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How Much Power Does Your Graphics Card Need?

Power Consumption--Graphics Cards And Electricity Costs

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 System2D Without Load3D Full Load2D Average3D Average
X38 Chipset52-68 Watts80-120 Watts64 Watts104 Watts
780i Chipset114-125 Watts142-158 Watts119 Watts150 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 Cards2D Desktop Watts (socket)3D Full Load Watts (Socket)2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)532483193145
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)472322782135
GeForce 9800 GX2 (2x512 MB)10926464191154
GeForce 9800 GTX (512 MB)55153329689
GeForce 9800 GTX (512 MB)621603610993
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB)3883226748
GeForce 9600 GT (512 MB)42104257461
GeForce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB)6317337110101
GeForce 8800 GTS (512 MB)621653610996
GeForce 8800 GT (1024 MB)3994236855
GeForce 8800 GT (512 MB)511353089119
GeForce 8800 Ultra  (768 MB)9020953158122
GeForce 8800 GTX (768 MB)8219248144112
GeForce 8800 GTS (640 MB)741524313089
GeForce 8800 GTS (320 MB)631363711079
GeForce 8600 GTS (512 MB)3474206043
GeForce 8600 GTS (256 MB)2968175140
GeForce 8600 GT (256 MB)2556154433
GeForce 8500 GT (256 MB)2136123721
GeForce 8400GS (256 MB)1932113319
GeForce 7950 GX2 (2x512 MB)56134339878
GeForce 7950 GT (512 MB)3579206146
GeForce 7900 GTX (512 MB)41102247260
GeForce 7900 GTO (512 MB)4098237057
GeForce 7900 GT (256 MB)2959175134
GeForce 7900 GS (256 MB)3160185435
GeForce 7800 GTX (512 MB)41131247277
GeForce 7800 GTX (256 MB)41104247261
GeForce 7800 GT (256 MB)3179185446
GeForce 7600 GT (256 MB)2448144228
GeForce 7600 GS (256 MB)2033123519
GeForce 7300 GT (256 MB)2029123517
GeForce 7300 GS (128 MB)1828113216
GeForce 6800 Ultra  (256 MB)58983410257
GeForce 6800 GT (256 MB)5281309147
GeForce 6600 GT (128 MB)2657154633
Power Consumption Nvidia Graphic Card (SLI)2D Desktop Watts (Socket)3D Full Load Watts (Socket)2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)8439049147228
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)9246054161269
GeForce 9800 SLI (512 MB)11631268203182
GeForce 9600 SLI (1024 MB)631523711089
GeForce 8800 GTS SLI (512 MB)11129565194172
GeForce 8800 GT SLI (1024 MB)6517638114103
GeForce 8800 GT SLI (512 MB)8424249147141
GeForce 8800 Ultra 3SLI (768 MB)269565157471330
GeForce 8800 Ultra SLI (768 MB)175430102307251
GeForce 8800 GTS SLI (320 MB)11527067201158
GeForce 8600 GTS SLI (256 MB)45127267974
GeForce 8600 GT SLI (256 MB)36103216360
GeForce 7950 GX2 SLI (4x512 MB)10610662186128
GeForce 7950 GT SLI (512 MB)51134308978
GeForce 7900 GT SLI (256 MB)42106257462
GeForce 7900 GS SLI (256 MB)36102216360
GeForce 7800 GTX SLI (256 MB)6819040119111
GeForce 7800 GT SLI (256 MB)43139257581
GeForce 7600 GT SLI (256 MB)2682154648
GeForce 7600 GS SLI (256 MB)1885113232
Power Consumption AMD Graphic Cards2D Desktop Watts (Socket)3D Full Load Watts (Sockets)2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 hours
Radeon HD 4870 X2 (2x1024 MB)13832681242190
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)8318448145107
Radeon HD 4850 (512 MB)581333410278
Radeon HD 4670 (512 MB)1769103040
Radeon HD 4550 (512 MB)1731103018
Radeon HD 3870 X2 (2x512 MB)6824640119144
Radeon HD 3870 (512 MB)31112185465
Radeon HD 3850 (256 MB)2488144251
Radeon HD 3650 (512 MB)2563154437
Radeon HD 3470 (256 MB)2636154621
Radeon HD 3450 (256 MB)2128123716
Radeon HD 2900 XT (512 MB)7820646137120
Radeon HD 2600 XT (512 MB)2266133939
Radeon HD 2600 XT (256 MB)3268195640
Radeon HD 2600 Pro (256 MB)1847113227
Radeon HD 2400 XT (256 MB)1834113220
Radeon HD 2400 Pro  (256 MB)1726103015
Radeon X1950 XTX  (512 MB)38134226778
Radeon X1950 XT (256 MB)41150247288
Radeon X1950 Pro (256 MB)3894226755
Radeon X1950 GT (256 MB)3684216349
Radeon X1900 XT (512 MB)43158257592
Radeon X1900 XT (256 MB)37129226575
Radeon X1900 GT (256 MB)42101257459
Radeon X1800 XT (512 MB)48107288462
Radeon X1800 XT (256 MB)45111267965
Radeon X1800 XL (256 MB)4170247241
Radeon X1800 GTO (256 MB)3659216334
Radeon X1650 XT (256 MB)3671216341
Radeon X1650 Pro (256 MB)2854164932
Radeon X1600 XT (256 MB)2852164930
Radeon X1600 Pro (256 MB)2947175127
Radeon X1300 XT (256 MB)3054185332
Radeon X1300 Pro (128 MB)3436144221
Radeon X1300 XT (256 MB)2232133919
Radeon X800 XT (256 MB)2978175146
Power Consumption AMD Graphic Cards (CrossFire)2D Desktop Watts (Socket)3D Full Load Watts (Socket)2D Operation  Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours2D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 24 Hours3D Operation Cost in Dollars 365 Days x 8 Hours
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)178356104312208
Radeon HD 4850 CF (512 MB)11326366198154
Radeon HD 3870 X2 CF (4x512 MB)13550679237296
Radeon HD 3870 3CF (3x256 MB)9836057172210
Radeon HD 3870 CF (512 MB)6021935105128
Radeon HD 3850 CF (256 MB)471752782102
Radeon HD 3650 CF (512 MB)48131288477
Radeon HD 2900 CF (512 MB)15843692277255
Radeon HD 2600 XT CF (512 MB)41142247283
Radeon HD 2600 Pro (256 MB)3494205555
Radeon X1950 XTX CF (512 MB)8227448144160
Radeon X1900 XT CF (512 MB)8530050149175
Radeon X1600 XT CF (256 MB)581053410261
Radeon X1600 Pro CF (256 MB)5489329552
  • 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.