Why California isn’t banning gaming PCs (yet)

Have you heard? California just banned gaming PCs! If they took his job And now they also take your PC for games !!! (more exclamation marks indicate more outrage).

Well that’s what you’d think if you read a headline that screamed: “Several US states are banning gaming PCs” or “High-end gaming PCs banned in six US states after Calfornia’s power law limits sales of high-performance PCs. “

This all started when Alienware put notices on your website of certain desktop PC models that cannot be sold in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Vermont, due to “power consumption regulations adopted by those states. All orders made to those states will be canceled. “

This has been going on for a long time.

While we’re surprised that Alienware had to take this step, the reasons why aren’t really new. I had researched this trail in 2018, after being told by two PC companies that the end was near in California due to regulations that had been passed in 2016. through hundreds of pages of California Energy Commission reports and meeting minutes. At first glance, it looked like California’s strict power regulations would end most desktop PC sales in California on July 1, 2019.

The truth, of course, has many more nuances. PPower regulators were primarily looking for ways to control the power use of PCs in idle mode, as a way to manage power use during the workday. Regulators were primarily targeting the typical compact or all-in-one PC seen in banks, hospitals, and businesses, not gaming PCs. However, in standard bureaucratic style, it’s not easy or clear to know which PC you’re targeting, unless you can understand Intel’s Expandability Score Calculation table below better than we can.

score Intel

Here’s Intel’s Expandability Score Calculation page, which it uses to help advise motherboard manufacturers on how to comply with California power regulations. Yes, we can’t solve it either.

Power guidelines look at GPU memory bandwidth, power supply efficiency, and even the number of USB ports and other seemingly random PC parts, to calculate a score so complicated you have to use a sheet. calculation to find out.

Counterintuitively (or maybe it’s regulators giving component manufacturers an outlet), the more powerful a PC is, the more loopholes the power regulations give it, which is a good thing for PC enthusiasts. PC. Two large component suppliers told me they thought California energy regulators listened to concerned companies and created reasonable restrictions on the rules. Considering What some environmental groups pushed at the time (we can kindly call them the ‘Zero Watt Coalition’), regulations primarily dictate idle power consumption, not active use.

It would be easy to jump to a conclusion and assume that Alienware was only the first company to stop shipping gaming PCs to those states, and others will follow. But these six states have not necessarily banned “gaming PCs.” Alienware apparently met the standard on some models, but several don’t make the cut. The company will simply cancel orders for those customers who try to buy them.

When asked for additional information, Alienware officials told us: “Alienware has always been known to push the boundaries when it comes to innovation, performance, design and superior quality. We follow the laws of every city, state and country in which we do business and always strive to balance power and performance with energy efficiency. While our most powerful gaming systems are available in all 50 states, select configurations of the Alienware Aurora R10 and R12 are required not to be shipped to certain states due to recent California Energy Commission (CEC) Level 2 regulations. ) that came into force. on July 1, 2021. New models and configurations will meet or exceed these regulations, in line with our long-term approach to addressing energy and emissions. ”

What’s unclear to me is why Alienware didn’t have these particular systems ready to meet the stricter guidelines by July 1, but frankly, I can’t blame Alienware either. California’s attempt to regulate computer power consumption is pretty much all we’ve discovered expect from years of government training.

Gaming PCs Weren’t Banned – Not Then, Not Now

The good news is that on July 1, 2019, PC sales didn’t stop in those states. And on July 1, 2021, when the second tier came into effect, most gaming PCs weren’t banned, just some Alienwares.

BBut that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Politics (and it’s politics here, because bureaucrats can’t choose what their jobs are) dictates that pressure will continue to be put on the PC industry to build more efficient machines.

In an ideal world, the industry would solve the challenge without complicated regulation, because energy efficiency is one of the easiest ways to give you more performance today. However, this is not how politics works. As long as there are groups that ask for stricter regulations, there will be politicians who heed them. Desktop gaming PCs weren’t banned, but clearly this segment has a goal on its back.

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