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Power Analysis: The Gamer

What Do High-End Graphics Cards Cost In Terms Of Electricity?
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Gamer Profile: Full Power

This is close to a worst-case scenario from a power consumption standpoint. In addition to having the longest average use time per day, the time was spent running the most graphics-heavy applications. We started by calculating the daily average in hours. This includes work days as well as weekends, so that we get a representative average value that can be used for yearly estimates.

We were almost a bit shocked to find out that the yearly electricity cost is pretty significant compared to the purchase cost of high-end graphics cards. This also applies to upper-mainstream cards. After just two years, the operational costs have exceeded the initial investment costs. Keep in mind that we are showing just the additional costs for mid- and high-end graphics cards compared to the base system. The actual total operational costs, including the CPU, memory, and other components are still much higher!

Interim Conclusion

The most expensive high-end cards should not automatically be the first choice for avid gamers! Instead, buying just as much performance as you really need for smooth frame rates (maybe with overclocking headroom) means that the money saved on a lower purchase price and energy consumption will make it much easier to afford yet another new graphics card next year. The high operational costs of an expensive flagship graphics card make this harder.

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    scook9 , February 16, 2011 4:42 AM
    They are also neglecting the positive side effects like not needing a space heater in the winter....you recoup alot of energy right there :D 
  • 12 Hide
    damric , February 16, 2011 4:34 AM
    I don't get it. Are they saying that a GTX 480 will cost a hard core gamer $90/year in electricity? Seems like a drop in the bucket considering my power bills are over $90/month in the winter and over $250/month in the summer. Just think of all the money the hard core gamer saves from not having a girlfriend :D 
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    alikum , February 16, 2011 4:13 AM
    Nvidia cards consume power like crazy
  • 12 Hide
    damric , February 16, 2011 4:34 AM
    I don't get it. Are they saying that a GTX 480 will cost a hard core gamer $90/year in electricity? Seems like a drop in the bucket considering my power bills are over $90/month in the winter and over $250/month in the summer. Just think of all the money the hard core gamer saves from not having a girlfriend :D 
  • 13 Hide
    scook9 , February 16, 2011 4:42 AM
    They are also neglecting the positive side effects like not needing a space heater in the winter....you recoup alot of energy right there :D 
  • 3 Hide
    porksmuggler , February 16, 2011 4:52 AM
    ^Tell me about it, warmest room in the house right here. Turn the thermostat down, and boot the rig up.

    Typo on the enthusiast graph. calculations are correct, but it should be 13ct/kWh, not 22ct/kWh.
  • 3 Hide
    jimslaid2 , February 16, 2011 5:20 AM
    Glad I bought the 6870 over the gtx 460 1g
  • 4 Hide
    aznshinobi , February 16, 2011 5:36 AM
    The fact that you mentioned a porsche. no matter what the context. I love that you mentioned it :D 
  • 7 Hide
    AMW1011 , February 16, 2011 5:48 AM
    So at worst, my GTX 480 is costing me $90 a year? Sorry if I'm not alarmed...

    Also I can't imagine having 8 hours of gaming time every day. 5 hours even seems extreme. Sometimes, you just can't game AT ALL in a day, or a week.

    Some people do have lives...
  • -2 Hide
    nebun , February 16, 2011 6:09 AM
    alikumNvidia cards consume power like crazy

    who cares....if you have the money to buy them you can pay for the electricity...it's just like SUVs, you have the money to buy them you can keep them running
  • 0 Hide
    nebun , February 16, 2011 6:11 AM
    AMW1011So at worst, my GTX 480 is costing me $90 a year? Sorry if I'm not alarmed...Also I can't imagine having 8 hours of gaming time every day. 5 hours even seems extreme. Sometimes, you just can't game AT ALL in a day, or a week.Some people do have lives...

    i run my 480 sli rig to fold almost 24/7...do i care about my bill...HELL NO
  • 1 Hide
    Darkerson , February 16, 2011 6:15 AM
    Very nice article! Keep it up!
  • -1 Hide
    Kodiack , February 16, 2011 6:32 AM
    Your enthusiastic profiles aren't all that enthusiastic. :(  I'm sure my Radeon 5970+5870 tri-CrossFire combination will cost me quite a few dollars over the months. Fortunately, I've got some pretty good power-saving features in use to lighten the pain.
  • 2 Hide
    ohseus , February 16, 2011 6:36 AM
    I;d be curious to see a toaster, a microwave,a light bulb or ceiling fan (some thing of hat sort) added the power consumption list for comparisons sake.
  • 2 Hide
    eddieroolz , February 16, 2011 6:53 AM
    A very interesting article. I only game once every few days if at all now, so I guess it makes sense for me to stay with my GTS 250 for now.

    By the way, space heater ftw!
  • 4 Hide
    compton , February 16, 2011 8:29 AM

    It would be really useful to know what a folding setup running 24/7 costs. Perhaps one day you could use it to get a "Folding for the Future" tax credit on the books. Maybe Toms can lead the lobbying effort in Washington.


    Compared to the 4000w, 240v industrial space heater I was using over Christmas, my computer will have to work all year to match the utility cost.

    I second "space heater ftw!"
  • 0 Hide
    pinkfloydminnesota , February 16, 2011 8:46 AM
    Great article. I hope you can somehow include these costs in reviews as electricity costs go higher and video cards get more powerful.

    I am able to lower the heat in my Minnesota corner room tx to the pc on the floor and the screens on the desk!
  • 0 Hide
    sudeshc , February 16, 2011 9:31 AM
    absolutely right that if you can buy them you can run them.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 16, 2011 9:32 AM
    39$ / year? Why an article about it? Lobbying?
  • 0 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , February 16, 2011 9:39 AM
    Yes! Score for my (now og) 5850!!!!!!!!!!!! What about in crossfire though?
  • 0 Hide
    emergancy exit , February 16, 2011 9:42 AM
    i think the main power burners are the people who buy high end graphics cards and then use them on old displays. wasting money on power your power bill without getting the benifit of higher resolution. that and cheap power suplies. i ALLWAYS see people use the cheapest power suply that fits their needs paying the extra $15-50 dollars really pays off in the long run. i still believe that your power suply can effect your power bill more then your other equipment.

    what i got from this article is that it really pays to have a power profile schedule and making use of puting yoru computer in sleep mode when your not useing it. and useing the windows power profile "balenced" and only use the high performance profile when you are gaming/number cruncher/redering/video editing
  • 0 Hide
    adamcom25334 , February 16, 2011 9:49 AM
    Switchable Graphics - many laptops have it, but how many desktop MoBos allow for that?? None that I know of, even the ones with on-board video. Hoping that Sandy Bridge X68 will.
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