Power consumption analysis

A gaming computer can often be seen as a power hungry beast. Sure, high end graphics cards and overclocked processors do require a fair bit of power but just how much power does a typical gaming system use? Today we will be analyzing the power consumption of a typical gaming computer which is equipped with an AMD FX 8350 processor and a MSI 280X 3GB graphics card.

Specifications:
CPU: AMD FX 8350 (stock + overclocked)
Motherboard: ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600MHz RAM (2x4GB)
Graphics: MSI 280X 3GB Gaming (stock)
Storage: 1x 7200RPM hard drive and 1x solid state drive
Power Supply: OCZ ZS 650W 80%+ Bronze
Sound: Asus Xonar DG PCI card
Other: 4x system fans

Some of the components in our test computer are fairly power hungry. The AMD 280X graphics card is the worst offender with a TDP rating of 250W followed by the AMD FX 8350 processor with a TDP of 125W. This test computer is a regular gaming desktop which will be similar to many other computer builds.

How we measured

It’s hard to get 100% accurate results when measuring power consumption though we tried to keep the tests as fair and consistent as possible. We measured the power being sucked from the mains into the power supply using an energy monitor. We decided to use a few different real world tests with a focus on gaming. After all, it is a computer equipped with a gaming graphics card. In addition to some gaming tests, we also decided to use Prime95 and the Heaven benchmark to get a better idea of power consumption when some components are stressed in unusual conditions.

Overall power consumption
The idle test reading was taken 10 minutes after booting into Windows 7 and was done twice to ensure accuracy. The lowest result was taken. The Prime95 test used the blend setting on 8 CPU cores. After 30 minutes, the result was taken. The three gaming tests were all taken at the highest settings at the resolution of 1920×1080 with vsync off. Each game was played for 15 minutes and the result was taken.

This graph shows the overall system power consumption when doing specific tasks. Battlefield 4 was the most demanding game we tested, requiring 403W of power from the mains. This is unsurprising since both the AMD FX 8350 and MSI 280X require a considerable amount of power when stressed. It’s possible that future games, which are more demanding than Battlefield 4, could further increase the overall power consumption slightly. At idle the computer only used 82W which makes it fine to use for light tasks such as office applications and web browsing without worrying about a high power draw.

While we done most of our tests at stock speeds, which is what the majority of gamers will be running at, we also decided to slightly overclock the AMD FX 8350 to 4.4GHz to see the difference in overall power consumption when using Prime95.

Overall power consumption Prime95
The Prime95 blend test was done for 30 minutes and then a result was taken.

At stock, with turbo mode activated, we see the computers overall power consumption is 255W in Prime95. When an overclock to 4.4GHz is applied, the computers overall power consumption rises to 290W. Considering the overclock is only an extra 200MHz from turbo, or 400MHz from the stock base clock, we see a rise of 35W. The power consumption would continue to rise as you overclock further which will not only put more strain on the processor but also the motherboard and power supply.

In conclusion, we feel that our test computer did not draw unreasonable amounts of power. Our highest result was from Battlefield 4 which saw the computer consuming 403W from the mains. While Battlefield 4 was our most resource intensive game we tested, we saw that less demanding games such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive caused the hardware to consume 340W of power. Our gaming system used an AMD FX 8350 processor and a MSI 280X graphics card which both have fairly high TDP ratings however, we found from the results of our tests that the overall system power consumption was reasonable and that gamers should not be put off by the high TDP rating of such components.

 

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