How Much Power Does Your Graphics Card Need?

Power Consumption Test System And Electricity Cost

These tables show the power consumption of the test system in watts, which consists of a Core 2 Duo running at 2.93 GHz, such as used in a standard PC. The wattage figures are not the actual load on the power supply, but the power measurement at the outlet; this tells you what to expect the full power costs to be. For cost projections, we assumed 8 hours a day at full load operation for a year, with an energy cost of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Formula for calculation:

Electricity cost for 1 year = (power consumption outlet watts x 8 hours x 365 days): 1000 x 0.2 dollars

These values should convey a basic sense of the energy costs we’re dealing with here. The 2D value determines the power consumption without load when Windows and the graphics card are idle; this value can be further reduced with current 45 nm CPUs and power-saving settings. The minimal power consumption of the graphics card is determined by the manufacturer; if the graphics processor and graphics memory don’t reduce their clock rate (as with the AMD Radeon HD 4870), you can help yourself by setting them manually using tools such as Riva Tuner or the graphics driver. Otherwise, you have to live with increased power consumption in 2D mode.

The 3D value is the maximum power draw when the CPU and graphics card run at 100%; this is used as the basis for calculating the electricity cost. In practice, the maximum power consumption at any given time depends on the resolution, filter method and scene within the game. Anti-aliasing (AA) can slow down the graphics card, though this can reduce CPU load and cause the power consumption of the total system to decrease. At lower resolutions or with less complex game scenes, the graphics card might not be at full load. The 3D full load was measured at 1920x1200 pixels without anti-aliasing; this fully loaded all graphics cards in the test scene (which is a Mass Effect startup screen, using the UT3 engine).

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Power Consumption of Entire System With AMD Graphic Card2D Desktop Watts (Socket)3D Full Load Watts (Socket)Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
Radeon HD 4870 X2 (2x1024 MB)202430251
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)147288168
Radeon HD 4850 (512 MB)122237138
Radeon HD 4670 (512 MB)81173101
Radeon HD 4550 (512 MB)8113579
Radeon HD 3870 X2 (2x512 MB)132349204
Radeon HD 3870 (512 MB)95216126
Radeon HD 3850 (256 MB)88192112
Radeon HD 3650 (512 MB)8916798
Radeon HD 3470 (256 MB)9014082
Radeon HD 3450 (256 MB)8513277
Radeon HD 2900 XT (512 MB)142310181
Radeon HD 2600 XT (512 MB)8617099
Radeon HD 2600 XT (256 MB)96172100
Radeon HD 2600 PRO (256 MB)8215188
Radeon HD 2400 XT (256 MB)8213881
Radeon HD 2400 PRO (256 MB)8113076
Radeon X1950 XTX (512 MB)102238139
Radeon X1950 XT (256 MB)105254148
Radeon X1950 Pro (256 MB)102198116
Radeon X1950 GT (256 MB)100188110
Radeon X1900 XT (512 MB)107262153
Radeon X1900 XT (256 MB)101233136
Radeon X1900 GT (256 MB)106205120
Radeon X1800 XT (512 MB)112211123
Radeon X1800 XT (256 MB)109215126
Radeon X1800 XL (256 MB)105174102
Radeon X1800 GTO (256 MB)10016395
Radeon X1650 XT (256 MB)100175102
Radeon X1650 Pro (256 MB)9215892
Radeon X1600 XT (256 MB)9215691
Radeon X1600 Pro (256 MB)9315188
Radeon X1300 XT (256 MB)9415892
Radeon X1300 Pro (128 MB)8814082
Radeon X1300 (256 MB)8613679
Radeon X800 XT (256 MB)93182106
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Power Consumption of Entire System with AMD Graphic Card2D Desktop Watts (Socket)3D Full Load Watts (Socket)Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)242460269
Radeon HD 4850 CF (512 MB)177367214
Radeon HD 3870 x2 CF (4x512 MB)199610356
Radeon HD 3870 3CF (3x512 MB)162464271
Radeon HD 3870 CF (512 MB)124323189
Radeon HD 3850 CF (256 MB)111279163
Radeon HD 3650 CF (512 MB)112235137
Radeon HD 2900 XT CF (512 MB)222540315
Radeon HD 2600 XT CF (512 MB)105246144
Radeon HD 2600 Pro (256 MB)98198116
Radeon X1950 XTX CF (512 MB)146378221
Radeon X1900 XT CF (512 MB)149404236
Radeon X1600 XT CF (256 MB)122209122
Radeon X1600 Pro CF (256 MB)118193113
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Power Consumption of The Entire System With Nvidia Graphic Card (SLI)2D Desktop Watts (Socket)3D Full Load Watts (Socket)Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)203540315
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)211610356
GeForce 9800 GTX SLI (512 MB)235462270
GeForce 9600 GT SLI (1024 MB)182302176
GeForce 8800 GTS SLI (512 MB)230445260
GeForce 8800 GT SLI (1024 MB)184326190
GeForce 8800 GT SLI (512 MB)203392229
GeForce 8800 Ultra 3SLI (768 MB)388715418
GeForce 8800 Ultra SLI (768 MB)294580339
GeForce 8800 GTS SLI (320 MB)234420245
GeForce 8600 GTS SLI (256 MB)164277162
GeForce 8600 GT SLI (256 MB)155253148
GeForce 7950 GX2 SLI (4x 512 MB)225370216
GeForce 7950 GT SLI (512 MB)170284166
GeForce 7900 GT SLI (256 MB)161256150
GeForce 7900 GS SLI (256 MB)155252147
GeForce 7800 GTX SLI (256 MB)187340199
GeForce 7800 GT SLI (256 MB)162289169
GeForce 7600 GT SLI (256 MB)145232135
GeForce 7600 GS SLI (256 MB)137205120
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Power Consumption of The Entire System with Nvidia Graphic Cards2D Desktop Watts (Socket)3D Full Load Watts (Socket)Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)117352206
GeForce GTS 260 (896 MB)111336196
GeForce 9800 GX2 (2x512 MB)173368215
GeForce 9800 GTX (512 MB)119257150
GeForce 9800 GTX (512 MB)126264154
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB)102187109
GeForce 9600 GT (512 MB)106208121
GeForce 8800 GTS (512 MB)127277162
GeForce 8800 GTS (512 MB)126269157
GeForce 8800 GT (1024 MB)103198116
GeForce 8800 GT (512 MB)115239140
GeForce 8800 Ultra (768 MB)154313183
GeForce 8800 GTX (768 MB)146296173
GeForce 8800 GTS (640 MB)138256150
GeForce 8800 GTS (320 MB)127240140
GeForce 8600 GTS (512 MB)98178104
GeForce 8600 GTS (256 MB)93172100
GeForce 8600 GT (256 MB)8916093
GeForce 8500 GT (256 MB)8514082
GeForce 8400 GS (256 MB)8313679
GeForce 7950 GX2 (2x512 MB)120120139
GeForce 7950 GT (512 MB)99183107
GeForce 7900 GTX (512 MB)105206120
GeForce 7900 GTO (512 MB)104202118
GeForce 7900 GT (256 MB)9316395
GeForce 7900 GS (256 MB)9516496
GeForce 7800 GTX (512 MB)105235137
GeForce 7800 GTX (256 MB)105208121
GeForce 7800 GT (256 MB)95183107
GeForce 7600 GT (256 MB)8815289
GeForce 7600 GS (256 MB)8813780
GeForce 7300 GT (256 MB)8413378
GeForce 7300 GS (128 MB)8213277
GeForce 6800 Ultra (256 MB)122202118
GeForce 6800 GT (256 MB)116185108
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB)9016194
  • Inktfish
    Could you please add the Radeon 4830? :)
  • sepuko
    Took the words right out of my mouth.
  • since Core i7 920 has TDP = 130W, how can it consume 85W only?
  • 1.21 Jigawatts !!!
  • nukemaster
    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?
  • neiroatopelcc
    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 ....
  • cynewulf
    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
  • Inneandar
    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...
  • zodiacfml
    nice collection of data. i hope many learn from this and avoid recommending too powerful supplies.
  • roofus
    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.