A slew of recent news over the last few weeks has given us more information about the upcoming next-gen graphics cards and processors, and if what we’ve heard is true, it sounds like we’ve decided that energy efficiency and conservation is for suckers and newbs.
First, high-end Nvidia Lovelace graphics cards are rumored to be power-hungry, but earlier this week reliable Twitter leaker Kopite7kimi posted some alleged specs for a high-end Nvidia RTX 4000 card, possibly a Titan- class, which could have more than 800W of power consumption.
Now, we are hearing news from Wccftech (opens in new tab) that the soon-to-be-announced AMD Ryzen 7000-series desktop processors also appear to be throwing away any pretense of efficiency, with a reported TDP of 170W for the top-tier Ryzen 9 chip.
Assuming you paired these two components together and nothing else, you’d have almost a whole kilowatt of power being sucked up just by the processor and graphics card, which means everything else will absolutely push this system towards the 1000W lineup.
Without a doubt, this would probably be the best gaming PC ever built, but is it worth it at this point?
Do we really need that much power?
Many of the best graphics cards are power sinks, like the Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti, which has a rated TGP of 450W. It’s unquestionably powerful and can make the best PC games look amazing, but I’ve had the privilege of playing these games on all this high-end hardware and I can honestly say that the 4K eye candy you get from an RTX 3090 Ti is very real, but the RTX 3070 or even the RTX 3060 Ti looks more than sweet enough for the vast majority of people.
As for the 170W for, say, an AMD Ryzen 9 7950X, that would definitely be a very powerful processor, but one whose power is absolutely wasted in the consumer market. That kind of power would be a multitasking champion, no doubt, but it’s becoming the processor equivalent of juggling half a dozen knives while riding a circus bear in a tutu and balancing a bottle on your nose. An impressive feat, but at the end of the day it’s just a spectacle. Nobody really needs to do so many things that require that kind of performance in everyday life.
Meanwhile, Intel seemed to be heading in the right direction before Alder Lake, with an emphasis on improving the efficiency of its processors, but the 12th-gen chips seem to have reversed much of that good work to recapture the company’s previous best performance. class performance.
There’s a notion that just 1.25x or 1.5x performance boosts can be considered a success, and that you need to do this sort of thing every year or two. Some are talking about 2x performance boosts for Nvidia Lovelace, and who knows what Intel Raptor Lake will bring.
At some point, we’re hoarding all this computing power at the consumer level to hoard that power because we can. So let’s use it to stream Netflix.
That’s not to say that performance increases aren’t worth pursuing, but we should look to match performance to our needs, not introduce that kind of performance, and look for new ways to use it – at least that can’t be the default assumption of every turn.
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 power, or that it costs a fifth of the price. Value and efficiency seem to have been completely overlooked, and this is not just a mistake, it is increasingly unethical.
Performance at all costs actually imposes real and concrete costs
There are two main issues with performance being the single metric that seems most important.
First, energy is not free; not environmentally, and not economically. As it stands, rising carbon emissions are projected to make large, densely populated areas of the planet partially, if not entirely, uninhabitable at an accelerating rate. Our blatant misuse of scarce energy resources requires producing more carbon emissions to meet our real needs, and the trade-off is simply not worth it.
It is assumed that the consequences will be far enough in the future for most people to believe it is a problem we can solve tomorrow. This is simply not true, as the recent heat wave in Europe and the continuing wildfires in the western United States make clearly obvious, not to mention one of the worst droughts in recent history in parts of the Global South that gets far less, if any. . , beware of middle- and upper-class families fleeing their suburban California homes.
What will it take?
If that can’t convince us to be more rational about what we consider “progress”, let’s just point out a simple economic reality here: getting to that level of performance will only make these products even more expensive, pricing even more people in as families struggle. against inflation and rising energy costs.
The current generation of graphics cards are already out of reach for most because they are so expensive. This trend looks set to continue into the future, making technology essential to the modern economy something only the wealthy can afford, whether that means wealthy families or gamers buying extremely powerful display pieces or wealthy countries that can afford to invest in research. in these countries more and more expensive technologies, while the universities of the poorest countries are increasingly left out.
All of this is a recipe for widening social divisions at a time when everyone will be under more pressure than ever from a changing climate for everything from vaccines to clean water.
I love computers and I’m a lifelong PC gamer, so I understand, I really do. But I can also say that the performance of the RTX 3090 Ti, as impressive as it is, has seriously diminishing returns after a while. At some point, it’s okay to say “you know, 60-70 fps at 1440p is good enough”, because honestly, it is.