Building Three Sample Systems

Okay, so far we have some basic power guidelines in place. Let's put these figures into practice and look at some actual system power requirements. We've selected components for three different systems, so let's examine how much power each one requires.

System 1:
Intel Core 2 Duo E4500, 4GB Memory, P35 chipset motherboard, ATI Radeon HD 3650, an optical drive, and one hard drive. Outside of perhaps the memory, this is representative of your modern entry-level computer system. At idle, this computer requires around 90W of power. Even when we put the pedal to the metal and put a full load on the graphics card, processor, and optical drive, we still have a total power consumption of only 140W.

System 2:
AMD Phenom X4 9850 BE, 4GB Memory, AMD 790X Chipset, ATI Radeon HD 3870X2, an optical drive, and two hard drives. Our midrange system roughly doubles our power requirements, and depending on the benchmark it will offer more than twice the performance of our entry-level machine. At idle with Cool & Quiet enabled, this system uses almost 168W of power, while it needs at most 341W when fully loaded.

System 3:
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850, 4GB Memory, NVIDIA 780i Chipset, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra SLI, an optical drive, and four hard drives. For our third example, we chose some of the most demanding products for testing. In particular, the 780i Chipset from NVIDIA has the highest power consumption of all chipsets we've tested so far, drawing a constant 69W. (There is of course some variation in power consumption even from chips of the same family, and the features and extra chips on each motherboard differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Our particular 780i is an EVGA motherboard.) The idle power consumption for this setup is around 310W, and once we place of full load on everything power consumption increases to 544W.

Worth mention is that the second graphics card in an SLI/CrossFire setup never actually uses 100% of the theoretical maximum power consumption. We estimate power consumption based on the figures on page one, and the second GPU only runs at around 50% power at the desktop (i.e. half the idle power draw); adding a third GPU would result in an even lower load, since the third card is frequently underutilized. Likewise getting a full load on quad-core CPUs and multiple GPUs is not a typical scenario. It may be possible to draw slightly more power, but the above guidelines should suffice.

Do these numbers help clarify the situation? The first system has very low demands, and yet if we look at the PC market as a whole 90% of current shipping systems don't even provide the same level of hardware as system one. Even with that fact accepted, the question remains: what sort of power supply should you choose for such a system?

That's the next topic of discussion, and we want to show some simple ways to help you choose the correct power supply for your needs. For the moment will put aside other important factors like DC output stability, ripple and noise, and overall quality and focus on choosing an appropriate power supply. Key factors in this decision will be the efficiency curves and noise levels.

Index Efficiency Explained


View All Comments

  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    Edit: Christoph's text reflect the range for 90VAC to 230VAC, but my editing made that a little less clear. I've added in "input voltage" comments to clarify things. Reply
  • poohbear - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    thanks for this article!!! im planning on running 2 8800gt's in SLI on a 80% efficient enermax 420wt psu. it has 29a on the 12v+ line so im confident it can run it. All this BS about needing 500+wts psus is nonsense if you know your cards power needs. Reply
  • bela - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    Where did you get those power figures? Dream last night or what?

    This is totally made up bullshit.

    The ANTI-AMD war continues @ Anandtech

    you compare 2 year old 90nm AMD DC with new 45nm Intel DC, is that a fair peer group?

    6000+ 160W load? Even with 90nm this ist ridicoulus, it should be around 110W, a new 65nm 6000+ needs less then 80 Watt, a 65nm 5000+ less then 60W, so talk about making Intel look good.
  • elaar - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    bela, you seem to be incredibly rude and have also missed the entire point of the article, if it makes you that annoyed then why not do us all a favour and stop reading articles and commenting in the future.

    I for one found the article incredibly useful especially when you consider the sheer number of people who go out and buy way too powerful psu's and have no idea what they're doing.

    It doesn't matter what processor or graphics cards power stats were listed, they were just there as examples for the article, god knows how you've managed to get so confused with paranoia to believe it was an anti AMD campaign.

    Thanks Anandtech for a superb article.
  • npp - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    The power draw figures for the X2 6000+ are a bit off-scale (and yes, it is an older 90nm die, apparently), it's a tiny bit, however. You can have a look at the charts here (damn, the stupid link button doesn't work):">

    The system equiped with an X2 6000+ was measured to draw about 304W at full load and 180W at idle. Adding ~25W to that difference makes for ~150 total power consumption, which comes close to what was stated in the article. Just because you thought "it should be around 110W" doesn't make you automaticaly right. Learn living with the truth and stop behaving like a small child.

    Furthermore, as it was properly stated, those figures were intended to draw a frame around the best and worst case scenarios, representing some of the CPUs typicaly found in a system today. They weren't meant as a CPU-to-CPU comparison.

    That old dark sense of anti-AMD or anti-Intel paranoia continues to be abundant in every discussion nowadays... What a triumph for the PR brainwashers at both camps.
  • bela - Friday, September 26, 2008 - link

    No, they are not of scale, they are bullshit, nothing else but made up numbers.

    Look at this:

    X2 6400+ WITH Voltage Regulator, depending on Board 85,9 or 103,3 Watt">

    This ist the truth, nothing else
  • Kiijibari - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    Could this be a typo ?
    106W is ok, 160W is a little bit out of the "normal" scale ..

    Furthermore .. which 6000+ is it ?

    There are 3 different models:

    one 90nm "normal" model: 125W 3,0 GHz; 2x1MB L2 (ADX6000IAA6CZ)
    one 90nm EE model: 89W 3,0 GHz; 2x1MB L2 (ADA6000IAA6CZ)
    one 65nm model: 89W 3,1 GHz; 2x512kB L2 Cache (ADV6000IAA5DO)


  • JPForums - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    This is a curiosity for me as well.
    I have an A64 X2 6400+ 125W, 3.2GHz, 2x1MB L2 (don't remember the model number off hand) that doesn't seem to require near that power.

    The 6400+ is running on an nForce 570SLI with 8Gb (4x2Gb) DDR2-800.
    The video card is an 8800GTS 512Mb.
    I have 4 HDDs 2 optical drives and 8 fans (7 case + CPU fan) that according to specifications run at 8.6W when at full speed (how I have them while gaming).
    If I use the (presumably lower) power ratings used for the 6000+ and the 8800GT, and I exclude the power of usb components and the fan controller/sensor overhead, my total system consumption at load (using the values from the article) is around 450W.

    The curiosity is that the same Enermax Pro82+ 385W PSU mentioned in the article has no issue running this system. (Ironically emphasizing the point of the article) Using a basic kill-a-watt meter, I found a power draw of 378.2 was as high as it got during benchmarking, gaming, stressing the system. For reference, I tried 3DMarks 2006/Vantage, Stalker, Crysis, C&C3, and a combination of 2xPrime95 + ATItool's GPU heat up mode (rotating fuzzy block). The ATI tool combo offered the largest power draw in my system. Granted, the kill-a-watt may not be as accurate and I may not have stressed the system as well as in the article, but I suspect the power draw numbers for the 6000+ are lower than the article suggests.

    That small inconsistency aside, this was a nice article. I would like to see those power draw blocks that you overlayed on the power efficiency and noise curves included in future PSU reviews. It would be a quick and easy way to let people know how applicable the PSU being reviewed is to them. It would also be interesting to see how high the power draw gets with water cooling systems, case mods (I.E. cold cathodes), and the likes.
  • Christoph Katzer - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    My 6000+ was 90nm, yours? Reply
  • Kiijibari - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    He has a 6400+, that CPU is 90nm only (so far).

    But he has a AM2 mainboard, maybe you had a AM2+ board, and the onboard VRMs are running badly with a AM2 CPU ?



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