1,400 million transistors engraved at 65 µm... It augurs heavy power consumption for the card. Let’s look at the variations in consumption at the power supply (which includes the consumption of the entire configuration plus 20% in power-supply losses).
The first point is that during gameplay, the power consumption of the new cards is certainly high, but it is not record-breaking. The GTX 280 showed power use similar to that of the 8800 Ultra and less than the 9800 GX2. And if it were higher than the 3870 X2, it’s only because the card is underused in the game we tested with. As an indication, with Fillrate Tester we noted much higher consumption peaks: 404 W for the 3870X2 as against only 340 W for the GTX 280 and 279 W for the 9800 GTX. With the GTX 260, it only slightly exceeded the 9800 GTX, which is good news. As for the maximum consumption of the cards, Nvidia claims 236 W for the GTX 280 alone and 182 W for the GTX 260.
On the other hand, Nvidia’s designers have focused on at-idle power consumption. The cards have a chip that monitors the GPU use rate constantly, and using that information the driver automatically adjusts the frequency, the voltage and the activity of each part of the circuitry. And one has to admit that the GT 200s are particularly impressive, completely catching up the historical lag of Nvidia’s chips behind AMD in recent times – and then some: The GTX 260 gets credit for a 20-W drop in consumption measured at the power supply compared to the 9800 GTX, and the GTX 280 also consumes significantly less power – approximately 25 W in 2D (frequencies are dropped to 300 MHz for the GPU and 100 MHz for memory!) and approximately 35 W playing Blu-ray disks. That is really excellent, and more or less cancels the advantage of HybridPower, which requires you to change motherboards to be able to disable the 3D card completely, and lose some gaming performance in the process!