override automatic fan controls for stock-configuration testing.

The result is that we give up cooling performance and tolerate higher temperatures in the interest of a quieter system.

For some reason that we still cannot explain, last quarter's graphics card chewed up an extra 20 W sitting idle on the Windows desktop. Perhaps there was an issue with AMD's early Windows 8 driver? Idle consumption should have been down around 50 W, as it is this time around.

Fully loaded, these gaming-oriented rigs still sip power relative to what we'll likely see during the rest of this quarter's System Builder Marathon. Even if we estimate 85% efficiency, our 400 W power supply is only being asked to output 184 W at peak load.

Although we've never been particularly impressed by the performance of Intel's boxed heat sinks, they do facilitate quiet operation and adequate cooling. 

Thermals aren't much of a worry on either rig. But the important take-away is that last month's graphics card from PowerColor enjoyed more effective cooling. Our custom fan profile never exceeded 50% duty cycle. In order to keep this quarter's board from breaking 65 degrees, HIS' smaller fan spun up as high as 90% on occasion.

Neither card was noisy at stock settings. However, acoustics were less attractive using our overclocked frequencies in demanding 3D games.

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