What Do High-End Graphics Cards Cost In Terms Of Electricity?

Initial Idea And Power Consumption Definition

Initial Consideration and Basic Idea

The initial concept behind this article was that maximum graphics card performance is not always needed. In fact, it's rarely needed. And over long periods of time, you'll experience something closer to the middle of what a given GPU can do. The average user will not just play games continuously, and even the most demanding and graphics-heavy titles do not always use one hundred percent of the available graphics card resources and performance.

Thus, we first first considered what sort of user would install a high-end graphics card at all, and then we monitored common usage habits. This is where personal preference, prices, and available budget situation play large roles.

User Profiles and Software Use

We decided to use a couple of popular old stereotypes, because they are actually not that far from the truth. For starters, we imagined a young gamer who mostly plays intense, graphically-demanding shooters, heavily focused on high frame rates dependent on online communication and media consumption. As a counterpart, we imagine an older enthusiast who has the money to buy expensive technology, purchases it mostly out of interest, but sometimes uses his toys for playing very demanding games at high resolutions.

Somewhere below these extremely high-end cases, we have a more typical user (for example, a child or spouse of an enthusiast), who is using last year’s technology. This could be because because it was handed down to them, or because they buy a bunch of expensive hardware every few years, but not much in between that. The folks who fit this profile use a variety of mixed applications without any particular focus.

We chose some popular software and a couple of modern games with varying performance demands in an effort to regarding performance.

The Real Cost of Buying and Owning Hardware Includes the Power Bill

We take a slightly different approach in defining power consumption. The more well-endowed your graphics card, the more your CPU has to work in order to feed it with data. Again, at the extreme end, we see this when we try to match a mainstream processor up to a CrossFire- or SLI-based configuration and observe severe bottlenecks. So, while it is possible, it is actually not perfectly relevant to separate the power consumptions of the graphics card and CPU. We are more interested in their combined values, as that is more useful for calculating the real cost.

In order to get a low reference power consumption value, we installed a very basic graphics card and measured the total system consumption. The values of the other test system setups used in the test are based on the measured difference compared to this low reference value. The power consumption values are thus relative to what we measured for the basic graphics card, and not absolute power consumption values.

  • alikum
    Nvidia cards consume power like crazy
  • damric
    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
  • scook9
    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
  • porksmuggler
    ^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.
  • jimslaid2
    Glad I bought the 6870 over the gtx 460 1g
  • aznshinobi
    The fact that you mentioned a porsche. no matter what the context. I love that you mentioned it :D
  • AMW1011
    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...
  • nebun
    alikumNvidia cards consume power like crazywho 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
  • nebun
    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
  • Darkerson
    Very nice article! Keep it up!