Some Alienware gaming PCs are too power-hungry for California

Some Alienware gaming PCs are so powerful that six states won't let you buy them due to their excessive power consumption. Dell has an...

Some Alienware gaming PCs are so powerful that six states won't let you buy them due to their excessive power consumption.

Dell has announced that it is no longer shipping some of its popular gaming PCs after California and five other states introduced restrictions on the amount of energy a personal computer could draw, as measured in kWh per year. 

A prominent message on some configurations of the Alienware Aurora R10 and Aurora R12 desktop PCs reads: "This product cannot be shipped to the states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont or Washington due to power consumption regulations adopted by those states. Any orders placed that are bound for those states will be canceled."

The issue is California and similar states passing power consumption regulations on computer systems. A Dell rep confirmed to The Register that this was the case. "Yes, this was driven by the California Energy Commission (CEC) Tier 2 implementation that defined a mandatory energy efficiency standard for PCs – including desktops, AIOs and mobile gaming systems. This was put into effect on July 1, 2021. Select configurations of the Alienware Aurora R10 and R12 were the only impacted systems across Dell and Alienware."

Analysis: cryptomining isn't the only problem when it comes to power consumption

A graph showing that computing energy consumption would exceed the world's energy production capacity by the mid 2030s

(Image credit: Semiconductor Industry Association)

The problem of growing energy consumption from computing might be most noticeable with the ongoing issues with cryptomining, but a report in 2015 from the Semiconductor Industry Association concluded that "computing will not be sustainable by 2040, when the energy required for computing will exceed the estimated world’s energy production."

The benchmark system they used to make their determination used 10 ^ -14 Joules/bit-transition, though processors today use less than that, about 10 ^ -17/bit-transition. This latter figure is considered to be a good target for efficiency standards, but as the graph above shows, it's still on pace to exceed global energy production sometime shortly after 2040. In all likelihood, even this target might be optimistic.

As a result, California and other states have passed laws limiting how much energy a computer can consume, which will force industry to come up with new ways to improve the efficiency of their computers. So while some might complain that about "nanny-state" regulations getting in the way of their gaming, in the long run, it'll be better to have computers that are better at using less energy so you can keep gaming than not have enough energy to game at all.

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