Skip to content

Why are high end gaming PCs banned?

High-end pre-built gaming PCs like certain Alienware Aurora models have been banned for sale in 6 US states recently. Why? These powerful machines exceed new energy efficiency regulations even while idling in sleep mode. But with some informed component choices, PC gamers can still build high-performance rigs within legal power limits.

New State Laws Restrict Gaming PC Power Draw

In 2021, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington passed legislation limiting energy usage of desktop computers sold in their states. For example, California‘s regulations state desktops can only draw 50W in sleep mode, and 1W off. Gaming PCs often far exceed those limits.

System State Max Power Draw
Sleep Mode 50 watts
Off 1 watt

Why target gaming PCs? These high-performance machines pack components like GPUs and CPUs that use considerable electricity even at idle. For example, an Nvidia RTX 3090 draws around 20W by itself when not gaming. High-end build total idle power can easily hit 100-300W, violating legal thresholds.

Gaming PC Sales Impacted, But Alternatives Available

Prebuilt manufacturers like Dell and HP have halted sales of high-end configurations in banned states. For example, certain expensive Alienware Aurora R10 and R12 models exceeded 350W idle power, resulting in regulatory non-compliance.

But there are still plenty of options for gamers, including:

  • Building a custom energy-efficient gaming PC
  • Buying used/older components that draw less power
  • Using laptops with optimized mobile components
  • Cloud gaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming with no local hardware needed

Carefully selecting parts can allow you to assemble a high-end gaming PC within 100-200W idle power limits, while still providing top-tier performance when active for gaming.

Understanding Gaming PC Component Power Consumption

To avoid bans and build the most power-efficient gaming PC, you need knowledge of how much electricity key components draw. Here is a breakdown:

Graphics Card

The GPU is often the most power hungry component. High-end models can draw >300W under gaming load. But even idle, GPUs use 15-20W+. Choose an energy efficient card just capable of your target gaming performance.

GPU Gaming Load Idle
RTX 3090 350W 20W
RTX 3060 Ti 200W 10W

CPU

High core/thread count CPUs like Ryzen 9s allow heavy multitasking, but also use more energy. Aim for 6 cores for 60+ FPS gaming. Also consider laptop/mobile processors drawing 35W vs 65W+ on desktop.

CPU TDP Idle
Ryzen 9 5950X 105W 45W
Ryzen 5 5600X 65W 15W

RAM

Faster RAM draws more power. For gaming 16GB DDR4 3200MHz is plenty. DDR5 coming soon uses more electricity.

Storage

SSDs consume under 5 watts versus 10-15W for hard disk drives. Use 1-2TB NVMe M.2 SSD for best performance and efficiency.

Motherboard

The chipset and features dictate power use. B550 boards with AMD Ryzen CPUs strike a good balance.

PSU

Get an optimal wattage, 80+ Gold rated power supply. Provides efficient power delivery without waste.

Cooling

Liquid cooling pumps use electricity, large heatsinks/fans are passive and efficient for CPUs and GPUs.

Case and Fans

Good airflow from quiet PWM fans reduces need for high fan speeds. Avoid flashy RGB lighting.

High-End Gaming PC Cost Analysis

Building your own PC can also save over buying prebuilts. Let‘s compare costs for equivalent high-end configs:

Custom Build Prebuilt
GPU RTX 3080 – $699 RTX 3080 – $699
CPU Ryzen 7 5800X – $299 Core i7-11700K – $399
RAM 16GB DDR4 3200 – $60 16GB DDR4 3000 – $85
Storage 1TB NVMe SSD – $95 512GB SSD – $60
PSU 750W 80+ Gold – $109 500W 80+ Bronze – $50
Case $100 $75
Total $1362 $1568

The custom build above meets energy efficiency requirements while costing over $200 less! Building your own lets you target only the components needed for your gaming goals.

Optimizing Settings for Efficient Gaming

Beyond hardware selection, tweaking settings in games can further improve energy efficiency and performance:

  • Enable FPS limit to prevent GPU working too hard
  • Try slightly lower resolutions like 1440p on a 4K display
  • Adjust graphics quality based on GPU power and FPS
  • Disable unnecessary visual effects
  • Close background apps when gaming

Testing different combinations delivers a tailored experience maximizing visuals per watt.

The Thriving PC Gaming Market

These regulations predominantly affect prebuilt manufacturers. But PC gaming itself continues thriving. In fact:

  • The PC gaming market grew 1.8% to $35.9 billion revenue in 2022.
  • There are over 1 billion PC gamers and PC game revenue is nearly 3X console.
  • 89% of US households own a computer as of 2016, enabling widespread access.
  • Valve‘s Steam service has over 120 million active users.

The PC gaming community remains passionate – building custom rigs, optimizing performance, and enjoying a huge library of games. Energy regulations in a handful of states haven‘t changed that.

Looking Forward: Improving Gaming PC Efficiency

As an experienced builder always seeking the best performance per watt, what excites me is the future advancements that will deliver even more efficient gaming PCs. Some examples:

  • Newer GPU architectures like Nvidia Ada and AMD RDNA 3 will offer better performance/watt.
  • DDR5 RAM uses less power despite higher speeds.
  • Smaller transistor manufacturing will cut power draw.
  • Liquid cooling technology improves to cool efficiently.

With smart component selection, config tuning, and ongoing hardware improvements – high-end gaming PCs will absolutely thrive within energy regulations. Passionate gamers and builders will continue pushing the envelope to maximize our gaming experiences.

Conclusion

State laws banning the most power hungry prebuilt gaming PCs may seem alarming. But by understanding component power consumption, choosing parts strategically, and assembling your own system – you can build a high-end gaming PC exceeding performance needs while complying with energy efficiency regulations. PC gaming shows no signs of slowing down – especially with the vibrant enthusiast DIY community.