How Many Watts Does a Gaming PC Really Need? Exhaustive PSU Usage Benchmarks

By Published November 30, 2015 at 10:13 pm
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Power Consumption Tests

Our watt draw tests look at GPUs, CPUs, briefly looks at additional watt draw from GPU overclocking, and then provides some templated system builds for power tests.

GPU testing looks at full load. CPU testing looks at heavy encode workloads (100% load) and idle power consumption. The templated systems go through “full load” (unrealistic load level for a gamer – 100% CPU, 100% GPU), “gaming” (DiRT benchmark on loop), idle, and “synthetic load” test passes, defined more below.

Saturation of our test PSU does affect watt draw in the form of efficiency. SLI/CrossFire configurations, despite consuming the most power, will trend toward peak efficiency on the high-wattage unit. Small adjustments would have to be made to extrapolate for precise watt draw / builds. See above / previous page for more information on this.

Video Cards Tested

Here's a list of video cards tested:

You'll notice we did not test GPUs for idle. This is an artifact of old methodology that we are revising as we continue to shift our bench hardware to an updated rig. Because we no longer have access to the Fury X or R9 380 (non-X) and R9 390 (non-X), we maintain older power consumption methodology for GPUs. This is in exchange for keeping the once-loaner hardware present on the bench, as moving to idle/load testing on the new equipment would force-out the now-unavailable hardware. Going forward, we will be adding idle power consumption measurements for GPUs.

CPUs Tested

For CPU testing, we looked at the following products:

CPUs were left at stock clocks for this test. As mentioned elsewhere in this article, overclocking will increase watt draw and should be factored-in to PSU selection (add overhead if planning to OC considerably).

System Templates

These system templates are mostly just thrown together from parts we have access to, but they're reasonably built and represent what we think would occur in the real world. We carefully created a mix of AMD/Intel/nVidia components to best fill the power draw gaps between each configuration. The PSU used in every bench was the same for testing – we would, obviously, recommend lower wattage PSUs for these configurations.

Windows 10 was used for all systems. The same peripherals and monitor were used for all systems (ASUS MG278Q, Tt eSports Poseidon Z keyboard, Logitech G502 mouse). Some components were provided previously by manufacturers for tests, all of whom have been named in the “Courtesy of” column. iBUYPOWER and CyberPower additionally provided some CPUs for these tests.

System 1 (note: Memory pieced-out from 32GB kit, 1x8GB single-stick, single-channel configuration; price is not defined for this reason).

Ultra Budget Gaming PC Build Template
  Part Courtesy of Price
PSU Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $272
CPU AMD Athlon X4 760K 3.8GHz GamersNexus $76
Motherboard MSI A88XM-E45 GamersNexus $72
GPU EVGA GTX 750 Ti 2GB SC GamersNexus $140
Memory HyperX Savage 8GB DDR3-2400
(one stick, single-channel config)
Kingston N/A
Storage HyperX 3K SSD 120GB

Samsung 850 Pro 1TB
Kingston
Samsung
N/A
$422
CPU Cooler Stock AMD Cooler GamersNexus N/A
Case & Fans HPTX Top Deck Tech Station + 3 Fans GamersNexus $250

System 2 (note: Same Z97 motherboard was used for all Haswell/DC systems, despite the fact that an i3-4160 CPU should not likely be paired with this motherboard; this was for testing purposes and, simply, availability purposes):

Entry-Level Gaming PC Build Template
  Part Courtesy of Price
PSU Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $272
CPU Intel i3-4160 3.6GHz GamersNexus $122
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z97X G1 GamersNexus $292
GPU ASUS GTX 950 2GB NVIDIA $160
Memory HyperX Savage 16GB DDR3-2400 Kingston $103
Storage HyperX Predator 480GB PCI-e SSD

Samsung 850 Pro 1TB
Kingston
Samsung
$400
$422
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Be Quiet! $60
Case & Fans HPTX Top Deck Tech Station + 3 Fans GamersNexus $250

System 3:

Mid-Range Gaming PC Build Template
  Part Courtesy of Price
PSU Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $272
CPU Intel i5-6600K 3.5GHz iBUYPOWER $270
Motherboard ASRock Extreme6 Z170 iBUYPOWER $160
GPU EVGA GTX 970 SSC EVGA $350
Memory HyperX Fury DDR4-2666 16GB Kingston $115
Storage HyperX Predator 480GB PCI-e SSD

Samsung 850 Pro 1TB
Kingston
Samsung
$400
$422
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Be Quiet! $60
Case & Fans HPTX Top Deck Tech Station + 3 Fans GamersNexus $250

System 4 (Note: Dual 380X chosen for AMD representation and to look at other power draw scenarios):

High-End Gaming PC Build Template
  Part Courtesy of Price
PSU Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $272
CPU Intel i7-4790K 4.0GHz CyberPower $300
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z97X G1 GamersNexus $292
GPU Sapphire R9 380X 4GB

PowerColor PCS+ R9 380X 4GB
AMD
PowerColor
~$230
~$230
Memory HyperX Savage 32GB DDR3-2400 Kingston $220
Storage HyperX Predator 480GB PCI-e SSD

Samsung 850 Pro 1TB
Kingston
Samsung
$400
$422
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Be Quiet! $60
Case & Fans HPTX Top Deck Tech Station + 3 Fans GamersNexus $250

System 5:

Production / Enthusiast Gaming PC Build Template
  Part Courtesy of Price
PSU Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $272
CPU Intel i7-5930K 3.5GHz iBUYPOWER $460
Motherboard EVGA X99 Classified GamersNexus $420
GPU Reference GTX 980 Ti NVIDIA $650
Memory HyperX Predator 16GB DDR4-3000 Kingston $200
Storage HyperX Savage SSD 240GB

Samsung 850 Pro 1TB
Kingston
Samsung
$400
$100
CPU Cooler NZXT Kraken X41 CLC NZXT $107
Case & Fans HPTX Top Deck Tech Station + 3 Fans GamersNexus $250

This testing was made possible by sponsorship from Enermax.

Power Consumption Testing Methodology – GPUs

GPU power consumption was conducted using our Z97 test bed, as defined below. The power supply used was Enermax's high-end Platimax PSU, with 80 Plus Platinum-rated efficiency. To create a workload similar to a real-world gaming environment, we deployed 3DMark FireStrike Extreme, looping the Graphics 2 benchmark. This benchmark places the GPU under 100% load that, although synthetic, closely resembles a gaming workload.

This benchmark was left to run for 20 minutes, allowing for load and heat generation over the test period. Power draw was recorded manually from a wall meter. The benchmark does not heavily load the CPU and is primarily a demonstration of GPU power consumption under 100% load.

Overclocks were applied where defined. For each overclock, we have in-depth tables of overclock stepping and the process used to achieve the frequency. These tables are found on individual video card reviews.

For additional metrics and test diagnostics, we used GPU-Z and AIDA64 background monitoring utilities.

GN Z97 Bench Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card

This is what we're measuring!

- -
CPU Intel i7-4790K CPU
CyberPower $340
Memory 32GB 2133MHz HyperX Savage RAM Kingston Tech. $300
Motherboard Gigabyte Z97X Gaming G1 GamersNexus $285
Power Supply Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $272
SSD HyperX Predator PCI-e SSD
Samsung 850 Pro 1TB
Kingston Tech.
Samsung
 
Case Top Deck Tech Station GamersNexus $250
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Be Quiet! ~$60

Power Consumption Testing Methodology – CPUs

CPU power consumption was conducted using test benches with platform modifications as dictated by CPUs. The power supply used was Enermax's high-end Platimax PSU, with 80 Plus Platinum-rated efficiency. To create a replicable, constant load on the CPU, we used HandBrake encoding of a 4K video file captured at 50Mbps during a Battlefront gameplay session. This benchmark places the CPU under 100% load that resembles a processor-intensive workload.

The benchmark was left to run for 10 minutes, allowing for load and heat generation over the test period. Power draw was recorded manually from a wall meter. The benchmark is primarily a demonstration of CPU power consumption under 100% load.

For additional metrics and test diagnostics, we used CPU-Z and AIDA64 background monitoring utilities.

All power saving features, including C-states and APM, were disabled for these tests. This was to create a reliable, replicable load in a worst-case out-of-box scenario. Overclocks were not applied for our CPU power draw benchmarks.

GN Z97 Bench Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card

GTX 980 Ti Reference

NVIDIA $643
CPU Intel i7-4790K CPU
Intel i5-4690K CPU
Intel i3-4130 CPU
Intel G3258 CPU
CyberPower
GamersNexus
GamersNexus
GamersNexus
$340
$210
$105
$50
Memory 32GB 2133MHz HyperX Savage RAM Kingston Tech. $300
Motherboard Gigabyte Z97X Gaming G1 GamersNexus $285
Power Supply Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $272
SSD HyperX Predator PCI-e SSD Kingston Tech. TBD
Case Top Deck Tech Station GamersNexus $250
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Be Quiet! ~$60

AMD AM3+ Bench

GN Test Bench 2015 Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card

GTX 980 Ti Reference

NVIDIA $643
CPU AMD FX-8370E
AMD FX-8320E
AMD
AMD
$200
$132
Memory 32GB 2133MHz HyperX Savage RAM Kingston Tech. $300
Motherboard ASRock Extreme9 990FX GamersNexus $190
Power Supply Enermax Platimax 1350W PSU Enermax $272
SSD HyperX Predator PCI-e SSD Kingston Tech. TBD
Case Top Deck Tech Station GamersNexus $250
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Be Quiet! ~$60

AMD FM2+ Bench

GN Test Bench 2015 Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card

GTX 980 Ti Reference

NVIDIA $643
CPU AMD A10-7870K AMD
$128
Memory 32GB 2133MHz HyperX Savage RAM Kingston Tech. $300
Motherboard ASRock A88X Pro AMD -
Power Supply Enermax Platimax 1350W PSU Enermax $272
SSD HyperX Predator PCI-e SSD Kingston Tech. TBD
Case Top Deck Tech Station GamersNexus $250
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Be Quiet! ~$60

 


Last modified on December 02, 2015 at 10:13 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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