What is the Power Limit of a video card and why is it important

A novice user usually encounters the Power Limit parameter of a video card by overclocking it and installing the popular MSI Afterburner utility, or using the settings and overclocking options in the new NVIDIA and AMD video drivers. Let’s see what this parameter means, how and why to adjust it, and why it is so important when overclocking a video card.

Why do manufacturers limit the power consumption of video cards?
Video cards, like any other electronic computer component, consume electricity during their operation. And in terms of power consumption in a gaming PC, they usually lead, leaving far behind processors, RAM modules or storage. At the dawn of the development of video cards, manufacturers switched to digital control of their power supply, and with the help of precise sensors, modern video cards are able to dose the level of their power consumption with an accuracy of a watt.

By adjusting the voltage and frequency of the GPU and video memory in accordance with the algorithm set in the BIOS, the video card tries to maintain the maximum frequency and performance without going beyond the maximum allowable power consumption, which can usually be found from the TDP and TGP parameters.
The TDP parameter of video cards stands for Thermal Design Power or heat dissipation requirements, similar to the TDP of processors, but does not reflect the real power consumption of the device, but shows the maximum amount of heat that the video card cooling system must dissipate.

The TGP parameter, which stands for Total Graphics Power, indicates the total power consumption of the GPU, PCB and video memory and is closest to the actual power consumption of the video card. The higher the power consumption of a video card , the more high-quality power system it should be equipped with; the requirements for the cooling system of the video card increase sharply with its growth.

System power consumption with modern video cards in games

This results not only in an increase in the price of the device, but also in increased requirements for the user’s power supply, so power consumption has to be strictly limited. To prevent the video card from exceeding the calculated power consumption, a Power Limit parameter or “power consumption limit”, also called a “power consumption limit”, is needed.

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As soon as a modern video card reaches the power consumption limit, the boost mechanism reduces the frequency of the video core and its voltage, keeping the power consumption set in the BIOS and the video card driver.

How to determine the energy consumption limit?

The popular free GPU-Z utility from the developer TechPowerUp, which is used by both overclockers and computer enthusiasts, will help determine the power consumption limit. GPU-Z has an English interface, but tooltips have been translated into Russian. After launching the utility, you need to go to the “Advanced” tab, where in the “General” subsection we will see information about the current, minimum and maximum Power Limit parameter in percent, as well as the range of its manual adjustment “Adjustment Range”.

By selecting the item “AMD” or “Nvidia BIOS” in the “Advanced” subsection, you can see the power consumption limit in watts that are more familiar and understandable to us.

This is how these parameters look for the GeForce GT 1030 video card.

Video card ASUS GeForce GT 1030 Silent LP [GT1030-SL-2G-BRK] 9 099 *
Another useful function of the GPU-Z utility is a detailed monitoring of all the sensors of the video card in the “Sensors” tab, by which we can understand whether the video card “has run into” the power consumption limit under load. The indicators in the “PerfCap Reason” column mean the following: Idle is the GPU usage limit, vRel and vOp is the allowable and operating voltage limit, Thrm is the temperature limit, and Pwr is the power consumption limit of interest, displayed in green.

Why is Power Limit important and why are manufacturers tied to overclocking video cards?

The Power Limit parameter has become inextricably linked with overclocking video cards, because during overclocking, power consumption inevitably increases, especially if the voltage on the video chip is increased. And if you want to achieve serious performance gains, then the Power Limit parameter should be increased. But there are several nuances to consider.

You should take into account the specifics of setting Power Limit not only on different families of video cards, but also on specific instances. For example, latest-generation NVIDIA video cards do not allow increasing the voltage on a video chip, and even when overclocked, the “appetite” of junior and mid-range models will not grow very much.

At the same time, manufacturers in many models, especially OC – OverClock-versions, have already laid down an extended Power Limit by default. For example, the ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3060 Ti video card has a default Power Limit of 240 watts with the option to increase to 325 watts. For a video card with a TGP parameter of 200 watts, this is more than enough even for extreme overclocking, because judging by the reviews, this model, even in the version of the OS with higher frequencies, consumes 229 watts on average in games.

On older, more powerful video card models, for example, GeForce RTX 3070 and higher, Power Limit can already become one of the main limiting performance factors even without overclocking. Increasing it gives an increase in performance, but it is important to take into account that the temperature of the video card rises along with the power consumption.

Palit GeForce RTX 3070 GAMING PRO (LHR) [NE63070019P2-1041A] 114 999 *
Some video card models are even more responsive to an increase in Power Limit in combination with overclocking, significantly increasing performance. For example, the extreme increase in Power Limit by an impressive 95% for the Radeon RX 5700 XT allowed this video card to outrun the overclocked GeForce RTX 2070 Super in some tests and come close to the GeForce RTX 2080.

Tests carried out by the editor of the famous site Tom’s Hardware also showed a noticeable increase in the power consumption of a video card operating in this mode. This is fraught with the risk of its failure, so overclocking high-performance video cards should be done with great care. It is necessary to weigh whether the resulting performance gain is worth such an increase in power consumption, temperatures and the power system of a video card operating at the limit of its capabilities.