Why California Doesn’t Ban Gaming PCs (Yet)

Have you heard? California just banned gaming PCs! Yes, they took your job and now they are taking your gaming PC too!!! (More exclamation points indicate more anger.)

Well, that’s what you’d think if you read a headline that screamed: “Many US states ban gaming PCs” or “Gaming PCs banned in six US states after California’s energy bill limits sales on high-performance PCs.”

It all started when Alienware placed notices on its website for certain models of desktop computers that could not be sold in California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Vermont, due to “power consumption regulations approved by those states. Any binding orders placed will be voided.” to those countries.”

This has been coming for a long time

While we were surprised that Alienware had to take this step, the reasons behind this aren’t actually new. I looked into this in 2018, after two PC companies told me the end was near California due to regulations passed in 2016. I fought Through hundreds of pages of California Energy Commission reports and minutes of meetings. On the surface, it looks like California’s strict energy regulations will end most desktop PC sales in California on July 1, 2019.

The truth, of course, is much more accurate. sRegulators have often been looking for ways to curb power use of computers when idle, as a way to manage power usage during the workday. The regulators were mainly targeting the typical or all-in-one PCs you see found in banks, hospitals, and businesses – not gaming PCs. In standard bureaucratic fashion, though, it’s neither easy nor obvious to tell which computers to target, unless you can understand Intel’s expansion score scaling scheme below better than we can.

Intel Corporation

Here’s Intel’s Expansion Points Calculation page, which it uses to help advise motherboard makers on how to meet California power regulations. Yes, we can’t know that either.

The power guidelines look at GPU memory bandwidth, power source efficiency, and even the number of USB ports and other seemingly random parts of the computer, to calculate a score so complex you have to use a spreadsheet to find out.

Inversely (or maybe that’s the regulators that give component makers away), the more powerful a PC, the more loopholes power regulations provide, which is a good thing for PC enthusiasts. Two major component sellers told me they believed California energy regulators listened to the companies involved and put reasonable limits in the rules. Taking into account the What some environmental groups paid at the time (we can pretty well call it the “zero-watt coalition”), regulations dictate mostly passive energy 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 countries, with the others to follow. But these six countries did not necessarily ban “gaming computers”. Alienware appears to meet the standards on some models, but many do not. The company will simply cancel orders for customers trying 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 outstanding quality. We respect the laws of all the cities, states and countries in which we do business and always strive for a balance between power, performance and energy efficiency. While the strongest Our gaming systems are available in all 50 states, it is strict that selected Alienware Aurora R10 and R12 configurations are not shipped to certain states due to California Energy Commission (CEC) Tier 2 regulations that took effect July 1, 2021. Models and configurations will meet These new regulations are in place or exceed these regulations, in line with our long-term focus on addressing energy and emissions.”

What’s not clear to me is why Alienware won’t have these particular systems to meet the stricter guidelines by July 1, but I honestly can’t blame Alienware either. California’s attempt to regulate computer power consumption is pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from years of government training.

Gaming PCs weren’t banned, then or now

The good news is that on July 1, 2019, PC sales in those states did not stop. And on July 1, 2021, when the second level began, most gaming PCs were not banned – only a few Alienwares.

BBut that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Politics (which is politics here, because bureaucrats can’t choose their jobs) dictates that pressure will continue to be placed on the computer industry to make more energy-efficient machines.

In an ideal world, the industry would solve the challenge without complex regulation, because energy efficiency is one of the easiest ways to give you more performance today. But this is not how politics works. As long as there are groups that demand stricter rules, there will be politicians who will pay attention to them. Gaming desktops aren’t banned, but this part clearly has a target on the back.