A lot of recent news over the past few weeks has given us more details about the next generation of graphics cards and processors to be announced soon, and if what we’ve heard is true, it looks like we’ve decided on energy efficiency and conservation. For suckers and newbies.
First, there have been long-standing rumors that next-gen Nvidia Lovelace graphics cards are going to be energy hogs, but earlier this week reliable Twitter leaker Kopite7kimi posted some alleged specs for a high-end Nvidia RTX 4000-series card. Well, possibly a Titan-class card, which can have over 800W of power draw.
Now, we are hearing news from Wccftech (opens in new tab) That soon-to-be-announced AMD Ryzen 7000-series desktop processors, with a reported 170W TDP for the top-tier Ryzen 9 chip, appear to be throwing away any pretense along with efficiency.
Assuming you’ve hooked these two components together and nothing else, you have almost an entire kilowatt of power being sucked up only by the processor and graphics card, meaning everything else will power the system completely on the 1000W line. Will push.
Without question, this will be the best gaming PC ever, but is it even worth it at this point?
Do we really need that much power?
Lots of great graphics cards are energy sinks, like the Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti, which has a rated TGP of 450W. It’s undeniably powerful, and that can make the best of PC games amazing, but I’ve had the privilege of playing these games on all of my high-end hardware, and I can honestly say that 4K eye candy will be what you’re looking for. It’s too real to get from the RTX 3090 Ti, but the RTX 3070 or even the RTX 3060 Ti looks more than sweet enough for most people.
For 170W, let’s say, an AMD Ryzen 9 7950X, it would certainly make for a very powerful processor, but one whose power is absolutely wasted on the consumer market. That kind of power would be a multitasking winner, no doubt, but it’s getting the processor equivalent of juggling half a dozen knives while riding a circus bear in a tutu and balancing a bottle on its nose. An impressive feat, but it is ultimately just a spectacle. No one has ever really needed to do so many tasks that require such performance in everyday life.
Meanwhile, Intel was heading in the right direction before Elder Lake with an emphasis on improving efficiency on its processors, but 12th-gen chips seem to have done that good to recapture the company’s previous best-in. The work is reversed. -Class performance.
good enough to accept
There is a belief that only a 1.25x or 1.5x performance increase can be considered successful, and you need to pull off this sort of thing every one to two years. Some are talking about a 2x performance increase for Nvidia Lovelace, and who knows what Intel Raptor Lake will bring.
At some point, we’re going to be collecting all this computing power at the consumer level to store this power as we can. Then we settle down and use it to stream Netflix.
That’s not to say that performance enhancement isn’t worth pursuing, but we should aim to match performance with our needs, not just introduce such performance and then look for new ways to use it. Should do – at least it can’t be the default assumption every time.
There’s nothing wrong with Nvidia coming out and saying that the RTX 4090 isn’t more powerful than the RTX 3090, but that it uses half the energy, or that it’s a fifth of the price. Price and efficiency seem to have been completely sidelined, and this is not just a mistake, it is increasingly unethical.
performance at all costs actually incurs real, tangible costs
There are two major issues with performance being the only metric that matters now.
First, energy is not free; Neither environmentally nor economically. As it stands, rising carbon emissions are projected to make large, heavily populated areas of the planet partially, if not completely uninhabitable, at an accelerated rate. Our major abuse of scarce energy resources requires producing more carbon emissions to meet our real needs, and the trade-off is not worth it.
It is believed that the consequences are far enough in the future, for most people to believe that this is a problem we can solve tomorrow. This is simply not true, as the recent heat wave in Europe and continuing wildfires in the western United States is clearly evident, not to mention one of the worst droughts in recent history in parts of the Global South. Do what gets little, if any, attention to middle and upper class families migrating from their suburban homes in California.
what will it take?
If that can’t convince us to be more rational about “progress,” let’s point to a simple economic reality here: Reaching this level of performance is going to make these products even more expensive, given the pricing. Evicting even more people as households grapple with inflation and rising energy costs.
The current generation of graphics cards is already out of reach for most because they are too expensive. This trend is likely to continue into the future, making the technology essential to the modern economy something only the wealthy can afford, whether that means families or affluent gamers buying wildly opulent showpieces or wealthy countries that buy into these increasingly research-oriented games. Can afford to invest in costly technologies while universities in poor countries are increasingly pushed aside.
All this is a recipe for widening social divisions at a time when everyone is going to be under more pressure than ever from the changing environment for everything from vaccines to drinking water.
I love computers and am a lifelong PC gamer, so I get it, I really do. But I can also tell you that the RTX 3090 Ti’s performance, as impressive as it is, leaves seriously underwhelming returns after a while. At some point, it’s okay to say, “You know, 60 to 70 fps at 1440p is good enough,” because honestly, it is.