Gaming PCs: power consumption, costs and power supplies

If you play computer or video games at home (and don't want to use a service like Google Stadia), you need a PC, a notebook or a game console. All of these devices consume electricity, which you also have to pay for on your electricity bill. In addition, there is a monitor or TV and often also speakers.

The power consumption of game consoles is easy to understand because there are only a few models that use identical hardware and for which you can find numerous practical tests on the Internet. But what about a PC? Is gaming very expensive in terms of energy consumption? We want to take a closer look at these two questions in the first half of our special and then take care of power supplies so that you can more easily find a suitable power supply for your PC. For this purpose we also offer a market overview with 20 power supplies.

PC: Power requirements of the components

The graphics card and processor are particularly relevant for the power consumption of a PC when gaming. Apart from games, the graphics card is hardly significant. In both cases, however, the load on the components is by no means always 100 percent – so in order to calculate the costs, it only makes limited sense to bring the PC to full load using suitable programs such as Furmark and to measure the power consumption. In practice, the PC will consume less in most games than what can be measured under full load of the CPU and graphics card.







In games, here Red Dead Redemption 2, CPU and graphics card are usually not both at the same time with even approximately 100 percent utilization.



In games, here Red Dead Redemption 2, CPU and graphics card are usually not both at the same time with even approximately 100 percent utilization.

Source: PC Games




One might think that the CPU and graphics card always go full throttle in games, so that as many FPS (frames per second) as possible can be calculated. But in reality it looks different, because both CPU and graphics card consist of several – to put it simply – modules that are more or less suitable for certain tasks. This is particularly clear with processors, because there are not always enough individual tasks in a game to deal with every core. So an eight-core CPU may only have a high load with three or four cores, and the rest of the cores have little to do. So, with the best will in the world, the CPU cannot be at 100 percent load and consequently does not consume as much power as in a load test. With the graphics card, it can also be the case that one task area is fully utilized, but others only work at maybe 70 percent, so that the card uses less power than at full load. In both cases, the utilized areas determine how much FPS the CPU and the graphics card can calculate. And that leads to another limit: Let us assume that the CPU achieves a maximum of 90 FPS. The graphics card could theoretically achieve 120 FPS. However, the CPU remains at 90 FPS and the graphics card is not at full load because it can only "calculate" 90 FPS. This can also happen the other way round: The graphics card may only achieve 40 FPS, but the CPU would also easily achieve 100 FPS. Since the graphics card does not play along, the CPU has less to do and runs with less load.







CPUs of the same family often have the same TDP, although they have different clock values. This shows that the TDP does not exactly match the maximum power requirement.



CPUs of the same family often have the same TDP, although they have different clock values. This shows that the TDP does not exactly match the maximum power requirement.

Source: Intel




When calculating the power consumption, you can still assume the maximum scenario so that you do not select a power supply that is too weak – but you should not rely on the TDP values ​​that the manufacturers call for graphics cards and CPUs. Because the TDP does not necessarily indicate the maximum power consumption, although it now mostly comes close to the value. Strictly speaking, the TDP is used for cooling and indicates the maximum waste heat measured in watts. There are more reliable values ​​for tests of CPUs and graphics cards by specialist editorial offices, which usually specify the total consumption of the PC for CPUs, and the consumption of the graphics card for graphics cards in isolation. On the following page we have prepared an overview with the power requirements of some CPUs and graphics cards, so that you can roughly estimate what a corresponding PC consumes under load.

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