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Gaming PCs should go green

24 Jul 2015  | Jon Peddie

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A recent study suggests that gaming PCs should start considering its energy footprint.

Nathaniel Mills of and Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory just published a study in the journal Energy Efficiency a study that presents a novel analysis of the energy use of gaming PCs. We were able to assist them by providing marketing data and some background information on the gaming markets.

About one billion people around the world today engage in digital gaming. Gaming is the most energy-intensive use of desktop computers, and the high-performance "racecar" machines built expressly for this purpose comprise the fastest growing type of gaming platform.

Mills found enormous performance-normalised variations in power ratings among the gaming computer components available today. For example, central processing units vary by 4.3-fold, graphics processing units 5.8-fold, power supply units 1.3-fold, motherboards 5.0-fold, RAM 139.2-fold and displays 11.5-fold. Similarly performing complete systems with low, typical and high efficiencies correspond to approximately 900W, 600W and 300W of nameplate power, respectively.

While measured power requirements are considerably lower than nameplate for most components we tested—by about 50 per cent for complete systems—the bottom-line energy use is massive compared to that of standard personal computers.

Mills estimates that the typical gaming PC (including display) uses about 1,400kWh of electricity per year based on our actual measurements of gaming PCs with progressively more efficient component configurations, together with market data on typical patterns of use. The energy use of a single typical gaming PC is equivalent to the energy use of 10 game consoles, six conventional desktop computers or three refrigerators. Depending on local energy prices, it can cost many hundreds of dollars per year to run a gaming PC.

While gaming PCs represent only 2.5 per cent of the global installed personal computing equipment base, our initial scoping estimate suggests that gaming PCs consumed roughly 75 billion kilowatt-hours per year of electricity globally in 2012, or approximately 20 per cent of all personal desktop computer, notebook and console energy usage combined. For context, this corresponds to about $10 billion per year in energy expenditures, or the equivalent electrical output of 25 typical electric power plants.

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