What Graphics Card Can I Run on a 400-Watt Power Supply?

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A 400-watt power supply is rarely adequate for powering anything more than a low- to mid-range graphics card, but this also depends on the quality of the power supply. For example, a low quality 500-watt power supply will actually provide less power and efficiency than a high quality 400-watt supply. A good quality power supply is about 80 percent efficient. It is an essential system requirement to take note of when you are building a computer or upgrading an existing one, since using an inadequate power supply can cause system instability or even damage to your components. Most graphics cards also require one or two 6- or 8-pin internal power connectors.

Older Generation nVidia Cards

  • A 400-watt power supply will easily power almost any graphics card from the older nVidia GeForce 6 or 7 series. With some of the less powerful models, there will even be some headroom for overclocking. Most cards of the 8 and 9 series will also run, except for the "Ultra" or "GX2" versions. These cards should not be overclocked if running on a 400-watt power supply.

Newer nVidia Graphics Cards

  • Unless you have an exceptionally efficient PSU and/or a very undemanding processor, the only newer nVidia graphics cards that will run safely with a 400-watt power supply are the budget range models such as the 430 and 440 series. The higher-end GeForce 460 uses less power than most other cards of the mid-range line, and you may be able to run this provided your processor is particularly energy-efficient.

Older Generation AMD Graphics Cards

  • Any older low- to mid-range ATI graphics card will run with a 400-watt power supply. This includes products from the 1, 2 and 3 series. Most graphics cards from the 4 series will also work, except for the dual-core "X2" versions.

Newer ATI Graphic Cards

  • Any card from the 5 series should work, with the exception of the 5800 series. The same applies to the 6 series, where anything less than the 6700s should work.

On-board Graphics

  • Integrated graphics have very low power requirements since they have slow processors and share system memory. This is one reason why integrated graphics are predominantly used in laptop computers. A 400-watt power supply is ample for any integrated graphics chip.

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