Are high-end GPUs wasting power when you’re not playing?

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You’ve bought a massive GPU for the game – or maybe you’re creating AI-generated artwork – and when it’s fully powered up, it uses a lot of power. But what about the boring everyday things? Is it extravagance?

Idle power is roughly equivalent across GPUs

When new GPUs are released, there’s always chatter about how much power they’re consuming, and curious PC builders want to know if they’ll need a new PSU to support new (and always higher) power requirements.

It would be easy to assume that those new GPUs are just completely power-hungry. In fact, you might have an idea like “I spend most of my time working on spreadsheets and documents for work and hardly any time for gaming, so I’m probably wasting a lot of electricity with this thing”.

Fortunately, this is not the case. Although the peak capabilities of different generations of graphics cards differ significantly, there is little difference between idle or semi-idle loads.

In terms of maximum processing power and capabilities, there is a huge difference between cards like the GTX 1060 and RTX 3080. But the idle power consumption varies by almost a small amount. The GTX 1060 uses about 5 watts of power while idle, and the RTX 3080 uses about 15 watts of power while idle.

This isn’t exactly the same power consumption, but it’s a rather insignificant difference. You are not completely destroying the environment or risking energy bills that you cannot afford with this difference in idle energy consumption. At 12 cents per kWh and using your computer for 8 hours per day, the difference in idle power consumption between the two cards is about $0.29 per month.

If you want to search the power consumption data of different cards, you can search the internet and search for specific cards. However, an easy shortcut to doing a lot of searching and comparing is to check out the power consumption stats in the extensive card reviews at TechPowerUp – like This review is for the ASUS RTX 3080 Noctua OC.

For every card they review, they thoroughly test it and give you power breakdown data for idle, multi-screen, gaming, and maximum power consumption. You may not want to dispense with a lot of power consumption data, but if you do, it is there. Simply search and search for your card or similar model.

Speaking of dodging power consumption, if you want to test the total power consumption of your computer idle and under load (or any other device for that matter), check out our guide to monitoring power usage.

Energy use under load is a different story

Of course, power consumption under load varies for newer and more powerful cards, which is exactly why the PSU has to be upgraded to keep up with the demands of the new GPU.

Under load, while playing a demanding game or doing some display work, the aforementioned GTX 1060 card may reach 125W of power consumption.

On the other hand, the RTX 3080 can easily reach 345W while playing tough games. That’s a 220 watt difference, which is definitely a small amount.

However, it still doesn’t have as much of an impact on your electric bill as you might assume. Let’s say you play games for four hours a night, and you play games that really hook your GPU. Again, using 12 cents per kWh as our reference point, you’d spend $1.80 a month on the GTX 1060’s power consumption and $4.97 a month on the GTX 3080’s power consumption.

So, assuming every second of your gameplay was re-selecting the GPU (which it probably isn’t), you’d only spend $3.17 extra per month for the same amount of games.

And who knows, maybe upgrading your GPU will save you money! There’s a bit of a running joke in the PC gaming community that while you’re upgrading your device, you’ll find yourself too busy to enjoy it—damn upgrade a bit, if you’d like. So throw your chubby new GPU out there with the confidence that you’ll likely be too busy with school, work, kids, or all of the above to increase your energy bill.

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