by April 1, 2010 0 comments

We all are part of the noise revolving around the effects of  modern
lifestyle on our earth. However, efforts are being made from micro to macro
level to diminish these effects on the nature.  Businesses are also a part of
this initiative, with lots being   done by enterprises like cutting down travel
expenses by using video conferencing, making infrastructure ‘green’ with green
datacenters, green buildings, etc. There has been efforts  being put by
manufacturers to make devices soft on energy consumption without affecting
overall performance. Here, we are moving inside the desktop and checking out
what leading motherboard manufacturers are doing to make their boards ‘green’.
Let’s start with the effect of  new interface techs on power consumption.

USB 3.0
In this issue we have done performance tests on motherboards that support
this latest version of USB. Other than enhanced throughput, one feature in this
new version of USB is more efficient power-usage protocols. USB 3.0 works on the
principle of providing more power when required and wasting lesser power when
not. USB 3.0 avoids device polling in favor of a new interrupt-driven protocol,
which means non-active or idle devices (which aren’t being charged by the USB
port) won’t have their power drained by the host controller as it looks for
active data traffic. Instead, the devices will send the host a signal to begin
data transfer. Minimum device operating voltage is dropped from 4.4 V to 4 V. 
New power management features include supports for idle, sleep and suspend
states, as well as link-, device-, and function-level power management. Devices
can communicate new information such as their latency tolerance to the host,
which allows better power performance.

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SATA 6 Gbps (Revision 3.0)
Another technology that is making headlines these days is SATA 6 Gbps. Like
USB 3.0, this one too comes with enhanced power management capability. Earlier
Revision of SATA (Revision 2.6) introduced two power modes (Partial and Slumber)
on the interface that works independently from power management schemes in
storage devices. To lower power consumption, devices can power off SATA portion
of circuitry when not in use. This feature effectively reduces power consumption
in battery operated devices. But in SATA Revision 2.6, devices had to move from
Partial mode to Active mode before they could enter Slumber mode. Besides, in
SATA Revision 2.6, enabled peripherals have to wait for permission from the host
to remove power supply to interface. In the latest SATA Revision 3.0, there is
automatic transition from Partial to Slumber mode, which enables either host or
device to enter Slumber mode automatically which in turn increases time for
which SATA interface can be powered off. Other than these improvements although
6Gbps Phy designs may require higher active power depending on the specific
design and implementation. Power efficiency of the overall system should not
increase drastically because the active time required to complete the transfer
of a given amount of data is reduced by almost half  as compared to 3Gbps.

Other power saving features
Let’s see some of the technologies used by motherboard vendors to improve
power efficiency in their brands.

ASUS EPU: For intelligently detecting power loading requirements and then
optimizing power consumption, ASUS came up with energy processing unit (EPU
chip) on their motherboards. This chip analyzes actual CPU load and then changes
power saving settings of system on the fly to create a power efficient
environment. EPU works with other components to detect, feedback and take
action.  EPU chip also comes with a GUI where user can feed settings.

Multi Power Phases

You might have come across features in motherboards
that boast of multi phase power like 8,16 or 32-Phase Power supply to CPU.
In normal usage this feature is not that relevant but if you want better and
optimal power delivery while overclocking then go for multi phase power
supply. In laymen terms, if a circuit provides two phase power supply, then
each phase is active for 50 % of time in order to generate power for CPU,
while on the same lines, 3 phase circuit has each phase active for 33.3% and
so on. This means higher number of phases put less strain on transistors
giving them longer life, plus operational temperature and noise level is
also less. More number of phases in power supply would mean more stable
power supply to CPU.

GIGABYTE Dynamic Energy Saver 2 and Auto Green: Dynamic Energy Saver 2 is a
combination of hardware & software components to provide optimized power usage.
When load on CPU is less then these features allow fewer power phases which in
turn helps in reducing power consumption. With the help of simple UI, you can
control power saving features with the click of a button. Using different modes
of this feature, user can not only record how much power is currently consumed
by CPU but also see how much power they have saved till date. Another unique 
feature used by GIGABYTE motherboards is called ‘Auto Green’. Here Bluetooth
cell phone is used to enable system power saving. If configured cell phone is
out of range of motherboard Bluetooth receiver, a specific power saving mode is
enabled automatically.

MSI’s Drmos, APS and GreenPower Center: The approach of MSI in saving power
consumption is a bit different. They are using Integrated Driver Mosfet
technology on board. MSI boards also use active phase shifting which dynamically
adjusts power consumption and on top of these features, there is ‘GreenPower
center’ UI to control power usage by users.

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