What is TDP in GPU? (Explained)

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What is TDP in GPU?

A short for Thermal Design Power, TDP in GPU denotes a number in watts that signifies the maximum amount of heat the graphics card generates under heavy workload.

Therefore, a TDP also indicates the amount of heat a cooling system must dissipate from the GPU. In reality, TDP is not a measure of electrical power but refers to thermal aspects only.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • TDP in the Graphics Processing Unit refers to two specific things namely the amount of heat generated by the card and the amount of heat the cooling system should dissipate to keep the card cool.
  • The TDP rating is usually defined by the Original Equipment Manufacturers and the Add-in-Board partners who design and manufacture the cooling solution for the card depending on this value. It may not be the same across all equivalent products.
  • When TDP value is reached, the graphics card will be shut off automatically but such a situation rarely happens under normal conditions.
  • The amount of TDP to have in a graphics card will depend on the type of job you do where higher TDP is better for doing more graphics intensive tasks.

Understanding TDP in GPU

What is TDP in GPU

Over the years, due to the development in technology, there has been a rise in designing and developing high-performance components for the computers which includes and not limited to:

  • The CPUs
  • The GPUs
  • The PCBs
  • The cooling system and more.

However, along with that there has also been a slow but gradual increase in the energy requirements of these components which is necessary to uphold their efficiency improvements.

Typically, the graphics cards in the computers seem to consume the major part of the power supply to your PC, single-handedly.

The graphics cards are considered to be the biggest culprits being the most power-hungry component of the entire system, especially those that are used inside the gaming machines.

It is for this particular reason most savvy buyers and PC enthusiasts check the power consumption value of the graphics cards while shopping for a Power Supply Unit or PSU.

It is very important that you know the power consumption of the different components of a computer because that will help you to buy a PSU that will be capable enough to supply adequate power to all of them.

However, when it comes to determining the power consumption of the graphics cards, the different acronyms such as TDP, TGP and others may confuse you a lot.

Moreover, the different brands may follow different concepts and in the interpretation of TDP in the graphics cards.

All these confusing trends going on in the graphics cards space does not help a general consumer in any way and instead make it all the more confusing for any average user to have a clear understanding.

TDP, which gives a fair idea about the power consumption ratings of the graphics cards, may not offer you the right answer straight away when you look for it.

Ideally, TDP, to put is in the simplest words, is an acronym used to refer to all of these following three full forms:

  • Thermal Design Power
  • Thermal Design Parameter and
  • Thermal Design Point.

All these three however mean the same thing and the most common one to be used is the Thermal Design Power.

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As said earlier, this is actually the amount of the maximum heat generated by the graphics cards when these are put under heavy workload.

The harder it works, the more heat is generated by it and the system gets hotter overall.

You may have experienced the back of your smartphone becoming hot when you play a game for, say, about 30 minutes.

This is because the graphics cards, along with the other components inside the mobile phone, consume more electrical power, which, in turn, is changed into heat energy.

This is the same thing that happens to a desktop or a laptop computer or any other mobile device.

That is why most PC enthusiasts consider TDP as the upper limit of power that a computer component can use.

However, the manufacturers of the graphics cards, such as NVIDIA, say that TDP refers to both the maximum power that can be drawn by a subsystem while running a real-world application as well as the highest amount of heat generated by it in the process.

On the other hand, the manufacturers also say that it is a useful value for them to design the cooling system because they consider it to be the capacity of the cooling system to dissipate the heat generated in real-world conditions.

All of these create a lot of confusion among the users.

However, in general, TDP, which is usually expressed in watts, refers to two particular things:

  • The amount of heat generated by the graphics cards, or any other component of the computer for that matter and
  • The amount of heat that a cooling system must remove to keep the component properly functional.

Here, the confusion is created by the unit in which the TDP is usually expressed – watts.

This is the unit of electrical power and also can be used to refer to the amount of heat.

However, the vagueness of it is due to the fact that power consumption is normally measured in electrical watts but heat produced, on the other hand, is typically measured in thermal watts.

However, the TDP in the graphics cards, or even a CPU, is usually considered to be a representation for power draw.

This is because more often than not the two turn out to be pretty close to one another or even equivalent.

Still, this may not be the case, which is why you should not use this value solely to determine the size of the power supply of the computer.

Usually, the graphics cards come with a TDP rating but they also come with cooling solutions built in them.

However, if you intend to use your computer for graphics intensive tasks and heavy overclocking, you may need to use additional cooling solutions for the Graphics Processing Unit which you will get in any aftermarket.

In such situations, the TDP rating of the graphics card will be of great help to know what type of cooling system will be necessary for it.

The TDP rating of a GPU is similar to the TDP rating of the CPUs in the way that both are defined by the OEMs or the Original Equipment Manufacturers and indicates the thermal parameter of the two.

Underclocking a GPU

At this point you may think that underclocking the graphics card will lower the effective TDP. Well, this is not true and there are different reasons for it.

One, the TDP itself is the maximum heat limit which, if reached by the graphics card, will shut it off automatically.

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Two, the TDP is hardly ever reached under normal conditions and therefore, you should not be concerned about it and underclock the graphics card.

It is true that underclocking the graphics card will typically make it use less power and therefore, less heat.

However, this will not change the TDP in any way because it is just the maximum temperature.

And most, importantly, the graphics card will underclock itself when it is not in use.

Therefore, is there any other good reason that you may have to underclock the graphics card?

Checking TDP in Laptops

Usually, the power limit of the graphics cards in a laptop varies from one device to another which is why the same type of graphics cards may perform differently in two different laptops.

If you want to check the TDP of the Graphics Processing Unit in your laptop, you can do it by following these simple steps as under, if the software supports:

  • Opening the NVIDIA control panel
  • Clicking on ‘Help’ and
  • Clicking on ‘System Information.’

The value will be displayed here.

However, the actual value may change depending on the dynamic boost and therefore it is always better to check the power limit of the graphics card yourself with the use of a third-party app.

There are lots of such apps available on the internet and all you have to do is:

  • Download and run the app on your laptop
  • Open a game with high settings to give high load to the graphics card and
  • Look for GPU and GPU Power.

The value will be displayed there.

It is also a better way to read reviews because the vendors often do not specify these power limits clearly.

Is Higher TDP Better?

It usually depends on the type of job you want to do on your computer.

If it is graphics intensive, a higher TDP will ensure faster and better output.

However, just as it is in the case of a CPU, if a graphics card is rated with a high TDP, it will generate a lot of heat.

This is because it will consume a lot of electrical energy in the first place which produces heat as its byproduct.

This means that you can calculate how much power is required by the graphics card by looking at the amount of heat dissipated by it.

That is why a graphics card with a high TDP is highly likely to consume a lot of energy.

By and large, the actual power draw of the graphics card is normally higher than the rated TDP.

In fact, there are a few specific sources that say that the peak power rating is normally 1.5 times of the TDP rating.

This means that if the TDP of the chip is rated 65 watts, it can consume as much as 90 watts of electrical power, so to speak.

Therefore, if your computing tasks are limited to the basics, there is typically no need to have a graphics card with a higher TDP rating installed in your computer.

Does TDP Matter in GPU?

Ideally, when it comes to measuring the power consumption of the graphics card it is not only the TDP that matters but the TGP or Total Graphics Power and TBP or Total Board Power values are also important.

Though all these three ratings are important in some way or the other, TDP is however more important because it is applicable to all diverse types of scenarios.

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The TDP value is also pretty reliable and consistent to use across different scenarios and across graphics cards of different generations.

This further helps in comparing the theoretical power necessities of the GPUs. It makes things much easier or the users.

The TGP and TBP, on the other hand, are the metrics that indicate the power consumption of a specific PCB design of a graphics card and the maximum power consumption of a specific model of a graphics card respectively.

Therefore, the TGP and TBP are a bit limited in telling the actual power consumption of the graphics cards in comparison to the TDP.

Moreover, the TDP of the graphics cards is also very useful over and above the theoretical comparisons of different generations of graphics cards.

As said earlier, the TDP value of the graphics cards helps the manufacturers to design an appropriate cooling solution to be accompanied with the cards.

The fact that the TDP of the graphics cards is pretty consistent is because the die of the cards are manufactured either by NVIDIA or AMD and they follow a reasonably standard measure to calculate the amount of heat produced by the graphics cards.

This TDP rating is given by the GPU manufacturers to the Add-in-Board partners who are responsible for the designing and manufacturing of the cooling solution of the graphics cards according to this value.

Therefore, the TDP of a graphics card is quite important, especially for the manufacturers and in industrial and professional applications as well.

It allows them to set the limits of power supply and system cooling according to this particular value.

However, the TDP is not as important or interesting to the consumers as it is to the manufacturers.

This is typically used by the consumers in only a few specific purposes such as:

  • To make a direct comparison of the power consumption between two different graphics cards and
  • To choose the right type of power supply for the computer system.

The TGP and TBP of the graphics card are not as important as the TDP of it, especially while making a purchase decision because the TDP is usually lower than them.

This is because it does not consider any other component of the PCB apart from the cooling solution of the graphics card.

Therefore, be wary of the TDP of the graphics card just as you should be for the CPU of your computer.

However, if you want to buy a laptop as such you need not worry about the TDP of the graphics card because it is not very important.

It will be already adequately mounted by built-in cooling solutions by the manufacturers.

Conclusion

TDP is the common rating for graphics cards, as it is for the CPUs, which helps both the manufacturers as well as the consumers a lot.

If you did not know how, now you surely know it, thanks to this article.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin