Before I go much further into this article I will say – there is no one answer to how much power does a PC consume. You have to take into consideration the internal components (particularly the CPU and if the PC uses a HDD or SSD), the age of the PC, the efficacy of its PSU and also how far its components are pushed.
The simplest way to determine how much power your PC uses is to buy yourself a relatively cheap power meter like this one on Amazon which I got for a little under £10.
All the same the video below shows a selection of the various types of PCs I have to hand and how much they consume, a further write up is over the page.
10zig Thin Client
Thin clients are low powered devices that are in truth little more than a monitor connection and a PC that serves one task – to provide a method of accessing remote computing resources (be it a Citrix or Remote Desktop Services Farm).
To perform this task thin clients need very little processing power (in these thin clients its just a little Atom CPU) and also use Flash memory to help keep the power consumption as low as possible. The case of the thin client also acts as a heat sink and so does not need a fan to keep it cool.
As you might expect the thin client is the best performer in this quick test with a idle power of about 12-13W.
Novatech nBox E350
This small form factor PC uses the highly efficient AMD E-350 APU (which combines a CPU and a GPU onto a single chip and is AMDs direct competitor to the Intel Atom line up), the PC also has a SSD inside and is so low power it uses a notebook PC style lead to provide power from the wall socket. As the processor runs so cool the internal fan rarely needs to come on saving even more power.
At idle the PC uses a between 16-20W although you would expect the power consumption to rise as the PCs CPU gets put to work.
Intel Atom Desktop PC
This older model PC uses a Intel Atom processor but has a hard disk drive instead of a SSD inside, hard drives are a moving component and so require power to spin the drive around adding to the PCs overall power consumption. This model of PC also has a fan in the PSU and also on the CPU adding to the moving parts and power consumption.
At idle the PC uses around 44W.
Stone Age Pentium 4 PC
Back from the stone age this Pentium 4 CPU powered PC is a true hog – the Pentium 4s were rated all the way up to 110W max power consumption and that is not including the 3 fans inside the PC and the old hard drive.
As you might expect this PC has a quiet excessive power consumption at 108W when idle (and that’s without Windows booted).
At the moment we are using some of these older PCs as fat/thin clients however as you might expect I am quiet eager to get them replaced with the true thin clients that consume up to 8.5X less power.
6 Core Media Suite PC
With a 6 core CPU, dedicated AMD graphics card and LOTS of fans you might expect this PC to consume lots of power with its only redeeming feature being the SSD.
However I was quiet pleasantly surprised to see a power consumption of just 60W when idle.
These maybe the most high performance PCs we have however you have to consider that the AMD FX series has a lot of power management tools built in including the ability to turn off unused processor cores – this leads to a highly efficient machine in the long run.