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Power Consumption and the Modern Geek 76

mikemuch writes "ExtremeTech's Loyd Case got his hands on an Extech model 380083 power meter and decided to find out exactly how many watts today's geek equipment uses. He compares AMD vs. Intel processors, Nvidia vs. ATI graphics cards, and even checks out what a cranked up audio system draws -- it's a lot more than a PC."
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Power Consumption and the Modern Geek

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  • Cheap Power meter: P3 International's P4400 []. Everyone who has more than 4 computers on at the same time should have one. LOL. Less than $30.

    Before, Saddam got Iraq oil profits & paid part to kill Iraqis. Now a few Americans share Iraq oil profits, & U.S. citizens pay to kill Iraqis. Improvement?
    • I'm sure many of us have multimeters. I have several. I built a simple rig with a partially "unzipped" extension cord that I can use with my clamp-on ammeter and some simple math to get power.

      Before I got my nice clamp-on one I had a similar rig with an alligator-clipped gap in one lead. With this method you can also get power for DC circuits. It's kinda cool to know how much power my mp3 player draws with backlight on vs off.

      I know it's cool to have special tools, but why not use the ones you already h

    • Does anybody know of similarly cheap models for Europe? They would need to support 220-240 V @ 50 Hz, and the standard (almost) European plug. I did some search back in December but was only able to find $150 models... Way too much for me.

      By the way, have look at this Electricity around the world [] page. The huge amount of different plug shapes is maddening.
      • Re:European model? (Score:4, Informative)

        by lakin ( 702310 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @07:48PM (#14928919)
        Not as fancy as the one in the review, but how about this? [] Its got a UK plug/socket but should be fine for use in FR (from the specs on that page it should work with 240v 50/60hz but not 120v).
        I have one, seems to do the job!
        • Thanks a lot for the reference! I chose to but the Energy Check 3000 instead, but it's good to know there are several alternatives available.
      • I bought the Energy check 3000 from (A german store with an online webshop in the netherlands). You can even specify the cost per kWh and it calculates for a time how much something costs.

        I used to check my usage of my server and found out by just unplugging the CD-ROM drive, it saves about 10 Watts for an idle drive!

        • Thanks a lot for the model name! I looked it up with Google and found a French store carying a localized version with a 25% discount. I just ordered one for 28.5 euros, shipping included! :)
    • More info: P3's web page []. The only model is for 115 volts.

      Interesting company: One of the products is a Voice Changer [].
    • How about one that's not upside when plugged into outlets that are correctly oriented with the ground pin upwards for added safety reasons?

      How about one that can handle 240 volts with American (NEMA 6-15) standard plug and outlet for those of us that run their computers (yes, virtually all PC power supplies will handle it fine) more efficiently? OK, I'll use CEE 7/7 if I need to.

      FYI to Europeans ... yes we do have 240 volts here in North America. And it's safer here because the voltage relative to groun

  • Uh Oh (Score:4, Funny)

    by DarkNemesis618 ( 908703 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @04:51PM (#14927292) Homepage
    Coming from someone who has 2 desktops, 1 laptop, a pocket pc, 4.1 surround system, XBOX, XBOX 360, and countless other gadgets and tech toys, I don't think I want to know how much electricity my toys use.

    i guess it's a good thing that my electric is included in my rent...

    • Multiply that by 5...In college I had the pleasure of handling the electric bills for an apartment with 5 geeks (myself included). All with at least two computers, plus half a dozen consoles, stereos, etc. Not to mention nothing was ever turned off! $300 electric bills weren't that uncommon. Good times in that apartment...
  • by Brian Stretch ( 5304 ) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:09PM (#14927452)
    From TFA:
    The way Cool'n'Quiet works is that it reduces the multiplier when at idle or reduced load. So the clock speed effectively goes down, which means the CPU draws less current. But it also means that we couldn't overclock. On our ASUS A8N32-SLI motherboard, enabling Cool'n'Quiet disables the ability to overclock.

    Maybe they changed it on the A8N32-SLI, but that's not how it works on the A8N-SLI Premium. My X2 3800+ is OC'd by 15%, running 1150MHz in CnQ mode and 2300MHz at full speed. What you can't do is change the core voltage from its default settings with CnQ enabled, so forget about OC'ing a 3800+ to FX60 levels. Since AMD is very conservative with their default voltage settings you have some room to play with if you have proper cooling.

    CnQ on desktop CPUs normally runs the processor at 1GHz at 1.1V core while idle and full speed at a higher core voltage under load. In practice this makes a fairly minor difference, but for a machine that runs 24x7 every little bit helps.

    Notebook CPUs use 800MHz at an even lower core voltage (usually 0.95V or 1V) as their low-power setting, which makes CnQ significantly more effective than in desktops. You definitely want to keep power management enabled in notebooks.

    Core voltage has a much greater effect on power consumption than clockspeed, which is why undervolting is so popular.

    You'll want to buy AMD over Intel regardless ;-).
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  • I am collecting old PC's as I constantly upgradethem, repair them, and replace their components.

    Currently we have a shared laptop, 1x 486 (unused, and stored to become a networked storage area), 2x K6-2 500's (testing various linux configs), 1x Duron 1.1 (for business), 2x Athlon (K7) 3000+ machines (for myself and gf), and a K8 3000+ which is about to go live. At any one time we have 2 machines in use: sometimes 4.

    I only got my first computer about 6-7 years ago: Since then I haven't got rid of anything th
    • It is. But I suggest you go to the next stage.

      I used to have a similar list to yours, but most of it is in storage now. I have reduced it to a XP3200+ with a RAID array which is used for storage and thin clients like this: [] for the actual use. This or various Via EPIA systems. 5-15W power consumption. And most importantly - very very very quiet.

      • But doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose of inheriting machines? I don't know of too many people giving away such systems, so you need to buy them, which costs the initial investment in money...

        (I have a similar situation as the grandparent)
        • True, nobody is giving them up for free.

          You have to pay.

          But the price of a second hand thin client with a warranty from someone like Computacenter is peanuts. Depending on the CPU you can get them for 50-120$ in the US or 50-120£ in the UK (due to the usual way things a priced). If you are brave enough to buy from Ebay you can get them for even less.

          Overall, their cost is comparable to the electricity bill for a desktop with a P4 or Athlon (especially one that has not had power management configured t
      • I see your point about thin clients, but I still hanker after my own cybercafe-style gaming network.

        My mates just won't join a LAN party unless it is a cosy affair (involving beer and sofas), and I am the only one with the kit and the know-how to set it up for them / us / myself.

        Maybe I should give up on that ghost considering the electric bill..
    • I'm in the same boat and AFAIK, it's pretty typical for the geeky and (relatively) rich. I personally have 5 working computers but only 2 of them are typically on at any given time: my server which I use as a testbed & file server, and my gaming computer. The other computer that's usually on is my dad's gaming computer (nearly identical to mine and yes I still live with my parents - recent college grad :p ). My others are: a small, low power computer for my car (had an accident and need to modify it
    • Yes, I do the same; but I've noticed a trend... My oldest computers, things like a TRS-80 CoCo 3, still work fine. In my XT, the hard drive died only recently (of course it didn't even have a hard drive originally). My 486 lasted for over ten years... an AMD K6-500 about four years, and my Athlon 700 about three years. So I fear that collecting old computers may turn out to be a self-limiting phenomenon.
  • with 6 pcs/servers, 4 laptops and 2 printers it's $99 this month, which is about as low as it goes, and it pushes $200 in the summer with the ac on. my gf's bill is $30 with 1 pc. so it's something like $75/mo for my systems. crazy.


  • Some people have free time to burn...

    #1: a more interesting debate taking place today regards how much power various devices draw when in standby mode. I've seen estimates that from 5% of 13% of all U.S. power consumption is pissed away in various standby modes.

    #2. if you own a house you can just walk out to the electric meter to see what's going on. (Shut down all circuits but one and only draw on one device for a while.)
    • Yeah, good luck.
      1) In many homes, the builders didn't bother labeling the circuit breakers with which rooms they actually go to (for good reason sometimes, because for instance in my house one of the bedrooms shares a circuit with two outlets in the living room for some odd reason). So you might go through some trouble figuring out which breaker to leave on.
      2) If you live with someone, they probably won't be thrilled with you turning their lights off just so you can measure your computer's power consumptio
  • by hurfy ( 735314 )
    As someone into vintage stereos and computers i am pretty sure i don't want to know

    I would bet the 160w stereo sucks closer to 1000 at the plug there is a lot of excess heat, even more if i turn on the 2 EQs, the 8-track, and the 4-channel dobly box :)

    Usually a TV on to see if anything is on and 2 computers running when i am home. At least there is no 24/7 :)

    I dont imagine the florescent bulbs quite compensate :(

    Would be interesting to compare tohe 2 computers tho, 1 intel 2.4 and one AMD 2500+ that are alm
    • I would bet the 160w stereo sucks closer to 1000 at the plug there is a lot of excess heat.

      If you actually maxed it out, sure. But 160W is quite loud. Too loud to be in the same room. Probably too loud to be in the same house. My 200W integrated amplifier hovers arround 1W most of the time, rarely reaching 2W. Even if the efficiency is only 10%, that's still much less than a modern desktop computer.
  • I switched to an electricity supplier who could guarantee that all their supplies come from renewable sources []
    • I switched to an electricity supplier who could guarantee that at least 74.5% of their supplies come from nuclear plants: []
    • Re:Now *this* is why (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They can't guarantee that. All they can guarantee is, that the similar amount of electricity that you use is made with renewable energy sources. Somewhere, some day. And someone uses it with some luck. The electricity network usually in most of the places on earth combines it all at the core network level. You can't distinguish the energy produced by any means from the other. Most likely you are using electricity made by burning fossil fuels and roasting some uranium just like everyone else.
    • I don't think you can get anything but hydro-electric where I live.
  • If only... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kittie Rose ( 960365 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:39PM (#14927772) Homepage
    They'd invent a computer powered off a geek. Solve half of the obesity problem pretty damn quickly.
    • Hah, I did a fun calculation just last week, after someone gave me a link to [] , where you can calculate how much your system will use effectively.

      Say, a moderate PC will use about 175 Watt, which is 175 Joule/second. In an hour, that is 175 * 3600 / 1000 = 630 kJ. A peanut butter sandwich contains about 100 kcal, that is 420 kJ. So, with 100% conversion you would need to eat 1.5 peanut butter sandwiches to keep a pc running. Of course, you cannot directly conver

    • problem is... where would you plug it in?
  • What on earth does the graph at,1697,1937997 ,00.asp [] mean? What are the units and scale used for the X axis?
    • the comment before the graph implies that it's time, about 10 minutes.

      that doesn't quite make sense though--i'd expect boot up to use extra power to overcome platter inertia and that is not reflected on the graph.
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @06:03PM (#14928036) Homepage Journal
    and it's all renewable too (live in Seattle, purchase green power).

    Some easy ways to reduce power:

    1. use LCD flat screen instead of CRT;

    2. replace lightbulbs with flourescent lightbulbs as they burn out (1/8 energy);

    3. get a good UPS system ($99 or less on TigerDirect) which allows you to turn off power automatically via software, and send shutdown and kill signals to programs that don't need to be on (such as backup servers, monitors, TVs, etc).;

    4. run off of flash RAM USB keychains and such that are low power, and consider using LEDs instead of incandescent lights.

    And now I have many times the processing power, even with less energy usage.
  • Here's what I did (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Connect a photo-transistor up to a pulse LED-style power meter if you've got one and run a cable back to a parallel port on your Linux box.

    You can then log the power consumption for your entire house including those difficult to tap devices like ovens and HWCs.

    Minor appliances like desk lamps and laptop power supplies do show up, but it would be good to have some bayesean analysis algorithms that attempt to determine the most likely cause of a sudden rise/fall in usage. Something like "spike detected - whi
    • Connect a photo-transistor up to a pulse LED-style power meter ... and run a cable back to a parallel port on your Linux box.

      Is that an AC Linux box or a DC Linux box?

  • by Deluge ( 94014 )
    This page [] is complete nonsense.

    For the first graph, the units for both the horizontal and vertical axes seem to be Watts. Huh? And why would the power draw of an idle processor rise over time? (Maybe as it heats up?)

    But the second graph is the real kicker. 6 labels for 12 bars. The significance of the bars, the power draw in watts is simple enough. But what bar is what? The first two Pentiums seem OK - the first bar, above the label, is the idle power, then the bar next to the label is the peak power
    • I'm attemping to decipher them

      The second graph, they just failed to lable half the CPUs tested. They reference the 955XE, which is not labled anywhere on their graph.
      It's not idle/load, it's just peak for each CPU, but they made the graph to small to get all the CPU names on the left hand side... *sigh*

      The first graph, I'm lost. I think the horizontal axis should be time. Turn it on, let it sit idle for 10 minutes recording power usage, then run a few loops of 3dmark recording power usage. The trends on
  • Your sound ought to be the equivalent of 3/4 HP and it should dim the outside street lamps with alternating bass lines.
  • Why would you just buy a power meter? It wouldn't be difficult to take a power socket, mount it on a project box, put a cheap ammeter in there so that it connects in series, then plug anything you want into it to measure current. Power (Watts) = Volts (in the U.S, ~120v) * Current. What's wrong with making this a DIY project and doing a little math along the way?
    • Power (Watts) = Volts (in the U.S, ~120v) * Current.

      You're failing to take account of it being AC.

      What's wrong with making this a DIY project and doing a little math along the way?

      You win at irony!
  • This is why you need to turn your PC off when you're not using it.

    It's convenient to just be able to walk up and start using it. But translate that power consumption into the equivalent number of 60W light bulbs, and ask yourself how you'd feel about leaving that many light bulbs on all the time.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"